Why are progressives pushing Victorian era ideas about gender?

We support scientific rigour in other areas; why not when it comes to gender?

A screen from London’s Science Museum’s exhibit which asks “What sex is your brain?” (Image: Science Museum)

It was “delicacy of the brain fibers,” according to philosopher Nicolas Malebranche, that caused the feminine mind to be drawn to such frivolous matters as setting fashion trends and discerning elegance and good manners. In 1674, he wrote:

“Everything that depends upon taste is within [women’s] area of competence, but normally they are incapable of penetrating to truths that are slightly difficult to discover. Everything abstract is incomprehensible to them.”

This probably all sounds very familiar. Patriarchy has long claimed women are innately attracted to petty concerns, like makeup and fashion, but eluded by the abstract sciences like engineering and math. Malebranche was writing centuries ago. Since then, we’ve debunked absurd notions of “delicate feminine brain fibers,” and feminists have revealed gendered behavior, such as beauty practices, to be externally imposed rather than innate.

You’d think the idea of the gendered brain would be forever banished to the embarrassments of history, along with notions of a “raced brain,” which were often taken up in tandem by researchers trying to justify white men’s social domination over women and people of colour as something natural and inevitable.

No such luck. These regressive ideas persist today. Progressives across North America participated in the March for Science last month “to defend the role of science in policy and society.” Meanwhile, the old fallacy of the gendered brain has come roaring back, to little push back from the same people who demand scientific rigour in other areas.

In 2014, the BBC’s children’s channel, CBBC, released a documentary illustrating gender identity through animated pink and blue figures going down a conveyor belt with little blue and pink brains plopping inside of them. The narrator explains, “Most people’s hormones, brains, and bodies all match so that they know they are definitely a girl or a boy.” Then, a blue brain plops into a pink body. “But some people feel they’ve been born in the wrong body.”

The narrator explains that a mismatch between the gendered mind and the body is “not very common,” as the majority of people have a body that matches their inner self. Presumably, this means that the majority of women have a feminine mind.

In a recent episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Netflix show, he explained that that a person could have “a male brain in a female body,” saying, “It turns out you can’t tell the gender of a brain just by looking at it.”

Thanks, Bill. Good to know that, just like Victorian era scientists said, I might have a male brain in my female body. As a woman in the male-dominated field of philosophy, with sharp logical skills and no interest in fashion, who has rejected marriage and children, I could  be viewed as an anomaly within my sex – exhibiting a “masculine mind” by some strange mistake of fate. Victorian scientist Herbert Spencer would blame this on my neglect of “the maternal functions,” arguing that if my body had produced milk for my “due number of healthy children,” I would then possess the naturally feminine “mental energy.” Science!

Spencer’s explanation for the existence of gender nonconforming women sounds ridiculous today, but it was necessary in order to support the idea that men and women were inherently different. “That men and women are mentally alike is as untrue as that they are alike bodily,” he wrote.

Our historical amnesia is troubling. We seem to have forgotten that the idea of innate difference between male and female minds was used to exclude women from political and intellectual life, and to deny them basic human rights of self-determination in the not-so-distant past.

I was heartened last year when the public responded with outrage to London’s Science Museum’s sexist pink and blue brain exhibit, which asked: “What sex is your brain?” But such bursts of sanity feel few and far between in the UK and North America, where the resurgence of the idea of the gendered brain has most prominently taken root.

In the 19th century, feminism’s first wave challenged the patriarchal order in education, legal rights, and even personal relationships. In 1866, the first lasting suffragist organization was formed in the UK. And the next year, philosopher John Stuart Mill put heat on parliament by introducing a women’s suffrage amendment into the Reform Bill of 1867.

Male scientists and philosophers responded to this feminist uprising with a profound backlash in which they frantically sought to prove there were essential differences between men and women that justified patriarchal domination. Similar to the way scientists of the time claimed black people had an inherently underdeveloped and servile nature in order to justify slavery, they employed everything from phrenology, to neurology, psychology, and evolutionary theory to show gender roles were natural.

Even Charles Darwin apparently threw the scientific method to the wind, claiming women and men were fundamentally different in mental capacity, and that women were underdeveloped and therefore inferior. In a racist and sexist fervour, scientists worked backwards, flouting the empirical nature of science. Instead of beginning with observation, scientists started from a belief in female inferiority and sought to justify it through an imagined evolutionary history.

