Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Study tries to Deny Boys will be Boys

Trying to work, getting caught up in all the reasons why I should have started earlier on my book and not procrastinated! Like bumping smack into a study that makes me crazy with AARRGGHH! A women's studies prof at U of Wisconsin, Madison--Janet Shibley Hyde by name--has gotten oodles of publicity for supposedly demonstrating her groundbreaking "Gender Similarities Hypothesis," offered to contrast with the prehistoric traditionalists who assert that the genders are actually different. Imagine that.
Feminists, the group no one wants to admit to joining anymore, are stuck defending their dying university departments, and so have to come up with something novel to prove we ladies, er women...er, wimyn are completely equal to men. Unfortunately, that means denying reality--not that women are in any way inferior to men, but that women are physically hard-wired to be different. From an evolutionary point of view--and certainly these wimyn are pro-evolution and NOT pro Intelligent Design--gender roles make efficient sense. You'd think that over millennia, the fittest survived because the baby-bearers could tend to the young, and the non-nursers could go out and use their brute strength to club some animal for food. And while the Big Guy was out, the ladies could perfect their nurturing skills and communicating skills and the guys could refine their grunting about sports.
The proud and loud feminists don't care for such roles. Because the evolutionary explanation implies that somehow there's a reason other than acculturation and discrimination for why fewer women choose mathematics as a career, and why so many decide to derail their CEO aspirations to coo to infants.
Certainly Prof. Hyde and her cohort have gone to great lengths to support the feminist thesis. They played a few statistical tricks by taking a wide range of apples, oranges, nectarines, bananas and other fruity outcomes and applying a meta-analysis to them. That means the professor didn't tease out the methods of the studies she examined, or rate their quality, or separate out potential underlying factors such as varying goals of researchers--instead she took their outcome numbers and divided results into male and female and compared them, in big hunks. When you mish-mash together piles of studies--which were already conglomerated analyses of OTHER studies--you're sure to lose significance as everything regresses to the mean in a tired heap.
So she found that the differences in outcomes were not so very large. Surprise.
And then, oh yes, an aside--despite her glomming everything together, men STILL showed themselves significantly more agressive, more sexually oriented, and physically stronger. Shockeroo.
Naturally, the American Psychological Association made a big press release titled "
Here's an excerpt of the APA press release for her Sept. 2005 article: Over-inflated claims of gender difference seen in the mass media affect men and women in work, parenting and relationships, said Hyde. Studies of gender and evaluation of leaders in the workplace show that women who go against the caring, nurturing stereotype may pay for it dearly when being hired or evaluated. This also happens with the portrayals of relationships in the media. Best-selling books and popular magazine articles assert that women and men can’t get along because they communicate too differently, said Dr. Hyde. Maybe the problem is that they give up prematurely because they believe they can’t change what they mistakenly believe is an innate trait, she added.

In other words, the research on brain structure, and the thousands of studies that do show gender differences are, oops, the CAUSE of the problem. Thank you, doctor. Now we know that women and men are interchangeable, and therefore, well, I guess same sex marriage is now unavoidable, and women who hate math should just up and take Trig. It's those durn authors of best-selling books and popular magazine articles who are holding us down, because they've had a malevolent agenda to make us "give up prematurely" in our communicating.
I see. I'm afraid her meta-analyses haven't convinced me that there are no innate differences between men and women. Certainly both genders have many similarities--both are human, both share goals, both strive to create together an integrated, harmonious life. But though men and women are in many ways similar, there's no denying their differences. Thirty years post-Gloria Steinem we've had plenty of practice being non-sexist. And somehow, girls still want dolls and boys still use their sisters' Barbies...as guns.


  1. Oooooh, I just love that sarcastic humor! You do it so well! And your observations are so acute! Not to mention astute! Right on the mark, as usual.
    (I'm sorry I couldn't come up with anything deeper to add than my abundant praise for your writing, once again--you just seem to have said everything that bears saying.)

  2. Thanks, sj, your praise is plenty for me!