Neurosexism examined: Delusions of Gender


Stanford neurobiologist Ben Barres has a great review of Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. Dr. Fine outlines some of the methodological problems and biases that creep into work by behavioral scientists who study sexual differentiation. Dr. Barres has been on the front lines of the battle against neurosexism for years, because he has first-hand experiences with how this bias gets reified through science and social expectations. He made a name for himself in the field before transition from female to male. He has a number of all-too-common stories about how he's been treated with more deference and respect by peers now that he lives as male. From his review "Neuro Nonsense":

Based on my experiences as a neurobiologist and as a transgendered person, I have previously argued that innate sex differences in the brain are not relevant to real-world accomplishments. Without question, male and female brains have different circuits that help to control their different reproductive behaviors. So it has long seemed an easy step to believe that such anatomic changes also underlie supposed gender differences in cognitive abilities. Rather, in a theme that Fine elegantly expands on, it is the idea itself that women are innately less capable that may be the primary cause of differences in accomplishment. This idea Fine appropriately dubs "neurosexism." This idea was long ago powerfully encapsulated in the concept of "stereotype threat," the phenomenon in which members of a sex or race perform substantially worse on a test–and perhaps in real-world environments–when they are led to believe before the test that they are innately less capable.

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference