This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters.
Some of us are professional scientists, or are studying to become professional scientists (me), or like to read about science as a hobby, yes? How do we deal with the idea of biological essentialism (the idea that there are innate biological/psychological differences between the sexes)?
I started thinking about this after a particularly insulting pop-sci article. It’s worth noting that this article is insulting above and beyond the usual the “boys-trucks girls-barbies” dichotomy; this one never even considers the possibility of women having their own perspective. We’re just creatures with crazy brain chemistry that men must learn, so they can trick it into wanting them.
And what if there’s a grain of truth? Raven Kaldera’s essay discusses, in part, his experiences beginning testosterone supplements as part of transitioning, and he admits that he did notice changes in his psychology. Nothing that superseded his conscious thinking, but more than he expected. How do we objectively approach evidence of fundamental gender differences, however small? It frightens me a bit, both because it fuels some of the uncertainty I feel as a woman in a male-dominated field (irrational, I know, but still), and the related dread of others using such differences to justify inequality (I know that equality is not predicated on equivalency, but not everyone does.)
How do you respond to essentialism, evidence-based or otherwise?
Digging around from the Finally Feminism 101 FAQ But men and women are born different! Isnâ€™t that obvious? material may help.
Does anyone else have suggestions for accessible overviews of the actual findings of biology and psychology about sex and gender-linked traits in humans? Here’s some possibilities:
- Lise Eliot’s Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gapsâ€Šâ€”â€Šand What We Can Do About It about the neuroscience and behavioural findings about sex differences in young children, and the influences on them.
- Anne Innis Dagg’s Love of Shopping is Not a Gene: exposing junk science and ideology in Darwinian Psychology. See Cory Doctorow’s review.