Building on our reputation as an organization that engages in important and timely “myth-busting,” the IWF organized a panel of scientific experts at the National Press Club in September to counter an American Association of University Women (AAUW) event. The AAUW discussion — which took place just prior and right next door to the IWF panel — featured a number of pundits who see male/female gender differences as nothing more than social constructs. The undercurrent of their argument is that little boys need to be raised more like girls in order to offset the damage done by an “oppressive patriarchal society.”

The IWF thinks quite the opposite. We challenged the AAUW’s misguided notion with leading scientific experts who stressed that biology, not societal pressure, explains the differences between the sexes. This, of course, has profound implications for education and the workplace.

Our warning to the AAUW: In any wrestling match with Mother Nature, you’re bound to lose!

The IWF thinks quite the opposite. We challenged the AAUW’s misguided notion with leading scientific experts who stressed that biology, not societal pressure, explains the differences between the sexes. This, of course, has profound implications for education and the workplace.

Our warning to the AAUW: In any wrestling match with Mother Nature, you’re bound to lose!

The IWF thinks quite the opposite. We challenged the AAUW’s misguided notion with leading scientific experts who stressed that biology, not societal pressure, explains the differences between the sexes. This, of course, has profound implications for education and the workplace.

Our warning to the AAUW: In any wrestling match with Mother Nature, you’re bound to lose!

The IWF thinks quite the opposite. We challenged the AAUW’s misguided notion with leading scientific experts who stressed that biology, not societal pressure, explains the differences between the sexes. This, of course, has profound implications for education and the workplace.

Our warning to the AAUW: In any wrestling match with Mother Nature, you’re bound to lose!

Some time ago I was on a television debate with the feminist lawyer Gloria Allred. She was representing a girl named Katrina who was suing the Boy Scouts for excludinggirls. Now, if you want co-ed scouting you can join the Explorer Scouts, but Ms. Allred thought it was outrageous that girls could not join the Boy Scouts, and she called it gender apartheid. I tried to counter her argument with a little common sense and pointed out to her that boys and girls are somewhat different and I gave her the following, I thought, amusing example. She didn’t find it so, but I will tell it to you anyway.

Hasbro, a major toy company, wanted to market their playhouse to both boys and girls. This is not because they believe there are no gender differences or that they are egalitarian androgynous feminists, they simply wanted to double their profits, which will happen if you can find a toy that appeals to both boys and girls. So they brought children into their “fun lab” in Providence, Rhode Island, to observe how they interacted with their playhouse. The girls came in and played constructively with the baby carriage, the dolls, the stove, and the refrigerator — basically played house. The boys came in and catapulted the baby carriage from the roof.

Many feminist scholars, women’s activists, and gender experts believe that basic male/female differences are by and large socially constructed, as they put it, by the dominating patriarchal culture. Now when you press these so-called gender equity experts and ask them why is it so critical that we re-socialize boys, they typically cite some shocking statistics about how our current gender system makes women vulnerable to overbearing and violent men.

Most of these activists have given up on men — they cannot be salvaged. Men are beyond all hope. In their minds, however, little boys can still be re-socialized provided we do so at a very early age. At a recent Wellesley conference, one gender expert announced that between the ages of two and six lies the opportunity to really change children’s “gender schema” and point them in the direction you want them to go.

Now why do this? I am not going to cite the entire litany of female oppression statistics, but what they will tell you is that there is massive depression among teenage girls; that there are losses of self esteem in adolescence; that 30 to 40 percent of American women are depressed in a single week; that we have epidemic levels of eating disorders in girls; that violence is the leading cause of death for women. And, what these claims all have in common is that they are blatantly untrue. At the heart of this social constructionist movement is a body of egregiously false information. I say that as someone who is a philosopher, as someone who started out as a liberal feminist. But I drew the line at truth, accuracy, and reason. Now I am called a conservative because I demand those things — I happily bear the epithet.

The women’s movement has been characterized by the philosophy, “Women are from Venus, men are from Hell.” Now it may seem funny and men can certainly take it with a grain of salt. But little boys cannot. However, I will end by saying that I am an optimist and I believe that good sense and fair play will prevail. I am also the mother of sons and I will tell you that one of the more agreeable facts of life is that boys will be boys.

Christina Hoff Sommers, Ph.D., is the author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men and Chairman of IWF’s National Advisory Board.

The French poet, Charles P’guy, once said that, “tout commence dans le mystére et les fins dans la politique,” or “everything starts in mystery and ends in politics,” and I think that is where questions about our human nature fit into this discussion.

In the last book I wrote, The Decline of Males, I asked the question: Nature? Nurture? The argument about the cause of our social nature has been endless, but it is no longer of much interest because the answer is not one or the other. Bodies are indisputably managed by natural programs. That’s why they die. And a body cannot act except within a community of other individuals. The nature-nurture dialogue is especially uninteresting scientifically. The argument is settled. Neither can exist without the other. The challenge now is to understand the stew of factors that compose social life.

For public policy, however, the conclusion is different. The preeminent working assumption is that social emphasis must be nurture. This suits the modern industrial notion of progress. It is consistent with the most appealing claims of politicians and reformers. Its emphasis has been sharpened by feminist assertions about the decisive impact of environments. They have won the day. They have also won the last three decades and the century. In many political circles it remains hazardous to a commentator’s well being to contemplate biological elements of sex differences. The orthodoxy is firm, well meaning, and altogether entrenched, rather like Marxism in its heyday and with many similar ways of crushing critics; they may be subjected to extraordinary personal and academic censure.

