Yesterday, I stumbled upon this quote in a great article on hipster racism on Jezebel:
“If you claim that you are not a racist person (…) then you must believe that people are fundamentally born equal. So if that’s true, then in a vacuum, factors like skin color should have no effect on anyone’s success. (…) And therefore, if you really believe that all people are created equal, then when you see that drastic racial inequalities exist in the real world, the only thing that you could possibly conclude is that some external force is holding certain people back. (…) Unless you don’t actually think that people are born equal. And if you don’t believe that people are born equal, then you’re a fucking racist.”
And the same applies to sexism. If you believe that there are inherent differences in the mental abilities of men and women, then you are sexist.
“But brain scans show…”
To people saying that I have the following reply:
First of all, they have fallen into the trap that neurosexism has laid out for all of us. Here are some arguments against the infinite amount of pseudo-scientific claims on the topic:
1) Brains are highly adaptable and respond to environment. For example, the average taxi driver has a much larger hippocampus than I have. Men and women experience different environment and socialization. Thus, their brains may be expected to show some differences, even if they are born with the same inherent options for brain development. However:
2) Anyone who still believes brain scans are something even resembling an exact science should read this article. With such an uncertain method that is prone to false positives (like detecting brain activity in a dead salmon) anything you want will be detected if enough studies are conducted and those use small enough samples. And coincidentally, many of the studies reporting differences between male and female brains use extremely small sample sizes, like this example (which comes with a twist if you read to the end). Simple statistics predicts that many studies conducted with small sample sizes will produce a significant number of false positives, and those are preferentially published and get preferential media attention. The large majority of these studies are utterly useless. Yet the media jumps on them because that is what people want to read.
3) Meta-analysis of large statistical samples show very small differences between the genders [except for ability for throwing, which I gladly give up]. For example, mathematical abilities of girls and boys are found to be exactly the same in a world-wide study — although they do differ in some individual countries, showing, again, the effect of environment.
So no, brain scans are not an argument here. Do you just want to believe men and women ‘just are inherently different’? If yes, go ahead. I know I cannot change your opinion. But please admit to yourself that you are a sexist, and perhaps consider the fact how embarrassing the racism of 50 years ago appears today.