This excursus discusses how the perspective taken in the last two chapters relates to the conclusions and interpretations found in the main currents of the scientific literature on the differences between men and women. Like the earlier Note on Method on exegesis, this section is intended primarily for those acquainted with the professional literature. Also like the earlier section, it is not essential to the argument of the book and can be skipped without missing necessary information or discussion.
The social scientific literature on men’s and women’s differences, like the social scientific literature in general, displays a considerable variety of viewpoints. Some of this variety arises naturally from the inevitable differences among social scientists in their intentions, conceptual systems, methodologies, and disciplinary perspectives. For example, an anthropologist, an endocrinologist, and a behaviorist psychologist will conduct three very different studies of human aggression. Their data will differ. Their conclusions may differ, even though they may not in fact be inconsistent. However, some of the variety in the social science literature amounts to incompatible differences in substantive conclusions. Some social scientists say that men and women differ in various traits and characteristics; some say they do not. Such conflicts are not merely differences in perspective. They arise from conflicting data, conflicting interpretations of data, conflicting theories, and sometimes from conflicting ideologies. Whatever the source, these substantive differences lead to controversy and disagreement. They are not matters of complementary viewpoints.
The presentation of the social scientific data on the differences between men and women in the past two chapters has some distinctive features which distinguish it from other social scientific studies. However, these distinctive features are differences in approach and viewpoint, not points of substantive controversy. They do not derive from new data, from novel interpretation of existing data, a new theory, or from an unconditional endorsement of any of the existing theories. Rather, the main distinctive features of this presentation are the interdisciplinary nature of the survey method and the use of a conceptual framework derived from the earlier exegetical chapters of this book. In short, the social scientific analysis conducted in these two chapters is mainly distinguished by its methodology and conceptual system.
Much of the social scientific literature consists of reports of data drawn from direct observation or experimentation. These chapters instead employ an interdisciplinary survey approach. They survey the direct work of others rather than offer new observations or experiments. In itself, the survey approach is not an uncommon way to present research.1 However, this survey differs from most others in that it is interdisciplinary, and not concerned solely with summarizing the data obtained within or through one methodology. Though this type of interdisciplinary approach has become more common in the past ten years, it is still uncommon to give attention to both descriptive and experimental studies in the same survey.2 Descriptive and experimental social scientists sometimes deny the validity of one another’s methodology and findings, and surveys (even interdisciplinary ones) usually follow one or the other course. The social scientific survey contained in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen, however, presumes the validity of both forms of study, and surveys the findings of both.
The particular type of interdisciplinary approach adopted in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen arises from the broader concerns of this book. The primary aim of these chapters is to discover what modern science has to say about the pattern of men’s and women’s roles which was discussed in the earlier exegetical sections of this book. These chapters accept all accredited modern science, and do not attempt any major critique or advances. They rely on the body of evidence and interpretation generally accepted within each field or discipline. These chapters do not hold to one theory at the expense of another, or favor one particular discipline or method. Instead, they survey a wide body of literature, accepting and observing the canons of acceptability within each field and discipline. The goal has been to bring the body of reported scientific results to bear on the questions raised in this book concerning men’s and women’s roles.
The second main distinguishing feature of this social scientific survey is its underlying conceptual framework. The earlier exegetical chapters of this book have provided this framework. It is very specific and differs from the conceptual systems found in most social scientific surveys. This conceptual framework has greatly influenced the course and content of this study. In fact, the conceptual framework underlying any scientific study has immense impact on the conduct of that study. It defines the issues to be examined, provides the terminology necessary for the formulation of a hypothesis, and determines which data is relevant and which is irrelevant.3 For example, when a researcher employs a psychoanalytic conceptual framework to investigate the development of male and female personality, he will concentrate on early parent-child relationships, with a special focus on psychosexual development. This researcher may finally conclude that such psychoanalytic terms as castration anxiety, penis envy, and the Oedipus complex are inadequate to explain personality development, but these concepts will nonetheless govern the conduct of his study and the interpretation of his data. Conceptual frameworks are of great importance in the sciences; in fact, they are essential for research. The distinctive conceptual framework used in this book explains much of what is distinctive in the social scientific survey of Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen.