Consequences flow. An important one is in the American legal system. It takes as a given that any statistical differences between men and women reveal faulty arrangements. It takes as a given that with good will, stern law, and remedial craft these differences can be eliminated, prejudices can be excised, and equity can be ensured. Any deviation from this is the result of bad nurture, not recurrent nature. In military training or scores on tests or even in longevity, differences are held to reflect imperfect opportunities for women or resistant hostile action by men or a complex combination of similar factors.

Lionel Tiger, Ph.D., is Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and author of The Decline of Males.

Many people probably believe, and the majority of social science researchers simply decree, that most of the behavioral differences between men and women are formed through socialization. I will suggest instead that some of the sex differences in intellectual or cognitive pattern are biologically influenced early in life and that a major factor is the different hormonal milieu experienced by males and females before or shortly after birth.

In mammals, which includes humans, the basic or default form is female. Producing a male, masculinization, depends on the production of androgens, chief of which is testosterone. Androgens are needed not only to form male rather than female genitals, but also to make alterations in brain and behavior in the masculine direction.

We see examples of this hormonal influence in terms of spatial problem-solving tasks, such as mental rotation and paper folding where men outperform women. However, women are able to match identical forms more quickly than men and recall lists of words or a meaningful paragraph better than men. On math reasoning tests, men perform better,whereas in straightforward calculation women tend to do better. Of course, we are talking about average differences and there is a great deal of overlap between men and women.

You can see the potential for differences in ability patterns to influence the kinds of professions or occupations that men and women enter.

Of math-talented boys and girls who go to college, many more enter engineering, physics, and math sciences, than is true of the average students. But even in this select group, the number of men who choose engineering and physical sciences is much higher than women. (I should stress that women are not avoiding all sciences. There are steadily increasing numbers of women in biological sciences such as physiology or neurosciences, and the numbers for medicine are equal.) But it is particularly in sciences where math is most critical that the numbers of women are low, and this is a worldwide pattern.

What is the basis for these intellectual sex differences? There are several reasons for thinking that certain cognitive differences are determined before or shortly after birth:

1) The sex differences in ability patterns are seen very early in life. The superior mental rotation ability of boys is evident by the age of 4 (it has not yet been tested at younger ages). At the same early age, girls are better at repeating back lists of words sampling verbal memory.

2) The differences appear across cultures, despite very different teaching methods, social structures, etc. Within the limits of testing, the effects are not unique to North American or Western cultures.

3) Most important, we have ever-increasing evidence that exposure to sex hormones before birth has life-long irreversible effects on behavior, including not only behaviors directly relevant to reproduction, but also problem-solving behaviors.

Our lab has shown a relation also between current sex hormone levels in normal young men and women, and their performance on a number of cognitive tasks. In such studies we typically give a variety of tests to undergraduate volunteers, and also get samples of saliva from them, in order to measure the levels of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. We see a consistent relation, for example, between current testosterone levels and spatial ability, which strengthens the idea that testosterone operated also to organize such abilities from the start.

So we can reasonably conclude that some of the career choices that differentiate men and women are actually strongly influenced by physiological events that took place early in life.

Doreen Kimura, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University and author of Sex and Cognition.

Of course the main reason that we are having this discussion is that the AAUW, the organization largely responsible for the gender wars in education, is now asking how we can move beyond them. I think it is high time that those who have been fighting this gender war explore a question that they should have asked long before they fired their first shot. And that question is whether females in America truly want this war on “gendered” behavior that is being waged on their behalf.

Perhaps the most radical aspect of this agenda is the quest for so-called parity in the sciences. This means equal representation of the sexes in every field of science, engineering, and technology. Now, my reaction to these lofty goals can be described in one word: Why? Why is it so important that two groups that have long made different choices at the university and in the workplace be forced into sameness? The most common answer I get is that an equal complement of females is essential for the high tech sector and educational institutions to be optimally effective. And when I ask why that is, they tell me because females bring to the table experiences, viewpoints, and priorities that males do not.

This argument is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it acknowledges what feminism has long denied: that sex differences relevant to the workplace are real. Two, it makes no sense at all. When two groups differ in work place relevant traits, it would be astonishing if their choices and outcomes in the work place were the same. In fact, if they differ enough, identical outcomes would be impossible without an occupational police state. Which leads back to my original question:

Is this sort of police state what women want? Because if it is not, feminist activists have been shortchanging women by putting their utopian vision before women’s career satisfaction.

Gender activists will acknowledge that after the elementary grades, fewer girls than boys say that they like math and science or want a career in these fields. However, these “experts” will not grant that girls know their true interests. Rather, they insist the girls would be equally attracted to these fields were it not for sexist messages from teachers, parents, counselors, text-books, society, and television. However common sense, as well as decades of research in vocational psychology, tell us that the factors most relevant to career choice are highly individual choices that also differ somewhat between the sexes.

As Dr. Kimura noted, extensive research shows that sex hormones affect both the structure and the function of our brains. Personalities, preferences, and abilities are influenced in the process. Differences in the relative amounts of various sex hormones that we are exposed to during gestation, and at other points in life, lay the foundation for sex typical behaviors and traits, including differences in career choices.

It is not lost on me that this explanation infuriates gender activists. But if, as I am convinced, sex hormones affect our brains, their howls of protest will not make them stop. I see no reason why evidence of biology’s role in sex differences should rock anybody’s world, but to the extent that it does, it would probably be a good idea to get over it.

Patricia Hausman, Ph.D., is an author and behavioral scientist.