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To paraphrase Holden Caulfield, I can't stand trite explanations of gender differences, yet I get a bang out of making them up myself. And as I get older, despite my general objection to them on a philosophical level, I find them more and more helpful on a practical level, although I still look askance at theories that they are based on our hunter-gatherer ancestors, or whatever pat theory of sociobiology is being trotted out this week.

I also have a Master's Degree in education, so I know that men and women use a variety of strategies while learning, and such differences can also be based upon culture or any number of other things. So my usage of male and female pronouns should be taken with a grain of salt.

That being said, let me introduce you to our two characters. The first is the King of the Hill. The name comes from a very simple childhood game where a group of (usually) boys push and shove each other to get to the top of a hill, and then to maintain their position there. The King of the Hill lives for challenges. Who he is, what he knows, and what he does is based on being challenged, challenging others, and competing. He gains his sense of self and knows where he stands because he has a goal, and he reaches it. If he reaches a goal, that is a sign that his knowledge and abilities are complete. When an issue comes up for discussion, he knows he is right because he can show that he is right...and if not, he will defer, eventually, to someone who can.

On the other hand, we have the Shadow Queen. The name is actually somewhat ironic, because in someways the Shadow Queen is the opposite of The Shadow in a Jungian sense. The Shadow Queen is not about the fulfillment of personal desires, because she doesn't even know that she has such things. The Shadow Queen is who women all orbit around. Whereas the King of the Hill has his knowledge centered internally, based on his experiences, the followers of the Shadow Queen consider her to be an exterior nexus of values and knowledge, to be approached but never reached. In other words, the Shadow Queen is a Platonic ideal, an a priori set of rules that should be adhered to, notwithstanding any actual results. Since the Shadow Queen can never be a real person, and since the ideals that she holds up never need to be verified, her edicts can not be challenged.

Of course, it is easy to stretch this idea to a parody: The King of the Hill exemplified by young men trying to see whose truck is bigger, and the Shadow Queen by a neurotic woman worrying if the shade of magenta on her dress is just a little too dark. In reality, both models can be productive ways that people learn about themselves and the world.

It should be noted that I don't actually believe what I am writing: but it has been of great pragmatic help for me. For a long time, I wondered when someone (often, but not always, female), had a seemingly unresolvable question about whether something was correct or fitting. My own response was whether whatever was in question was capable of reaching a goal, and only later did I realize how at cross-purposes such a discussion was, how little a disciple of The Shadow Queen cared about such crudities. So, while none of what I wrote should be believed, it is something that I find passably useful.

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