Femininity Is Natural
Taking Sex Differences Seriously
by Steven E. Rhoads
New York: Encounter Books, 2004
John Adams once famously wrote to his wife that he studied politics and war so his children could study mathematics and philosophy and his grandchildren poetry and music. Only a man of the Enlightenment could be so naive. More than two hundred years later some students do study mathematics and music. But it would’ve probably never crossed Adams’ mind in a thousand years that yet others would be studying “gender.”
Political scientist Steven Rhoads’ Taking Sex Differences Seriously is one of those books that is as interesting as its necessity is depressing. Nothing that is written here — men are more interested in sports than women, women prefer status in men, females are better suited to care for children, etc. — would have been controversial in Adams’ day or amongst any band of hunter-gatherers. But here we are in 2009, explaining that girls are not boys. The Enlightenment philosophers’ mistake was projecting their belief in reason onto the rest of humanity.
From the First Day
One-day-old female infants have a stronger response to hearing a human in distress than their male counterparts. Three days after birth, the stronger female interest in people is present. Girls will maintain eye contact with a silent adult twice as long as boys do. If the adult talks, girls but not boys will look longer. Week-old baby girls but not boys can distinguish between an infant’s cry and other noises. Only females are able to separate photographs of people they know from those they don’t by the age of four months. Infants separate by sex very early. One-year-olds prefer to play with their own kind and when watching a movie of babies will look at the members of their own sex more than the other.
If the above paragraph alone isn’t enough to kill the socialization hypothesis, we can look at real life examples of attempts to thwart Mother Nature. In 1966, a circumcision gone wrong left one male identical twin without a penis. Psychologist Dr. John Money of John Hopkins University persuaded the parents to raise the child as a female. Surgeons completely castrated him and built what looked like a female vagina. “Brenda” was from that point on treated like a girl. She was given female steroids that would “facilitate and mimic female pubertal growth and feminization.” When Brenda was 12, he/she was reported to be doing fine. Time magazine ran a long piece on the story and the 1979 Textbook of Sexual Medicine claimed that Brenda’s “remarkably feminine” development proved the “plasticity of human gender identity.” What’s missed here is that even if Brenda’s story was true, a lot more than socialization was going on. Female hormones were injected and removal of the testicles ensured that some male hormones wouldn’t be produced.
But chemical tinkering and socialization together weren’t enough to make a boy into a girl. Researchers eventually showed that Dr. Money was a fraud (whether he was embarrassed over the pain he caused or simply a maniac who liked seeing children mutilated and tortured we don’t know). By the 1990s, Brenda had become David and was working in a slaughterhouse. At the age of 14 he decided to start living as a male and a year later his parents told him the truth. David was given male hormones, his breasts were removed, and he had a constructed penis installed.
After the real story came out, researchers at John Hopkins decided to find out what had happened to other boys that they decided would live as females. They located twenty-five of them. Each enjoyed rough-and-tumble play. Fourteen had declared themselves boys, with one doing so as early as at five-years-old.
The Ugly Implications of Feminism
If males and females should put the same amount of time and effort towards work, than the principle of equality demands that men do just as much work raising children. As feminist Susan Okin has written about her just world:
In its social structures and practices, one’s sex would have no more relevance than one’s eye color or the length of one’s toes. No assumptions would be made about “male” and “female” roles; childbearing would be so conceptually separate from child rearing and other family responsibilities that it would be a cause for surprise, and no little concern, if men and women were not equally responsible for domestic life or if children were to spend much more time with one parent than the other.
Presumably, since we don’t want a world where people do more of what they don’t like or aren’t good at, we can socially construct one where men and women will like or dislike child rearing equally. According to Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “Motherly love ain’t everything it has been cracked up to be.”
Getting in the way of these egalitarian fantasies are the wishes of actual women. In surveys, women are more likely than men to say that they enjoy spending time with infants. Sweden, always on the cutting edge, decided in the 1970s to allow parental leave for a family only if the father took it. The government undertook a propaganda campaign to get men to take care of their children. To this day, Swedish mothers take parental leave twice as often as fathers do and for six times as long. Similar evidence comes from the Israeli kibbutzim. These small communities aimed specifically at doing away with traditional sex roles. At the beginning, children were raised away from their parents. After lobbying by young mothers, the family is once again the center of society.
No wonder that in 1975 feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir wrote:
No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.
This authoritarian streak is part of mainstream feminism. Women’s advocates will support day care subsidies but not tax breaks for dependents, because the former is only financially beneficial if women work.
Perhaps it is the childlessness of feminists that makes them unable to understand their fellow women. The peptide oxytocin is the most important nurturing hormone. It promotes bonding and a relaxed emotional state. It’s released in males during orgasm and in females while they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Females have more receptors for the hormone and the number increases when a woman is pregnant. Rhoads explains:
Oxytocin and prolactin, another hormone that surges during pregnancy and breastfeeding, change women’s personalities in ways that make them better mothers. These hormones seem to make routine more tolerable. Compared with other women their age, pregnant and breastfeeding women have been found to be more tolerant of monotony. They are also more prone to please and obey-a trait that some researchers think is nature’s way of making them more ready “to ‘take orders’ from their babies.” Even the act of stroking her baby releases oxytocin in the mother, causing her to feel a “beatific calm” and somewhat sedated.
