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Articles by Terri Apter

Why We Need International Women's Day

Why We Need International Women's Day

Explanations of women’s under-representation in science, technology, engineering and maths (only 14% of women entering University choose science related subjects, compared to 39% of boys) are usually stacked up like layers on a wedding cake. The bottom layer, the stodgy foundation, is about “hard wiring”.  Fortunately, claiming that gender career segregation is down to differences in women’s and men’s brains is now high risk; though this claim has helped launch one Cambridge professor as a star, it has also brought down one Harvard president. Girls opt for...
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Sex: Have You Ever Regretted The Night Before?

Sex: Have You Ever Regretted The Night Before?

Is there a topic more emotive, fraught and confused than sex and consent, versus sex and coercion? Impaled on the shameful histories of silencing women and violence against women, many solutions are value driven but goal blind.  How far will the recent call for explicit consent go in protecting women from being victims of rape and men from being perpetrators of rape? One in seven students who responded said that they had experienced serious physical or sexual assault at University. In an NUS survey conducted four years ago, one in seven students who...
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Finding your University Identity

Finding your University Identity

In Beck Varley-Winter’s excellent piece Surviving University, I was struck by what she says about  Freshers Week: “Freshers Week suits extroverts. If you are not one, you will find socialising in massive groups can be stressful”. Many of the students I address each October would find resonance in Becky’s words.  Indeed, some would find the term “stressful” far too moderate a word to describe their experiences of a new environment, glamoured by history, by hope and by parental pride. As young people leave their families, they face a transition period in which...
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Is Your Brain Male or Female?

Is Your Brain Male or Female?

BBC Horizon's recent programme, “Is your brain male or female?”  made a valiant yet narrow minded attempt at measure and reason. I offer this blog to anyone who remains as riled as I by Michael Mosley’s acceptance of Simon Baron-Cohen’s carefully paired claim that, “The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems,” and, “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.” The first evidence cluster is derived from animal behaviour.  For example, male great apes engage in more play fighting than female great apes, and...
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Why You Shouldn't Ignore Your Biological Clock

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Your Biological Clock

“Wanting a child” is a strangely mild phrase to cover a desire that can punch one in the gut, and leave a constant thrumming in one’s ears, hands and knees.  It is warm and deliciously tactile, yet comparable to a war-like rage. Like an obscenely powerful hoover, it vacuums up your inner rational voice, leaving you reckless of loss, care and peace. But the inner rational voice fights back with reminders of easy delights, such as the day-to-day agency whereby it is you who decides where to go, and when.  At work or among friends, the clarion calls of careeer ambition...
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We All Use Sexist Language, Women Too

We All Use Sexist Language, Women Too

Adjectives have now become the scapegoat for a sexist culture - these naughty words are seen to be drenched in misogyny.  First “bossy” came under fire; now “feisty” is targeted. Forget feisty's positive meaning - apparently the fact that it is commonly used to describe women provides sufficient proof of bias and bad intent. When I went through the list of additional 'women only' words presented in The Telegraph Wonder Woman, I felt the frisson of easy recognition that often accompanies what psychologists call the 'confirmation bias': it is much easier to think...
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How Sports Protect Girls' Self Esteem

How Sports Protect Girls' Self Esteem

From birth, a child begins to explore her body – what it can do, how it can be controlled, what gives it pain and pleasure.  Her body is not a thing but a process and tool.  But later in childhood something happens that transforms her body into an object that is constantly viewed and judged and pitted against an ideal physique.  No one who loves her wants this to happen.  Her parents tell her that she is more than her looks.  Her teachers coach her in self-acceptance.  But by the age of 10, there is a fifty-fifty chance that she will be dissatisfied with her weight, shape...
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The Psychology of a One-Night Stand

The Psychology of a One-Night Stand

The stereotype of a one-night stand is a brutally selfish, egoistically satisfied male, and a woman shamed by regret and disappointment. Yet a memorable counter offensive was launched more than 40 years ago when Erica Jong, in her novel Fear of Flying, celebrated a female fantasy where “zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff”. And, with the subsiding ecstasy, your partner melted away, freeing you both from embarrassment and commitment. For many men and women, this is the promise of a one-night stand.  The “zipless...
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Middle-Aged Women: Ignored or Liberated?

Middle-Aged Women: Ignored or Liberated?

I do not know any woman who has not felt discomfort negotiating the shift from young to not young.  Such difficulty does not stem from superficial vanity; it registers the changed social meanings women encounter as they become middle-aged. The brilliant writer and critic Carolyne Heilbrun was the first to point out that women, once they entered midlife, were considered story less.  Past the age in which they might drive the plot of a standard romantic narrative, they disappeared with a few words into settled, fixed characters, to whom nothing interesting would...
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Understanding the Imposter Syndrome

Understanding the Imposter Syndrome

I first witnessed the disturbing force of the imposter syndrome while doing research on young people at the cusp of adulthood.  As they leave the family home and their long term friends for the wider world - either of higher education or employment – the familiar comparators shift, and with it, their comfortable place in the pecking order of peers.  The fear that your true ineptness will be exposed. In defence, some act like peacocks, displaying confidence to attract attention and mark status.  With lots of people around them also strutting their stuff, they may be taken in...
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Are Role Models Useful to Women?

Are Role Models Useful to Women?

The discrepancy between women’s intelligence and talents on the one hand and their career achievement remains a puzzle for the people who teach them, particularly at university level, as well as for professional mentors who may be bewildered as to why the advance towards equality remains so slow.  Earlier this year the University of Cambridge launched a book about successful women in which the breadth of Cambridge women’s achievements are noted and lauded.  While the aim is to embed and reward different kinds of success, there is a danger that such a project shifts focus...
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How Tiger Parenting Kills Curiosity

How Tiger Parenting Kills Curiosity

The generally endorsed truth that children’s intelligence is influenced by their environment has provided fertile ground for theories of how to increase a child’s success.  No longer are intelligence and talent located in fixed genetic material; instead, these are recognised as characteristics that develop over decades.  Recent fads for sure-fire ways of fostering successful brain development include the “Mozart effect” – whereby IQ improved (only temporarily) by 8-9 points after 10 minutes exposure to a Mozart sonata – and, more recently, the "tiger parent" syndrome...
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Talking to Your Daughter About Sex and Relationships

Talking to Your Daughter About Sex and Relationships

Mothers and teenage daughters have more quarrels than any other parent/child pair. Yet in spite of their arguments – which come on average at a rate of one every two and a half days -  their interactions are normally rich with vitality and provide a valuable source of understanding both for the daughter who is using her mother as a sounding board for her developing identity, and for the mother who is trying to keep up to date with the mysterious teen who has usurped the little girl she once understood so well. One inescapable and contentious issue is sex - sexuality,...
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What Lena Dunham's Girls Can Teach Us About Female Friendships

What Lena Dunham's Girls Can Teach Us About Female Friendships

In popular culture female friendships have often been portrayed either as giggly gossips or as catty and competitive, while girls (and women) themselves are on a quest for an ideal girlfriend - a soul mate who always understands them, with whom they share all intimate secrets and with whom they never argue. For giggly, think of the Sex and the City quartet doubled over in wicked laugher at the men they take to bed; for catty, think of Lady Edith doing her best to ruin Lady Mary’s chances for happiness in Downton Abbey, for the ideal, think of sweetness between...
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