Skip to comments.Feminism and the Male Brain
Posted on 06/12/2009 10:21:11 PM PDT by bdeaner
NORTH AMERICANS of my generation grew up with the 1970s childrens record Free to Be...You and Me, on which Rosey Grier, an immense former football star, sang Its Alright to Cry. The message: girls could be tough, and boys were allowed not to be.
For almost 40 years, that eras 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 womens 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?
The feminist critique, for example, has totally remade elementary-level education, where female decision-makers prevail: the construction of male hierarchies in the schoolyard is often redirected nowadays for fear of bullying, with boys and girls alike expected to share and process their emotions. But many educators have begun to argue that such intervention in what may be a hardwired aspect of boy-ness can lead to boys academic underperformance relative to girls, and to more frequent diagnoses of behavioural problems, attention deficit disorder, and so on.
And education is just the beginning. An entire academic discipline emerged out of the wholesale critique of the male tendency to create hierarchy, engage in territoriality, and be drawn to conflict. When I was in college, the feminist solution to patriarchy was an imagined world without hierarchy, where people verbalised all day long and created emotional bonds.
This critique of masculinity also dramatically affected intimate relationships: women were encouraged to express their dissatisfaction with mens refusal to share their inner lives. Women complained of not being heard, of men disappearing after work to tinker in the garage or zone out in front of the TV. But, however heartfelt, such complaints assumed that men choose all of their behaviour.
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 Fishers 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.
Collaboration implies free will and choice; even primate males do not succeed by dominating or controlling females. In her analysis, it serves everyone for men and women to share their sometimes different but often complementary strengths a conclusion that seems reassuring, not oppressive.
What Could He Be Thinking?, by Michael Gurian, a consultant in the field of neurobiology, takes this set of insights further. Gurian argues that mens brains can actually feel invaded and overwhelmed by too much verbal processing of emotion, so that mens need to zone out or do something mechanical rather than emote is often not a rejection of their spouses, but a neural need.
Gurian even posits that the male brain actually cant see dust or laundry piling up as the female brain often can, which explains why men and women tend to perform household tasks in different ways. Men often cant hear womens lower tones, and their brains, unlike womens, have a rest state (he actually is sometimes thinking about nothing!).
Moreover, Gurian argues that men tend to rear children differently from women for similarly neurological reasons, encouraging more risk-taking and independence and with less awareness of the details of their nurture. One can see the advantages to children of having both parenting styles. He urges women to try side-by-side activities, not only face-to-face verbalisation, to experience closeness with their mates.
Somehow, all this is liberating rather than infuriating. So much that enrages women, or leads them to feel rejected or unheard, may not reflect mens conscious neglect or even sexism, but simply their brains wiring!
According to Gurian, if women accept these biological differences and work around them in relationships, men respond with great appreciation and devotion (often expressed nonverbally). Women who have embraced these findings report that relations with the men in their lives become much smoother and, paradoxically, more intimate.
None of this means that men and women should not try to adjust to each others wishes, ask for shared responsibility with housework, or expect to be heard. But it may mean we can understand each other a bit better and be more patient as we seek communication.
Nor does recent scientific research imply that men (or women) are superior, much less justify invidious discrimination. But it does suggest that a more pluralistic society, open to all kinds of difference, can learn, work, and love better.
Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries
Intellectual dishonesty and revisionism right out of the gate, supposedly aimed at the latest generation who wasn't there in the '70's. I never had one of those records, and know of none who did. Never even heard of the record, and wasn't "free to be" a Marlo Thomas thing anyway?
I do remember seeing pictures of Grier knitting, for what it's worth.
Take this picture for instance, many women will simply pass over it while men generally will give some thought to the picture and try to analyze it and perhaps even meditate for a few moments about the person that is the subject of the photo image, some men will even go so far as to try and imagine what interaction with this person would be like.
Interesting article. Hard to believe it was written by Naomi Wolfe. James Dobson and others have been talking about these specific issues and research findings for years and have taken nothing but flack from feminists in the process. So, is this progress?? Maybe Naomi was just having a bad day.
Well, this would explain a lot!
This is way cool. Thanks for the post.
Awesome! Single women take notes. Those were the days. It was a man’s world. Now for the American male, it’s HELL on Earth. Former Communist Party recruiter Betty Friedan succeeded far beyond her dreams!
I never heard of that crappy record, but I did see them singing on TV. I graduated high school in 1976. Marlo Thomas was involved all right, and they sang this stupid little song on TV that said “It’s all right for a boy to have a doll.” We all laughed ourselves silly.
We never imagined these people would be our rulers. Once McGovern got slaughtered we thought we were done with them.
ping for later read...
This is an astonishing article. The lack of sneering contempt for men, the acknowledgement that men may - just may - have some sort of value, the exploration of men's behavior without apparent intent to demean... the general air of something that actually approaches respect...
What the hell is going on?
The author probably realizes that if Obama is successful, there will be shortages of everything and the only work will be traditional “manly” jobs, and she’s looking at the liberal girly-men and realizing that they’re going to starve.
So, now she’s trying to convince the liberal males to man-up because she knows that men that can exist in a “traditional male heirarchy” will succeed no matter how bad it gets while the metrosexuals will die complaining about their nails.
Good theory. But my problem with it is that there isn’t any time for such an about-face in liberal men. They’re gone - they gave in long ago, in their adult development, and now they’re pretty incapable of changing even if they wanted to - and they don’t want to. A feminist might see the danger coming, because a feminist is about nothing but power (idiot liberal codependent women never get this little point). But a liberal man is a traitor to his own integrity, and lives each day selling out his self-worth to scathing female hate.
Well, we’ll see. Something is definitely up when a feminist rat starts backpeddling down the hawser...
I agree. You can’t reverse a lifetime of psychological neutering, but that’s all she’s got. There aren’t enough real men to go around anymore, and they’re all taken by real women.
Her next article will probably declare that since there is a shortage of men with “man skills”, Obama should make them the property of the collective.
LOL! I'm laughing, but it's all too possible...
Since men invented everything useful in civilization could they a least acknowledge that?
Lol. I read this in my newspaper a few days ago and thought it was written by a local woman named Wolf, who also writes books!
Men and women are different, that's for sure, but I won't agree that the "brains wiring" MAKES someone do things. It may cause them to "want" to do something but they have to make the conscious decision then to do it or not do it.
I believe it's called "free will".
An interesting article;
Behavior is an 'expression' of neural activity. I grapple each day about 'expressing' myself - or not!
Engraved at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was the famous maxim, "Know thyself".
I don't know what toy company it was, but in the seventies one of them tried to market a doll for boys called "My Buddy." I remember being in my twenties and laughing at the idea some kid was going to carry around this huge doll like girls did with their dolls. The only toy human figures boys liked were army men and cowboys. And were constantly playing war or cowboys and indians. No real boy over five wanted to lug around a large doll as a "friend to talk to." That toy company must have thought the wiring in the brains of boys could be readjusted to make them sissies. Maybe they got pressure from femi-nazis to market that garbage. I hope they lost their shirts on that one.
...many educators have begun to argue that such intervention in what may be a hardwired aspect of "boy-ness" can lead to boys' academic underperformance relative to girls, and to more frequent diagnoses of behavioural problems, attention deficit disorder, and so on.IOW, now having a Y chromosome will be reclassified as a disorder; but at least it may be protected under the ADA.
If I had to find a wife in today’s society I would GLADLY remain single, they are just to narcissistic.