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December 18 2015

New Research Giving Gender Difference Deniers Fits

Charlotte Hays

We've seen an all-out assault lately on the idea that there are inherent gender differences between men and women. A story in the Washington Post earlier this month, for example, hailed the successful pressuring of toy stores to eliminate separate aisles for boys and girls toys.

The Post also reported that Daphna Joel headed up a research project that showed human brains could not "be neatly distinguished as male or female." Joel does not come across as a detached scientist. She told the newspaper that research studying sex differences will often make her "blood boil."

University of Virginia professor emeritus Steven E. Rhoads, author of Taking Sex Differences Seriously, however, cites a number of these recent "advances" and then explains that there is some welcome pushback on the horizon in an article in the Weekly Standard:

Joel is likely to need tranquilizers for some time to come, because [research into gender differences] is burgeoning. There is a new journal, the Biology of Sex Differences; a second edition of Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine with more than 100 contributors from all over the world; and the evolutionists spreading throughout the hard and social sciences who see sex differences as central. What might seem surprising is the sex of these scientists: When Robert Pool wrote a book about sex differences some years ago, he concluded that most of the cutting-edge research on the subject was done by women.

Joel's grievance is sex differences research, but the women who spearheaded such research did so because of their own grievances. Columbia University physician Marianne Legato is a prime example. She discovered that the female heart functions differently from the male heart—a major problem given that the existing scientific consensus on the human heart was based on the study of men. (The sex differences researcher Larry Cahill notes that "to this day, neuroscientists overwhelmingly study only male animals.") The longstanding assumption had been that men and women could be considered the same, aside from the differences in sexual organs and function. So scientists studying the heart could use male subjects and avoid the complications of women's hormones.

Feminists, Rhoads points out, aren't threatened by studies that show that male and female hearts may be biologically different. They are more interested in deep-seated differences in emotions and talents, and these they tend to regard as a social construct. But sex differences, Rhoads notes, "encompass" the mind as well. While women as a rule are better at reading people, men are more likely to excel in spatial reasoning, according to the article. Of course, there are exceptions. There are some first-rate female engineers, for example.

After citing the fascinating research of Richard Udry, who probed the nature-nurture question by studying women who had experienced high levels of testosterone while in utero, Rhoads concludes:

Feminists, however, are convinced that socially constructed gender roles, not hormones or brain structure, explain the maternal inclinations that lead so many talented women to quit or cut back on their careers when they have young children. This is why they get so excited about children's toys. Their battle for gender neutrality in toys may prove futile. In her book The War Against Boys, Christina Hoff Sommers described what happened when the toy company Hasbro tested a playhouse the company hoped would appeal to both boys and girls. The girls dressed the dolls and played house. The boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof.

Feminists persevere, however: According to news reports, one kindergarten teacher on Bainbridge Island, Washington, allows only girls to play with Legos because boys' passion for them leads to high-paying scientific careers and women need to catch up.

But it's not women who need to catch up. Boys are disproportionately likely to languish in slow-learner classes, and men have been less likely than women to earn a four-year college degree for more than 30 years now. Amid these trends, misguided feminism chugs on; it dominates the mainstream media and the educational establishment. When will sex difference deniers begin to face the scorn that climate change deniers do in mainstream circles? It's past time.

Read the entire article.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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