The conceptual framework underlying the last two chapters focuses on social structure and social roles. It was developed for the goal of relating social scientific conclusions to the exegesis and interpretation of the scriptural teaching found in the first part of the book. This teaching mainly concerned social structure and social roles rather than individual behavior. Consequently, this conceptual framework is particularly attentive to group behavior, the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, and the structure of social patterns. Moreover it influences the way the data is presented. For example, the framework led to summarizing the data in the descriptive literature in terms of trait-patterns. It also influenced the importance the survey placed on “pattern” and “structure,” the intimate connection between personality traits and personal relationships, and the emphasis on social predispositions rather than functional abilities. The conceptual framework also affected the interpretation in Chapter Seventeen of the social structural data found in Maccoby and Jacklin. Maccoby and Jacklin emphasize the individual characteristics rather than social structural characteristics which can be seen in their data. This survey took special pains to stress these social structural patterns because they are highly significant within the conceptual framework of this book. However, it must be emphasized that this presentation was faithful to the data it surveyed. The point is that a different conceptual framework prevailed in the organization of the presentation.
Two other examples from Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen illustrate the way a conceptual framework specially attuned to social structure and personal relationships affected these chapters. First, the conceptual system governed the organization of these two chapters according to individual and social structural characteristics. Such a distinction is not common in the social scientific literature. Social scientists sometimes draw a distinction between intellectual abilities (verbal ability, etc.) and social behavior (aggression, nurturance, dependence, etc.), but they rarely distinguish between characteristics manifested by an individual in all types of relationships and characteristics which individuals manifest according to the structure of social groupings.4 The data is organized this way because it is especially helpful in shedding light on the scriptural teaching on men’s and women’s roles and social structure. Secondly, the concluding synthesis of the data found near the end of Chapter Seventeen is explicitly ordered around the New Testament description of the roles of men and women as seen in the first part of the book. The intention is to point out the degree to which the data fits the scriptural picture of men’s and women’s roles. This type of synthesis is faithful to the data, but it would be stated differently if the scriptural teaching did not shape the underlying concerns of these chapters.
Although a particular conceptual system influences the presentation and interpretation of the social scientific data found in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen, this does not mean that the data has been slanted to fit the conceptual system. Any study, including the most objective and academic, will be influenced by its underlying conceptual framework. The past two chapters have employed a distinctive framework and thus these chapters appear distinctive in comparison to the body of social scientific literature on men’s and women’s differences. However, these chapters are fully compatible with other studies and surveys. In fact, this book’s survey essentially relies upon well-known studies, the work of reputable investigators, and a traditional—not novel—interpretation of data.
The past two chapters survey the social sciences, but this book is not primarily a study of the social sciences. It is primarily a study of a Christian approach to men’s and women’s roles in the modern world. The survey of the social scientific literature is subordinate to the broader purposes of this volume. The book does not review social science for its own sake, but rather as a way to help develop a workable approach to Christian life in the modern world. The survey method and the conceptual framework used in these chapters follow from this basic purpose.
This book’s approach to the social scientific data on men’s and women’s differences is consistent with the most significant work in the social sciences, but one must acknowledge that this approach is not consistent with all of it. The content and conclusions of these chapters conflict substantially with much of the material produced by a particular movement within the social sciences in the 1970s. This movement could be called Feminist Social Science. The feminist ethical and political position has become very prominent in social scientific circles in the ’70s, and it has exerted a considerable influence on the study of the differences between men and women. It often shapes the selection and interpretation of data and affects the conclusions many modern works of social science draw about men’s and women’s differences. This book does not adopt this feminist perspective and consequently the preceding chapters are sometimes inconsistent with the relevant feminist literature.
Feminist Social Science as a movement is a relatively new phenomenon. However, the broader nature/nurture controversy—of which Feminist Social Science is a part—has a long and stormy background.5 A radical environmentalist view of human potential dominated the thinking of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, though Enlightenment thinkers were slow to apply this view to the differences between men and women. Then, in the second half of the nineteenth century, Darwinism came to dominate intellectual discussion, and biological explanations of individual and social behavior flourished. Such biological factors as brain size and sexual drive were proposed to explain the differences between men and women. The direction of the social sciences shifted again at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially in the United States and England. Behaviorism, a school of social science which emphasizes the influence of socialization on behavior, attained sudden prominence and led to a new emphasis on social conditioning—the “nurture” side of the controversy. Nonetheless, as in the Enlightenment period, behaviorism, and the attendant views that human beings can become whatever they want, was only slowly applied to men’s and women’s differences, at least in the non-Marxist West. In the first half of the twentieth century, a Freudian psychoanalytical approach dominated the study of men’s and women’s differences. The Freudians saw men’s and women’s differences as essentially rooted in biology and early family experience. However, the Freudian school had already been weakened when, in the 1960s, the radical and libertarian movements of the decade ushered in another period of strong emphasis on forces of socialization. This time, especially with the rebirth of the feminist movement, these views were applied to men’s and women’s differences. Views which even the most radical previous “nurture” advocates were reluctant to assert were now forcefully affirmed: The main differences between men and women arise from training, socialization, and cultural conditioning, not from biological endowment. This view, prominent in the 1960s, has been challenged by a resurgence of biological research and theorizing in the 1970s. Both schools now maintain an uneasy coexistence on either side of the updated nature/nurture debate. Their coexistence is often broken by fierce battles, punctuated by polemics.
