Google, Feminism, and “Brain Sex”

This post seems particulary timely in view of the recent tempest in the Google teapot over an internet post on gender differences by James Damore, who basically argued that men and women are very different.

Perhaps the only mistake he made was to ignore the fact that people selected from the general population by Google for employment are a very specialized sub-set in which men and women may be more alike than men and women are in the world at large.

The observations and research cited below describe natural male-female differences found in the general population, and anyone who follows up this work will forever be disabused of the false notion that men and women are “the same”.

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Brain Sex

“Boys and girls are as different above the neck as they are below.”

~ anonymous

Until around the 1970s most of this argument was conducted as a verbal nature-nurture slugfest. Words, and lots of statistics. But since then it has been fought – and won – in favour of clear biological differences – with CAT and PET scanners, MRI machines, and Electron microscopes. These and many other combinations of extraordinary technology and biochemistry have revealed irrefutably that various parts of the brains of men and women are structurally different and, even where they are the same, they often function very differently in fascinating ways when performing the same tasks. Such findings soon began causing sex-difference researchers to recant their previous faith in the “blank slate” idea of the mind (the idea that we begin life with a mind like a blank slate on which life will write) and to admit it is no longer tenable to believe that males and females are born with the same behavioural dispositions.

What follows is drawn from my book The Trouble With Canada … Still! (2010) and from The Book of Absolutes (2008), and these are lay books for the general reader, and I did not want to burden them chapter with overly-detailed proofs. Those interested are encouraged to see my notes for some references,[1] or to search the internet under topics such as “cognitive sciences,” “sex and cognition,” and the “psychology of sex differences.” Below is just a brief summary of some of the findings. Readers should feel free to forward this blog, or any parts of it they choose to whomever to trye to spread the truth about this unnecessarily fractious topic.

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A great number of studies show that male and female babies behave differently in the womb (movements, heart rates, etc.) and also moments after birth (give different attention and have different intensity of reaction to the same objects, sounds, and tactile sensations).

Infant girls — but not infant boys — distinguish a baby’s cry from other general sounds. Male babies prefer objects to people, females the reverse.

Girls develop language, fluency, and verbal memory earlier than boys and process such information faster, a difference observed by all researchers.

Girls are less rule-bound and boys more so. Boys need rules to tell whether they are winning or not. Their pre-adolescent play is often such rank-related play.

From birth, boys are more aggressive, competitive, and self-assertive than girls (perhaps the most common finding, worldwide). Even when one-year-old babies are separated from their mothers and their toys by a fence-like barrier, the girls tend to stay in the middle and cry for help, while the boys tend to cluster at the ends of the barrier, trying to find a way out.

Human cognitive patterns and their related brain organization are apparently permanently influenced by physiological events that take place by the fourth fetal month.

At the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, a combination of PET scans and high-resolution MRI technology used to study brain metabolism has shown that even at rest, doing nothing in particular, there were male-female differences in brain metabolism in seventeen different brain areas.

Beginning at puberty men are more prone to physical violence (most crime is by males between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five), and women are more prone to emotional volatility. In the same period, men show more confidence, concentration, and ambition, whereas women show more social sensitivity and interest in relationships. About 85% of all crimes are committed by males, and there are specific, universal sex differences in the styles, types of victim, and post-crime behaviours of male and female perpetrators of violent crimes.

Spatial skills: Boys are better than girls on a variety of spatial skills. This advantage is cross-cultural and is practically universal in males. The spatial-skill sex difference becomes quite marked after puberty and is even observed in animals.

Women are superior to men at certain tasks requiring memory for the location of objects, and at many language tasks.