Eventually, science did correct itself. Neurologists found time and time again that there are no significant differences between male and female brains. The idea of the “feminine psyche” was unmasked by feminists as a ridiculous male fantasy. But the actions of the scientific community during that time remain one of the most shameful blights on the history of reason. Havelock Ellis described the period as “a painful page in scientific annals… full of prejudices, assumptions, fallacies, over-hasty generalizations.”

During that mid-19th century explosion of sexism, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote what is perhaps the most misogynistic description of the female mind in the entire philosophical canon. In his 1851 essay, On Women, he argued that, due to the inferiority of the female mind, even women’s subservient position in the institution of marriage is too high a station for them. Schopenhauer explained that women have the rational faculties of a child and that “to show them great reverence is extremely ridiculous.” He claimed that because “women exist in the main solely for the propagation of the species,” they are actually more well-suited to be kept by a man as a member of his harem and treated as little more than breeding stock.

Schopenhauer was particularly bad, but he was not unusual. The science of the gendered brain and psyche had a solid foundation within the field of philosophy. We can trace this trend all the way back to Ancient Greece with Aristotle, who viewed women as akin to beasts that “just obey feelings” and should therefore be ruled by men. Thomas Aquinas similarly viewed men as the masters of women due to their superior mental faculties.

French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau argued that females were not only the physically weaker sex, but that their minds were innately predisposed to feminine behaviors, such as coquettishness, a love of ornamental trinkets, and dolls. He cited this as evidence that the purpose of women is to be pleasing to men.

Immanuel Kant is perhaps history’s most important philosopher on the nature of rational judgement and morality, yet it is rarely mentioned that women are excluded from his philosophical framework due to what he saw as their incapacity for higher thinking. Kant viewed the feminine mind as only fit for petty domestic duties, so argued that women should live under a system of constant male guardianship, for their own good.

Hegel held similar sentiments on women. As did Spinoza. The list goes on…

But even with all these “great men of history” against them, feminists were still able to tear down the sexist notion of the “feminine mind.” Philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft utterly destroyed Rousseau in her 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Women by showing how gendered characteristics are the result of women’s second-rate education, not their biology. The second wave of feminism similarly refuted the notion of innate gender, showing instead that these roles and ideas are the result of socialization and indoctrination.

For one brief, shining moment, the truth reigned, and it was understood that the mind was not gendered — that a woman could be as brave, logical, dominant, and non-decorative as any other person… Until now.

Once again, the idea of the inherently gendered brain/mind/psyche has become mainstream — this time through the ideology of gender identity. Femininity is said to exist, not because it is an artificially imposed system of patriarchal control, but because it is an expression of a woman’s personal “identity.”

It is sad that we apparently have not learned from history. But looking back can provide us with some comfort and even hope.

If our feminist foremothers were able to eventually get out from under this essentialist backlash, surely we can do it too. History supposedly repeats itself, appearing first as tragedy, second as farce. Because our foremothers have already done the work of dismantling the idea of “pink and blue brains,” we are in a much better position to demonstrate how ridiculous it truly is.

We have the history of truth and reason on our side, after all.

Susan Cox
Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • Susan Hawthorne

    Unfortunately, in general, and even among editors, hardly anyone knows the difference between sex and gender.

    Secondly, identity, also a very misused word, is not biology.

    Both gender and identity are social and socialised.

    • Sabine

      We now live in a world where the term “female penis” is used in all seriousness by an alarming number of trans advocates. There is no such thing as biology anymore, apparently. It’s something inconvenient to be swept under the carpet along with the protections and rights women have been fighting for over the last hundred years. Those who point out biological realities are now “bigots”. Insanity.

  • Hekate Jayne

    Okay, then.

    This has got to be stopped. Males have got to be stopped.

    The longer that this “ladybrainz” bullshit goes on, the more enraged I become. Here we have the biological sex that is so fragile, so insecure, so dainty and afraid of everything, that they have stifled and controlled the female half of the population out of sheer terror of being found out to be totally and completely worthless idiots.

    If no one is inferior or superior, than everyone is equal, and males can’t have that. And we have been shoved down, kept inferior, just to prop up the male ego, and consequently blamed for it.

    But what a great manipulation it is that males have going. After all of this time, they still largely have benefit of free domestic, sexual, and emotional labor. And those that don’t marry to get it free can purchase it for cheap. They are lazy, violent, entitled, greedy, and generally disgusting. More animal than human.

    • calabasa

      Actually most animals act much better than humans, so I think the comparison isn’t fair. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-bekoff/humanlike-violence-animals_b_2330808.html

      This Huffpost article has a ton of links to the science.