This historical background sheds light on several important features of the social scientific literature on men’s and women’s differences. First, the tone and approach of the social sciences changed during the mid-sixties. This change was not caused primarily by new data or theoretical breakthroughs, but mainly by an ideological shift in the academic community and in society at large. The new ideology attacked the traditional or semi-traditional pattern of men’s and women’s roles which most people, including social scientists, had accepted as a necessary element in the social structure. Moreover, this ideology produced numbers of students dedicated to advance an ideological position who entered areas where they could study “women’s issues.” These new currents of thought had a great impact on the study of men’s and women’s differences: A feminist perspective began to dominate the field.
The historical background also explains a second important feature of modern social science: Much of the recent literature on men’s and women’s differences is polemical in nature. The first feminist attacks were aimed primarily at classic studies of these differences. (For example, see Betty Friedan’s critique of Freud and Parsons.6) However, the most recent feminist polemics have been aimed at modern social scientists who have challenged the feminist approach by asserting again the importance of biological factors.7 Consequently, a polemical tone often dominates the entire subject, on all sides. The discussion is motivated not merely by a professional concern for scientific precision, but also by a profound attachment to certain ethical and political principles. Much of the social science literature on men’s and women’s differences has been thoroughly politicized.
The social scientific literature on men’s and women’s differences can be roughly divided into five groups according to the approach taken to the biological sources of these differences. As with all such classifications, this division is imperfect. Nonetheless, it is helpful for discerning the main currents present in the literature. This division also helps clarify the ways the survey of data in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen differs from most other social science writing on the subject.
- The first body of literature views biological mechanisms as the chief source of the differences between men and women. Steven Goldberg is perhaps the most noted example of those in this grouping.8 Some researchers in this group emphasize hormones, some emphasize genes, and some evolutionary mechanisms, but they draw the same type of conclusion: The basic pattern of men’s and women’s roles and many of the differences between men and women which support this pattern are biological necessities. The approach taken in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen does not adopt this perspective, but accepts it as a valid viewpoint not yet disproved.
- The second body of literature takes a more moderate position on the question of the biological sources of differences between men and women. The investigators in this group tend to speak of a biological predisposition to learn certain types of behavior, rather than a biological determination of behavior. Such authors as Judith Bardwick, Corinne Hutt, Erik Erikson, and perhaps Lionel Tiger fit in this category.9 (Tiger probably speaks more readily about biological determination, but he does not entirely fit in the first group.) These thinkers all believe that there is a significant biological substratum to the differences between men and women, but they also acknowledge the plasticity of human nature and the possibility of using tools of socialization to work against and perhaps overcome these biologically rooted differences. The writings of this group of social scientists are consistent with the approach taken in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen.
- The third group tends to avoid theories and conclusions about the sources of differences. These are specialists who mainly restrict their study of the differences between men and women to limited technical questions (often biological in nature), and largely avoid broad theory formulation and the most heated polemical issues. The papers collected in Friedman and Richart’s Sex Differences in Behavior provide examples of this body of research.10 Most of the writers in this group tend to focus on severely limited bodies of material, questions that are narrowly circumscribed enough to be treated exhaustively and with considerable nuance. They tend to state their conclusions in a tentative, guarded, and qualified way. Though the approach taken in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen is different from the approach taken by these scientists because of the necessity of considering the broader questions, the summary of the data contained in these chapters is consistent with their findings.
