A review of Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven E. Rhoads
Yet amble any great distance along the path of sex differences, and you will soon find yourself with Harvard President Larry Summers, tripping painfully on the gnarled and dangerous roots buried there. Summers's provocative comments about sex differences at an academic conference prompted Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nancy Hopkins to walk out of the room in protest. Hopkins, who now moonlights as the Ivy League's self-appointed, publicity-seeking gender warden, several years ago spawned a similar media tempest by claiming, on paltry evidence, that women at MIT were the victims of institution-wide discrimination.
Posturing provosts nationwide reacted with predictable alacrity, setting up panels and convening commissions at their own universities to root out this new but amorphous enemy: "unintentional" discrimination against women. Summers's crime, in this context, was to have the temerity to state what science has long known about men and women, and to do so without worrying about offending the missish sensibilities of some female academics.
It is, in this clime, a great relief to discover Steven E. Rhoads's Taking Sex Differences Seriously, an intrepid book that does much to advance the debate about why men and women are the way they are. A professor of public policy at the University of Virginia who has written previous books about economics and comparable worth legislation, Rhoads brings common sense and astute critical judgment to the difficult task of explaining sex differences. He begins with the word "sex" itself, noting, "When discussing the lives of men and women, we now use the term gender far more often than sex." This, he argues, "reflects the assumption that any distinctions between the sexes' traits, values, interests, skills and behaviors arise from societies' rigid gender roles, which channel people's thoughts and actions in stereotypical directions."
But this assumption is incorrect. Drawing on extensive scholarly research in history, biology, sociology, child development, psychology, and economics, Rhoads examines a range of evidence about the biological basis of sex differences and in an appropriately dispassionate tone notes the intractability of certain facts: Men's and women's brains are structured differently, for example, and even from the earliest moments of a child's life, the effects of these differences are impossible to ignore. "One-week-old baby girls can distinguish an infant's cry from other noise; boys usually cannot," Rhoads writes. "Three-day- old girls maintain eye contact with a silent adult for twice as long as boys," and boys "are more interested than girls in three-dimensional geometric forms and in blinking lights" at five months of age. Children understand these differences intuitively, as anyone who has glanced at a kindergarten playground, where young boys and girls self-segregate by sex, can attest.
(Thanks to The Claremont Institute via Townhall.com)
It is amazing that this is even a question. That'swhat we get for thinking sloppily.