Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Oh Well, Boys Will be Girls

Essential Problems of Boys and Girls

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers uncovers, again, the intentional misuse of statistics by gender feminists like Carol Gilligan.

The problem with gender and sexual essentialisms is not whether or not there are essential differences between men and women, males and females. Certainly there are. The problem is the politics of determining the relative social value of these essential differences between the sexes. The problem is whether or not essential biological differences lead to essential differences between woman-people and man-people that lead to some people being presumed essentially better than others.

If there are essential differences, the erroneous presumption made by gender feminists is that individual woman-people must be better at some things than individual man-people and vice versa. If essential differences between man-people and woman-people do exist then change is impossible for individuals, since the differences between woman-people and man-people are essential, like oxygen is essential to water and chlorine is essential to salt. And for the majority of human history essentialism has, in fact, been used to relegate individual women to a diminished social status. So gender feminists have every reason to be paranoid about essentialisms that may diminish women's social value. It is better to misrepresent essentialism, to the detriment of innocent boys, than take the risk of being intellectually honest.

The problem of gender feminists' misrepresentation of essentialism is also one of degree. They wildly exaggerate essential differences. If woman-people are essentially different than man-people, the reality is that these differences are relatively minor and only show up statistically. The entire lunacy of the essentialism debate, as alluded to by Christina Hoff Sommers', The War Against Boys, hinges on an intentional misrepresentation of individuals as identical with the groups into which individuals are categorized. Certainly the gender categories of “man” and “woman” include many individuals who fit into these categories by definition alone. We need merely think of the difficulty of categorizing trans-gendered people to see how tenuous the man-people and woman-people categories can become.

According to anthropologist Lionel Tiger, as quoted by Sommers, “Biology is not destiny, but it is a good statistical probability.” (89) As a consequence the exaggerated essentialisms of Carol Gilligan and Sigmund Freud are more likely influenced by politics of power and gender dominance than scientifically responsible observations and statistics. For Gilligan, women are caring and men are not. For Freud, men’s fear of castration and women’s lack of that fear make men more morally astute. For both Gilligan and Freud the fanciful unobservable superego, as formed through the unique psycho-sexual development of boys and girls, is the essential cause of boys’ or girls’ moral superiority over the other. For Gilligan, boys have cooties; for Freud, girls do.

The essentialisms of socio-biologist E.O. Wilson and once-Harvard-president Lawrence Summers, on the other hand, are statistical essences discovered by finding small patterns of variation between woman-people and man-people, culled from vast numbers of unique individuals, some of whom likely did not fit neatly into either category. Statistically speaking, testosterone laden individuals pursue advanced engineering degrees more frequently than estrogen laden individuals, and estrogen laden individuals pursue PhD’s in literature more often than testosterone laden individuals do. But clearly there are many men and women in both fields. Men never get pregnant. Women do. But many men make great stay at home mothers and many women do not. Statistically however, women mostly mother and men mostly do not.

So, though morphology is not destiny, male morphology certainly does provide an additional, and obvious, modicum of comfort when micturating in the woods. But that miniscule Freudian reality is not really enough to drive the gender-feminist pedagogy of Carol Gilliganians. To protect girls from the imagined horrors of masculinity, according to Sommers, paranoid gender feminists are intentionally mis-educating boys to become girls in all ways possible. Oh well, boys will be girls.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting Post. When I talk with people in finance and math, they tend to think that the ratio of genuinely gifted women to men is around 1:20 (which should be familiar to a Philosophy professor, as the gender ratio at Pythagoras' academy). Geneticists tell me that the statistical anomalies in the differences betweeen masculine and feminine intelligence relate to probability theory, because many of the active genes that create intelligence are passed on only from the mother in males, but are passed on from both parents in females (which is why there are also more profoundly stupid males, but that would only account for a 2:1 ratio). I also like Philip Howard's argumen in the Lost Art of Drawing the Line, namely that schools are run for efficiency and not for pedagogy, and it is "efficient" to pathologize individuality.

7:25 PM  
Blogger James D. Carmine PhD said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Carmine said...

Thank you anonymous. I did not know that about the gender ratio at Pythagoras'academy. And yes I too think "pathologizing the individual" is the core value of the social sciences. Thus the web site.

10:09 PM  
Blogger georgeborrow said...

(as the writer of the original response, I've double-checked and it turns out that the 20:1 wasn't a prescriptive number: Pythagoras took anyone who passed through the rigorous initiation, and the male:female ratio turned out to be 14:1 in one record, but slightly higher in another.)

12:47 PM  
Blogger Verlch said...

Larry Summers was right, there are major differences between men and women. Due to the hardship nature of the Marine Corp. only 6% of the Marine corp is women, I don't think it will change much, as they haven't laxed their standards at all, between the men and women.

They have also found that the most physically fit women performs at the weakest male level. The armed services try to weed out the weakest men, why are women there?

Kate O'beirn stated that in her book, "Women Who Make the World Worse."

9:11 PM  

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