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Taking Sex Differences Seriously Hardcover – May 1, 2004
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"Professor Rhoads case for la difference is comprehensive and persuasive." -- Danielle Crittenden, author of What Our Mothers Didnt Tell us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman.
"Rhoads provides a responsible, clear, exhaustive, and convincing description of human sex differences...." -- Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University
"Scintillating and utterly persuasive Rhoads marshals massive amounts of evidence showing why they are wrong." -- Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute
"This book demonstrates in a host of ways how awareness of these differences will have important implications for social policy." -- Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man and Our Posthuman Future --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Steven E Rhoads
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One of Rhoads' former students reminisces fondly about one of his lectures on sex difference: "you stated your view that if an alien came to our planet and asked you to show him what happiness looked like, you'd show him a recently engaged woman." Perhaps, having let loose with such overcharged rhetoric, Rhoads should question the reporting he gets back from his undergraduate students and graduate assistants. On that topic, a strange irony is that much of the research assistance and many of the psychological studies that form the basis of his work were done by women. If the world were re-made without day-care centers and if more women just stayed home and followed their biological imperative to procreate, I wonder what Rhoads thinks would happen to these bright and productive women students? The University of Virginia, where he teaches, was the last public university to go coed, back in, I believe, 1970; the program he espouses would lead us inevitably back to those days.
On the other hand, many of his more focused suggestions make a lot of sense: His chapter on Title IX, for example, should be read by the bureaucrats in Washington who make the ham-handed regulations that are slowly decimating men's sports, and his observation that men use parental leave differently (and need it less) than women is an important insight. I hope that, as Rhoads evolves as a scholar, he will find a way to combine these important policy observations with a more nuanced approach to sex difference.
The challenge for modern society is to adjust underlying sex differences to the realities of a complex information society to which women, like men, have a great deal to contribute. While social policy cannot pretend away the profound differences between the sexes, it also cannot ignore the changes in reproductive technology and the workplace that have leveled the field between the sexes. Our society needs a strong voice for common sense in this discussion. Rhoads, unfortunately, too often allows anecdotal evidence and his own prejudices to overwhelm his better judgment, and has produced, therefore, a good book but not a great one.
In this view, gender is a social construction. Moreover, one can change one's gender like one changes one's clothes. Male today, female tomorrow, bisexual one day, homosexual the next. This is the brave new world of the gender benders.
The thesis Rhoads offers is simple: men and women are different, and these differences are basic, profound and rooted in our very nature. With a wealth of documentation and research, Rhoads sets the record straight, informing us of the clear scientific and biological case for male-female differences.
Hormones and other chemical/biological determinants cannot be dismissed when assessing gender. Their very presence means that nature has hotwired the human species into two clearly different sexes, and these differences cannot be wished away by social engineers.
And these changes can be found from our earliest moments, refuting the notion that social or environmental factors are the sole explanations for such differences. For example, day-old infants will cry when they hear a recording of another infant crying, but girls will cry longer than boys.
Women tend to be more communitarian, more nurturing and less aggressive than men. Researchers have found that there are universal constants running throughout every known human society, including division of labour by sex, women being the primary child carers, and the dominance of men in the public sphere.
Now if sex differences were due to socialization, and not biology (nurture, nor nature) then we would expect to see these differences quickly fading, at least in western cultures, where sex role changes have been most dramatic. But this has not been the case.
These differences, in other words are enduring and they are significant. No amount of social reconstruction will make them disappear. If so, argues Rhoads, we are doing great damage to men, women and society when we act as if they do not exist. Forcing little Johnny to play with dolls and compelling little Jennie to play with toy soldiers, in other words, is counterproductive, and may simply make things worse.
Those who seek 50/50 marriages, for example, and attempt a complete equality of roles and jobs usually come to frustration. Conflicts tend to be higher in such households, and child rearing also suffers as a result. And role-reversal families tend to be short-lived, with most reverting to more traditional patterns.
Those who seek to turn their children into androgynous role models find they only come to grief in their attempts. Children cannot be taught to change what they are by nature.
Rhoads also notes that those researchers who seek to demonstrate the biological and physiological fixity of the sexes have real trouble getting funding and publicity, because of the stranglehold of political correctness and feminist orthodoxy. And the majority of these sex difference researchers happen to be women.
And he shows that if sex differences are indeed true, then there are implications for what sort of family structures we promote. He details the now familiar evidence of how children, and especially boys, suffer in fatherless households. A mother just cannot replicate what a father provides in a home, just as a dad cannot take the place of a mother.
And children need a biological father living in the home, says Rhoads. Step-dads, boyfriends, male role-models, just do not cut it. Children need both sexes: they need a biological mother and a father, not a committee, not an alternative lifestyle arrangement.
Career options too need to be reassessed. We need to rethink the wisdom of putting career first and children last. Mums can do certain things dads cannot, and it is not just breastfeeding. Women are the nurturers and child carers throughout the world, not because of male chauvinism, but because of their very natures.
And whole nations need a rethink. Social engineers, like the Swedes and the Israeli kibbutzim, have tried long and hard to eradicate stereotypical sex roles and to enforce androgyny. But both experiments have failed miserably.
And feminism must be rethought. Women are losing their choices, not expanding them, when they follow the feminist script. Women in fact tend to like having babies and raising children - it is part of who they are. So it does no good for feminists to say to women that they should deny these instincts and seek instead careers.
Pregnancy and childbirth can be adversely affected by high-powered careers. The harm of stress impacts not just the mum, but is transferred to the baby in the womb as well. The vital importance of breastfeeding is also jeopardised by careers. Thus we are selling women short, as well as the next generation, when we insist that women can have it all. They can, but not necessarily at the same time.
The debate over day care also arises here. If mothers are best equipped by nature to care for and nurture the young, then we should stop the rush to let strangers raise our children. The benefits to children of being looked after by mom for the first few years are clearly documented. So whose interests do we put first in this regard?
In sum, this is a great book. Feminists will hate it. Social engineers will detest it. And slaves to political correctness will wretch over it. But ordinary men and women will find it a breath of fresh air. And in the stagnant stench of modern ideologies, fresh air is just what we need.