The Myth of the “Girl Brain”

Has your local public school opened up a new all-girls classroom? Are you tempted to enroll your daughter in it?  After all, the principal may have offered up impressive evidence that girls learn in very different ways from boys, and this segregated classroom seems to be a great boon to girls.

The idea that the brains of girls and boys are so different that they should be parented and educated in different ways and steered towards very different careers is one of the most successfully promoted media narratives of the decade.

A small group of advocates have pushed this notion so hard that it’s become the conventional wisdom. They write best-selling books, speak to large groups of teachers, parents and school administrators, and are quoted—endlessly and usually uncritically–by the news media. They claim that due to vast differences between boys and girls, the single sex classroom will improve children’s academic achievement. That’s the argument made by Leonard Sax, head of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education and best-selling author of Why Gender Matters, and Michael Gurian (The Wonder of Girls).

They’ve been very successful. The New York Times reports that,

There were only two single-sex public schools in the mid-1990s; today, there are more than 500 public schools in 40 states that offer some single-sex academic classes or, more rarely, are entirely single sex.

But don’t drink the Kool Aid. Much of what we are being told today about single-sex classrooms is junk science, a great deal of it of it actually harmful to girls. These “boy-girl” classrooms are being set up on the basis of science that is outdated, incomplete or just plain wrong.

For example, while “boy” classrooms are active and rowdy, “girl” classrooms are quiet and subdued, and children are encouraged to sit close to teachers and to speak in soft voices. In South Carolina, teachers in all-girls classes say they have learned to speak more softly, because their students can take yelling more personally than boys.

The quiet classroom is based on the “fact” that girls hear better than boys. In Why Gender Matters, Leonard Sax claims that girls hear 10 times better than boys. “If a male teacher speaks in a tone of voice that seems normal to him, a girl in the front row may feel that he is yelling at her.”

But do girls in fact hear better?  No. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says that Sax misrepresented the studies he examined to make that claim. In reality, “There is no functionally significant difference between boys and girls in auditory sensitivity.”

In many single sex-classrooms, gender becomes the center of the curriculum. And the educators assign action novels for boys to read or allow girls to evaluate cosmetics for science projects. In classrooms in Mobile, teachers encourage kids to use highly gendered words in writing assignments. According to one school,

[A] writing prompt for a boy might be what place in the world he would most like to go hunting or to drive on a racetrack, while girls might write about their dream wedding dress or their perfect birthday party.

In 2009 the Today show profiled a single-sex school located in suburban St. Louis, and the reading materials for the two sexes were quite different. Boys read stories featuring monsters while girls read stories featuring movie stars.

Such classes are based on the notion that the very different brains of boys and girls motivate them in very different ways—with girls interested in relationships and fashion and boys interested in sports, combat and building things.

But there is no such data.  Recent research finds the differences between girls’ and boys’ brains are trivial.

Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, did an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from birth to adolescence and concluded, in her book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, there is “surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist and professor at Barnard College, also rejects the notion that there are pink and blue brains, and that the differing organization of female and male brains is the key to behavior. In her book Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, she says that his narrative misunderstands the complexities of biology and the dynamic nature of brain development.

Nonetheless, a major tenant of the segregated classroom is the idea that boys naturally relate to objects and understanding systems and math and science, while girls gravitate towards relationships and caring.  Girls are not natural leaders or risk takers, and don’t take naturally to math, it’s argued.

British psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen claims that the “male brain” is the “systematizing brain” while the “female brain” is the “empathizing brain.” (Though Baron-Cohen says that women can have “male brains” and men “female brains,” he makes clear that “on average, more males have systematizing brains while more females have empathizing brains.”) He has been published in the New York Times, quoted in a Newsweek cover story, and featured in a PBS documentary and in countless other major media outlets.

This idea was based on a study of day-old babies which found that the boys looked at mobiles longer and the girls looked at faces longer. “Male brains,” Baron Cohen says, are ideally suited for leadership and power. They are hard-wired for mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles.

And what of the “female brain?” It is specialized for making friends, mothering, gossip, and “reading” a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

Is this true? No. Baron-Cohen’s study had major problems. It was an “outlier” study. No one else has replicated these findings, including Baron-Cohen himself. It is so flawed as to be almost meaningless. Why?

The experiment lacked crucial controls against experimenter bias and was badly designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent’s lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can’t hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

There’s little evidence for the idea of a male brain hardwired to be good at understanding the world and a female brain hardwired to understand people. There is a long line of literature flat-out contradicting Baron-Cohen’s study, providing evidence that male and female infants tend to respond equally to people and objects, notes [PDF] Elizabeth Spelke of Harvard University’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies. But media stories continue to promote the idea of very different brains.

As for the idea of girls “naturally” turning to dolls and avoiding blocks, Jordan-Young points out that girls do not shun toys that involve building things. In one Swedish study [PDF], she reports, Lincoln Logs turned out the favorite toy of all the girls. Girls played with those by a 6 to 1 ratio over some other toys, and girls also spent three times longer playing with toy cars and a garage than they did with a baby doll.

Another problem with single sex education is that boy classrooms are set up for action, while girls are expected to sit quietly while learning.

The Today segment in St. Louis begins with a video showing boys engaging in calisthenics and girls sitting quietly at their desks reading and writing. Boys were permitted to learn anywhere in the classroom: under their desks, in tents, or standing on chairs. No similar alternative learning opportunities were provided for girls.

But in fact, research finds that physical activity helps both boys and girls learn. Professor Charles Hillman of the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that aerobic fitness is related to better performance on school-based achievement tests of mathematics and reading.

We asked Dr. Hillman if there were any gender differences in his findings. He said there were not:

We have never found sex differences in our work. We have included sex as a variable to investigate this question and never found support for it.

Yet assuming gender differences, as same-sex classrooms do, can actually create those differences. Too often, even girls with an early interest in math are discouraged by adults who have bought into the idea that girls don’t have a natural aptitude for math and science. In one study,

[P]arents perception of their children’s competence in mathematics have been found to be influenced by their children’s gender, independent of the children’s actual performance in mathematics.