      It’s human males (not males of other species) who act this way, and it’s from socialization more than anything, no doubt. A combination of historical factors have led us to this pass, but men (and humanity generally) could be far kinder and more cooperative, if circumstances were to change and people were to be socialized differently (which is why fighting for justice is important…every little bit helps). The only issue is whether we’re too late in terms of destruction of other animals and our environment to be able to evolve toward peace as a species and enjoy our remaining time here on earth, as a species.

  • melissa

    Thank you so much for addressing this. It was driving me nuts! So many of the “March for Science” crew was parroting the “gender is a spectrum”(and basically using gender and sex interchangeably when convenient.Funny how trans activists don’t have a problem with that conflation when it helps them.), it was mind boggling.You’d think these people at-least would know better,if no one else.Christ,this is the creationism of the left. “March for Science” my ass.


    “It is sad that we apparently have not learned from history. But looking back can provide us with some comfort and even hope.”

    Exactly this. And its not even the “gender brain” thing. So many of the most regressive, mind numbing debates and issues we’re still seeing roaring back today, seems like things that should’ve been dealt and done with for good a long time ago.Things that we instead keep sliding back and clinging onto over and over again.You’d think by now so many of these things would just be met with an eye roll at best and appallment at worst.But nope, we’ve somehow managed to claim some of the most backwards ,misogynistic ideas- that feminist previously fought tooth and nail to abolish- as cherished protected identities and “progressiveness”, that are blasphemous to question or challenge.

    It gets incredibly hard to imagine how we’ll combat some of this garbage, but yea, looking at the past, seeing that we’ve been through similar if not worse, does give me a little bit of hope.

  • Writing as a scientist here (though this is not my particular field – I’ve just done a lot of reading in this area): I have a very hard time with the idea that all sex differences are entirely learned. I agree that the current nonsense about trans people having opposite sex brains is spectacular nonsense. But I think insisting that sex differences are entirely learned is equally improbable. I think it’s a big mistake to insist that it’s black and white like this. Even Cordelia Fine says (in her earlier book – I haven’t read the latest one) that we know there are sex differences in the brain – it’s just really hard to be sure what they are. And there are other reputable scientists who work in this area. They aren’t all easy to debunk. Personally I think there’s no way hormones have no effect whatsoever. That just doesn’t make sense. AND girls have a head start with respect to language, that I suspect persists throughout life but doesn’t show up on tests designed by men.

    I think we should be educating people about what what we know about what can be and is learned, including stereotype threat – rather than insisting that we can know that none of it is innate – as well as going over the history as you’ve done here.

    Regardless of who’s right, insisting that there are no innate differences probably comes across as just as unrealistic to the average person as women having penises.

    • Hekate Jayne

      Hormones have a minimal affect on the brain, according to what I have read.

      Brains are different, I am sure. I am sure that some brains have a strength for math while some don’t. Maybe some have a propensity for violence while some don’t. But to attach brain differences to biological sex is not just silly, but also dangerous.

      I understand that you are making an argument based on your knowledge and experience and in good faith. But I have heard a nearly identical argument from liberal feminists. This argument is always, always going to be used against us. Any argument that claims that our brains are different is always going to end up with our brains being less.

      • susannunes

        People here don’t even understand the argument. There is NO male or female brain, and I am horrified at the ignorance some think there are. There are NO innate differences between males and females AT BIRTH. EVERYTHING is imprinted thereafter.

        There might be differences among individuals, but this nonsense of a male or female brain is just like the Bell Curve racist crap that was peddled in the 1990s.

    • calabasa

      I agree with you, Anemone. In fact, I think the whole “nature/nurture” argument is beside the point. For example, if the urge to kill is “natural” (which it is or it wouldn’t exist), does that mean we should be in favor of it?

      I don’t know if science will ever get to the level where we could accurately pinpoint sex differences, biologically, and how they lead to behavioral differences. However, those sex differences which are not useful should not be reinforced. Teaching boys it’s okay to cry and girls to say “no” and stand up for themselves would be a good start, IMO.

      Why reinforce difference and create greater imbalance? Also, even if “it’s natural” were actually true, that’s no reason to excuse bad behavior. We don’t use it to excuse other types of bad behavior, why use it to excuse the objectively harmful behavior people believe is caused by biological sex (such as violent behavior, or the desire for domination)? We know how plastic we are, as a species, and how susceptible to socialization. We can socialize boys to be less violent, and girls to be more assertive.

      The “nature/nurture” argument seems pointless to me. What’s important is the degree to which something is harmful and shouldn’t be encouraged.

