What’s Current: Science Museum exhibit asks visitors ‘What sex is your brain?’

A screen from the exhibit. (Image: Science Museum)
A screen from the exhibit. (Image: Science Museum)

An interactive exhibit at the Science Museum in London asks visitors whether they have a “blue” or “pink” brain.

A proposed pole-dancing demonstration at London, ON Take Back the Night event has been nixed, but for the London Abused Women’s Centre, the damage has already been done.

Prostitution survivors fight for a bill that would criminalize the purchase of sex in Ireland.

Everyday Meninism strikes again!

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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  • Meghan Murphy


  • Meghan Murphy

    Totally. Thank you!

  • I took this quiz when this was posted on gendertrender, and didn’t see anything controversial (except the way it was presented). Researchers *have* found slight differences in these tasks. What people should be insisting on, instead of suppressing these results, is some context, such as demostrations of stereotype threat, plus something that visually emphasizes how much overlap there is on all these tasks. Even Cordelia Fine says we know there are sex differences in the brain, we just have a really hard time figuring out what they are.

    If there are differences, even very small ones, they can lead to discrimination against women (for example, “lady” tasks being lower status than “man” tasks, or lower pay for fields that use “lady” brains) when it’s possible that we need more “lady” brains in leadership positions precisely because women may be (on average) inherently better at some things than men. I continue to be concerned that men are really bad at some essential tasks and that they’re not being lazy, but genuinely can’t do as well, on average. If that’s the case, they need to get out of the way and let women handle it.

    Given that girls have a head start on language and communication, and that people tend to hang out with others of their own sex, I don’t think we’re ever going to erase sex differences in the brain, even if they’re almost entirely learned. I think we need to harness those differences, not wish them away.

  • Mitochondrial Eve

    Cordelia Fine would have something to say about the Brain Sex exhibit.

  • Mitochondrial Eve

    Yup, neuroplasticity is a thing.

  • Just trying to Understand

    I understand where you are coming from but I think todays societies are too large and diverse to make statements like “I continue to be concerned that men are really bad at some essential tasks and that they’re not being lazy, but genuinely can’t do as well, on average. If that’s the case, they need to get out of the way and let women handle it.”
    Just because women or men are on average better at something doesn’t mean the other should just step aside. What if men on average are better at engineering? Women should just get out of the way and let men handle it? Or are you just talking about men stepping aside and let women handle things?

    • I’m thinking of management and politics (especially politics), two areas where women may be superior but men have traditionally dominated. Also maybe peacekeeping, and policing.

  • Probably both, with interactions. Most things are a combination of nature and nurture, with interactions.

  • FakeFeminist

    “I continue to be concerned that men are really bad at some essential tasks and that they’re not being lazy, but genuinely can’t do as well, on average. If that’s the case, they need to get out of the way and let women handle it.”

    That’s your statement against “expecting everyone to be exactly the same”? It sounds like a lot of generalization to me, and letting men off the hook for stuff they could do perfectly well if they put in the same effort as women. I’m not OK with the idea of a “separate but equal” society where women are tasked with eg the emotional labor because we’re “just better at it”.

    • I am if it means ending war and poverty. Sometimes getting the job done is more important than being “equal”.

      • FakeFeminist

        I guess I just disagree that pushing women back into typically-female tasks is the most effective way to end war and poverty. From my understanding, there is more intrinsic overlap between the sexes than there is differences, which means that if we raised children to their full potential instead of based on gender roles, we would see a lot of women who excel in traditional male tasks, and a lot of men who excel in traditional female tasks, whereas otherwise those people might just be mediocre in the expected tasks for their gender. Encouraging everyone to meet their full potential, regardless of sex, sounds like it’d be a much more efficient way to accomplish just about anything, including ending war and poverty.

        • I don’t recall saying anything about pushing women back into traditionally female tasks (though I think women who want to stay home with children should have more support). I’m more interested in getting more women into politics and management, with quotas if necessary.

          On the other hand, I do worry about pushing women into nontraditional occupations because of the high risk of burnout. That happened to a lot of women of my generation (finished high school 1983), because the “we need more women in STEM” thing wasn’t well thought out.

          Basically, I don’t want to push women at all, but support them in the choices they are comfortable making right now, while leaving open the opportunity to change those choices later on. I would like to see more women pulled into areas where we need them, rather than pushed, because they won’t last if they aren’t wanted when they get there.

  • Cindi Gold

    This poster’s comments are very true and very interesting , Iosael commented on MailOnline.co.uk: It’s all about upbringing. In Sweden, where I was born and raised, men and women are identical to each other in personality. Exactly as tough, exactly as smart, exactly as emotional. Then I moved to Albania. Here, boys gets smacked if they show sensitivity and a good girl is one that only thinks about lipstick and carpet washing.


  • Cindi Gold

    Also there is a lot of evidence from sociologists and anthropologists that there are androgynous cultures. Many anthropologists like Walter Williams author of the award winning,The Spirit and The Flesh,and many other anthropologists have done field work for decades in places like Tahiti and Malaysia, women and men are encouraged to have androgynous roles there and they are not polarized into “opposite” categories and gender roles,and they are more alike in their personalities and behaviors. This is thoroughly explained in the good book,
    Manhood In The Making:Cultural Concepts Of Masculinity by David D.Gilmore.

    And the men there unlike in our very gender divided,gender stereotyped, sexist male dominated society ,aren’t punished for being similar to women or appearing so-called “feminine”, they are encouraged and rewarded for it! And it’s in the very gender divided, gender stereotyped sexist male dominated societies where the sexes are polarized into “opposite” categories and gender roles that makes *more* gender differences!