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Steven Pinker and Feminism

(95 Posts)
YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 09:13:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

thisisathing Mon 12-Mar-18 09:49:28

I confess to reading the above quickly and not knowing Pinker's work but at first glance a couple of things come to mind. Firstly that males and females being different is not incompatible with feminism. We accept the differences in biology, and the brain is only another part of our material body. The problem comes when these differences are used to oppress and form restrictive stereotypes with no space for people who fall outside of them. The cartoon about equity vs equality comes to mind ...

... and secondly I do believe that differences in girls and boys brains have been detected in infants. This however does not have the implications that some people might hope! It has been shown that prenatally and in early childhood stress regulation develops more slowly in males, making them more sensitive to external stress in the environment, such as parents arguing or being left at an unsuitable day care etc.

These differences do not suggest a "boy brain" and a "girl brain" as for one thing there will always be variations. But a young child more sensitive to stress coupled with the cultural expectations heaped on boys to be a "little soldier", "boys don't cry" etc could go a little way towards explaining male aggression.

The sensible response to these findings I believe would be to allow little boys to cry and offer them much more opportunity to play nurturing, care-taking games.

They really should be playing with "girls toys" because they have a "boys brain" if that makes sense!!

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 09:59:34

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Teacuphiccup Mon 12-Mar-18 10:03:50

The problem with saying that there is differences between Male and Female brains is that you have to be able to apply that accross the board for it not to become reductive.
It not like a class analysis as you are saying it’s an innate fact that can’t be changed and is internal rather than external.
There is just as much difference within the sexes as there is between them and it’s impossible to look at a brain and say whether it’s male or female.
There are patternd of course but brains are very elastic and change with your environment, London cab drivers brains change because they study for the knowledge, it’s not that people with certain brains become cab drivers.

I don’t think feminism denies that men and women have different biologies, in fact I think that’s the centre of feminism. We have been opressed because of these differences and we want to change the structure of society to accommodate them.

He doesn’t sound like he knows much about feminism to be honest, if he thinks that we believe the patriarchy to be a conspiracy then he can’t have ever talked to feminist ever. Sounds like he got his ideas about what feminism is and what feminists think from a reddit board.

thisisathing Mon 12-Mar-18 10:11:20

Even just going from the Psychology Today article, socialisation plays an enormous part. It seems as if we socialise boys in the exact opposite way from what would be suitable for their slightly more sensitive brains. In the past it could have been useful to foster male aggression but it is arguably less useful in today's society.

I don't think this undermines what many feminists argue. I would say it is justifiable for feminists to argue so strongly about socialisation because that is one thing that we, as a society, could actually change.

I believe the brain differences even out but the differences in male and female socialisation - how we treat each other; what we expect from each other; and importantly, what examples we see around us - continue throughout life.

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 10:12:37

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thisisathing Mon 12-Mar-18 10:16:03

Yes teacup, you are right that the brain remains plastic to experience throughout life. That is one reason it is incredibly hard to untangle the nature/nurture debate and most conclusions are "both".

Teacuphiccup Mon 12-Mar-18 10:19:52

Yes but there’s no way of knowing if these patterns are innate or from socialisation.
We do know however that socialisation makes a massive difference to the brain and to behaviour and for things to change we need to tackle that so men and women can be free to do whatever they actually want to do.
If we do that and it turns out that some women still want to be more caring than some men then so be it.

It’s not the same as height because you can tell if someone’s not six foot so you don’t ask them to get things off high shelves. You can’t tell what a woman’s ‘brain pattern’ is but society still treats them like they have a ‘female brain’ anyway.

thisisathing Mon 12-Mar-18 10:24:10

yippee even if you apply analysis to psychological traits it is incredibly difficult to factor out the environment, and socialisation is part of the environment.

