Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Feminism and the Brain

From Mmegi.com, a post that contradicts what has been an article of faith amongst second-wave feminists.
For almost 40 years, that era's Western feminist critique of rigid sex-role stereotyping has prevailed. In many ways, it has eroded or even eliminated the kind of arbitrary constraints that turned peaceable boys into aggressive men and stuck ambitious girls in low-paying jobs.

Feminists understandably have often shied away from scientific evidence that challenges this critique of sex roles. After all, because biology-based arguments about gender difference have historically been used to justify women's subjugation, women have been reluctant to concede any innate difference, lest it be used against them. But, in view of recent scientific discoveries, has feminist resistance to accepting any signs of innate gender difference only created new biases?
Basically, yes.
Now a spate of scientific analyses, based on brain imaging technology and new anthropological and evolutionary discoveries, suggests that we may have had our heads in the sand, and that we must be willing to grapple with what seem to be at least some genuine, measurable differences between the sexes.

The most famous of these studies, anthropologist Helen Fisher's The Anatomy of Love , explains the evolutionary impetus for human tendencies in courtship, marriage, adultery, divorce, and childrearing. Some of her findings are provocative: it seems, for example, that we are hard-wired for serial monogamy and must work very to maintain pair-bonds; that highly orgasmic women enjoy an evolutionary advantage; and that flirtation among primates closely resembles the way young men and women in a bar show their sexual interest today.

Moreover, in her description of our evolution, Fisher notes that males who could tolerate long periods of silence (waiting for animals while in hunt mode) survived to pass on their genes, thus genetically selecting to prefer "space." By contrast, females survived best by bonding with others and building community, since such groups were needed to gather roots, nuts, and berries, while caring for small children.

Reading Fisher, one is more inclined to leave boys alone to challenge one another and test their environment, and to accept that, as she puts it, nature designed men and women to collaborate for survival.
It is this mismatch that is causal for much of the distress in transsexuality. Being lumped in the wrong group causes a dissonance, not one that can be overcome through willpower or psychotherapy.

I conjecture - though proof either way is lacking - that much of transgendered behaviour can be explained by a partially cross-gendered brain, in some areas. And the areas will vary between individuals. This increases the probability of a cross-gendered sexual orientation, and when the cross-gendered behaviour patterns are obvious at an early age, is a definitive indicator for it. That much we have proof for.

When the cross-gendering also involves body-image, as it often does, as well as sexual response (though possibly not sexual orientation) and other sexually dimorphic instinctive behaviour, that's when we're confronted with "classic transsexuality".

Classical second-wave feminists are correct that the existence of transsexuality challenges their whole basis of belief, the unquestionable axiom that all the significant differences between stereotypical male and stereotypical female behaviour is purely a matter of social condition. But it's not just transsexuality that does this, all of the neurological studies that show a distinct and bimodal pattern of behaviour do too.

This wouldn't be seen as threatening, except for one crucial and undeniable fact : that biological differences between the sexes have almost universally been used by the Patriarchy as an excuse to oppress women. Almost without exception, and for hundreds and even thousands of years. They still are in many parts of the world. There is a definite and very highly probable danger that these results will be too.

The results must therefore either be suppressed, denied, and ignored, or accepted and the dangers faced head-on. Denigrating the results, and attacking an already oppressed minority group, one already treated by the Patriarchy as pariahs is far easier and safer.

Of course that's tough for the women in that minority group, but self-deception is a powerful force, and the more guilty some feel, the more fanatic they become in their oppression to prove that the oppressed deserve all they get. That part of human nature at least is gender-invariant.

8 comments:

sumptos devil s advocate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MgS said...

Classical second-wave feminists are correct that the existence of transsexuality challenges their whole basis of beliefFunny you should say this. I got into a conversation with a gender studies prof. who was heavily influenced by Butler a while ago.

I just handed him a more or less standard bit of commentary about my experience of transsexualism, and after a few minutes thought she came back with "Butler rejects the notion of any kind of essentialism to gender, and that is what you are asserting".

To which I replied "I am standing before you as a singular example of that essentialism. Either I'm lying, and the last decade of my life has been fraudulent, or Butler's missed a key point"

The professor had a somewhat stunned look on her face and said "You have a good point there..."

Anonymous said...

Our consciousness is more than our brains. It involves our enviroment and our action within the world. Wireing is a bad choice of words as we are not computers.

Read "Out of Our Heads" Alva Noe

sumptos devil s advocate said...

Someone, on this post and on the post about increasing the size of one's hoard, has been posting under my handle. Though those links are something I may have posted (or not), I did not post either of them. I must ask whoever is posting under my handle to please stop.

Anonymous T-Girl said...

So create an actual profile. Problem solved.

It's not rocket science. For proof of that statement, ask Zoe.

Anonymous said...

Someone, on this post and on the post about increasing the size of one's hoard, has been posting under my handle. Though those links are something I may have posted (or not), I did not post either of them. I must ask whoever is posting under my handle to please stop.

You've been asked to quit your habit of posting irrelevant links on Zoe's posts a few times now. If you would like Zoe's comment on issues in your area then you may email her (her email is available on this site). For instance you linked to GLBT news on Zoe's cyborg beetle post as well as her grand rounds post.

Zoe blogs about many topics and it is not cool to keep spamming her comments with links to GLBT news stories. You should stop doing this. People that would like to discuss remote surveillance technology feel kind of offput with someone linking to GLBT stories in the comments.

Given that you already have a blogger account (and a blog http://sumptos.blogspot.com/ if you comment using that login then it is far more difficult to post under your handle.

Incidentally, you should remove the reference to Zoe in the header of your blog. Setting up a blog to debate Zoe's evidence and opinion on transsexualism, "maybe Zoe Brain is correct about transsexualism. Maybe the Christians are correct or the Buddhists are correct, or maybe neither is correct. Who knows?" makes you look like a troll.

Overall, If you have an argument with Zoe, you should debate privately with her and not use the comments of her blog.

Sincerely,
Annoyed from Mars

sumptos devil s advocate said...

Annoyed From Mars,

Look at yourself.

Zoe,

Please remove the 2 posts, the one posted under "Hoard Size" and the one posted at the beginning here, as I did not post them (someone else was posting under my name). Then please remove the posts regarding them and we'll consider the matter closed, as whoever had been doing that probably has gotten the message by now.

Anonymous said...

"the evolutionary impetus for human tendencies in courtship, marriage, adultery, divorce, and childrearing."

given that half of these aren't even biological or evolutionary in nature, then trying to assert that there's an 'evolutionary impetus' for them is frankly nonsense.