Question: I saw a one-hour program on ABC done by John Stossel about the biological differences between women and men. The differences in our brains and hormones were fascinating. Gloria Steinem was interviewed. She said the research shouldn’t even be done, it was dangerous. I think it’s helpful to know how my kids are different from each other and why. What do you think?
Answer: I watched the program, too, with jubilation. For about five years I’ve been teaching classes and seminars that emphasized brain and biochemical differences. I’ve often been called a nut. How wonderful that nature is back in the mainstream dialogue.
In the early 1980s, in Israel, I met an emigre from India, a physician named Jagdish who had been educated in the U.S. I’ll never forget what he said to me.
“In America, you have turned completely away from the primacy of biology. You pretend that human societies have so much power they can make boys and girls what they are. In my culture we do not have this arrogance. We know that boys and girls are made very differently by nature. We know and respect this even before birth. Not to do so, we believe, is to bring trouble upon us. We make separate spiritual rituals for each sex’s natural and predetermined being.”
This conversation took place at a time in my life when I assumed, as did the vast majority of my colleagues, that nurture - “environment and social influence” - was most of why boys are boys and girls are girls. The “nature” view - that biology determined male and female behavior - had resulted, many of us could see, in centuries of women’s oppression.
So I smiled politely to Jagdish, and the conversation moved on.
But almost 10 years later, I realized how wise Jagdish was - not just wise in his common sense knowledge that boys and girls are naturally different, but wise in his ability to connect biology to spirituality. No matter the tribe or culture, that link has been essential to healthy maturity of children. That link is missing in our families, schools and culture. Because we see our children as “social beings” and de-emphasize them as “natural beings,” we pay little attention to the natural rituals and rearing they need, and attend to whatever is socially in vogue around us.
Is Gloria Steinem right? Should we get rid of scientific research into the brain? How can we? It’s here to stay.
Camilla Benbow and Jullian Stanley, of Johns Hopkins University, have studied 1 million boys and girls, paying close attention to sex-different approaches to learning and living. “After 15 years looking for an environmental explanation and getting zero results,” Benbow said, “I gave up. Gender differences begin in the brain.”
Researchers like Roger Gorski have discovered marked differences in physiological structures between the male and the female brain - seven of 10 brain elements are structured differently in the two brains.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have measured, with brain scan equipment, what parts of the brain males and females use during different kinds of stimulations - males, they discovered, use less of their brain processing emotive information. Females, thus, test out much better at intuiting the emotions on someone’s face and giving empathy to it.
Researchers have discovered that the female brain’s corpus collosum is larger than the male’s, allowing more cross-talk in the female brain between right and left hemisphere. With more cross-talk, “women’s intuition” becomes not a myth, but a fact.
Researchers have shown that homosexuality is linked to brain difference in the hypothalmus.
Researchers have even shown that chemicals like vasopressin, secreted in the brain, can control one’s length of attraction to a sexual partner.
Does this research need to be used to put either women or men down? No. In the years I’ve spent teaching it, I’ve not found people abusing the research. Just the opposite, learning how we’re naturally different helps the two genders stop from trying to change each other, and thereby destroying our relationships, both with spouses and children.
To further explore this fascinating information, pick up the book “Brain Sex.” My next column, a special Easter column, will be followed by a column that presents 10 differences between men and women that evolve directly from brain and biology.