The idea of an innate “girl brain” not suited for math has been the cause of a “leaky pipeline” in which girls are lost to math and science all through their school years. Between fourth and twelfth grades, the percentage of girls who say they like science decreases from 66 to 48 percent. In those same years, the percentage of girls who say they would prefer not to study math any more goes from 9 percent to a whopping 50 percent [PDF].

But the tide may be turning. The notion of classrooms tailored to boy or girl brains is taking some serious flak.  In September, the journal Science published an article by eight prominent scientists, titled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling.” They argue,

There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

The lead author on the piece was Professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association.

The authors of the Science article are calling on president Obama to rescind changes made under the Bush administration that watered down provisions of the Title IX rules against unequal resources in education to allow more public single-sex classrooms. Given the fact that there is little to no evidence that single-sex classrooms in public schools improve academic achievement, such a move makes sense. And, the authors add, “Funds spent on training teachers in nonexistent ‘gender-specific learning styles’ could be better spent on training them to teach science, mathematics, and reading, or to integrate boys and girls more completely in the learning environment.”

The girly classroom, filled with quiet children who don’t move much, who are encouraged to write about wedding dresses and never build anything, is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of actual research.

It’s time to consign it to the dustbin of history.

Caryl Rivers, a Boston University journalism professor, and Rosalind C. Barnett, senior scientist at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center are the co-authors of The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children.



  1. what a waste of money and time and how detrimental for girl’s sense of self. epic fail.

  2. Barbara Mor says:

    Can’t help but wonder where those powerful scientific males Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Herman Kahn et al would be without that silly ole’ female brain sitting & thinking so quietly inside the skull of Marie Curie….I could go on, but I have to go bake cookies.

    • Win. <3

    • Three of the four most significant achievements of Albert Einstein (1. Photoelectric Effect, 2. Theory of Relativity, 3. the explanation of the Brownian motion 4. Matter and Energy equivalence) have nothing to do with radioactivity and the work of Marie Curie.

    • It’s the more intelligent male, that knows women are equal. The male with an average IQ or less, needs the club of neurosexism, to take his place in societies, which he beats women with endlessly. The far right Christian fundamentalist loons , have to this day, used media based gender sexism, to perpetuate their forced roles on men and women within their flock. And it is truly a shame, how in our American society, this sexism is so easily accepted by the general populace. We need to encourage all students to excel in their individual abilities, rather than dictate ability by gender.

      In other countries, there are more women in STEM, than the US, they don’t hear the constant bombardment of “sex difference” in every aspect of life as we do.

      We will not be a FREE country, until all are FREE of gender specific gender constructs , gender stratification and stereotyping.

      These notions of women excelling in multitasking and empathy only have to go. I’m not even good at those two skills. As we all may note, in these “studies” males are given all the career enhancing skills, this truly is suspicious.

  3. Rivers and Barnett might also have mentioned the new study which examines international data for mathematics performance with respect to measures of gender equity and with respect to single-sex classrooms. There are lots of articles about it, including this one:

  4. The question must be asked: What are the unintended consequences of the argument put forward by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett? The following consideration should be deeply pondered.

    I proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee Supreme Court Gender Equality:
    I made the proposal because I became the father of two brilliant daughters after growing up as the second oldest of seven siblings: six boys and one girl. Only after becoming the father of two brilliant daughters was my consciousness raised, and what I mean by that is this: females are every bit as intellectually capable as males are, but they are different in their sensibilities and their point-of-view.

    In the science experiment of my adult life as the only male in a family of four over an almost 23-year timespan, I have observed plainly that the female perspective is reliably different than my own in an unknown number of subtle ways that are nonetheless distinct, remarkable, and sometimes startling. Can the many “different” characteristics ever be reliably identified by science? I doubt it. But, even so, the very real differences between males and females remain ever present and ever visible to those whose consciousness has been raised.

    The questions become: Can we equally value the female perspective? Should we equally value the female perspective? And should we do our utmost to give the female perspective a strong equal voice in the doings of our nation and the world? The answer to all three questions is “Yes.”

    I am baffled: an overwhelming majority of women are opposed to my proposed amendment. In the most mind-numbing criticism I ever received, one former legal secretary was opposed because she thought the best available person should always be selected for a Supreme Court nomination. Imagine …

    Is that what the “unintended consequences” of the Rivers/Barnett argument look like?

    Steven A. Sylwester

    • So when you compared your point of view to that of your sister, or other women perhaps, you discovered a difference? And like the base of this problem, the base of why people divide the world into female and male, you considered this difference was due to the fact that she was female. How about considering individual differences, removed from the gender variable?
      And you think psychological research would not be able to identify those ‘distinct’, ‘remarkable’ and ‘startling’ differences you believe you saw in a more controlled, scientific way?
      Any gender stereotypical beliefs, even if you think they are positive (like women think in a special but beautiful way, yet different), have a flipside: if women think differently than men do, they cannot be equal in all ways; if they are different as a group, they are yet again trapped within that group. Weren’t we trying to overcome that?

    • Steven There really isn’t any female or male perspective. It’s like when some believe female leaders will be more peaceful, empathetic, inclusive, it’s all based on stereotypes.

      I have no “female perspective” because no two women are alike.

      How we are socialized plays such an important role, on how we behave differently, that it Xs out the innate perceived ” differences” Individuals have to be valued on their individuality and not gender.

  5. Another attack on female equality. Girls and boys learn differently? I don’t think so. Like the article points out, single-sex classrooms create those stereotypes and differences in boys and girls. This needs to stop.

  6. Frodo Baggins says:

    “a major tenant of the segregated classroom is the idea”

    Tenet, not tenant.

  7. Regardless of whether or not boys and girls learn differently or have different brains, I can see the benefits of sex-segregated classrooms. I’m in college and my women and gender studies class is mostly filled with women, and I can feel the difference in the room. The atmosphere is just a lot more, I don’t know…it’s nicer or something. Men are socialized to talk more than women and be more assertive. Growing up, I remember being intimidated by boys in my math class, because there was always this sense that they were better than me. I’ve never been in a girls-only classroom– and I’m happy about that. I think it’s good to know how to interract in diverse groups. But I can see why some girls might prefer single-gender classrooms, especially in traditionally male-dominated subjects like math.