    • susannunes

      Sex roles, misnamed “gender,” are completely socialized. There are NO differences brainwise between the sexes at birth. THAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE. EVERYTHING is learned at that point–that is how pervasive sex role socialization is. It becomes imprinted on the brain at that point. People aren’t born with masculinity and femininity. I don’t believe you even understand the feminist argument AT ALL.

      It doesn’t even matter much what “differences” there are in childhood and adulthood when EVERYBODY is basically born as a blank slate brainwise.

      Do you really think women innately hate math, want to cook and clean, are “naturally” nurturing, want to wear makeup, and all of that other garbage? Remember the notions that women can’t think logically, they have no “spatial” skills? Remember that garbage? It was debunked DECADES ago.
      Perhaps you are too young to remember that.

      Come on, people, stop this. Sex roles are NOT based on real differences between the sexes–they are FORCED upon people in order to make the sexes complementary to each other. They are especially destructive to women.

  • lk

    Why are so many American liberals chomping at the bit to accept the idea of a female brain and a male brain? If anything, I would have expected American conservatives to eat this idea up—it disregards scientific evidence and reinforces much of the gender ideals found in the Bible (Recently though, I have seen articles where Christian parents state that God made their child transgender).

    There is nothing progressive about the idea that femininity and masculinity are innate. What I want from liberalism is to encourage a society where people can dress, accessorize, do their hair and participate in whatever activities they want without denying biological facts.

    “We seem to have forgotten that the idea of innate difference between male and female minds was used to exclude women from political and intellectual life, and to deny them basic human rights of self-determination in the not-so-distant past.”

    It worries me that today this idea is being used to give anyone who says they have a female brain entry into female only places-bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, prisons, shelters, women’s colleges, sororities, scholarships for women and etc.

  • susannunes

    As long as women, including feminists, remain sexually available at all times to “left” men, men on the left will tolerate them. However, the minute they take the “easy lay” away from the dudes, the “left” becomes more sexist than the right. It has always been true. This isn’t about “brain” differences here–this is all about sexual freedom. After all, “transgenderism” is really all about sexual kinks and the dubious “right” to push and destroy boundaries, no matter how appropriate, between men and women, adults and children. Of course the “left” is going to be all in favor of it because it is another aspect of “sexual liberation.”

    • edgySF

      ‘”transgenderism” is really all about sexual kinks and the dubious “right” to push and destroy boundaries, no matter how appropriate, between men and women, adults and children. ‘
      This ^
      In addition to the ubiquity of hardcore porn, pop culture is now grooming kids for predators.
      I saw a recent study that stated what we should all know: some predators will use “trans” as a means to access children. “Julianna” Fialowski, as a matter of fact, was a counselor for transgendered youth until he was arrested for raping a young “transman” (bio female).
      Julianna is now in jail for child porn.
      Gloria Steinem mentioned at the Women’s March in DC last January that for the first time in history, we now have more males on the planet than females. That is a direct result of violence against women, which I still read about in the news every day.
      Yet, third-wave feminism does nothing to protect women & children from violence. In fact, by advocating that bio males be allowed in women’s restrooms, shelters, showers, dressing rooms, clinics, etc., they are endangering women & children.
      Reducing violence against women & children should be our number one concern as feminists, in my view. I mean, it is a global epidemic that is directly affecting our population, after all. Can “fun feminists” sacrifice their acceptance of porn & prostitution as a necessary first step…?

  • I think we make a mistake in framing the sexed brain cult too completely as a 19th century situation. Liberals do not subscribe in principle to keeping females out of the public sphere. Rather, they would like to see women integrated into society in a way that does not challenge the (male defined) status quo. Brain sex categories, nebulous and undefinable as they are, can keep women from organizing as a sex class. Sex class is erased by the brain cult by getting women who adopt so-called male traits and interests to identify as male or non-binary, by keeping women supervised by males at all times via trans inclusion, and by encouraging women to view acquiescence to the status quo not as subservience but as a mark of “cis” privilege. At the same time, the brain cult demands that we discount the glaringly obvious way men and women ARE different: the physiology which bears and nurses children. 19th century sexism was characterized by insisting that women were ONLY about bearing children, that a womb was all a woman was. 21st century sexism says the womb is irrelevant, thus erasing any identifiable trait that would allow for group (rather than individual) identity. The gender brain cult, to a liberal, is not about imprisoning women but about freeing all people, male and female, to perform all roles of (the male dominated) society. The end result of the brain cult, then and now, is to entrench male dominance, but that can manifest either as extreme sex segregation or erasure of sex class altogether (thus depriving women of the tools to change a society geared to the convenience and pleasure of the male body). Male dominance is the age-old problem, and brain sex is a timeworn tool in service thereof, but when we categorize liberals as being stuck in the past, we will only get blank stares, because today’s brain cult is a mutation.

