Taking Sex Differences Seriously – Chapter 2 (Pages 14-28)

February 1, 2013 | NeW

This chapter left me shocked at one single quote from Simone de Beauvoir:

…children are the problem. (Page 17)

The quote comes from the basis for why men and women will always be different. To me, there is no problem with that at all and calling children the problem is completely wrong! Rhoads explains the feminist movement’s view on masculinity and femininity in the first half of Chapter 2. Defining terms many in the feminist movement use, like “sex differences”, meaning biological differences, and “gender differences”, meaning learned behaviors of what men and women are supposed to act like.

Most feminists conclude, therefore, that because masculinity and femininity are constructed by social forces, they can also be “deconstructed” en route to a more just society. (Page 15)

The question is, however, is masculinity and femininity a social thing? Purely or combined with biological?

Many different studies have been made over the years, including one by Virginia Valian. (Page 23) She studied young children and found that by the age of two boys and girls are very different. When shown a car, a boy will be more fascinated with the car itself and the girl with the people inside. But, Valian’s conclusions included skepticism in the fact of concluding that these studies meant boys only felt one way and girls felt another as she could not say for 100% certain that there was no influence on the masculinity and femininity of the children while growing up. Here are some more results from studies:

Compared with one-day-old male infants, one-day-old females respond more strongly to the sound of a human in distress. One-week-old baby girls can distinguish an infant’s cry from another noise; boys usually cannot. Three-day-old girls maintain eye contact with a silent adult for twice as long as boys. Girls will even look longer if the adult talks; it makes no difference to boys. Four-month-old girls can distinguish photgraphs of those they know from people they do not; boys the same age generally cannot. On the other hand, five-month-old boys are more interested than girls in three-dimensional geometric forms and in blinking lights. (Page 25)

This causes further discussion. Does this only occur in the US? Or does it go across cultures? Research concluded that there was:

substantial likeness across cultures. (Page 26)

But , does this change over time? There is a term called evolutionary psychology which can help us answer this question.

Evolutionary psychologists look to sexual selection to explain how male and female roles in reproduction and subsequently in the nurturing of the child would induce contrasting psychological predispositions in men and women. (Page 26)

Research has shown that our brains have evolved but, have similar basic nature to the earliest times of human existence. Another term, brain research, also attempts to explain the answer to whether there is change over time. Research has shown “sex differences.” Such as,

men have fewer neurons connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This difference may help to explain why women are better at talking about their emotions. (Page 27)

It also shows women use more neurons for activities, men containing more testosterone and how they use it and the makeup of hormones in males and females. So, what do you think? Does the research prove that there is a combination of social forces and biological? Or does biological always win? I’m looking forward to your responses about this topic, and thanks for reading along with us! Marian will continue the rest of the chapter next week!

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