Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More on Brain Hardwiring Mystique

My reader Quisp kindly suggested a link to an article by Janet Shibley Hyde titled "The Gender Similarities Hypothesis." This is a truly great piece of research that is aimed at dispelling the "Men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus" myth through meticulous scientific research. It is so refreshing to read such a well-constructed and well-reserached piece after all the junk science dedicated to promoting this fallacy that bobmards us on a dily basis.

Not only does Shibley Hide present a lot of data to counteract the gender difference myth, she also talks about its social consequences: "Gilligan’s (1982) argument that women speak in a different moral “voice” than men is a well-known exampleof the differences model. Women, according to Gilligan, speak in a moral voice of caring, whereas men speak in a voice of justice. Despite the fact that meta-analyses disconfirmher arguments for large gender differences (Jaffee & Hyde, 2000; Thoma, 1986; Walker, 1984), Gilligan’s ideas have permeated American culture. One consequence of thisoverinflated claim of gender differences is that it reifies the stereotype of women as caring and nurturant and men as lacking in nurturance. One cost to men is that they may believe that they cannot be nurturant, even in their role as father. For women, the cost in the workplace can be enormous. Women who violate the stereotype of being nurturant and nice can be penalized in hiring and evaluations."

In conclusion to her great article, Shibley Hide says the following: "It is time to consider the costs of overinflated claims of gender differences. Arguably, they cause harm in numerous realms, including women’s opportunities in the workplace,couple conflict and communication, and analyses of selfesteem problems among adolescents. Most important, these claims are not consistent with the scientific data." The essentialized view of gender offers us an illusion of simplifying the world's complexities. But the price we pay for this fallacy on a daily basis is too higgh.


Quisp said...

I'm glad you liked this article as much as I do. I'll be interested to see your reports of teaching it. In my experience, students tend to read it and understand it when we talk about it, but are unable to internalize the findings. They so *want* to believe the Venus-Mars tripe instead.

(Except, of course, for the feminist students. Like me, they love the empirical validation!)

Clarissa said...

I had a great moment last semester when a male student of very traditional political and ideological convictions came up to me after class and said: "So do you really believe that the differences between men and women and people of different races are purely physiological?" I said, "Yes, I do." He thought a little and said: "This feels so liberating." :-)

Dawn. said...

This is my first time reading this blog, and I had to comment. I linked from Female Impersonator's "Carnival of Feminists" post. Your earlier post about brain hard-wiring mystique was kick ass, and so is this one. Both very interesting articles. It's so refreshing to read Hyde's conclusion.

I thought it was especially interesting that Schaff (from your earlier hard-wiring post) talks about a psychological defense mechanism against facts and opinions that conflict with one's previous beliefs and biases. I've debated with people about this in classroom and group settings before, but never had a source to back it up my theory that people psychologically defend themselves from new ideas that conflict with their own. They can be "intellectually acknowledged, but emotionally blocked, overlooked, and not assimilated." I think that says it better than I ever could.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Dawn!