  8. I believe people have different kinds of brains, and learn better in different ways, but I don’t think the differences are governed by sex or gender.

  9. I completely agree with the article. For girls and boys to develop fully, we must abolish all structural differences in educational systems and society as a whole.
    Sadly, the Swedish study Jordan-Young wrongly refers to in the article, is about girls with HAC (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia), which makes them more masculine. From the study:
    “Girls with CAH were more interested in masculine toys and less interested in feminine toys and were more likely to report having male playmates and to wish for masculine careers. Parents of girls with CAH rated their daughters’ behaviors as more boylike than did parents of unaffected girls. A relation was found between disease severity and behavior indicating that more severely affected CAH girls were more interested in masculine toys and careers.” Just follow the link provided and read.

    People: if you want to use scientific studies, FIND THE RIGHT STUDIES. Otherwise you compromise the seriousness of your views. No matter how right they might be.

    • This has been discredited or debunked. And I wouldn’t call any difference among girls a “disease”. It’s a blessing not all girls go for girl toys, I never did and I do not have this “disease” . We have to stop thinking of people as “damaged” and see them as individuals.

  10. When did single-sex education switch from providing a place where girls were encouraged to be their full selves, without worrying about how they looked to boys, and vice versa, to being another pseudo scientific, bio-determinist reinscriber of of outdated norms? When I went to an all girls school in the 1980s, the advantage was more freedom to do math, science, sports, without worrying about how we looked to anyone, an opportunity to build up some confidence. I think the idea was that, because of society’s skewed notions of what women were capable of, providing a safe space to grow, learn, explore, and as much as possible, internalize your fundamental equality with all other persons before plunging into the competitive and discriminatory “real world”. I don’t think it’s necessary for all women, but it certainly was a help to many of us.

  11. Even if there were small differences between the average male brain and the average female brain, they would count for *nothing* in terms of individuals. The differences between individuals are always much great than between groups, which is why we can’t assume anything about a person based on their membership in a group.

    Assuming a girl is quiet and loves movie stars based on simple fact that she is a girl is the very meaning of sexism — even if “studies show” that, in general, girls are quieter (which they don’t).

    I was a girl who loved dolls and matchbox cars and lego equally. My sons are both quiet and thoughtful. It blows my mind that anyone thinks they can assume anything about their learning styles based on their genitalia.

  12. I am the father of 2 amazing daughters. I am the husband to an equally amazing woman. I have also been an elementary and middle school teacher for 10 years. I strongly believe females and males are equally capable of succeeding in whatever they set their minds to. Nonetheless, my experience has shown me there are real differences between “typical” males and females that go beyond their genitalia and hormones.

    Among other differences, girls *generally* demonstrate stronger performance in activities that require fine motor skills while boys *generally* demonstrate stronger performance in activities that engage their large muscle groups. Girls *tend* to demonstrate greater tolerance for verbal lessons while boys *tend* to demonstrate far less tolerance for them. Girls are more *likely* than boys to exhibit social aggression while boys more *likely* to exhibit physical aggression than girls. Girls disrupt classes far less often than boys.

    The differences go on and on. I don’t believe the differences make one sex better or worse than the other, just different, and different is good. The differences may be driven more by social training than by physiological differences–I lack the expertise to say–but that does not make them less real.

    On a practical level, are mixed-sex or single-sex classes better? The answer depends on the context and the desired results. To make a blanket statement dismissing of either one is narrow-minded.

    • “In an attempt to settle the debate, Card’s team analyzed the results of 148 earlier studies from around the world, tracing the aggressive habits of almost 73,500 children from early childhood to 18 years of age. When all the data were combined, there was a small gender difference in indirect aggression, with girls outstripping boys. But according to Card, the difference is trivial and is probably related to some studies using observations from parents and teachers, who may be influenced by popular gender stereotypes. When the researchers looked only at reports from trained psychologists, they found that the small difference vanished altogether.”

  13. I don’t think there is so much of a brain thing as there is a hormone thing. And elevated level of testosterone does tend to push your head into certain directions and an elevated level of estrogen does tend to push your head into another direction.

    • This has actually been debunked. If the hormones had such profound effects, there would be actual more stratification in our schools, but in reality, there are boys who are bad at math, and not aggressive, while there are girls who are good at math and aggressive. I remember many boys being good with foreign language and reading, it was the individuals involved, the individual boys, as with all individuals, we have our own gifts, at a given time and place.

      If this gender specific thinking doesn’t stop. we are in for a world of trouble, because our country is already far behind Asian, Near Eastern and Eastern European countries. In other words, they laugh at our media based gender biases. Things need to change, or half the population, FEMALES, will find themselves sidelined by gender specific bunk.

  14. Below is a presentation by Eastern College Christian and Gender Scholar psychology professor Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen which talks about how much abundant consistent psychological research studies find few gender differences,and much more overlap similarities between them.

    Trinity 2007

    Opposite Sexes or Neighboring Sexes?
    C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and
    the Psychology of Gender
    Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

    Gender and Modern Social Science

    C. S. Lewis was no fan of the emerging social sciences. He saw practitioners of the social sciences mainly as lackeys of technologically-minded natural scientists, bent on reducing individual freedom and moral accountability to mere epiphenomena of natural processes (See Lewis 1943 and 1970 b). And not surprisingly (given his passion for gender-essentialist archetypes), aside from a qualified appreciation of some aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis (See Lewis 1952 (Book III, Chapter 4) and 1969). “Carl Jung was the only philosopher [sic] of the Viennese school for whose work [Lewis] had much respect” (Sayer 102).

