Thursday, October 22, 2009

GP has a gender -- she's female

I am going to start thinking about GP essay questions as if they had been asked by women. I hear tell when women ask questions, they aren't looking for answers. Neither are they looking for solutions. Try give a woman a solution and at best it's irrelevant, at worst it's just wrong. Then she'll cry and become completely incomprehensible. Where and how the 'F' grade came about, we'll never know after that.

No. If a woman asks a question, it's because there's something on her mind that she wants to discuss. She may not be entirely clear what it is exactly, but that's why she needs someone to talk to while she she sorts out her own mind about it. Most importantly, she just wants to be heard, preferably understood and above all, respected for her position on the issue.

When attempting GP essays, the kids tend to behave like a man dealing with a woman's question. Get to the point, solve the problem, bada boom, bada bing, pass the beer, we're outta here. Handle a woman like that and it's the couch for you tonight, buddy. You'll be lucky to have a blanket keep you company while you shiver in the dark.

A GP essay is not an answer, and it definitely is not a solution. It is the question itself -- expanded through the gentle teasing out and exploration of its inherent nuances and issues, insecurities and complexities as it ponders the validity of its own biases.

The essay therefore behaves more like the listening ear of a sympathetic confidante than Mr Fixit with a Stanley toolbelt. There's a lot of "do you mean...?", "I recognise...", "I identify with...", "I understand where you're coming from because...", but of course in less informal conversational language. She wants to know your position on the issue, though she is not threatened if you have an opposing opinion from her's (she's a woman -- your opinions, however interesting, are still wrong) but in the grand scheme of things, all she wants is to have her views aired, discussed, evaluated in a non-judgemental way and, as the really wise man already knows, the conclusion is hers to make though he may have gently led her there through the discussion.

Like a question from GP, when a woman asks a question, it's an invitation to a conversation, so engage her, even indulge her, at the intellectual level. Do not offer her a screw from the Fixit toolbelt as is our usual knee-jerk reaction... though she could be more receptive later, when she's in a better mood.

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