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The Myth of Distinct Male and Female Brains

Photo credit: memorise.org

Like the article says, one of the biggest hurdles to gender equality is crumbling. Based on rigorous analysis of core features seen in the brain scans of more than 1,400 female and male subjects, a new study found that there is essentially no difference between the brains of the two sexes.

most [brains] are unique mixes or “mosaics” of features previously thought to be either “male” or “female”. A brain that is not a mix was found to be extremely rare.

I have always believed that the differences in aptitude, attitude, propensity and inclination between female and male are conditioned, i.e. nurtured. If you give a baby girl Barbie dolls, dress her up like a princess, and chastise her when she steps out of line (“girls should be obedient!”); and if you let baby boys play with toy guns, praise them when they win a fight with the neighbour boy, and reprimand them when they cry (“boys don’t cry!”), you are going to raise children who fit into the moulds of archaic gender stereotypes. In reality—corroborated by scientific studies—the personality characteristics and cognitive skills between the sexes are more similar than different.

Take science for example, a study conducted in 65 countries found no difference between science ability of young boys and girls (girls actually outperform boys in many countries),  but not in the US. What that says is gender-based discrepencies in STEM ability are influenced by culture, not biology. When you have pink aisles in your supermarkets to sell toys for girls and blue aisles for boys, you are perpetuating a form of gender demarcation that is unhealthy, artificial and ultimately, wrong. I loved this talk by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer who went on to design engineering toys for girls (“GoldieBlox“):

Growing up, my parents never bought me Barbie dolls. I played the same toys my brother did – Lego, toy bricks, trains, etc. And we read lots of books. I never really thought about it, but my parents were raising my brother and I as individuals. I became an engineer because I have always loved maths and science and I was really good at them. Not once in my life had I thought this was anything peculiar until I entered University and was the only female student in my course. Would I have been different if my parents were not as gender-agnostic? I believe so. And my hope is that more parents would come to realise that your son and daughter are not as different as you think they are. The greatest thing you could do as parents is to raise them as respectful and kind individuals who value knowledge, let them choose their own life paths, and they will be just fine.

 

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