Biophobia and the study of sex differences

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Girls who resist the contemporary educational pressure to take science subjects are viewed as academic also-rans. If on the other hand we accept that women and men are different, we can think about a society that breaks down the barriers between children and work, that         allows women to see value in cooperation as well as competition and that allows women to capitalize on their linguistic advantages. If evolutionary theory is correct then we cannot design twenty-first century woman as if from scratch.

While evolutionary psychologists argue over the fine-tuning of their favoured theory, feminists appear to be unable to agree on what their theory should be. Three questions Are there inequities between women and men in society? Where did they come from? How shall we change them? The first is a straightforward empirical question that we can answer with respect to a variety of criteria including relative income, likelihood of promotion, leisure time, voting rights, participation in political life, public recognition of achievement and so       on (while holding all other variables apart from sex constant).

The human ability to creatively exploit our mental and physical capacities in new ways deserves study in its own right but cannot (yet) be examined in terms of natural selection. There we have it. The pace of evolution, the role of chance and the status of spandrels and exaptations constitute the full extent of the ‘raging disagreements’ in evolutionary thought. Let us now turn to the unity of feminist theory. Though the term is widely used, it is hard to pin down a definition. The nearest I have been able to find is this: ‘Feminist theorists are concerned with how gender (which is the social construction of characteristics associated with sex) affects individuals’ access to control of their own and other people’s lives, power, and resources’ (Gowaty 1992, p.

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