Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Bryant (
22 Aug 1996 13:52:27 -0600

In article <4vab6k$>, Susan <> wrote:
> (Bryant) wrote:

>>I think some scientists (even female ones) are getting exasperated with >academic feminism because it sees bias *everywhere*
>I think you're right. So the question is, who's over-reacting? Are
>people seeing it where it doesn't exist, or is there in fact bias
>everywhere? I'm not sure of the answer, but I suspect one could have a
>lively debate in the subject!

Hmm... :) Some feminists (like Smuts, who I've mentioned elsewhere in
this newsgroup) are adopting behavioral ecological tools in studying
gender inequity. I like that, of course, because it gets to the roots of
sexism more satisfactorily (to me) than the standard social science
learning theory model can. But I know that a man writing the same things
as these feminists a number of years back was boo'd and spit upon at a
lecture because his description of the evolutionary forces that could lead
to sexually coercive mating tactics was seen as a justification of rape.
(One based upon the naturalistic fallacy that what's natural is good.)

>>because now many >feminists are encouraging female students to
>>avoid the sciences (which don't conform to "women's way of knowing.")...
>I think that's unfortunate. I just read an interesting analysis (in a
>feminist book!) suggesting that part of the reason this happens is
>because our society tends to see gender as binary and opposed, so that
>what is thought of as a male characteristic cannot be a female one.
>"Objectivity" and other arguably scientific "traits" are typically
>gendered male (i.e. they are also traits typically associated with males,
>and not with "humans" in general), so that by definition women tend to be
>seen as opposite. The result is that objectivity becomes associated with
>male, and so isn't female.

I've seen the differences in IQ subscale scores used in this way before.
Men are "better at math" because their spatial skills tend to
be higher, even in cultures that don't teach math. And MRI data show that
men and women use different parts of their brains to do the same tasks.
But I've also seen fine science done by female brains, and agree with you
that telling women not to bother is unfortunate. It's also a betrayal of
women in the generation before the current college generation, because
those women fought against real sexism and good-ol-boy'ism to get into
positions of influence, where they can help younger women....only to be
told that they're sell-outs.

>Instead, what the author was suggesting is
>that these things are really context dependent (in her particular study,
>she was arguing that it depended on occupation), that men are not always
>in every case objective, and that women are perfectly capable of being

I'd bet the author's correct. I think, frankly, that objectivity is
equally alien to male and female human brains. It probably begins with
sympathy or empathy--seeing that there are other perspectives from which
one can view events...but it requires training, I think. And practice.
(And yes, I readily admit it's an ideal never fully realized.)

>But given our tendency to make sweeping generalizations, we (and she
>suggests some feminist scholars in particular) have done a disservice to
>both-- and assume that "male" and "female" must be opposite. The result
>is that one gets the idea of "male" and "female" ways of knowing, which
>actually don't represent what ordinary people do in the shifting contexts
>of everyday life.

Nicely said. I do believe that there are *differences* between the sexes,
of course. But these do not make us "opposites," and they do not imply
genetic destiny for math grades or science careers, either.