Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
26 Aug 1996 17:14:11 GMT (Bryant) wrote:

>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.

They've certainly done some good work (most of what I've read has been in
the field of primatology). But it has its limits, I think, for some
people because it doesn't get at the experience of sexism. Anthropology
has long been split into several approaches based in part on whether they
are focussing on large groups or individual experience. It depends on
what you find more satisfying (as you point out). I don't disagree that
there are things I might do which would increase my fitness in an
evolutionary sense. But since I don't think about it this way, does it
really "explain" how I behave to discuss it in these terms? That's a
central conundrum of cultural anthropology, I suspect.

>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.

Though don't rule out the effects of culture here. I know it's a kind of
chicken and egg argument, but it's very difficult to conclude that many
complex behaviors exhibited by humans are "either" cultural or
biological. Even cross-cultural data to some extent is tricky in this
regard. Remember that someone is defining the term "spatial skills", and
I always wonder if they are defined in such a way that they reflect what
we already consider "male" skills. There is a large literature on
cross-cultural testing, and how difficult it is to remove bias from it.

> 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.

I'm not sure I follow this. Are you arguing that there is a connection
between spatial skills, differential brain use, and doing science?

> 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.

Yes, this is unfortunate. As we've said before, context is everything.
People are often way too quick to condemn actions without even
considering motivations. I've certainly been yelled at more than once
for doing something I thought was meant to be helpful!

>But these do not make us "opposites," and they do not imply
>genetic destiny for math grades or science careers, either.

And this is the crux of it, I think. As a culture, we are all to ready
to commit the fallacy you referred to, that
"biological=natural=inevitable=good." Even if something could be
demonstrated to be completley biological in origin, that still doesn't
mean it can't and shouldn't be changed.




"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips