In the comic strip Dustin, a couple driving a car passes a sign on the highway that reads, “Time to downtown: 26 minutes.” The woman, who’s in the passenger seat, says to the man, “So you’re saying a woman looks at that sign and thinks, ‘It’s nice to know I’ll be downtown in 26 minutes.’. . . But a man looks at it and thinks, ‘I can do it in 22.’”
This cartoon is apropos in light of a new study ofsex differences, published last week on the Public Library of Science website, which found that a mere 18 percent of men and women match in terms of personality profiles. The research, conducted by Marco Del Giudice of Italy and Tom Booth and Paul Irwing, both of Manchester, England, involved interviewing 10,000 Americans. The researchers concluded that men and women are vastly different creatures, feeling and behaving in markedly different ways.
Such information is not the least bit shocking to those of us with common sense, or those of us who have both sons and daughters; but it’s “staggeringly different from the consensus view,” says Irwing. Indeed it is. That’s because it undermines the message feminists have been propagating for decades.
The popular view is that men and women are so similar they’re practically interchangeable. It’s just that society socializes them to think and behave differently, say feminists. Mothers don’t really offer anything unique to babies or want to stay home with them more than fathers do, and men aren’t really more inclined to study math and science more than women. Little boys don’t really want to play with guns more than girls do, and girls don’t really want to play dress up more than boys do. It’s all a giant con game — and one we can undo with a little bit of effort.
Think I’m exaggerating? When Gloria Steinem was asked in an interview last year about her thoughts on the latest research on male and female brains, which shows an undeniable distinction between the sexes, Steinem’s response was, “Well, you know, every time there is a step forward, there’s a backlash. So now we’re seeing another backlash about brains, brain differences, gender differences centered in the brain. Even if they’re right, it doesn’t have to continue to be so. What makes human beings the species that has survived all this time is our adaptability.” When the interviewer pressed further and asked, “But aren’t there inherent differences we can’t ignore?” Steinem replied, “Society can certainly intervene at a cultural level to change that behavior.”
If you think Steinem is an anomaly, or someone whose time has come and gone, think again. There are plenty of young Steinems roaming around — in the media, in Hollywood, and on college campuses. And when they get wind of studies like these, watch out. Women’s studies professor Janet Shibley Hyde had this to say about this latest study: “[The global sex difference] is really uninterpretable. It doesn’t mean anything.”
The reason for Hyde’s denial, the reason for all feminist denial when it comes to research like this, is a deeply rooted fear of what it all means: that the feminist agenda is futile — and just plain silly. Feminism teaches that gender is not a fact of nature but a social or environmental construct created by old-fashioned stereotyped training. They consider it a given that women have been subordinated and discriminated against by an unjust male patriarchy and need government action by legislatures and courts to give women their rights. Consequently, they’re “afraid studies like ours will turn back the clock,” says Irwing.
They’re not shy about admitting their bias, either. Says Hyde, “This huge difference is not only scientifically false, it has unfortunate consequences for places like the workplace and education and romantic relationships.”
No, Ms. Hyde, findings like these have very fortunate consequences. Interpreted correctly, they allow people to accept, once and for all, that Americans have been sold a bill of goods by the feminist establishment.
Of course all women and all men are not the same (I, for example, would have looked at that highway sign and thought the same thing the man did), but that doesn’t change the fact that most men tend to function one way and most women tend to function another. The sexes may overlap on any number of occasions, but they will never be the same.
Studies on sex differences are wonderful. They’re not designed to separate the sexes, Ms. Hyde. They’re designed to bring them together. They help men and women accept each other for who we are and not fight each other all the time. The battle of the sexes has been around long enough.
Don’t you think it’s time to give it a break?
– Suzanne Venker is co-author of the new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say. Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.