I wish Slate would let me embed their frigging videos, because I’d love to embed the one they have up summarizing a series up by Amanda Schaffer examining all the non-science masquerading as science that claims to find vast differences between men and women’s brains, differences that always point to women being a biologically inferior sex—stupid, talks too much, illogical, only good for being fucked and diapering babies. Sadly, there are now women writing books in this vein, though of course they dress up the differences in language that pretends that they’re not claiming that women are inferior and should be relegated to second class status. If you slap a woman’s name on a book that claims women are inferior, it gives it more credibility, which it shouldn’t, because believers should automatically assume that the female author is as stupid as the rest of her gender supposedly is. But you know, you can’t claim it’s sexist if a woman said it.
I say bullshit. But read Schaffer’s easy and quick series to see why. Claims about scientific discoveries of women’s natural inferiority are usually not worth the paper they’re printed on, but they sell well because they appeal to people’s “common sense”. But what we perceive to be true is rarely correlated directly with what is true, and there’s many reasonable explanations for the beliefs that Schaffer debunks in this piece.
Women talk more than men. This is because people compare how much you talk to a baseline of how much you should talk ideally. The baseline for men is “frequently” and for women it’s “little to never”. Women do talk more than our allotted baseline, but as it turns out, we don’t talk more than men. I mean, I do. But I’m the exception to the rule.
Women are more empathetic. This is the bait of praise (see, you’re better at something, isn’t that special?), but the switch is that women’s supposed greater empathy means that we get to have all the responsibility for family relations and worse, dancing around trying to read men’s brains and adapt our behavior to our partners (lesbians are completely left out of the equation, or assumed to be some kind of he-women), instead of men giving an inch. You see, men would love to do nice things for us and care about us in return, but they can’t. So all the emotional work is yours, ladies. Schaffer shows that what little evidence there is for women’s greater empathy is muddled and points not to “hardwired” differences, but environmental ones. If men had as much responsibility for emotional work as women, they’d be as empathetic.
Women are less logical. Pretty much all attempts to shoehorn women out of the higher-paying fields of math and science into the arts or even the nurturing fields is based on a single study showing men are a little better at rotating 3D objects in their head. You just know that if it had gone the other way around, they’d claim that this shows that women are evolved to spend all our time at home rearranging furniture.
Anyway, these are just my takes on the whole shebang. Schaffer’s got the goods, science-wise.