- A fourth body of literature takes an explicitly feminist perspective on the question of biological sources of differences. These are writings which are for the most part thorough and unbiased, while the authors’ basic perspectives, conclusions, and recommendations reflect a clear feminist commitment. Eleanor Maccoby, John Money, and Pierre van den Berghe are prominent figures in this group.11 These scholars take account of the biological data, and acknowledge the biological roots of many of the differences between men and women. However, they also emphasize the importance of learning in human behavior, and they believe that most of the differences between men and women can and should be diminished. Their conclusions and recommendations derive largely from a moral and political position, and they do not attempt to hide this fact. Their work could be called “social science done by feminists.” Their tone and conclusions often differ from the tone and conclusions of Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen, but the basic presentation and interpretation of the data in these chapters is consistent with their data. In fact, much of the data in these chapters is drawn from this literature.
- A fifth body of literature can be termed Feminist Social Science. It is distinguished from the fourth group—“social science done by feminists”—by the way the authors’ strong feminist convictions dominate the entire approach to the question of men’s and women’s differences. Writers in this group include Sandra Bem, Janet Chafetz, Betty Yorburg, Carol Tavris, Carole Offir, Barbara Lloyd, and John Archer.12 In these writings, a feminist bias shapes the topics, data, tone, and direction of the research. Above all, a feminist political commitment shapes the conclusions of the research and the recommendations drawn from it. The purpose of Feminist Social Science is not so much to understand the differences between men and women as it is to persuade the reader to accept the feminist moral and political position.
This underlying political purpose distinguishes Feminist Social Science from other writings on the subject. Many investigators of the differences between men and women are feminists, and they do not mind trying to prove their position scientifically and noting scientific support for their political beliefs. However, feminist social scientists more readily use science to convince others of the truth of their political views. In their writings, science is subordinate to feminism. As will be seen, the commitment to advance feminism and to establish a sexually “egalitarian” society often leads to a distortion of the scientific method. Of the five groups of social scientific literature on the differences between men and women, only this group is inconsistent with the approach taken in this book.
One feminist psychologist, Sandra Bem, openly admits her political preconceptions and motives. In an article on her work, she is reported as stating that her interest in sex roles “is and has always been frankly political,” and that her major purpose is “a feminist one: to help free the human personality from the restricting prison of sex-role stereotyping and to develop a conception of mental health which is free from culturally imposed definitions of masculinity and femininity.”13 The primacy of the political end in Feminist Social Science means that data is not always handled soberly and fairly. Even when the evidence is not obviously distorted, the discussion is framed in a way that is antagonistic toward traditional social roles and toward social scientists who find scientific support for these roles.
Feminist Social Science uses distinct methods to foster a feminist political position. Six of these methods, which are employed frequently and effectively, deserve more detailed examination.
1. The Burden of Proof Rests with the Opposition ▷ Feminist Social Science often assumes that its view is the only reasonable one, and that those who assert a strong biological influence on the differences between men and women must prove their case. Janet Chafetz states this view in the following manner:
Where does gender leave off and sex role begin? Are some behavioral and temperamental differences innate to the two genders, or are they all aspects of sex role? The argument in the pages to follow will be this: Given present evidence, no precise line between organism and environment, gender and role, can be drawn. However, the burden of proof rests with those who argue for the innate quality of virtually any behavioral, attitudinal, emotional, or intellectual trait.14
Chafetz frames her question as if it were self-evident that the burden of proof must lie with those who oppose her views. Thus Chafetz, and other feminist social scientists, demand that the biological data be conclusive before it can be heard. Of course, much of the biological data, like most social scientific data, is not yet conclusive in the sense of being final and indisputable. Indeed, the data supporting many of the non-biological “possible interpretations” advanced by such feminists is not conclusive. But this attitude, which judges any biological theory of the roots of men’s and women’s differences guilty until definitively proven innocent, effectively prevents much data from receiving a fair hearing. As a procedure guiding scientific research and interpretation, it is highly deficient.
