September 6, 2015

DOUBLEPLUS BADTHINK: Why A Woman Can’t Be More Like A Man.

Why can’t members of the sexes be more alike? Why do so many irritating differences persist? Feminists’ answer has been: cultural and structural sexism. Societies train women to take second fiddle to men in work and relationships — and then punish them for trying to break out of their assigned roles. No, say traditional conservatives: Women and men are different, and cultures reflect those differences.

The conservatives may now be getting some support from a surprising source: transgender men.

It’s not news that women’s and men’s brains aren’t exactly the same. But why they aren’t the same is a matter of some dispute. We know that training can actually change the physical structure of your brain. London cab drivers famously have more gray matter in the area associated with spatial recognition, perhaps developed through their work navigating the metropolis. In the same way, women’s brains might be different from men’s because they have been trained to be different, in ways that show up in the distribution of their brain cells over time.

A small but very interesting study was recently done on transitioning female-to-male transgender subjects, who receive high doses of testosterone. After just four weeks, images of their brains recorded significant changes.

Obviously, I do not want to overinterpret the results of one study with a small number of subjects. But since I’m sure we’ll see more studies like this in the future, with a range of results, I think it’s worth asking some uncomfortable questions this raises: What if some of the disparity between men and women — for instance, in the workforce — never goes away? What if the gaps are, at some level, indelible because men’s brains are simply better wired for success in that environment?

The rule, as Ann Althouse has noted, is that you can scientifically demonstrate any difference you like between men and women, so long as you portray it in a way that casts women as superior.

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