    But the social sciences concerned with the psychology of gender have since shown that Sayers was right, and Lewis and Jung were wrong: women and men are not opposite sexes but neighboring sexes—and very close neighbors indeed. There are, it turns out, virtually no large, consistent sex differences in any psychological traits and behaviors, even when we consider the usual stereotypical suspects: that men are more aggressive, or just, or rational than women, and women are more empathic, verbal, or nurturing than men.

    When differences are found, they are always average—
    not absolute—differences. And in virtually all cases the small, average—and often decreasing—difference between the sexes is greatly exceeded by the amount of variability on that trait within members of each sex. Most of the “bell curves” for women and men (showing the distribution of a given psychological trait or behavior) overlap almost completely. So it is naïve at best (and deceptive at worst) to make even average—let alone absolute—pronouncements about essential archetypes in either sex when there is much more variability within than between the sexes on all the trait and behavior measures for which we have abundant data.

    This criticism applies as much to C. S. Lewis and Carl Jung as it does to their currently most visible descendent, John Gray, who continues to claim (with no systematic empirical warrant) that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (Gray 1992).

  15. Sword between the Sexes?, A: C. S. Lewis and the Gender Debates – Page 188 – Google Books Result
    Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen – 2010 – Religion

    C. S. Lewis and the Gender Debates Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen … indicates that women and men,

    boys and girls, are overwhelmingly more alike than different

  16. I have an excellent book from 1979 written by 2 parent child development psychologists Dr. Wendy Schemp Matthews and award winning psychologist from Columbia University, Dr.Jeane Brooks-Gunn, called He & She How Children Develop Their Sex Role Identity.

    They thoroughly demonstrate with tons of great studies and experiments by parent child psychologists that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike than different with very few differences but they are still perceived and treated systematically very different from the moment of birth on by parents and other adult care givers. They go up to the teen years.

    They also show that surveys show that boys are overwhelmingly preferred over girls,(sadly nothing has changed and sexist woman-hating,girl-hating Tee shirts that say( I’m Too Pretty For Homework So I Let My Brother Do It For Me) (and other sexist anti-female ads,pornography,etc do too) like these both reflect and contribute to this injustice.They also explain that when people guess if a pregnant woman is having a girl or a boy,and they list a whole bunch of false unproven sexist, gender myth,gender stereotyped,old wives tales,that assign all negative characteristics to a woman if they think she’s having a girl,and the imagined girls or given all of the negative characteristics.

    For example they say that author Elana Belotti(1977) explained these examples, The man and woman each take hold of one end of a wishbone and pull it apart.If the longest part comes away in the man’s hand,the baby will be a boy. If you suddenly ask a pregnant woman what she has in her hand and she looks at her right hand first ,she will have a boy;if she looks at her left hand it will be a girl.If the mother’s belly is bigger on the right-hand side a boy will be born,and also if her right breast is bigger than her left,or if her right foot is more restless.

    If a woman is placid during pregnancy she will have a boy,but if she is bad-tempered or cries a lot,she will have a girl.If her complexion is rosy she’s going to have a son;if she is pale a daughter. If her looks improve,she’s expecting a boy;if they worsen,a girl.If the fetal heartbeat is fast,it is a boy;if it is slow it is a girl.If the fetus has started to move by the fortieth day it will be a boy and the birth will be easy,but if it doesn’t move until the ninetieth day it will be a girl.( Belotti 1977,pp.22-23)

    Dr.Brooks-Gunn and Wendy Schempp Matthews then say, now rate each of the characteristics above as positive or negative. A woman expecting a girl is pale,her looks deteriorate,she is cross and ill-tempered,and she gets the short end of the wishbone,all negative characteristics. They then say,furthermore ,a girl is symbolized by the left-the left hand,the left side of the belly,the left foot,the left breast. They say,left connotes evil,a bad omen,or sinister,again the girls have all of the negative characteristics.

    They then say,that sex-role stereotypes about activity also characterize Belotti’s recipes:boys are believed to be active from the very beginning and girls have slower heartbeats and begin to move around later.They then say,the message although contradictory(girls cause more trouble even though they are more passive) is clear in that it reflects the sex-role stereotype that boys “do” while girls “are” and the belief that boys are more desirable than girls.

    They also say that parents have gender stereotyped reasons for wanting a girl or a boy,obviously if they didn’t it wouldn’t matter if it’s a girl or boy.When my first cousin was pregnant with her first of two girls people even strangers said such false ridiculous things to her,that they were sure she was going to have a boy because she was carrying low or how stomach looked.

    I once spoke with Dr.Brooks-Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she could explain all of these great studies that show that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike with few differences but are still perceived and treated so differently anyway, and she said that’s due to socialization and she said there is no question, that socialization plays a very big part.

    I know that many scientists know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different environments too and Eastern College gender and Christian psychology professor Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen told this to me too when I spoke to her 15 years ago. Dr.Van Leeuwen also said that human beings don’t have sex fixed in the brain and she told me that humans have a unique highly developed cerebral cortex that allows us to make choices in our behaviors and we can learn things that animals can’t.

    There was another case in Canada that I read about online some years ago about another case in which a normal genetic male baby’s penis was destroyed when he was an infant and in this case he was raised as a girl from the much younger age of only 7 months old,not as late as 21 months as was David Reimer,and research shows that the core gender identity is learned by as early as 18 months old.

    In this other case,it was reported in 1998 he was still living as a woman in his 20’s but a bisexual woman. With David Reimer they raised him as a girl too late after he learned most of his gender identity as a boy from the moment he was born and put into blue clothes, treated totally differently, given gender stereotyped toys, perceived and treated totally differently than girls are in every way(in the great book,He and She:How Children Develop Their Sex Role Identity it explains that a lot of research studies and tests by parent child psychologists found that they give 3 month old babies gender stereotyped toys long before they are able to develop these kinds of preferences or ask for these toys. They also found that when adults interacted with the same exact baby they didn’t know was a girl or boy who was dressed in gender neutral clothes,they decided if they *believed* it was a girl or boy.

