A review of Taking Sex Differences Seriously. By Steven Rhoads.

Encounter Books, 2004.

It might seem odd to have to pen a book like this, but we live in odd times. Thus a book like this is necessary. Throughout most of human history people have known by instinct, by intuition, and by personal experience that men and women are different. And they are different in all sorts of ways.

But recently academics and others, more or less buttressed by feminist ideology and political correctness, have begun to sing a new tune. Thus the current wisdom tells us that men and women are not different after all. Perceived differences are due to society, not biology, and sex and gender differences are both interchangeable and malleable.

Gender is a social construction, we are told. Moreover, one can change one’s gender like one changes one’s clothes. Male today, female tomorrow, bisexual one day, homosexual the next, and so on. This is the brave new world of the gender benders, and thus the reason for this book.

The thesis Rhoads offers is simple and direct: men and women are different, and those differences are basic, profound and rooted in our very nature. With a wealth of documentation and research, Rhoads sets the record straight, informing us of the clear scientific and biological case for male-female differences.

Hormones and other chemical/biological determinants cannot be dismissed when assessing gender. Their very presence means that nature has hotwired the human species into two clearly different sexes, and these differences cannot be wished away by social engineers.

And these changes can be found from our earliest moments, refuting any notion that social or environmental factors are the sole explanations for such differences. For example, day-old infants will cry when they hear a recording of another infant crying, but girls will cry longer than boys.

These differences continue throughout life. Studies, along with common sense, tell us that women tend to be more communitarian, more nurturing and less aggressive, for example, than men. Researchers have found that there are universal constants running throughout every known human society, including division of labour by sex, male aggressiveness (compared to women), women being the primary child carers, and the dominance of men in the public sphere.

Now if sex differences were due to socialization, and not biology (nurture, not nature) then we would expect to see these differences quickly fading, at least in western cultures, where sex role changes have been most dramatic. But this has not been the case. Research informs us that females continue to be and act feminine, and males continue to be and act masculine.

These differences, in other words are enduring and they are significant. No amount of social reconstruction will make them disappear. If that is the case, argues Rhoads, we are doing great damage to men, women and society when we act as if they do not exist. Forcing little Johnny to play with dolls and compelling little Jennie to play with toy soldiers, in other words, is counterproductive, and may simply make things worse.

Those who seek 50/50 marriages, for example, and attempt a complete equality of roles and jobs usually come to frustration. Conflicts tend to be higher in such households, and child rearing also suffers as a result. And role-reversal families tend to be short-lived, with most reverting to more traditional patterns.

And Rhoads provides case after case of attempts made by politically correct parents who seek to turn their children into androgynous role models, but find they only come to grief in their attempts. Children cannot be taught to change what they are more by nature than nurture.

Rhoads also notes that those researchers who are working in this area, seeking to demonstrate the biological and physiological fixity of the sexes have real trouble getting funding and publicity, because of the stranglehold of political correctness and feminist orthodoxy. And the majority of these sex difference researchers happen to be women.

And he shows that if sex differences are indeed true, then there are implications for what sort of family structures we promote. He details the now familiar evidence of how children, and especially boys, suffer in fatherless households. A mother just cannot replicate what a father provides in a home, just as a dad cannot take the place of a mother.

And children need not only a father, but a biological father living in the home, says Rhoads. Step-dads, boyfriends, male role-models, just do not cut it. Children need both sexes: they need a biological mother and a father, not a committee, not an alternative lifestyle arrangement.

Career options too need to be reassessed. If all that we have learned in this field is correct, then we need to rethink the wisdom of putting career first and children last. Mums can do certain things dads cannot, and it is not just breastfeeding. Women are the nurturers and child carers throughout the world, not because of male chauvinism, but because of their very natures.

And whole nations need a rethink. Social engineers, like the Swedes and the Israeli kibbutzim, have tried long and hard to eradicate stereotypical sex roles and to enforce androgyny. But both experiments have failed miserably.

And feminism itself takes a hammering with the new research coming forth. Women are losing their choices, not expanding them, when they follow the feminist script. Women in fact tend to like having babies and raising children – it is part of who they are. So it does no good for feminists to say to women that they should deny these instincts and seek instead careers and power.

And there is good reason to resist the siren calls of careers. Pregnancy and childbirth can be adversely affected by high-powered careers. The harm of stress impacts not just the mum, but is transferred to the baby in the womb as well. The vital importance of breastfeeding is also jeopardised by careers. Thus we are selling women short, as well as the next generation, when we insist that women can have it all. They can, but not necessarily at the same time.

The debate over day care also arises here. If mothers are best equipped by nature to care for and nurture the young, then we should stop the rush to let strangers raise our children. The benefits to children of being looked after by mum for the first few years are clearly documented. So whose interests do we put first in this regard? The child’s or the day care industry?

Other social implications of the reality of sex differences could be mentioned. But to summarise, it can be said that this is a great book. Feminists will hate it. Social engineers will detest it. And slaves to political correctness will wretch over it. But ordinary men and women will find it a breath of fresh air. And in the stagnant stench of modern ideologies, fresh air is just what we need.

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