We all know the old adage “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” but some researchers say it’s hogwash.
According to a recent story in The Observer, a growing number of scientists are challenging the belief that there are significant innate differences between the minds of men and women. These researchers are challenging pseudo-science behind these theories and deeming them “neurosexism.” Furthermore, they’re concerned about the impact our assumptions about the male and female brain can have on children’s educations. For example, by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified learning obstacles are being placed in the paths of young students.
Researchers like Cordelia Fine, author of the upcoming book Delusions of Gender, argue that there are no major neurological differences between the sexes. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, Fine told The Observer, but the wiring is soft, not hard. “It is flexible, malleable and changeable,” she said.
Lise Eliot, an associate professor based at the Chicago Medical School, supported Fine’s ideas, stressing that the behavioral differences between girls and boys, women and men, are rooted in culture, not biology. She told The Observer, “Yes, there are basic behavioural differences between the sexes, but we should note that these differences increase with age because our children’s intellectual biases are being exaggerated and intensified by our gendered culture. Children don’t inherit intellectual differences. They learn them. They are a result of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.”
In other words, boys don’t naturally have better spatial skills than girls and girls aren’t naturally better communicators. Instead boys develop improved spatial skills because they are expected and are encouraged to be strong at sport, which requires expertise at catching and throwing. Likewise, it is anticipated that girls will be more emotional and talkative, and so teachers and parents focus largely on their verbal skills.
Thus let’s keep in mind that while many women are outraged by claims like women can’t tell funny jokes, read maps, or play sports, we should be just as troubled by the assertion that it’s normal (and even acceptable) for men to be emotionally unavailable.