2. Methodological and Ideological Critique ▷ Feminist Social Science frequently attacks the methods used in those studies which lay great weight on sex differences.15 More often, they attack traditional or biological social science by criticizing its ideological grounding. For example, Jessie Bernard critiques traditional social scientific study on men’s and women’s differences with the following ideological critique:
The single paper in Part 1 deals not so much with substantive sex differences as with research on sex differences as an institution. This research has not apparently been notably successful in its manifest functions, which have varied over time, but it has been remarkably successful in its latent function of legitimizing the status quo by demonstrating the inferiority of women on most of the variables that are highly valued in our society. In the selection of variables for study, in the value placed on them, and in the interpretation given to results, it has shown a male bias.16
Currently biological explanations of sex differences are popular; so it is relevant to ask why this should be and to consider the possible impact on society of the results of scientific studies sympathetic to this view. . . . Crook has suggested that one substitute for the ethical code lost when orthodox religious beliefs were abandoned has been found in simple theories of biological determinism. . . . As a psychologist I think that the illusion of normlessness and lack of boundaries which popular discussions of the “permissive society” create also furnish impetus to a search for universal, immutable verities, which biologically based explanations appear to supply.17
Such ideological critiques, like the methodological critiques, may have some value. Ideology does affect social science, and inadequate methods do vitiate the results of many studies. This should make one cautious when assessing the social scientific data on the differences between men and women. However, as used in Feminist Social Science, these methodological and ideological considerations often have one major flaw: They are applied scrupulously to enemies and laxly to friends. These critiques could just as appropriately (perhaps more appropriately) be directed to the work of feminist social scientists themselves. Their evidence is just as methodologically unsound, and their approach is even more ideologically based. In addition, ideological critiques, like the one by Lloyd, are sometimes merely ways of bypassing substantive biological data through the use of dubious and tendentious psychological and sociological analyses. “Sinful motives” do not preclude a researcher from producing valid results.
3. Casual Dismissal of Contrary Evidence ▷ A third polemical method often used in Feminist Social Science is the casual dismissal of the data supporting the biological roots of men’s and women’s differences. This method appears in various forms. Sometimes it appears as a dismissal of useful evidence because it is not “conclusive,” as in the following critique of the primate data:
. . . we think that observations of other primates, though thought-provoking, cannot provide conclusive evidence one way or the other on the question of whether human behavior is biologically based.18
True, the primate data is not conclusive in the sense of yielding an indisputable picture of the origins of men’s and women’s differences. However, the mere fact that it is not conclusive in this sense does not mean that it is worthless. In fact, the primate data is very helpful. A similar technique is used below to make light of the biological contribution to the anthropological universals:
I propose here a model to account for the reproduction within each generation of certain general and nearly universal differences that characterize masculine and feminine personality and roles. My perspective is largely psychoanalytic. Cross-cultural and social psychological evidence suggests that an argument drawn solely from the universality of biological sex differences is unconvincing.19 (Emphasis added)
Of course, any “argument drawn solely from the universality of biological sex differences” is bound to be “unconvincing.” Biological and environmental factors interact dynamically in the formation of almost every human social trait. However, this does not free a social scientist from the responsibility of seriously considering the significance of the biological contribution. The biological evidence has much weight; it should not be casually dismissed because it is not the “sole” factor involved.
This light dismissal of the biological data also appears in a neglect, clouding, or rearranging of the evidence. Sometimes important data is merely ignored. When Feminist Social Science examines the work of John Money, it almost always focuses exclusively on his studies which show the environmental determination of gender identity without giving proper attention to his studies of the prenatal hormonal sex-typing of the human brain.20 Sometimes evidence is not ignored, but is instead presented in a way that clouds its true significance. The anthropological universals will be buried in lengthy accounts of the endless diversity of men’s and women’s roles in different societies. Psychological evidence for men’s and women’s differences will be hidden in the middle of discussions of the many areas where psychological studies have been inconclusive.21 Finally, feminist presentations often weaken biological data by compartmentalizing the various types of evidence. They will not view the primate, anthropological, and psychological data synoptically in a way that allows a general view to emerge from the parts, but they will instead treat the data as distinct and unrelated bodies of material.22 This allows the feminist social scientists more easily to dismiss each of the spheres of evidence as in themselves “inconclusive.” However, the biological evidence appears more weighty when it is viewed soberly, attentively, and as a synthetic whole.