    And those adults who thought the baby was a boy,always handed the baby a toy foot ball,but never a doll and were asked what made them think it was a girl or boy and they said they used characteristics of the baby to make the judgement . Those who thought the baby was a boy described characteristics such as strength,those who thought the baby was a girl described the baby as having softness and fragility,and as the Dr.Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Wendy Schempp Mathews explain,Again remember that the same infant was being characterized as strong or soft,the actual distinction by sex characteristics being only in the minds of the adults.

    They also explain that in the toy preference studies,girl toddlers often show an initial interest in the trucks,but eventually abandon them for a more familiar type of toy. Also check out Kate Bornstein’s books,Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook,and recently a co-written book,Gender Outlaws. Kate used to be a heterosexual married man who fathered a daughter and then had a sex change and became a lesbian woman who now doesn’t indemnity as a man or a woman. I heard Kate interview in 1998 on a local NPR show and she totally debunks gender myths,and rejects the “feminine” and “masculine” categories as the mostly socially constructed categories that they really are.She even said,what does it mean to feel or think like a woman(or man) she said what does that really mean.

  17. Dr.Janet Shibley Hyde in this 2005 major meta-analysis of hundreds of studies by all different psychologists from decades that was written in American psychologist,the journal of The American Psychological Association,found that the sexes are more alike than different in almost all personality traits,abilities,etc.

  18. In these extensive studies by psychologist Dr. Janet Shibley Hyde and others that is still on the American Psychological Association’s web site since 2006 and that was published in American psychologist the journal of The American Psychological Association,Think Again:Men and women Share Cognitive Skills.

    It’s reported that Psychologists have gathered solid evidence that boys or girls or men and women differ in very few significant ways– differences that would matter in school or at work–in how,and how well they think.

  19. Pub. Date: February 1999
    Publisher: MIT Press

    Why So Slow?: The Advancement of Women
    by Virginia Valian


    Why do so few women occupy positions of power and prestige? Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women. According to Valian, men and women alike have implicit hypotheses about gender differences — gender schemas — that create small sex differences in characteristics, behaviors, perceptions, and evaluations of men and women. Those small imbalances accumulate to advantage men and disadvantage women. The most important consequence of gender schemas for professional life is that men tend to be overrated and women underrated. Valian’s goal is to make the invisible factors that retard women’s progress visible, so that fair treatment of men and women will be possible. The book makes its case with experimental and observational data from laboratory and field studies of children and adults, and with statistical documentation on men and women in the professions. The many anecdotal examples throughout provide a lively counterpoint.

    What People Are Saying

    The MIT Press
    Editorial Reviews
    From the Publisher

    Publishers Weekly

    Social psychologist Valian thinks that the Western world has gotten gender all wrong. “As social beings we tend to perceive the genders as alternatives to each other, as occupying opposite and contrasting ends of a continuum,” she writes, “even though the sexes are not opposite but are much more alike than they are different.” Indeed, despite nearly three decades of feminism, “gender schema”the assumption that masculine and feminine characteristics determine personality and ability continue to influence the expectations and thinking of most Americans. Just about everyone, Valian writes, assumes that men are independent, task-oriented and assertive, while women are tagged as expressive and nurturing. As such, women lag behind in many professions and continue to do the lion’s share of housework and child-rearing. Girls remain less attentive in math and science, while even women who attend medical school tend to steer themselves into “gender appropriate” slots such as family practice or pediatrics. Valian bases her findings on research conducted by social scientists in fields as disparate as psychology, education, sociology and economics, and the result is a work that is both scholarly and anecdotally rich. But it also posits concrete suggestions for changing the way we view the sexes, from stepped-up affirmative action programs, to timetables for rectifying gender-based valuations. Accessible and lively, Why So Slow? is a breakthrough in the discourse on gender and has great potential to move the women’s movement to a new, more productive phase. (Jan.)

    Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9780262720311
    Publisher: MIT Press
    Publication date: 2/5/1999
    Edition description: Reprint
    Pages: 421
    Sales rank: 726,586

    Table of Contents
    A Note on Method and Scope
    1 Gender Schemas at Work 1
    2 Gender Begins – and Continues – at Home 23
    3 Learning About Gender 47
    4 Biology and Behavior 67
    5 Biology and Cognition 81
    6 Schemas That Explain Behavior 103
    7 Evaluating Women and Men 125
    8 Effects on the Self 145
    9 Interpreting Success and Failure 167
    10 Women in the Professions 187
    11 Women in Academia 217
    12 Professional Performance and Human Values 251
    13 Affirmative Action and the Law 277
    14 Remedies 303
    Notes 333
    References 353
    Author Index 385
    Subject Index 393

    © 1997-2013 llc

  20. In her very good important 1998 book,Why So Slow? The Advancement Of women, she says for parents who recognize and actively oppose the limitations of gender schemas matters are more complex she demonstrates clearly that many studies have shown that even parents who say they are egalitarian and who do encourage their children especially girls to consider a wide range of possible occupations and that encouragement influences the children’s aspirations.She then says but without realizing it on the other hand,they are affected by gender schemas,dressing their children in ways appropriate to their gender.

    She then says that their egalitarian beliefs prevent such parents from perceiving that they do encourage gender-specific patterns and from seeing how closely their children conform to the norm.She then says that gender schemas are powerful cultural forces and that adults cannot simply abandon them especially when they are unaware that they hold them and they too conform to them in such matters of dress.On another page she says that everyone,it appears is likely to be affected deeply and nonconsciously by their culture’s view of what it means to be male and female.Then she says that even people who consciously espouse egalitarian beliefs do not realize how profoundly they have internalized the culture’s norms and applied them to their children.

    She then says that there is wide implicit consensus across income level,education,and sex about the core features of gender schemas and for these features parents are much more alike than they are different.She then says regardless of demographic variables,most subscribe to basic gender norms ,dress gender stereotypically themselves,and unwittingly treat their children gender-stereotypically.Then she says parents who actively endorse gender schemas or are unaware of the impact of gender schemas on their perceptions and interpretations,perceive children as gendered from birth and treat them accordingly.

