The supposed science behind sexism has come under attack for using misleading evidence and jumping to conclusions, says Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of Gender. In her book, Fine argues that the science behind compartmentalized gender is merely “dressed-up sexism.” The problem, she says, is that scientists almost always report on the differences between the sexes, which in turn sensationalize them, as opposed to giving people the ability to compare the similarities. Furthermore, Fine’s book speaks about unconscious sexism, a sexism that is more institutionalized than ever.
Books like “The Female Brain”, “The Male Brain”, and “Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus” are all examples of texts that expand on the supposed differences between men and women. And yet there is little scientific evidence that supports differences to the extreme of the claims of these books. Beyond that, how far back does science go? Science of the sexist past is an unreliable source when it comes to claims of basic differences between men and women. Scientist of the past utilized science that came before them as precedent, as did the scientists before them, and so on. If this is the trend, studies of today have fallen prey to stereotypes. Instead of debunking or proving myths, they’re playing right into those pre-existing stereotypes.
If no one questions which came first, the chicken or the egg, then assumptions continue to be made and generation after generation rules are formed and strictly adhered to. Articles like “Boys and Girls Are Different: Gender Differences in Language Appear Biological” from 2008 exemplify using science to determine differences between the sexes. The question well-researched and documented studies like this one, is that it (and others like it) fails to compare perhaps studies from the 1950s to findings from today. Differences in brain patterns between men and women could be due to evolution. They could be due to years of adaptation to expectations, or as Fine vaguely suggests, to defiance against expectations.
Either way, institutionalized sexism with science backing it has a major affect on societal norms. Fine points out that this science “justifies the status quo” which supports a very patriarchic society and low expectations of both sexes.
Case in point: Just because science claims to prove the differences, does not mean that the status quo should be accepted. The National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation, both headquartered in the Washington, DC area are good sources of information on various topics. They also have numerous volunteer opportunities as well as events to attend throughout the year. Read more about her book at www.cordeliafine.com.