Glass Ceilings & Sticky Floors – Debunking Myths 01

It seems that men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus – they’ve just been brought up to act as if they are.

That’s the conclusion reached by Australian researcher Cordelia Fine, in her upcoming book ‘Delusions of Gender’.

The psychologist suggests that men aren’t biologically hard-wired to be better at parking, any more than women are naturally better communicators or good at multi-tasking.

Instead, she reckons that parents and teachers steer us towards gender-specific skills by encouraging certain behaviours as we grow up. While there may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, any differences in personality or skills is more likely to be down to nurture rather than nature.

The publisher says:

“This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes – with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, “Delusions of Gender” rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider ‘hardwired’ is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made – and not born.”

Dr Lise Eliot, of Chicago Medical School agrees. “Yes, boys and girls, men and women, are different. But most of those differences are far smaller than the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus stereotypes suggest. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience,” she told New Scientist.

“People ignore huge similarity between boys and girls and instead exaggerate wildly the tiny difference between them. It drives me wild,” said Professor Robert Plomin, of the Institute of Psychiatry, London.

About Cordelia Fine

Cordelia Fine is a Research Associate at Macquarie University, Australia, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She was called ‘A science writer to watch’ by Metro on publication of her previous book, A Mind of Its Own.

If something has been learned, this suggests that it can be unlearned – and that new attitudes and behaviours can also be developed. Maybe we aren’t as hard wired as we think, maybe there’s more scope for change than we usually assume.

What do you think? Please add a comment or express an opinion on this research.


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