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So … it seems that from birth males tend to strive harder than females to reach the top of any power hierarchy they encounter, and they create their own hierarchies to reach the top if none exist. Boys are usually more aggressive, more Machiavellian in their pursuit of power, and crueler and more willing to hurt others than girls. Studies abound showing that men the world over tend to devalue if not despise victims—especially their own—whereas women tend to take pity on them. Nothing in this male attitude is particularly admirable, but that’s the way it is. This was driven home to me by a television documentary on the entering of a World War II concentration camp by Russian soldiers. The commentator remarked that many of the soldiers not only stole from the women prisoners, but raped them as well. Now these women were the most emaciated imaginable, some close to death. With sadness and disgust it hit home that no woman could possibly find a man in that condition sexually desirable, or wish to degrade him so. With that thought, my awareness of the chasm that exists between the physical and moral lives of males and females struck home even harder. And let us not forget that throughout history, and even though lots of women do this too, it is the men who have been prone to abandon children, murder them, bayonet them in war, rape them, take them into slavery, and so on. The truly great crimes of history have been perpetrated by men—I think of countless tyrants, especially the modern ones such as Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, and their like, who wrought cruelties of a kind and scope that beggar the imagination. And let us never forget: they were all utopian socialists. In this prototypical sense only, radical feminism (striving for aggressive control of social outcomes) is a very male undertaking.

Anthropological studies the world over verify the reality of male aggression and hardness, which can be induced in any female, human or primate, by the simple administration of male hormones. Anyone who has had occasion to mix with athletes on steroids has known this for years. Both male and female athletes take only male hormones, for an obvious reason—to enhance power and aggressiveness. Contrarily, female hormones administered to long-term violent criminals succeed in pacifying them. Of course, aggressiveness is highly valued in societies the world over, and so men tend to be rewarded for this kind of behaviour. In other words, learning plays an important secondary role, but not a primary one. Anthropological and biological studies the world over confirm that through hormones, men in general are rendered more aggressive, exploratory, volatile, competitive and dominant, more visual, abstract, and impulsive, more muscular, appetitive, and tall . . . less nurturant, moral, domestic, stable, and peaceful, less auditory, verbal, and sympathetic, less durable, healthy, and dependable, less balanced . . . more compulsive sexually and less secure. Within his own sex, he is more inclined to affiliate upwards—toward authority—and less inclined to affiliate downwards—toward children and toward the weak and needy.[2]

As a natural result of this, there is no society in the world in which matriarchy has ever existed, or is in any way emerging today. Fascinatingly, the beginning of all these differences is right in the womb. For we all begin life as females, biologically. We become male only if the Y chromosome is present, and sufficient male hormones then act upon our early development. Maleness is biological difference – there is nothing “constructed” about it. Even genetic girls accidentally exposed to male hormones, consistently reject most of the attempts of the culture to feminize them.[3]

Enough said. What are we to make of all this? Very simply, that men monopolize leadership positions because they try harder to get them does not mean that men deserve these positions or that men do a better job in them than women would do if they became leaders. The only sense in which male dominance is “right” is that it expresses the free choices of individual men to strive for positions of power and the free choices of individual women to do other things.[4]

My addendum to this is that aggressiveness and control are two very different things. In external structures, like armies, or businesses, the former generally leads to the latter; but in interpersonal relationships, not necessarily so. Everyone can think of couples where the male is more aggressive, but the female controls the relationship and the tenor of the family. Women tend to be just as aggressive as men defensively, when fighting for their loved ones or some deep-rooted belief, but are universally less aggressive than men offensively. Recall the great line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

Husband: “The Husband is the head of the family.”

Wife: “Yes, my dear, but the Wife, she is the neck.”

[1] References to universal (insofar as these have been cross-culturally examined) human sex differences abound in several books. See Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Jacklin, The Psychology of Sex Differences (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974), for a survey of the then existing literature. Moir and Jessel, Brain Sex, is an early popular display of this reality. Glenn Wilson, The Great Sex Divide (Washington DC: Scott-Townsend Publishers, 1992) is a very readable treatment of the biochemical and experimental evidence for innate sex differences. Robert L. Nadeau, S/He Brain (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996), is a review of the underlying biochemical and neuro-scientific findings about sex differences, nested in some appropriately targeted political objections to feminist ideology. Doreen Kimura, Sex and Cognition (Cambridge, Mass,: MIT Press, 2000) is a careful review of the findings to date, somewhat apprehensively expressed. David C.Geary, Male, Female: the Evolution of Human Sex Differences (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 1998) is the most detailed survey of studies on sex differences thought to be rooted in evolutionary theory. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking Penguin, 2002), is another of Pinker’s long, cheerfully confident, and informative books, in which he summarizes much evidence for innate sex-differences.

[2] George Gilder, Men and Marriage (Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Books, 1986), p. 20.

[3] Gilder, Men and Marriage, p.26.

[4] Levin, Feminism and Freedom, p. 91.

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