4. Focus on Modern Problem Areas ▷ Feminist Social Science often fosters a feminist political position by studying those problems which appear to follow from modern attempts at distinct men’s and women’s roles. For example, many feminist social scientists devote much attention to emotional disorders which are associated with the extreme distortion of the male and female personality in the modern world. Feminist social scientists will relate psychological problems experienced by women (depression, anxiety, frustration, and despair), and those experienced by men (anti-social behavior, criminality, and violent aggression), to the rigidity and inadequacy of the modern structure of men’s and women’s roles. Chesler states the point as follows:
For a number of reasons, women “go crazy” more often than men, and this craziness is more likely to be self-destructive than other-destructive. . . . Most female “neuroses” are a result of societal demands and discrimination rather than the supposed mental illness of the individual. . . . Women’s physical and emotional symptoms of disturbance are different from those of men, and these differences are first apparent in childhood. When little boys are referred to child-guidance clinics, it is for aggressive, destructive, anti-social and competitive behavior. Little girls come in for such problems as excessive fears and worry, shyness, lack of self-confidence, feelings of inferiority and so on. These differences carry on into adulthood. . . . These symptoms may not illustrate mental illness so much as they indicate the inevitable stress born of trying to fit oneself into a role that is too tight. They are the concomitants of a sex-role stereotype that demands conformity, that pinches one psychologically when one does not or cannot conform, and the symptoms are merely exaggerations of accepted male or female behavior.23
The cultural ideal of male character (inexpressive, insensitive, impersonal) and female character (passive, emotional, dependent) regularly comes under strong criticism as an ideal psychologically maladaptive for life in modern society. Sandra Bem is one of the strongest critics of all systems of sex-typing:
In fact, there is already considerable evidence that traditional sex-typing is unhealthy. For example, high femininity in females consistently correlates with high anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-acceptance. And although high masculinity in males has been related to better psychological adjustment during adolescence, it is often accompanied during adulthood by high anxiety, high neuroticism, and low self-acceptance . . .24
This research persuades me that traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity do restrict a person’s behavior in important ways. In a modern complex society like ours, an adult has to be assertive, independent and self-reliant, but traditional femininity makes many women unable to behave in these ways. On the other hand, an adult must also be able to relate to other people, to be sensitive to their needs and concerned about their welfare, as well as to be able to depend on them for emotional support. But traditional masculinity keeps men from responding in such supposedly feminine ways.25
Further research has called into question many of Bem’s assertions.26 However, the important point here is that such feminist social scientists as Chesler and Bem focus predominantly on flaws in the pattern of distinct men’s and women’s roles found in the modern world. They are thus able to stir up dissatisfaction with the current order of men’s and women’s roles and simultaneously offer a feminist solution to the problems.
Some of the feminist criticisms of modern patterns of men’s and women’s roles are justified. As will be discussed in the following chapters, there are serious problems with the way men and women live out their roles in the modern world. Nevertheless, the feminist viewpoint on these issues can often be misleading. First, it can mislead by falsely identifying a traditional order of men’s and women’s roles with the modern remnant of this order. What Bem calls “traditional” concepts of masculinity and femininity actually derive more from a Victorian culture after the advent of technological society. Most traditional societies rely too heavily on the contribution of women to emphasize female passivity, and require too much communal cooperation among men to emphasize male independence and self-reliance. Secondly, an understanding of the modern problems with men’s and women’s roles does not necessarily lead to a feminist political position. As was asserted at the end of the last chapter, it is just as easy to conclude from these problems that modern society needs a full restoration of traditional men’s and women’s roles. The feminists can only argue from the scientific evidence to their political program by falsely equating the modern problems with the traditional structure of men’s and women’s roles and by playing upon the emotive power of the issues themselves. The modern problems have great emotive force because they are experienced by most modern people. An elaborate presentation of these problems can motivate a desire for change, and the feminist social scientists are on hand to strongly recommend which direction this change should go. Nonetheless, there is no necessary connection between their scientific evidence and their political recommendations. The modern Western system of men’s and women’s roles may be inadequate to meet the challenges of technological society, but this does not mean that all distinct men’s and women’s roles are ineffective, arbitrary, and oppressive.
5. Polemical Terms ▷ Feminist social scientists also advance a political position by employing direct polemical techniques. They often present scientific data and the theories about men’s and women’s differences in a way calculated to produce a particular emotional response in the reader. They strive for a response which would not occur if they presented the data in a more neutral, objective fashion. For example, the following quote is packed with terms full of emotive and ethical significance:
The secondary status of woman in society is one of the true universals, a pan-cultural fact. . . . This paper is primarily concerned with . . . the problem of the universal devaluation of women. . . . What do I mean when I say that everywhere, in every known culture, women are considered in some degree inferior to men? First of all, I must stress that I am talking about cultural evaluations; I am saying that each culture, in its own way and on its own terms, makes this evaluation. . . . On any or all of these counts, then, I would flatly assert that we find women subordinated to men in every known society. The search for a genuinely egalitarian, let alone matriarchal, culture has proved fruitless.27 (Emphasis added)
Ortner has found that women have had a subordinate social role in all cultures, but, as discussed elsewhere in this book, such a subordinate role in no way implies “secondary status,” “devaluation,” or “inferiority.” However, Ortner and other feminist social scientists view the data from a feminist political perspective—drawing partly from a Marxist ideology—which sees all consistent differentiation of social role as a sign of political oppression. Thus she employs political terms in interpreting the data. Furthermore, she employs them in a way that appeals to the reader’s emotions. She does not merely stimulate or inform.