Personality traits begin in babyhood, set up from the repeated patterns of interaction, day in day out, between a baby and its caregivers. This is something that is very hard to account for in studies. It is hard to ask the right questions and understandably hard for mothers (who still make the majority of caregivers) to always give honest answers without fearing judgement.

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 10:42:23

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YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 10:49:19

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Patodp Mon 12-Mar-18 10:51:52

Eliminating discrimination against women is important, but believing that women and men are born with indistinguishable minds is not. Freedom of choice is important, but ensuring that women make up exactly 50 percent of all professions is not

I'll admit I've never heard of this guy, but from these quotes I really don't get where he's coming from.

Believing women and men are born with indistinguishable minds is not important. Why does he thinks it's not important?

I'd say as a starting point it would be crucial to see male and female minds as basically he same, equally susceptible to external influences and equally capable.
Does he believe males and females have inherently different minds? One thing I would say is that sure, male brains and female brains release different hormones, levels of testosterone vs oestrogen, does this effect the "mind" or just the body, is he examining these types of differences or other differences?

He believes ensuring women make up 50% of all professions is not important. Why? Does he thinks women should stay at home with the babies? Does he think men are just better at some things intellectually speaking? Is he talking only about certain things involving great strength like lifting heavy loads that men are better at?

It looks like a load of over intellectual sexism from your post.

Patodp Mon 12-Mar-18 10:55:08

Some feminists (seems to vary hugely) still will not accept there are any innate differences between groups and apply all differences to socialisation

Most feminists accept that women are child bearers and men are not and their experiences of life will be shaped around this fundamental difference between the sexes, and women's lives should not be limited on the basis of these differences.

thanksjaneshusbandatcaresouth Mon 12-Mar-18 10:58:26

I don't think he knows much about feminism iyswim?

What he does know about, though, is male violence.

He's my go-to source for pointing out the basics. Violence is done by men. Usually young men. Governments typically reduce violence. Laws are good. All done graph by graph....

ConstantlyCold Mon 12-Mar-18 11:01:47

So at what point would feministis accept that differences in outcome are not due to some discrimination or disadvantage for girls ? As we can't discriminate between socialisation and any innate group differences, will it be impossible to ever tell if women's choices e.g for person based type professions, are free from discrimination or socialisation

Such an interesting question. And of course it’s impossible to answer. My sons nursery has a 3 men employed as child carers, which is pretty unusual, but they are still vastly outnumbered by women.
How do we get more men into childcare and more women into building sites? Goodness only knows.

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 11:13:45

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YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 11:19:30

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AssassinatedBeauty Mon 12-Mar-18 11:24:00

These ideas that women are innately psychologically different (inferior) to men are constantly used to justify misogyny and unfair/different treatment of women. How is this to be effectively challenged by men like Pinker? Or is that not necessary? It's pure science and they aren't responsible for how others take their research and use it.

What use is this research? What does it benefit the world?

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 11:33:04

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ConstantlyCold Mon 12-Mar-18 11:36:31

What use is this research? What does it benefit the world?

What’s wrong with learning (research) purely for the love gaining knowledge? You can’t not research something or not publish the results just because you don’t like the results and it makes you ask some tricky questions.

—although there is an issue with the publication of research, maybe I’m being a bit idealistic—

ConstantlyCold Mon 12-Mar-18 11:37:27

Oops - kind of an x post with yippee sorry

YippeeKiYayMelonFarmer Mon 12-Mar-18 11:38:11

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Patodp Mon 12-Mar-18 11:39:47

Calm down.

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 12-Mar-18 11:39:52

Of course I'm not suggesting that this is dangerous and should be suppressed. You may have noticed my post was phrased as a question.

Equality of outcome is not possible surely as there will always be some variance from an even split for all kinds of reasons. True equality of opportunity without the massive barriers of prejudice, socialisation and active misogyny would be a good outcome for me.

LineyOfArabia Mon 12-Mar-18 11:41:17

Steve Pinker is an evolutionary psychologist at heart. They often have funny ideas about women.

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