PODCAST: Is there such a thing as a ‘male brain’ or a ‘female brain’?

Feminists have long argued against the notion of innate ‘female’ or ‘male’ characteristics, pointing out the ways in which socialization impacts and shapes our behaviour. Yet a recent study out of Penn Medicine claims that there are, in fact, ‘hardwired difference between male and female brains’ that explain why men are supposedly better at certain tasks than women and vice versa.

In this episode, I speak with Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist at Barnard College and the author of Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, about the study.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • lizor

    Thanks so much for this interview! I am so glad to know that someone else is publishing a critique of this creepy brain-sex trend.

    I also like Jordan-Young’s take on transgenderism. While she dismisses the idea of someone having a female or male brain in the “wrong” body, I like the fact that she contextualizes it within a broader system where the vast majority of people are doing the same thing – something I had not considered before.

    For anyone who is interested gender-essentializing science and who has not heard of Cordelia Fine, she also has a terrific book called Delusions of Gender where she critiques specific gender-based social research techniques and reveals the embedded bias in them. There are couple of very good lectures by her posted on Youtube.

    In the meantime, I’ll be getting myself a copy of Brain Storm for Christmas.

  • Poseidon

    This was one of the most intelligent and enlightening analyses I have heard re: this entire area of debate. Thankyou.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Glad you enjoyed the interview!

  • and here is another science study regarding this:
    Men are NOT from Mars after all: Scientist claims male and female brains are the same and it’s gender stereotyping which makes us different


  • Tim Peters

    Recent studies like https://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0056/ea0056s30.3.htm seem to refute this, what’s going on? It’d be great to hear or read an update from the feminist perspective that makes sense of such studies.