. . . Many women feel euphoric or exhilarated while nursing. A few even have orgasms.
When asked to rate how important on a 10 point scale different parts of their lives are to their happiness, 86 percent of mothers say that their children are a 10 while only 30 percent of working women give their careers a rating that high. Many women who buy into the worldview of the nihilists end up regretting it. Sylvia Hewlett set out to write a book on women who had achieved great things. After interviewing the first ten, she was struck by the fact that each one was childless. Not a single woman was so by choice. Hewlett then went out and commissioned a survey of women who were making more than $60,000 a year in midcareer. When they graduated from college, 14 percent knew they didn’t want children but 33 percent ended up childless. Hewlett wrote that she was “continually surprised — and humbled — by how raw and near to the surface the emotions” were. A women said to Hewlett that is was “frightening, this yearning for a child — it’s hard to fathom the desperate urgency.” There is no equivalent feeling in childless successful men. Quite a few of the older women had unrealistic expectations of being able to get pregnant in their 40s. They were like Hillary Clinton, who said at the age of 49 that she might like to have another child.
Not even ideological feminists are immune. A childless newswoman from Australia said that she was “Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfillment came with a leather briefcase.” A female journalist with a Yale degree said that when she realized that she wanted to mother her baby, “a huge and terrifying abyss” opened up beneath her.
A primate female is built for birthing and raising children. Her psychological makeup and hormonal balance evolved for it. Some skills are remarkably specialized. When a baby cries in pain, mothers and fathers react the same way. But when the cry is “I want” (food, comfort) the female is quicker to respond. When childless women watch a video of a baby crying their heart rates accelerate. Those of childless men decelerate.
As much as women need children, children need their mothers. Infants prefer their moms to their dads. One researcher explains the subtle dance that goes on when a child is nursing:
During a feeding, dozens of events occur. The baby sucks, winces, squirms, relaxes, lets go of the nipple, burps, falls asleep, hiccups, smiles, roots, cries, opens his eyes, tenses his face or softens his expression. His mother rocks, sits still, hums, is silent, adjusts her position, tenses, relaxes, gazes, smiles, talks, pats, strokes, lifts the baby, puts him down. Each event is a remark.
It’s unclear whether fathers have interactions of comparable complexity with their infants because it’s difficult to find men who are with their babies long enough to be researched. One study found that men on average talked to their infants 38 seconds per day.
While in the womb, a baby can recognize a mother’s heartbeat and voice. After birth, he is calmed by both. In one experiment researchers took monkey babies away from their mothers and noted the “grief, listlessness, the obvious and heart-rendering despair.” One person involved declared, “Thank God, we only have to do it once to prove the point.” If only our culture showed such consideration for human children.
The Chivalrous Conservative
Men are given much less attention than women in this book. While the tragedy of Title IX and the havoc its wrecked on male sports is given its own chapter, besides that things are supposedly going pretty well for men. According to Rhoads, “The sexual revolution gave men, not women, what they wanted.” Perhaps a very small minority of men. Rhoads writes that on college campuses today women sleep around, and in general it’s men who decide if the relationship continues. That wasn’t the experience of most college students I knew.
I’m guessing that the sample that the author worked with was biased. Men who aren’t doing well with women generally don’t like to talk about their nonexistent sex lives, and many aren’t above lying when they do. The female sample is also unlikely to be representative. The author tells us about pretty girls who gain weight so men will leave them alone, but the views of females too fat to even attract ugly men aren’t given much consideration. Although the latter is most certainly more common, girls whose attractiveness and not obesity is the source of their pain are much more likely to talk about it.
There is a tendency noted by Roger Devlin for anti-feminist conservatives to cast themselves as the true defenders of women’s rights. Attention is given to the fact that women aren’t attracted to men who are beneath them in status (making it extremely difficult for high-achieving women to find husbands) but not much to the men who lose status and mating opportunities because their jobs go to women. Affirmative action is not mentioned. While it would be pointless to get into a discussion about who — men, women or children — have been most victimized by feminism, ignoring the plight of males is itself a product of this evil ideology.
The Need for Righteous Anger
At the beginning of his chapter on the psychoanalytic movement in the The Culture of Critique Kevin MacDonald quotes Paul Churchland who said: “How such an elaborate theory could have become so widely accepted — on the basis of no systematic evidence or critical experiments . . . is something that sociologists of science and popular culture have yet to fully explain.” The same thing has to be asked about feminism. How did a movement so destructive to both utilitarian and biological interests gain such widespread acceptance?
It’s really may not that much of a mystery at all. We’ve got these giant brains, and sometimes they lead us astray. Religious groups that don’t believe in procreation have popped up and gone extinct. The Western world has become such a death cult. The nihilists will leave this planet and the patriarchal shall inherit the earth.
Rhoads notes that his classes on sex differences are overwhelmingly female. The young co-eds are on the edge of their seats while the few men look bored. The author writes fondly about the young “radical feminists” he’s had in his classes. He’s too kind. My reaction to leftists has been closer to that of Paul Gottfried, who said in his Encounters that over the years he “developed a Nietzschean reaction to the girly men and virago women that populate university settings.” Feminists and multiculturalists changed society while motivated with a burning hatred for those they considered the epitome of evil, not by making friends with those they considered simply misguided. It’s a lesson we ought to learn.