  • Cassandra

    This will probably sound way too generalized, but everything that’s happening–from the conservative obsession with owning our reproductive systems to this “progressive” obsession with erasing said system while pornifying us worse than ever and defending the ability to pay to rape poor women, etc.,–all of it is patriarchy freaking the fuck out because when you stop to think about it, the progress women have made has happened very, very quickly when looked at through the timeline of human history. They’re like “Whoah, we better turn this mother fuckin’ ship around!”

    We can’t let them.

  • Dana Scully

    Good luck arguing with the trans lobby. “Transwomen are women because transwomen are women.” and circular cult-like logic is all you get from them. Disagree or expose their lack of (literally any) proof and you’re a bigot and are told to “get raped” or “die in a fire”. I have lost friends for not believing that female subordination is natural and for questioning whether white men are really less privileged than biological women. Being in a subordinate sex caste isn’t a privilege. Cis-privilege isn’t a thing.

  • FierceMild

    Yes. Chinese footbinding and Indian suttee (etc. etc. etc.) were not the result of colonialism. They were the result of misogyny. Men of colour and the patriarchal cultures they created do not get to excuse themselves and blame their abuses of women of colour on white men.

    Like male-supremacy, war and the conquering and subjugation of other races/countries/people is not and never was limited to Europeans. Either you believe such actions are always wrong no matter who commits them or you think Europeans are just better at it and that somehow puts only them in the wrong.

    • Rich Garcia

      @fiercemild:disqus Black and brown men, for all of their mistreatment of women past and present, aren’t pushing the “trans” agenda. It is mainly a Western trend where the majority of people pushing this dogma of “gender identity” are white liberals (mostly men) and some conservatives (typically men).

      Look at how far countries like the United Stated have come in being the first country to abolish slavery and recognize Women’s Suffrage on the basis that all people deserve to be treated equally, only to fall back on the line of thinking that tells us women are vain and intellectually inferior due to their supposed brain chemistry. And that this is what it means to be female if men adopt these false stereotypes and characterizations.

  • will

    You might get a kick out of this FierceMild.


  • I agree we shouldn’t assume other cultures past and present have the same norms ours does, though it’s hard to see it when we’re doing it. I see that all the time with cognitive development. At the same time, in other areas, people are not testing for sex differences when it’s essential that they do (e.g. medical research, though that’s not personality). So my take on research would be: map first, look for patterns, then later test for sex differences if you can.

  • The psychologist most well known for insisting everything was learned was John B. Watson. You don’t want to sound like him.

    • Wren

      I never said everything was learned and I don’t believe that. However, I don’t believe that behavioral differences between men and women are mapped on the brain at birth.

      With all do respect, do you want to sound like an evolutionary psychologist? Regardless, my original point was that I don’t think concerns over what the average person thinks about a scientific theory should ever be a determiner of truth. We are conditioned to believe many things that aren’t good for ourselves or humanity.

  • My impression was that the original post was too black and white. Otherwise I would have commented differently.

  • You can find lots of material in university libraries in books and journal articles. There are books meant for a general audience (The Tending Instinct, Maccoby and Jacklin’s book) as well as textbooks (e.g. textbooks on sex differences in cognition) and other more technical books.

  • Rich Garcia

    @disqus_vnmvU8yhfS:disqus Chattel slavery and manifest destiny weren’t a problem in the pre-Columbian New World, even if the living conditions of the indigenous people here were far from perfect. I can trace my ancestry back to the Arawak Indians, who weren’t recognized as a civilization that treated it’s females as second-class citizens and shoved “gender” into their psyches.

    And your “free media system” is just another form of indoctrination, surpassing religion in that aspect.

    • FierceMild


    • Atheist

      I understand where you are coming from Rich. In fact I think that colonialism is the only logical result of male domination run rampant – when a society *goes bad* to the point where the female half of the population has no say at all it can only result in harming the entire world as we know it. Ending sexism and misogyny is the only way to improve things and ensure this never happens again.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh no! I will find it and liberate it from the spam folder.

  • Julio

    What a mess. I’ll be sure to print this post on the back of my “Modern Brown Man’s Get Out of Patriarchy Free” card.

