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Just Say Naaaaaay! To Naomi Wolf
A few choice words on one of my pet peeves from Cathy Seipp:

The most pervasive unscientific assumptions deal with that well traveled media intersection where pop culture meets public policy. Journalists are typically nervous about the un-p.c. idea that masculine and feminine behavior have any basis in biology, for instance. No, no, they insist; it's the culture. So are stallions rarely used as riding horses because the mares get their more docile nature from leafing through "How To Please a Man" articles in Cosmopolitan? (And maybe geldings subscribe to, I don't know, Eunuch Living.)

Posted by aalkon at April 27, 2004 8:13 AM

Comments

One of the large differences between humans and the average animal is that, in humans, instincts are weak and can be overridden by the intellect. This makes it difficult to separate effects of instinct from effects of culture. It's also made more difficult by it being generally considered unethical to isolate a child from culture in order to raise it as a control experiment.
This doesn't mean there are no innate behavior differences in humans. It simply means that in many cases, observer bias and cultural conditioning tend to swamp any objective correlation.
It's not being PC if you're cautious about drawing conclusions from questionable data. In the past, "scientific data" in this field has been used to justify racial and sexual discriminination. Women were excluded from business because their montly periods made them unstable. Even today, some still believe in the Aryan super race.

Posted by: Ron at April 27, 2004 8:59 AM

Feminists are only reluctant to draw evolutionary psychology distinctions when doing so might give women the short straw. They're not at all bashful about making arguments that implicitly declare women morally superior to men, better nurturers, better communicators, and better empathizers. So let's get serious, Ron.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 27, 2004 1:44 PM

Thanks Ron. I was on deadline, so I couldn't respond. Sigh...where, Ron, do you think culture comes from? Answer: our biology! See E.O. Wilson, David Buss, and Steven Pinker for further details.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 27, 2004 2:05 PM

OK, so why isn't culture the same the world over?

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 27, 2004 3:05 PM

"Feminists are only reluctant to draw evolutionary psychology distinctions when doing so might give women the short straw. They're not at all bashful about making arguments that implicitly declare women morally superior to men,"

I like to draw distinctions between feminist thinkers and feminist hippies. Carol what's-her-name at Harvard is the one who believes that girls are vessels for the healing power of love, etc. But what Carol does isn't thinking. It's leaking.

Posted by: Lena at April 27, 2004 5:29 PM

Gilligan.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 27, 2004 6:13 PM

As in "Gilligan's Island" (ie, Cambridge, Mass).

Posted by: Lena at April 27, 2004 7:09 PM

Toooouch╚! I like to think of myself as Ginger with brain implants.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 27, 2004 7:46 PM

Your ass is also a lot juicier than Ginger's, Amy.

Posted by: Lena at April 27, 2004 7:48 PM

My ass is going to our favorite restaurant and requests that yours be seated next to it within the next 20 minutes.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 27, 2004 7:49 PM

"My ass is going to our favorite restaurant"

Spago's, of course. Where we can be seen most evenings, throwing bags of cash around. Ooh la la!

Posted by: Lena's Dreaming Again at April 27, 2004 10:05 PM

It's sad to think I won't see the day when people realize that there are benefits to embracing the differences between men and women.

Posted by: Jeff at April 28, 2004 11:39 AM

I think most of us - the ones who aren't slaves to Hollywood - do realize that, Jeff, and always have.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 28, 2004 1:43 PM

It's hard to "embrace the differences" when there isn't any stable consensus on what exactly those differences are.

Posted by: Lena at April 28, 2004 2:24 PM

Yes, it's hard to be good conformist when we don't know what the expectations are.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 28, 2004 6:08 PM

"[She] believed that not being able to see your life clearly, to scrutinize it intellegently, meant that probably you were at the dead center of it, and that couldn't possibly be a bad thing."

Lorrie Moore
-- from "Starving Again"

Posted by: Lena's Dreaming Again at April 28, 2004 7:05 PM