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S/He Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and…
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S/He Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Myths of Feminism (1996)

by Robert Lee Nadeau

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Nadeau is trying to expound on at three different hypotheses, all of which have a certain amount of tension. The first is that there are sex differences built into the brain. The second is that, even so, the similarities between men and women, on the whole, are greater than their differences. Thirdly, he argues that feminists claims that there are no sexual difference, only learned gender differences, beyond reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics are wrong. Implied in this is some agreement with the idea of evolutionary psychology that some traits are innate in the physical structure of the brain.

Even assuming that some psychology is inborn, if men and women are so similar, one might ask why it is so important to call attention to the differences. Perhaps, even if these differences are real, it is a mistake to attribute them so strongly to the two sexes. Perhaps these differences, and others that people have from time to time posited, are best recognized as valid variations among people. Perhaps it is better to be aware that some people show their affection by actions, and others in words, rather than assuming, on the basis of sex, that the people in one's life must react one way or another. Their is an example on p. 82 that Nadeau takes from Deborah Tannen, A man mentions that he is tired since he didn't sleep well the night before. His wife replies that she never sleeps well. He feels belittled, his wife, and Tannen, claim that she was just expressing empathy. I'm a woman, but I agree with the man: he is being belittled. So one cannot rely on sex to predict reactions.

An interesting book, but not entirely convincing to me. ( )
  juglicerr | Mar 8, 2009 |
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To my mother, Mary Nadeau, and to my daughter, Langdon Nadeau, with my full love and devotion.
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The story that would capture the American psyche was about a sadly inadequate couple living in northern Virginia named John and Lorena Bobbitt.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0275955931, Hardcover)

During the 1960s, Margaret Mead's argument that gender identity is a product of learning in particular cultural contexts was incorporated into the sex/gender system in feminist theory. In this system, sex refers to physiological differences in the body and gender refers to learned sex-specific bodies to be viewed as separate and distinct from gender-neutral minds. In S/He Brain, Nadeau demonstrates that the sex/gender systemis not some arcane bit of academic jargon that has no impact on our daily lives. It is the greatest source of division and conflict in the politics of our sexual lives for a now obvious reason: the brains of men and women are not the same, and the differences have behavioral consequences. Further, he argues that an improved understanding of the relatinship between sex and gender could enlarge the bases for meaningful dialogue between men and women and lead to new standards for sexual equality that is more realistic and humane than the current standard.

The individual most responsible for legitimating the modern distinction between sex and gender was the anthropologist Margaret Mead. According to the Mead doctrine, gender identity is almost entirely a product of learning in different cultural contexts, and sex, or biological reality, is not a determinant of this identity. The assumption that gender identity is learned in sexless, or gender-neutral, minds separate and distinct from sex-specific bodies legitimated the sex/gender system that has been foundational to feminist theory since the mid 1970s. In this system, sex refers to physiological differences in the domain of the body and gender to learned behavior in the domain of mind. Since this two-domain distinction obviated the connection between biological reality and gender identity, it allowed gender identity to be viewed as scripted or socially constructed by cultural narratives (stories, myths, legends, and the like) invented by men to control and oppress women.

In ^IS/He Brain^R, Nadeau demonstrates that the sex/gender system is not in accord with biological reality for now obvious reasons—the brains of men and women are not the same, and the differences have behavioral consequences. Yet the intent of the book is to serve the cause of full sexual equality and not to escalate the gender war. Nadeau attempts to accomplish this by demonstrating that an improved understanding of the relationship between sex and gender can not only enlarge the bases for meaningful communication between men and women. It could also serve as the basis for a new and improved standard of sexual equality that eliminates the grossly unfair treatment of women sanctioned by the current standard.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:01 -0400)

Margaret Mead's argument that gender identity is learned in sexless minds separate and distinct from sex-specific bodies legitimized the "sex/gender system" in feminist theory. In this system, sex refers to physiological differences in the domain of the body and gender to learned behavior in the domain of the mind. Since this "two-domain" distinction obviated the connection between biological reality and gender identity, it allowed gender identity to be viewed as a product of patriarchal cultural narratives - stories, myths, legends and the like invented by men in order to control and oppress women. In S/He Brain, Nadeau demonstrates that the sex/gender system is not some arcane bit of academic jargon that has no impact on our daily lives. It is the greatest source of conflict in the politics of our sexual lives for a now obvious reason: the brains of men and women are not the same, and the differences can have behavioral consequences. Yet the intent of the book is to serve the cause of full sexual equality and not to escalate the gender war. Nadeau argues that an improved understanding of the relationship between sex and gender can not only enlarge the bases for meaningful communication between men and women, it could also serve as the basis for an improved standard of sexual equality that eliminates the grossly unfair treatment of women sanctioned by the current standard.… (more)

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