Biophobia and the study of sex differences

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If on the other hand we accept that women and men are different, we can think about a society that breaks down the barriers between children and work, that         allows women to see value in cooperation as well as competition and that allows women to capitalize on their linguistic advantages. If evolutionary theory is correct then we cannot design twenty-first century woman as if from scratch. Ideology, social policies, law and the media cannot in and of themselves make women into something they are not.

This is even more true of psychological characteristics. We must avoid restricting opportunities on the basis of crude stereotypes about what men and women are able to do. My concern with stereotypes is not so much that they drive people to conformity—I have already explained that stereotypes are more likely to be the product not the cause of sex differences—but that they may cause us, within the family or wider society, to debar entry on the basis of sex. For example, denying women the right to be fire-fighters or police officers is rationalized on the grounds of strength or endurance.

Their feelings of loss and guilt have been brushed away because they are ‘feminine’ feelings incompatible with effective performance in the workplace (Hrdy 1999). Women employees who do not show the ruthless drive of their male counterparts are disparaged as poor role models for other women and blamed for women’s failure to break the glass ceiling. Girls who resist the contemporary educational pressure to take science subjects are viewed as academic also-rans. If on the other hand we accept that women and men are different, we can think about a society that breaks down the barriers between children and work, that         allows women to see value in cooperation as well as competition and that allows women to capitalize on their linguistic advantages.

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