In my travels around the internet the other day two articles fell into my lap that touched on something I have been curious about for some time- why people react the way they do to the assertion that men and women are inherently different, why they feel the need to treat it as if it’s one of the worse things you could possibly say/think/feel. Of course I more or less already knew the answer but to have it come, in a sense, from the horse’s mouth was interesting to me.
Article the First
Tamara McClintock Greenberg, a psychologist of 20 years, wrote an article in Psychology Today late last year entitled ‘Differences Between Men and Women‘. But that’s not what the article ended up being about. Though she mentioned some differences in the beginning the bulk of the rather short article was a defense of that admission. It went something like this: “Men and women are different… it’s hard to hear that, here is why… we need to accept that it’s ok to talk about this.” That she couldn’t just pen an article about the inherent differences based on her 20 year experience as a psychologist without having to make something like 75% of it coaching readers through that observation really says something about where we are as a culture. However, what she talks about with regards to the fear and anxiety around the observation makes me thankful for the detour:
“There are those who wish there were no differences between men and women. In the 1970’s at the University of California, Berkeley, the buzzword among young women was “mandatory unisex,” which meant that it was politically incorrect even to mention sex difference.”
Something curious happened along the way for women exposed to feminist beliefs. Those of us in our 40’s and beyond were reared in a time in which we felt we had to deny differences between the sexes. This message had a purpose. We had to justify equal rights and equal pay. Although I can’t say that we have really achieved either, it certainly is better than it has been, at least in the United States. Yet, our current state of external inequality makes it harder to talk about internal and biological differences.
Article the Second
In the beginning of last year the Huffington Post ran an article about a new discovery about the sexes. The “new” discovery turned out to be another in the line of “didn’t we already know that?” revelations, of course, as the study showed that men and women are very different. Like “different species”, or so said one of the researchers, Paul Irwing. But we can’t have that, because equality!
Irwing thinks that some researchers in the past may have been biased in their methods, in order to reduce any gender difference. “It’s for totally laudable reasons,” he said. “People are very concerned, or were very concerned, that women didn’t get equal opportunities, and that there was a lot of bias in selection processes.”
“People are afraid that studies like ours will turn the clock back,” Irwing added.
Hyde is one of those people. “This huge difference is not only scientifically false,” she said, “it has unfortunate consequences for places like the workplace and education and heterosexual romantic relationships.”
I had to read Professor Hyde’s (a professor of women’s studies and psychology, naturally) response a few times. it has unfortunate consequences for places like the workplace and education and heterosexual romantic relationships. This shouldn’t even enter in to a scientific discussion. Social response to it is absolutely unquestionably besides the point. That she felt it was even worth mentioning shows that she is approaching this with a bias. We don’t get to decide truth based on the outcome we’d like to see, truth is truth. At least one of the authors of the study agrees:
“I think distorting science because of what you would like to believe, or because of what you think the political consequences are, is very dangerous,” said Irwing
So what does this tell us? It tells us that people have become more invested in in a dogmatic standard of political correctness than they have about actual truth. What’s worse, they are painting that dogmatic standard of political correctness as absolute truth and demanding we start from there, that that is our baseline. This convenient set-up means that if anything challenges that supposed absolute truth then it is automatically wrong. Men and women can’t naturally be different because equality is important. One thing has nothing to do with the other in the realm of fact, yet this has become a valid argument to far too many; one that has swayed scientific finding, public opinion, and public policy. Sentimentality reigns supreme.
If you want to watch how someone who has set their life around this dogma reacts when they are met with evidence to the contrary watch this documentary. It’s just over 38 minutes and you will have to read subtitles most of the time but it is absolutely worth it, a real eye opener. The part I am referencing happens at the end.