Feminist social scientists such as Ortner often apply liberally such terms as “dominance,” “oppression,” “repression,” “inferiority,” and “subservience” to men’s and women’s roles. This terminology, based on a political power model of social analysis derived from modern political ideologies, is designed to make all social role differences appear repulsive.
Other polemical techniques are also often employed in Feminist Social Science. One such technique is to compare the modern proponents of biological theories of men’s and women’s differences to nineteenth-century social Darwinists, the Nazis, or other racist biological theorists. The following is one example:
I conclude therefore, that attempts to use biological evolutionary arguments to defend traditional sex roles are not justified. It is interesting to reflect that evolutionary viewpoints were also used over 100 years ago to argue against extending higher education to women. It is thus ironic that contemporary women who have benefitted from this reform (i.e., Hutt, Stassinopoulos) should want to use similar evolutionary arguments against further reforms beneficial to their own sex.28
Another common polemical technique is to apply the term “biodeterminist” to any social scientist who argues for an important biological influence underlying men’s and women’s differences. This is often unfair, since the term “biodeterminist” implies a one-sided belief in the biological determination of sex differences to the exclusion of environmental factors. For example, Barbara Lloyd criticizes Judith Bardwick as a biodeterminist and advocates instead an “interactionist” model that “prevents an exclusive focusing on either biological or social factors.”29 However, as the following shows, Bardwick does not appear to be a “biodeterminist” who opposes an “interactionist” model:
I think that differences between men and women originate interactively: in genetic temperamental differences, in differences in the adult reproductive system, and in sex-linked values specific to each culture. What are the bases for differences between the sexes, and how do they develop? From infant differences in gross activity levels and sensitivity to stimuli (temperament), from parental responses which are sex-linked, from pressures to identify with appropriate models of the same sex, from the ramifications of the physiology of the mature reproductive system, from an internalized concept of masculine and feminine that is a source of self-evaluation. This position is more complicated than either the classically psychoanalytic view or the culturally oriented view—but it is, perhaps, closer to the truth.30
By using such terms as “biodeterminist,” feminist social scientists can portray their opponents as extreme and unreasonable while making their own positions appear moderate and sensible.31
6. Slanted Implications ▷ A sixth method used in Feminist Social Science to foster a political view is a distorted way of assessing the implications of the biological and environmental contribution to men’s and women’s differences. In Feminist Social Science, the question is, “Do biological factors compel a traditional approach to men’s and women’s roles?” This is the underlying form of the question in the following:
The recognition of cross-cultural sex differences in behavior does not in itself suggest that such patterns are necessary. . . . From a cross-cultural perspective, and given the real limitations in present knowledge, few sex differences in social behavior seem inevitable.32 (Emphasis added)
When the question is asked in this way—Are sex differences inevitable?—the answer is almost certain to be no. In, fact, once the question is posed this way, there is little need to survey the data to arrive at an answer. The question only serves as a way of distorting the real implications of the data: There is something in the biological endowment of men and women that leads to men’s and women’s differences.
Feminist Social Science has become an important force in the academic community in the 1970s, and it promises to maintain its influence in the future. It is a type of intellectual inquiry which is more concerned with politics than science. It uses science as a means to bolster the feminist critique of society and win converts to the cause. Feminist Social Science has had a substantial impact on the social sciences and has contributed to their becoming highly politicized.
Not all modern social science is Feminist Social Science. Not all social scientists who happen to be feminists—even zealous feminists—are feminist social scientists. There are many sober and reliable scholars who do not mold their science to fit their politics. The work of these scholars supports the data and the basic interpretations of the past two chapters. Men and women are different in important ways, and many of these differences are rooted in human biology.
465*Commonly known in the twenty-first century as behavioral psychology.—Ed.
473*On the problems faced by women in the twentieth century, see Chapter Eighteen.