    She also says that studies show that even parents who deliberately try to rear their children nonstereotypically are subject to the influence of gender schemas.She says a study of six year olds for example compared children whose mothers explicitly tried to bring them up in gender-neutral ways with children whose mothers had conventional attitudes about gender roles. And that when independent observers who were unaware of the parents beliefs rated the children’s clothes as masculine or feminine the ratings showed that the boys and girls in both types of families were dressed according to gender norms.She explains that the mothers who were committed to gender equality however saw their children’s clothes as less gender-stereotypical even though they were not.

    She shows how parents perceive and treat their daughters and sons so differently from the moment they are born and she says in chapter 1 called Gender Schemas At work that gender schemas oversimplify and that masculine and feminine traits are not opposites of each other and they are not contradictory and that everyone has both to some degree and expresses different traits in different situations.She then says that differences exist, but the sexes are more alike than they are different and she says it is easy to lose sight of that reality,even though most differences between the sexes are small.

  21. Below is an email I wrote to Oxford University Gender communication professor Deborah Cameron author of the great important book,The Myth Of Mars and Venus Do Men and women Really Speak Different Languages?.

    Dear Deborah,

    I recently read your great important book, The Myth Of Mars & Venus. I read a bad review of the book, The Female Brain on US by psychologist David H.Perterzell he called it junk

    I also thought you would want to know that John Gray got his “Ph.D” from Columbia Pacific University which was closed down in March 2001 by the California Attorney General’s Office because he called it a diploma mill and a phony operation offering totally worthless degrees!

    Also there is a Christian gender and psychology scholar and author psychology professor Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leewuen who teaches the psychology and Philosophy of Gender at the Christian College Eastern College in Pa. She has several online presentations that were done at different colleges from 2005- the present debunking the Mars & Venus myth.

    One is called , Opposite Sexes Or Neighboring Sexes and sometimes adds, Beyond The Mars/Venus Rhetoric in which she explains that all of the large amount of research evidence from the social and behavorial sciences shows that the sexes are very close neighbors and that there are only small average differences between them many of which have gotten even smaller over the last several decades and in her great even longer article that isn’t online anymore called,What Do We Mean By “Male-Female Complentarity”? A Review Of Ronald W.Pierce,Rebecca M.Groothuis,and Gordon D.Fee,eds Discovering Biblical Equality:Complentarity Without Hierarchy, which she says happened after 1973 when gender roles were less rigid and that genetic differences can’t shrink like this and in such a short period of time, and that most large differences that are found are between individual people and that for almost every trait and behavior there is a large overlap between them and she said so it is naive at best and deceptive at worst to make claims about natural sex differences. etc.

    She says he claims Men are From Mars & Women are From Venus with no emperical warrant and that his claim gets virtually no support from the large amount of psychological and behavioral sciences and that in keeping in line with the Christian Ethic and with what a bumper sticker she saw said and evidence from the behavioral and social sciences is , Men Are From,Earth ,Women Are From Earth Get Used To It. Comedian George Carlin said this too.

    She also said that such dichotomous views of the sexes are apparently popular because people like simple answers to complex issues including relationships between men and women. She should have said especially relationships between them.She also said when I spoke wit her in 1998 and 1999 that human beings don’t have sex fixed in the brain,she said human beings adapt to their environments,and they develop certain characteristics in response to those environments but they are not fixed and unchangeable. Dr.Van Leeuwen also said that I’m correct that the human female and male brain is more alike than different and she said the brain is plastic and easily molded and shaped throughout life by different life experiences and environments.She said humans have a unique highly developed cerebal cortex which animals don’t and this enables people to learn things and make choices that animals can’t.

    Sociologist Dr.Michael Kimmel writes and talks about this also including in his Media Education Foundation educational video. And he explains that all of the evidence from the psychological and behavioral sciences indicates that women and men are far more alike than different. He also demonstrated with a lot of research studies and evidence from the behavioral and social sciences that the sexes are more alike than different in his very good 2000 book,The Gendered Society which he updated several times in more extensive academic volumes called,The Gendered Society Reader.

    Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen says that there are no consistent large psychological sex differences found.

    I have an excellent book from 1979 written by 2 parent child development psychologists Dr. Wendy Schemp Matthews and award winning psychologist from Columbia University, Dr.Jeane Brooks-Gunn, called He & She How Children Develop Their Sex Role Idenity.

    They thoroughly demonstrate with tons of great studies and experiments by parent child psychologists that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike than different with very few differences but they are still perceived and treated systematically very different from the moment of birth on by parents and other adult care givers. They go up to the teen years.

    I once spoke with Dr.Brooks-Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she could explain all of these great studies that show that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike with few differences but are still perceived and treated so differently anyway, and she said that’s due to socialization and she
    said there is no question, that socialization plays a very big part.

    I know that many scientists(the good responsible ones) know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different life time environments.

    Also there are 2 great online rebuttals of the Mars & Venus myth by Susan Hamson called, The Rebuttal From Uranus and Out Of The Cave: Exploring Gray’s Anatomy by Kathleen Trigiani.

    Also have you read the excellent book by social psychologist Dr.Gary Wood at The University of Birmingham called, Sex Lies & Stereotypes:Challenging Views Of Women, Men & Relationships? He clearly demonstrates with all of the research studies from psychology what Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen does, and he debunks The Mars & Venus myth and shows that the sexes are biologically and psychologically more alike than different and how gender roles and differences are mostly socially created and how they are very limiting and emotionally damaging to both sexes mental and physical health and don’t only allow are encourage them to become more than only a half of a person instead of a whole human person with all of our shared*human* qualities!

    Anyway, if you could write back when you have a chance I would
    really appreciate it.

    Thank You

  22. There is an excellent online article that I printed out 13 years ago,by Jungian psychologist Dr.Gary S.Toub,called,Jung and Gender:Masculine and Feminine Revisted. On his site it now only has part of this article and it says you have to register to read the full article. I emailed Dr.Toub years ago and he wrote me back several nice emails,in one he said he really liked my letter,and that it was filled to the brim with excellent points and references.

