Diversity in color names is not caused by innate sex differences.

Randall Munroe of xkcd fame conducted a web survey on color perception, and here are the results on (chromosomal) sex differences (although the correct labels should be “Actual color names if you do not have a Y chromosome” versus “Actual color names if you have a Y chromosome”):

Actual color names if you're a girl ... Actual color names if you're a guy ...

This contrasts with and debunks the Doghouse Diaries webcomic’s made-up chart about gender differences in color perception (if Doghouse Diaries is assuming that “gender” and “sex” are synonymous for the purposes of their chart):

Color names if you're a girl ... Color names if you're a guy ...

Perhaps men’s stereotype that women use more words than men on average derives from men’s perception that women talk too much.

Gender & Sex & Randall Munroe

What I liked when I took Randall’s color survey was that this was one of demographic questions:

Do you have a Y chromosome? If unsure, select ''Yes'' if you are physically male and ''No'' if you are physically female. If you have had SRS, please respond for your sex at birth. This question is relevant to the genetics of colorblindness.

Originally, Randall’s color survey was unrelated to the Doghouse Diaries comic, since his survey asked about chromosomal sex due to interest in color blindness. Some people took issue with his Color Survey results, probably because of the problematic wording of his color chart given that he asked about Y chromosomes.

However, given the overwhelming ignorance about gender typical of male geeks, I was impressed by the original survey question on chromosomal sex. Unlike most male geeks who apply their intelligence only to certain narrow topics and then stop educating themselves when pontificating about everything else, Randall lives and breathes geekiness. Randall doesn’t geek about just math, science, computers, language, and cryptography, but he geeks about every aspect of life. This is what it means to be a true geek.

Although Randall made a mistake, the fact that he geeks about gender is undeniably hot:

The role of gender in society is the most complicated thing I’ve ever spent a lot of time learning about, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about quantum mechanics.


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3 Responses to “Diversity in color names is not caused by innate sex differences.”

  1. Geek_Girl Says:

    I just found your blog (and as a fellow Canadian) found some of your topics very interesting and what I can relate to also – being a woman in a largely male-dominated field of work (and often having to face the stereotypes of ‘women’ caused by non-geek girls.) Interesting writing on the xkcd strip. I realized that Doghouse Diaries is the one to blame much more and I’m glad xkcd debunked his chart – albeit done in jest. But I had an interesting discussion on this with a neuroscientist and another social cognitive psychology grad, and even the X and Y chromosome basis can be open for debate as I wrote here:

    http://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/a-colourful-message/

    Thanks for your take on it. Its a good observation.

  2. josh Says:

    to be fair, I would think Munroe used ‘girl’ and ‘guy’ instead of referring to chromosomes simply for symmetry with the Doghouse Diaries comic.

  3. Linkspammers burning their bras (29th May, 2010) | Geek Feminism Blog Says:

    [...] discusses Randall Munroe’s colour survey with its biological sex question and follow [...]


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