  • Alienigena

    “Art, by contrast, is never criticised in this way, even though its history (and present!) is also filled with blatant racism and sexism, which, unlike in the case of science, can never be refuted and cast aside.”


    “the trans-gender movement is actually a result of anti-science attitudes among the “social science” crowd”

    Some of us have degrees in both the social sciences and sciences. I worked in a research lab and published papers. But understand what you are talking about specifically the postmodern babble that emanates from certain people in the humanities and social sciences. It is like a secret language that only initiates (special people) can understand. Some social sciences like physical anthropology (primatology, human evolution, biological anthropology) resemble the sciences more than they do social sciences.

  • Alienigena

    Disclaimer. Anthropologists study non-human primates because of what they can tell us about human evolution. Not really to compare modern humans to modern (extant) primates.

  • lk

    Radwonka..is that you? Are you back? We’ve missed your comments 🙂

  • Alienigena

    You cite one study that is 17 years old. Currency in science is very important. Not sure what point you are trying to make. I prefer to listen to experts in neuroscience like Cordelia Fine rather than random Internet commenters who cite one study that is almost 20 years old.

  • Tired feminist

    The thesis of this article is not the absence of any difference between male and female brains.
    Read the fucking article.

  • Tired feminist

    Race is not entirely a social construct. A black and a white person look objectively different. This is a material reality that has a real impact on their life experiences because they will be treated differently. I agree however that racial categories are blurry, unlike sex categories.

  • Tired feminist

    Yes and this is a VERY important point. If humans were put into cages and mazes for most of our lives we would all probably start to go crazy sooner or later.

  • Wren

    That wasn’t my point. My point was that public sentiment is not always a good barometer of scientific reality.

    And science is still being used to oppress women, so maybe change your comment to the present tense.

  • FierceMild


  • Wren

    beautiful post.

  • Atheist

    I see what you’re saying that male violence isn’t limited to European men, but at the same time, we ARE living in a white imperialist nation. Everything we’re dealing with now comes from a legacy of white men brutalizing white women into submission and in turn, eventually metastasized into brutalizing other ethnic and racial groups. The mass amounts of white people did not come from nowhere – they came from the wombs of white women who were raped, witch hunted, and beaten into submission by white men. White women didn’t do it and didn’t ask for it, and neither did males of color. American power has always been white and male. At our most diverse it was 80% white male and Christian.

  • Cassandra

    This doesn’t prove anything. These are female as female and male as male infants. It says nothing about how you could have a female brain in a male body.

    God forbid some male baby looks at a face too long. Better run out and get him some estrogen and a set of makeup brushes.

    This isn’t science.

  • Wren

    Yes, and the only reason to investigate the sex brain differences is to prove women are inferior, or to disprove it. Was there ever any other reason?? Until it is acknowledged that the original purpose is unethical, this will continue in perpetuity.

  • FierceMild

    Excerpt below from https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25306-biology-doesnt-justify-gender-divide-for-toys/

    “Newborn boys and girls, untouched by the forces of gender socialisation, supposedly show stereotypical preferences for looking at hanging mobiles versus faces, respectively…But these findings are far less compelling than they appear. For instance, if the preference of female rhesus monkeys for stuffed animals shows that love of dolls is “innate” in girls, what do we make of the fact that the favourite toy of male vervet monkeys was a stuffed dog, which they played with more than a third longer than a toy car?

    Recent experiments, more methodologically rigorous than the much-cited mobiles versus faces newborn study, found no sex differences in the preferences of babies for looking at objects versus faces. Both preferred the latter to an equal extent.”

    The Rhesus monkey study was debunked almost as soon as it was conducted because of the unscientific manner in which it was conducted and the lack of blinds (those administering the test knew the sex of the subjects and were therefore liable to confirmation bias).

  • Kendall Turtle

    We know from recent studies these children have actually already been socialized into their roles.

  • calabasa

    I agree with you that it’s anti-science. You’re also right about how corporations influence scientific research and shape it to their liking (also anti-science). Scientists often exaggerate claims as well, in order to gain funding. Altogether, the drive to please or cater to anyone in science spells bad science (John Oliver does a funny bit about all the so-called scientific studies that routinely contradict each other, and how unscientific they actually are, precisely because there is no money or prestige in being the person who confirms the results of a study–that is, repeats a study–so most studies are never even repeated).

    My brother is a scientist, and had to work years in the underpaid, thankless position of post-doc, and then spend years more to find his position as a head of lab at a university (and he graduated with a PhD in neuroscience from the most prestigious university in the country), because he wants to do his own science, not what corporations want him to do. Most scientists do not have this luxury, and many who do might nevertheless sacrifice this luxury for the better pay and lesser responsibility that comes with working in the private sector.

