Here’s a parlor game: count up the number of scientific discoveries hated by each side of the political spectrum. Currently the score is even. The Right rejects climate change while the Left despises GMO foods. Hard conservatives deny Evolution while extreme liberals deny … gender?
Feminists believe there’s no real difference between men and women’s minds and personalities. “Feminism is, of course, about challenging the idea that such a thing exists as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine.’ It’s about the fact that we learn gender. Neither ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’ exists in a biological sense and therefore neither is better or worse than the other.”
The point is to remove these differences from political discourse, so that women may claim the right to equality with men in things that matter — decision making and income. If men can’t argue that women’s minds are different, and perhaps inferior, then male hegemony will collapse and women will experience a new birth of freedom for their gender.
Or so the Feminists fervently believe.
Here’s the problem: What if science comes down on the wrong side? What if the Feminists’ chief argument — that men and women are mentally the same — gets rebutted? What then? Will Feminists behave like climate deniers, backing up while strong-arming the science? Will they become genetic denialists?
And if they don’t, do the chauvinists win outright?
I’d like to suggest that (1) the research doesn’t support the Feminist argument, and (2) there’s a better argument they can use.
Let’s start off with the science. Gender orientation is hard wired. A woman’s nervous system gets flooded by a powerful oxytocin storm around the time she gives birth, which bonds her emotionally to her offspring. In mate selection, women’s choices are affected by their menstrual cycle. Specifically, ovulating women are more attracted to roguish men. Also, egalitarian spouses have less frequent sex.
As for other attributes, like women having greater social and verbal intelligence, it’s possible they’re entirely culturally determined. But in virtually every trait studied so far in humans and animals, there’s a genetic factor lurking in the background. Gender behaviors already seem to fall in step with that trend, as in the above examples.
The topper is testosterone. Men have much more of it than women, and they’re physically larger as well. These are genetic traits that lead to men being more aggressive and domineering. The culture of male superiority unfolds from that. Who’s gonna say no to men when they have bigger fists?
Finally, if sex roles are arbitrary, how come nearly every society on Earth is patriarchal? By random choice alone, matriarchy should dominate half of all cultures.
Something’s hard-wired from the get-go.
Hold on, women readers, don’t hurl your tablets in disgust. (That’ll just break the screen.) Hear me out. What science proves isn’t that men are better. It’s that men and women are different, and that men are more aggressive. The problem isn’t that male and female brains diverge; it’s that, when competing for social position, men tend to push women aside. How else to explain why they vastly outnumber women in fields where females might traditionally be expected to excel? Chefs, diplomats, doctors, artists, composers, naturalists — it’s a long list of careers that men have long usurped.
“Okay, then, we women will convince men that they’re being unfair.” Yeah, right, men will just give up their big asset. That’s like telling a sports player to stop using his height or weight advantage in a game. Ain’t gonna happen.
Here’s that new argument I promised for Feminists: Men and women are different — not better or worse, just different — and the difference enhances their projects. Women bring diverse viewpoints to bear. Smart leaders want them on their teams. Feminists can say to men, “Yes, we’re different! And you guys need us because we see things differently. We can come up with alternate ideas you missed. We can think up ways to get you out of jams. Together, we’ll look out for each other. With us on your team, you’ll compete better.”
The trick here is to celebrate differences that, like apples and oranges, can’t really be compared but simply appreciated. It’s empty to say, “Pay no attention to the DNA behind the curtain!” That approach misses the opportunity.
It’s not about who’s better. Instead, it’s about teamwork. Men and women make natural allies. (Why couples fight so much seems a mystery — except that men tend to be arrogant and women can use words like whips. So the “war between the sexes”, like an Energizer soap opera, just keeps going and going and going…)
Feminists want men to accept them as same-equal. But in the face of essential male aggressiveness, even if men gave lip service to the equalist argument, women would still compete with one hand tied behind their back. The best they could expect would be to win against guys sometimes.
Ladies, next time a man tries to intimidate you out of participating, just remind the group: “You need both viewpoints, male and female. For that, women are indispensable. Other teams are getting smart and bringing in more women to work with men. You should, too.
“And I’ve got some great ideas for us all.”
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UPDATE: “. . . between-sex overlap in all of the cognitive abilities . . .”