As we mark Charles Darwin’s birthday on February 12th, our culture is riding a wave that should take us back to his theory. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are the crest of the wave, which may represent a turning point against men’s chronic exploitation of women. It’s one aspect of the decline of male supremacy predicted and fought for by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the pioneering women’s rights activist born just a few years after Darwin.
Stanton, like Darwin, was a realist when it came to gender differences. She thought that some were intrinsic and fundamental, but that these were to women’s advantage. Indeed, in a powerful 1869 speech, she held that the strongest argument for women’s equality was “the difference between man and woman.”
Most of us are concerned now about the sexualization of childhood—toddler beauty queens, Rihanna outfits in preschool. But three just-published articles still shock.
They come from the laboratory of developmental psychologist Ann Cale Kruger at Georgia State University—I’m happy to disclose I’m married to her—and concern Project PREVENT, a program she launched to explore the vulnerabilities of girls and to try to strengthen their resilience. Read more
Rita Levi-Montalcini, the first Nobel laureate to reach 100, graduated from the Turin medical school in 1936, and soon started working on the developing nervous system. Two years later, when Mussolini barred Jews from faculties, she set up a lab in her bedroom—such was her passion for understanding brain growth, for discoveries that might someday help prevent brain defects.
I thought of her on April 13th, when the CDC released its statement confirming that Zika causes microcephaly. It seems they were awaiting Read more
The 1989 book, Heather Has Two Mommies, normalized for my kids the idea that two women could care for a child and create a fine family. The controversy it met with seemed increasingly quaint as research showed that kids like Heather grow up very much like average children, although they are less homophobic.
Even quainter now seems the battle over the first “test-tube baby.” Louise Brown, born in 1978, was hailed in headlines as “Superbabe” and “The Lovely Louise,” but she also met with many negative expectations. Yet in 2010 Robert Edwards shared the Nobel Prize for the work that led to her birth, celebrating with Ms. Brown and her own son. Today five million people conceived in this way walk among us, indistinguishable except in the luck of their existence.
But suppose these two lines of research could be joined. Suppose Heather had two biological mothers—because one of their eggs was fertilized with the DNA of the other. Since the offspring of such a union could have only X chromosomes, Read more
I said in my last posting that I expected Women After All to offend four groups. The biggest and most vulgar response has been from the “men’s rights” movement—really Quavering Male Chauvinists (QMCs) who can’t wrap their minds around the fact that women are pushing the boot off their neck and even starting to twist the foot around the ankle. Steady for the toppling, boys. Don’t hit the deck too hard.
The second group has been much more polite than the QMCs but no less critical: feminists who see my claims as a warmed-over, old-style, pseudoscientific male chauvinism; worse, Read more
I’d written on p. 17, “this book will have something to offend almost everyone.” Three of the four groups I mentioned specifically were those (not all) feminists who deny that any important things about men’s and women’s behavior are influenced by biology; discouraged women who think I exaggerate the pace of change; and of course, the flat-earthers who think evolution didn’t happen and won’t read past the subtitle.
But the nastiest blowback by far has been from men. The first wave Read more
When I wrote recently about a question that had been put to me—under the title “Is Misogyny Maladaptive?”—I was taken to task (at PsychologyToday.com, where it also appeared) for misusing the word misogyny. I was trying to use it to mean “anti-woman.” Strictly, Read more
Part of my friend’s question that I didn’t answer last time was about misogyny, which he hopefully speculated is now maladaptive. I deferred this because from an evolutionary viewpoint it is in a different category from xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. Let me state clearly at the outset, as I did about the other categories of prejudice: I think we are gradually creating conditions in which misogyny is maladaptive, and we must continue to do that.
However, it has to be recognized that for the long span of human evolution Read more
David Blumenthal, a good and wise friend who is a Jewish studies professor and a rabbi wrote me recently asking about the former adaptiveness and present maladaptiveness of xenophobia. The operative passage in his letter was, “In the global world, however, survival requires the cooperation of varying and different groups. Humanity, in its groups, cannot survive without the quintessential other. Xenophobia has ceased to be adaptive. So has antisemitism, racism, orientalism, and misogyny.”
I have little trouble agreeing that at some times in the past these behaviors were adaptive for the perpetrators. Read more