The Faulty Science of Patriarchy

What to say when they say women are biologically different, and are thus less.

Posted May 10, 2018

Recently, the New York times published opinion pieces advocating “redistribution of sex” and lamenting impingement on free speech of misogynists. These articles, as are many others of similar vein, are a result of the #MeToo movement successes: Bill Cosby conviction, Nike management reshuffling, Schneiderman’s resignation. The powerful never give up power without fighting back. Because most people are not well-versed in gender biology or psychology, the argument about men being biologically “better” than women is rarely refuted, creating an illusion that it is irrefutable. Here’s a retort, if you should find yourself one day talking to a someone who makes this claim.

What to say when they say women are biologically different, and are thus less: 

Yes, we are biologically different. We can have children, and men cannot. We are more likely to survive many diseases, and recover from traumatic brain injury. We are less prone to anger, aggression, and risk-taking (insurance companies already know this). 

Fun fact: There are biological differences between lefties and righties. Does that mean we shouldn’t promote lefties as much as righties? There are biological differences between Jews and non-Jews. The Nazis saw this as an argument for Jews’ inferiority; Jews comprise 22.5 percent of Noble Prize winners, but only about .02 percent of the world’s population. 

Likewise, there’s not a shred of evidence that any of the documented differences between men and women amount to women’s inferiority. 

Are men smarter than women? No. On average, men’s IQs are not significantly different from women’s. 

Men do score higher on one subscale of the test (3-d rotation). But women score higher on another subscale (verbal). It is true, there are more “genius” range IQ scores among men then among women. This is balanced by the opposite end of the scale: there are more men scoring in the “mental retardation” range of IQ than women. In other words, there are more outliers among men than among women. 

What else does this talk of biological differences between genders imply? Infamously, then-Harvard President Larry Summers observed that women tend to have children at some point in their careers, at which point they cease being able to spend 14 hours at work, and even may take a year or more off. But those children have fathers, do they not? That the fathers do not take on equal share of childcare is a problem that, if anything, is rooted in men’s biology, not women’s. 

Another popular tune is that women are too emotional and are thus worse than men at making decisions. It is true that women are more prone to depression than men. They feel sad more often than men. But men feel angry more often than women. Men are more prone to violence, and substance abuse. In other words, men and women are equally emotional, only their default negative emotion is different. Mens' emotions are more dangerous, costly, and illegal.

As to decision making? Well, men, here we have you beat. Turns out, under normal conditions, men are not different than women in decision making. But when a decision has to be made under stress, men become more aggressive and risk-prone. They make worse decisions than women, and, when asked about their strategy, men, but not women, fail to see any problems with it. As stress increases, so does the rate of men’s misses. Also, with increased stress men become more egocentric, whereas women actually become more empathetic as stress increases. 

A review of 2,400 corporations before, during, and after the 2008 financial crisis found that companies that had at least one woman on board of directors outperformed those with all-male boards by 26 percent! 

One argument will not dismantle the patriarchy. But it can undermine the false claims and bogus data that prop it up. When you take these props away from chauvinistic men, watch the stress make them more aggressive and egocentric. Watch them resort to personal attacks. But know that you’ve won that argument.