    It’s not just science, it’s logic. There are certain topics I won’t allow my students to write argument papers about, because I require both consistent internal logic, and also some empirical evidence that is not cherry-picked (i.e., I require use of data from studies in which there is some scientific consensus, as well as rigorous scientific methods, rather than obscure, meaningless data from poorly executed studies funded by dubious sources. To this end I go over how to assess the credibility of studies and sources quite a lot, in my class). The “abortion is murder” argument is one I discourage, as first of all its proponents tend to be logically inconsistent (not vilifying IVF clinics, and making exemptions that make no sense if “abortion is murder,” exemptions that further could not be readily enforced), and secondly they cherry-pick pseudoscientific “statistics” from the loads and loads of misinformation that comprises the first three pages of Google hits about abortion. Trying to argue the anti-abortion position is as difficult as trying to argue the pro-abortion position (not the pro-choice position); it’s like an argument paper trying to argue either for or against the existence of God. In a philosophy class, it would be fine, but a classic argument within a writing class requires pathos, logos and ethos, and supporting evidence indicative of good sources and critical thinking, not simply a philosophical discussion of an idea (I require some empirical evidence, not just other people’s opinions).

    On the other hand, I have a student who is writing a paper about how transwomen should not be allowed to compete as women in athletic competitions, as middling male athletes often miraculously become top female athletes, and since there is no science to back up the idea that one year of taking estrogen actually makes a biological male’s performance comparable to that of a biological female (there is, in fact, a glaring dearth of research into this area–I wonder why? Here is one such article in which people have interesting discussion about how transwomen athletes might actually improve their times after transition. The discussion after the article is interesting: https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/trans-national-womens-cycling-team-men-rolling-over-a-woman-near-you/).

    I happen to agree with him, but is he going to find any evidence to back up his argument? This a real issue, when science bends to the demands of *any* group, and distorts reality. No studies that contradict trans claims are receiving any funding.

    I agree with you that other “liberal” notions are also nonsense. We must always keep in mind our own biases. We cannot be certain of our position until we have looked deeply at the opposition’s, and refuted their position using both logic and science. There seems to be plenty of pathos (whereas ethos, or what morals should be institutionalized within our societies, or what institutions should be called upon as moral authorities, becomes clouded when emotion and logic are warring interests), but not much logos around.

  • Meghan Murphy

    What a relief!

  • FierceMild

    Yup. And we think their movies suck.

  • FierceMild

    Your statement is true, but it’s playing off his statement, which isn’t accurate. Dude has no notion what he’s on about. He’s just holding on to his speak-stick and ad libbing.

  • FierceMild

    Right? It reminds me of that quote from a neorologist saying basically that the idea of physical brain differences leading to thought differences is about as reasonable as saying that hairier people have fuzzier thoughts.

  • FierceMild

    I’m with you. Just wanted to be sure I understood what you were saying. By this definition race is anlagous to gender and phenotype or ethnic group to sex. Makes perfect sense. It was sometime in the 1940s I believe that we began to racialize Hispanic people at all. Before that they were considered simply white like Sicilians and Spaniards and Greeks.

  • will
  • will
  • Anthocerotopsida

    Velveeta sandwich of a mansplainer. Lol high-larious!

  • FierceMild

    I’m glad you came back. You made a difference to me while I was still lurking around in my radfem chrysalis.

  • FierceMild

    That’s hilarious! I got a perfect score on the SAT and had never gone beyond long division before or had a single science class in my life. It was a combination of guesswork and taking a class on how to take a standardized test (it was also the first standardized test I had ever taken). She-na-ni-gans.

  • FierceMild

    Ha! Love it.

  • Hierophant2

    Again, where is the evidence?

  • Gundog

    Exactly. And that combo crosses all colors, creeds, and kinds as well. It’s not, as the original poster asserted (with a surprising number of upvotes), confined to one particular religion or race of people.

    However, and this is where we will differ, the occurrence of something (e.g. patriarchy) over a multitude of different and unconnected societies, leads me to the conclusion that something is a natural phenomena (or at least deeply rooted in nature) and not the result deliberate or nefarious action.

    • Tired feminist

      You can easily use the same argument to justify slavery. It doesn’t prove anything.

  • will

    It just might be simple enough for them to follow. Maybe….

