Boys Will Be Boys

A fallacy of equivocation often rears its ugly head, when discussing gender. When people talk about “equality”, they often conflate “equal rights” with “equal as a matter of fact”. There are many feminists, for example, that believe that not only should women have the same rights as men, but that they are biologically, mentally, and in all other ways equal to men. This view is not only false, but actually harms the goal of achieving equality of the sexes. It is a simple statement of fact to say that boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. 

Associations like the American Psychological Association, claim that men and women are mostly alike: 

A 2005 analysis of 46 meta-analyses that were conducted during the last two decades of the 20th century underscores that men and women are basically alike in terms of personality, cognitive ability and leadership. 

While this claim is mostly true, it is often misunderstood or misrepresented in mainstream media. It’s true that men and women have similar abilities in regards to personality, cognition, and leadership, but this does not mean that men and women are physically or cognitively identical. 

Research shows that the minds of men and women differ quite drastically. A recent University of Cambridge study (again) proved this fact:

… the team identified that in the typical population, women, on average, scored higher than men on empathy, and men, on average, scored higher than women on systemising and autistic traits. 

… men, on average, had higher autistic trait scores than women. Those working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), on average, had higher systemising and autistic traits scores than those in non-STEM occupations. And conversely, those working in non-STEM occupations, on average, had had higher empathy scores than those working in STEM.

The idea that men and women think differently is not new. We’ve known since 1991, when Nirao Shah first started his study of sex-based differences, that men and women are cognitively disalike. Stanford Medicine outlines some of these differences, noting that “the human brain is a sex-typed organ with distinct anatomical differences in neural structures and accompanying physiological differences in function” (Larry Cahill, PhD). In Stanford Medicine’s article, entitled, “Two Minds – The Cognitive Differences Between Men and Women”, the following findings were discussed:

  • Male brains are bigger than female brains. This is critical for learning and memorization.
  • Female hippocampuses are larger than a male’s, and work differently. 
  • A man’s amygdala is larger than a woman’s. This is critical for the experience of emotions and the recollection of emotional experiences. It also works differently than a woman’s amygdala. 
  • In tests involving recollection of scenes from aversive films, women’s negative emotions were observed only in the left amygdala, while men’s emotions were observed only in the right amygdala. These results were confirmed multiple times. 
  • Women retain stronger, more vivid memories of emotional events than men do, recall emotional memories more quickly, and memories recalled are richer and more intense, when compared to men. 
  • The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain talk to each other more than a man’s, while male brain activity is more coordinated with local brain regions. 
  • The corpus callosum – a white matter cable that crosses and connects the brain hemispheres, is larger in women, thus the bullet above. 
  • Cortex thickness differs between male and females, with males having a thicker cortex, which may explain why more boys than girls have ASD. 

The article goes on to describe how these physical differences result in behavioral differences between men and women:

  • Women excel in several measures of verbal ability — pretty much all of them, except for verbal analogies. 
  • Women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently exceed that of men, on average. They outperform men in tests of fine-motor coordination and perceptual speed. They’re more adept at retrieving information from long-term memory.
  • Men, on average, can more easily juggle items in working memory. They have superior visuospatial skills: They’re better at visualizing what happens when a complicated two- or three-dimensional shape is rotated in space, at correctly determining angles from the horizontal, at tracking moving objects and at aiming projectiles.
  • Navigation studies in both humans and rats show that females of both species tend to rely on landmarks, while males more typically rely on “dead reckoning”: calculating one’s position by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than using landmarks.

Another study, “Gender Differences in Personality Traits Across Cultures: Robust and Surprising Findings”, by Paul T. Costa, Antonio Terracciano, and Robert R. McCrae, similarly found differences between men and women. Women were rated as warmer, friendlier, more anxious, and more sensitive to their own feelings than men. Men were consistently rated as more assertive and open to new ideas. A 2008 study confirmed the findings, as well as a study in 2005. A 2013 study showed that these differences develop early in life. 

In addition to the aforementioned psychological differences, there are several lesser-known physical differences between men and women: 

  • Women are, on average, 7% shorter than men. Male bones are bigger and stronger than woman bones; male heads are larger and their arms are longer than their female counterparts. 
  • Women have a larger pelvis, longer torsos, and thicker skulls. 
  • Men have bigger brains, though, as mentioned before, women have better hemisphere communication. 
  • Women have more estrogen, which correlates with higher eyebrows, fuller lips, a rounder jawline, and a more pointed chin. 
  • Men have more testosterone, which correlates with a square chin, a more prominent Adam’s Apple, and more facial hair. 
  • Women have better perception and peripheral vision than men, but men are better at focusing long distance. 
  • Women have more high-frequency hearing. 
  • Men have deeper voices due to differences in vocal folds. 
  • Women have, on average, less muscle mass than men, and can lift less weight in total. This is because men have about 60% more upper body muscle than women, while women have about 50% more lower body muscle. 
  • Women are about 90% as fast as men. Women are more flexible than men. Women are better at long-distance running, while men are better at sprinting. 

These are just some of the physical differences between men and women that are often ignored. There are many more. 

It is true that women should be considered equal to men legally and socially. From a value standpoint and speaking of opportunity, women ought to have the same value as men and the same opportunities. Pretending that women are cognitively and physically identical to men, however, is nonsensical. All data from all serious studies, consistent now for decades, has proven that men and women have cognitive and physical differences – and this is a good thing. The differences between sexes don’t show that one sex is better or worse than the other; they are merely different. We ought to be celebrating those differences. Each sex has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Each sex is unique in its own way. There are always outliers of course – those that don’t match the statistics – but understanding the general differences between the sexes will help us better assess gender issues with a balanced perspective. 

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