    In this article he talks about what parts of Jungian thought he finds useful and what he finds problematic. The first thing he says he finds useful is, In the course of Jungian analysis, he often assists female clients to discover traditionally,masculine qualities in their psyche and that he likewise frequently assist male clients to recognize traditionally feminine qualities in their psyche. He says this process frees each gender from the straight-jacket of stereotyped sex roles and expands his clients identities. He then said that the process also mirrors and furthers the breakdown of male-female polarization in our culture,and the cultural shifts towards androgyny.

    He also says that most importantly, his practice of Jungian analysis places the greatest emphasis on facilitating his clients individuation process. He says this means that he tries to assist clients,male or female,to search for their authentic self-definition,distinct from society’s gender expectations.He also says that many Jungian definitions of masculine and feminine are narrow,outdated and sexist.

    He also says that he has found that generalizing about what is masculine and what is feminine is dangerous,often perpetuating gender myths that are discriminatory and damaging.He says while there is some research supporting biological roots to personality differences,the majority of studies suggest that much of what is considered masculine or feminine is culture determined.

    He also says that viewing masculine and feminine as complementary opposites,while useful at times,is problematic. He then says as his gay,lesbian, and transsexual clients have taught him,gender is more accurately viewed as encompassing a wide-ranging continuum. He then says that likewise,the more people he sees in his practice,the more he is impressed at the great diversity in human nature. He says he has seen men of all types and varieties,and women of all kinds. He then says,he is hard-pressed to come up with very many generalizations based on gender.He says he knows that there are some statistical patterns,but how useful are they when he works with individuals and in a rapidly changing society? He says if each person is unique,no statistical norm or average will be able to define who my client is.

    He then says,from a psychological perspective,men and women are not, in fact,opposite. He says his clinical experience is that they are much more psychologically alike than different,and the differences that exist are not necessarily opposing.

  23. Public release date: 4-Nov-1999
    [ Print E-mail Share

    Contact: Penny Burge or Sharon Snow or
    Virginia Tech

    20-year-old sex-role research survey still valid


    In the late 1970s, Penny Burge, director of Virginia Tech’s Women’s Center, was working on her doctoral dissertation at Penn State University researching the relationship between child-rearing sex-role attitudes and social issue sex-role attitudes among parents. As part of her research, Burge designed a 28-question survey in which respondents were asked to mark how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: “Only females should receive affectionate hugs as rewards,” “I would buy my son a doll,” and “I would be upset if my daughter wanted to play little league baseball.”

    Hard-hitting questions, many of them. But Burge carried on. She received her degree in 1979, and in 1981 her research findings were published in the Home Economics Research Journal.

    Among her findings were that respondents who named the mother as their child’s primary caretaker held more traditional child-rearing sex-role attitudes than respondents who named both parents. In addition, those respondents who held more traditional child-rearing sex-role attitudes also held more traditional social issue sex-role attitudes, and fathers were more conventional than mothers with respect to the issue of whether or not boys and girls should be raised differently.

    “We found that parents do cling to traditional sex-role attitudes,” Burge said. “It was more pronounced with male children where pressure to achieve was more intense.”

    Over the years, Burge occasionally received requests from other researchers for permission to use her survey in their own research. Burge always granted permission, but had redirected her research focus to gender equity in education. She had moved on in her career, serving on the faculty in Virginia Tech’s College of Human Resources and Education from 1979 to 1994 when she became director of the Women’s Center.

    But a recent request from a researcher at New Mexico State University sparked her interest. The researcher, Betsy Cahill, had used Burge’s survey (with some modifications and additions) to conduct research on early childhood teachers’ attitudes toward gender roles. After the results of Cahill’s research were completed and published in The Journal of Sex Roles in 1997, some unexpected events occurred.

    The Educational Testing Service, a national resource that makes research instruments more widely available to other researchers, requested permission to use the Burge and Cahill survey tools in its upcoming Test Collection, a reference publication for future researchers. “I was honored,” Burge said. “It was nice to have another researcher include my survey instrument in her own. And the request from the Educational Testing Service gave an additional sanction to my survey. It’s amazing to me that the same type of social questions are still valid after 20 years.”

    And no one can dispute the past two decades have brought enormous social changes in the world, which leads to the second unexpected occurrence.

    Cahill found that many of the findings from Burge’s research were still very much the same. For example, teachers who espoused traditional gender role beliefs for adults also did for children. For those who were more accepting of cross-gender role behaviors and aspirations, they were more accepting of these behaviors from girls than boys.

    Enter Sharon Snow, newly hired assistant director of the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, and the third coincidence regarding Burge’s survey tool. As part of a survey research class Snow took while working on her graduate degree at Texas Woman’s University, she cited Burge’s study in her literature review.

    “As part of the class, we conducted a survey of students to determine their attitudes about gender roles in children,” Snow said. “We found that parents do indeed drive gender-based behavior. It’s not something that just happens naturally.”

    So 20 year later, researchers find that parents still have a profound influence on their children’s gender roles.

    “The most amazing finding is that despite tremendous societal change over the past two decades, many parents still hold fast to raising their children with traditional sex-roles,” Burge said.

  24. Pink Brain, Blue Brain

    Claims of sex differences fall apart.

    By *Sharon Begley | NEWSWEEK

    Published Sep 3, 2009

    From the magazine issue dated Sep 14, 2009

    Among certain parents, it is an article of faith not only that they should treat their sons and daughters alike, but also that they do. If Jack gets Lincoln Logs and Tetris, and joins the soccer team and the math club, so does Jill. Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, doesn’t think these parents are lying, exactly. But she would like to bring some studies to their attention.

    In one, scientists dressed newborns in gender-neutral clothes and misled adults about their sex. The adults described the “boys” (actually girls) as angry or distressed more often than did adults who thought they were observing girls, and described the “girls” (actually boys) as happy and socially engaged more than adults who knew the babies were boys. Dozens of such disguised-gender experiments have shown that adults perceive baby boys and girls differently, seeing identical behavior through a gender-tinted lens. In another study, mothers estimated how steep a slope their 11-month-olds could crawl down. Moms of boys got it right to within one degree; moms of girls underestimated what their daughters could do by nine degrees, even though there are no differences in the motor skills of infant boys and girls.

