S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Myths of Feminism

S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Myths of Feminism

S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Myths of Feminism

S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Myths of Feminism

Synopsis

Margaret Mead's argument that gender identity is learned in sexless minds separate and distinct from sex-specific bodies legitimized the "sex/gender system" in feminist theory. In this system, sex refers to physiological differences in the domain of the body and gender to learned behavior in the domain of the mind. Since this "two-domain" distinction obviated the connection between biological reality and gender identity, it allowed gender identity to be viewed as a product of patriarchal cultural narratives - stories, myths, legends and the like invented by men in order to control and oppress women. In S/He Brain, Nadeau demonstrates that the sex/gender system is not some arcane bit of academic jargon that has no impact on our daily lives. It is the greatest source of conflict in the politics of our sexual lives for a now obvious reason: the brains of men and women are not the same, and the differences can have behavioral consequences. Yet the intent of the book is to serve the cause of full sexual equality,and not to escalate the gender war. Nadeau argues that an improved understanding of the relationship between sex and gender can not only enlarge the bases for meaningful communication between men and women, it could also serve as the basis for an improved standard of sexual equality that eliminates the grossly unfair treatment of women sanctioned by the current standard.

Excerpt

Those of us who attempt to assess the societal impacts of new scientific knowledge often feel like less than welcome guests in public debates for good reasons. We are often the bearers of disturbing news, and many of our dire predictions are not realized. the disturbing news is that science has disclosed differences in the brains of men and women that have behavioral consequences, and the dire prediction is that this knowledge will be abused in the service of sexist agendas.

With this prospect in mind, my first impulse in writing this book was to provide a reader-friendly account of what science actually says about the sex-specific human brain. the rationale was that if those of us concerned about issues of sexual equality were more familiar with this research, we would be better prepared to expose the sexist abuses and obviate their invidious influence. I eventually realized, however, that the greatest dangers as we assimilate this knowledge is not sexism per se. It is extra-scientific cultural variables that have nothing to do with sexism.

For the last thirty years, legal definitions of sexual equality in the United States have been predicated on the assumption that gender identity is learned in gender-neutral minds and that sex, or biological reality, is not a determinant of this . . .

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