  • will

    This is an interesting discussion. I agree that patriarchy, particularly influenced by Decartes over-weights intellectual ability while ignoring wisdom. I knew a guy who scored very high on IQ tests but he really was an idiot. He worked in DNA research and in his off hours followed professional sports, watched porn, listened to the crassest pop music, ate MacDonalds (which he claimed was the best “because 1 billion sold” and chased women for sex. He had children by four different women. He loved to brag about how smart he was and when I asked him why he spent so much of his waking life doing stupid things, he basically said “because I can”. Looking back on it now I see him as a sociopath.

    Anyhow, as you infer, “intelligence” does not seem to correlate with making better communities, having a meaningful life or improving conditions in the world. Human “ability” is an interesting and complex phenomenon though.

  • radwonka

    Here’s what I said:
    “atheists are often […]”
    “many of them”
    “many atheists”
    “all *these* atheists people” (aka the ones into gender ideology)
    “Fortunately not all scientists are like that”

    I didn’t say “all atheists” or “this or that” (?), don’t put words in my mouth. There is a huge majority of atheists (men and women) who believe in gender ideology, that’s a fact, and recognizing that =/= erasing feminist atheists. Which is why I simply said “many of them” and not “all of them”, it clearly implies that not all atheists are like that.

  • lk

    I’m glad you’re feeling better and we’re happy you’re back.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Me too!

  • lk

    What an interesting reaction…I’m guessing your friend has an intense desire for people to feel included which isn’t a bad thing to want..after all, as humans we do want to fell like we belong.

    I agree though, exclusion isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on why someone is being excluded or what they are being excluded from.

    Like, there is a big difference between excluding black people from public spaces and excluding men from a women’s rape shelter.

  • Cassandra

    No. They’re trying to push lady and man brain. This comes from them. We aren’t confused at all.

  • FierceMild

    Maybe you could do your own googling before you suggest it’s all just a silly little mistake we made with our pure white ladybrains.

  • FierceMild

    Was that for me or for Revanchiste?

  • FierceMild

    No kidding. When MENSA begins to contribute…well…anything to broader society I’ll take note of it.

  • FierceMild


  • Tired feminist

    It’s always fun to be called irrational by people who believe in gender identity, isn’t it?

  • calabasa

    What about bonobos?

  • Tired feminist

    No. It’s not “how an individual perceives itself” that determines gendered behavior. Patriarchal socialization does. This is one of the points being made in the article you didn’t read.

  • marv

    Religious people believe the Spirit of God dwells within us. Supposedly our inner souls tell us we are spiritual bodied if we are open to the truth. Rational persons know this is false. Socialization is the “toggle switch” for mystical and gender faith.

  • marv

    White male scientists have made claims about innate brain differences between blacks and whites. You are applying this type of discriminatory thinking to the sexes.


  • marv

    It’s toggle switch theory that is hard to believe. It lends itself to be an alibi for men to not be primary caregivers of children and the elderly by pointing to women’s reproductive capacities. Male self-serving contrivance. Stop disguising your selfishness as science.

    • Larry Copano

      You say it’s “hard to believe” but you don’t say why. You don’t have anything to contradict it, except that I am “making it up” to hide some nefarious purpose. I do not have a purpose other than to explain why I exist.

      Again, my hypothesis is:
      (A) we could be born with something in our brains that tells us that our bodies are female or male… (whether that part of our brain is correct or not)
      (B) this “toggle switch” has a way to tell us whether other persons are female or male. (perhaps scent – babies seem to be better at smelling)
      (C) which in turn makes us know which gender to internalize at an early age.

      I don’t think that females and males would be noticeably different in most areas if it weren’t for gender. I would prefer to have been born in a genderless society. But I didn’t, and I internalized the male gender.

      • marv

        There is no material analysis in A, B and C based on rigorous non-patriarchal scientific findings. It’s imaginary.

  • marv

    Sound science claims the opposite of what your theory is allowing:



    Social structures account for gendering, not brain structures. Competitive sports are a waste of life like religion. Another male form of indoctrination people have uncritically accepted with dense glee. You are an ecclesiastical man, just not in the way you perceive: ideological rigidity and institutional conformity of a different fashion.

  • wormcast

    for the record, the study cited did NOT find “no differences whatsoever”. Rather, it claimed that it “demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain.”

  • Sophia

    I’m an autistic woman who doesn’t have a thing for Maths at all. In fact, I’m very linguistically gifted (speak 4 languages and really adept at writing an using language). I knew it was time to find a new psychologist when she told me she believed in the “extreme male brain theory” (which is BS of epic proportions).