    But that prejudice may cause parents to unconsciously limit their daughter’s physical activity. How we perceive children—sociable or remote, physically bold or reticent—shapes how we treat them and therefore what experiences we give them. Since life leaves footprints on the very structure and function of the brain, these various experiences produce sex differences in adult behavior and brains—the result not of innate and inborn nature but of nurture.

    For her new book, *Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps—And What We Can Do About It,* Eliot immersed herself in hundreds of scientific papers (her bibliography runs 46 pages). Marching through the claims like Sherman through Georgia, she explains that assertions of innate sex differences in the brain are either “blatantly false,” “cherry-picked from single studies,” or “extrapolated from rodent research” without being confirmed in people. For instance, the idea that the band of fibers connecting the right and left brain is larger in women,supposedly supporting their more “holistic” thinking, is based on a single 1982 study of only 14 brains. Fifty other studies, taken together, found no such sex difference—not in adults, not in newborns. Other baseless claims:that women are hard-wired to read faces and tone of voice, to defuse conflict, and to form deep friendships; and that “girls’ brains are wired for communication and boys’ for aggression.” Eliot’s inescapable conclusion:there is “little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

    Yet there are differences in adults’ brains, and here Eliot is at her most original and persuasive: explaining how they arise from tiny sex differences in infancy. For instance, baby boys are more irritable than girls.

    That makes parents likely to interact less with their “nonsocial” sons, which could cause the sexes’ developmental pathways to diverge. By 4 months of age, boys and girls differ in how much eye contact they make, and differences in sociability, emotional expressivity, and verbal ability—all of which depend on interactions with parents—grow throughout childhood. The message that sons are wired to be nonverbal and emotionally distant thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The sexes “start out a little bit different” in fussiness, says Eliot, and parents “react differently to them,” producing the differences seen in adults.

    Those differences also arise from gender conformity. You often see the claim that toy preferences—trucks or dolls—appear so early, they must be innate.

    But as Eliot points out, 6- and 12-month-olds of both sexes prefer dolls to trucks, according to a host of studies. Children settle into sex-based play preferences only around age 1, which is when they grasp which sex they are,identify strongly with it, and conform to how they see other, usually older,boys or girls behaving.

    “Preschoolers are already aware of what’s acceptable to their peers and what’s not,” writes Eliot. Those play preferences then snowball, producing brains with different talents.

    The belief in blue brains and pink brains has real-world consequences, which is why Eliot goes after them with such vigor (and rigor).

    It encourages parents to treat children in ways that make the claims come true, denying boys and girls their full potential. “Kids rise or fall according to what we believe about them,” she notes. And the belief fuels the drive for single-sex schools, which is based in part on the false claim that boy brains and girl brains process sensory information and think differently.

    Again, Eliot takes no prisoners in eviscerating this “patently absurd”claim. Read her masterful book and you’ll never view the sex-differences debate the same way again.

    *Begley is NEWSWEEK’s science editor.*

    Find this article at

  25. Dr.Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Myths of Gender:Biological Theories About Women and Men.She is a biologist and geneticist at Brown Univetsity and she thoroughly debunks these claims about testosterone levels and aggressive behavior and a whole lot of other sexist,racist claims made by both women and men scientists.

    And Delusions of Gender How Our Minds Society and Neurosexism Create Differences by Australian neuro scientist Cordelia Fine also thoroughly debunks common myths of gender

    And also the book,Brain Storm:The Flaws in The Science of Sex Differences by Barnard professor Rebecca Jordan-Young as reviewed by Amanda Schaffer on Slate’s site Oct 21,2010 called The Last Word On Fetal T Rebecca Jordan-Young’s masterful critique of the research on the relatiopnship between testosterone and sex differtence.And she says how remarably similar women and men’s brains and minds actually are.

  26. Interview with long time feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin about her teaching and erasing her two twin daughters and her son with non-sexist non-gender roles and gender stereotypes.

    Feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s son didn’t reject playing with dolls and tea sets, just as her identical twin daughters didn’t reject the non-gender stereotyped toys and behaviors she encouraged them to have. And her son didn’t grow up gay or transgendered he’s married and I think has children,but he didn’t grow up to be a macho football player either,as Letty said he’s a chef and loves to cook.

    And there is a lot wrong with sexist very limiting gender roles,gender myths and gender stereotypes that are mostly artificially created by the very sexist,gender divided,gender stereotyped,woman-hating male dominated family and society we all live in,which makes both sexes,into only half of a person,instead of full human people able to develop and express their full shared *human* traits,abilities,and behaviors etc. And then these artificial gender differences continue to reinforce gender inequalities,male dominance and men’s violence against women,children and even each other.

    There is a great 2005 book,Sex Lies And Stereotypes Challenging Views Of Women,Men and Relationships by social and cognitive British psychologist Dr.Gary Wood.He too shows plenty of great important research studies done over decades by many different psychologists that finds small average sex differences,and the sexes are much more similar than different.He also thoroughly demonstrates that gender roles,gender myths and gender stereotypes which are mostly socially and culturally constructed,harm both sexes because they are very liming,cause conflicts and misunderstands between women and men,and only allow each of them to become half of a person which can cause mental and physical conditions and diseases.

  27. One of the most inane stereotypes, happens to be the navigation stereotype. I find it repulsive, since I can actually see maps in my mind. I see for instance, a map of California , all the freeway systems. I also know my directions, but our society is constantly trying to sell this stupid notion , of women being less able at spatial ability. This happens to be in strong area, not mutl tasking, reading or foreign language. I dreaded the language requirement in high school, and college, yet women are expected to excel at it. By now one would think , the public has figured out , they are being lied to, yet they still hold on to these ridiculous ideas.

  28. Anyone trying to argue that boy brains/girl brains and men’s brains/women’s brains are identical – that there is no difference in hardwiring that manifests in inherent strengths/weaknesses – YOU ARE EITHER DELUSIONAL OR A LIAR PUSHING AN AGENDA.

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