Female/Male Brain?

When I took an online 'female/male brain' quiz for class, it told me I have a male brain. I have a strong visuospatial sketchpad - I got nearly 100% on both an angles task and a rotation one. This is an easy thing to explain away culturally: I love cars, speak loudly and frequently in male-dominated conversation, want to be a scientist when I grow up - I may as well be XY. But I got “female” results too - excellent at verbal tasks, ring and pointer fingers are the same length, prefer traditionally masculine faces. It appears that my ability to spin blocks in my head is the only indicator of my so-called masculinity. That it is so strongly weighted that way makes me call b.s. on the whole thing.

It is so hard to explain sex and the brain because our social conditioning is so deep, and begins so soon after birth. We have no way to separate the two. Why are women less likely to report sexual excitement through visual sexual stimuli? We’ve been raised with the virgin/whore dichotomy – f*ckable but not f*cked. All while men are socialized to believe their masculinity depends on their attraction to hot babes.

I recognize that these are blanket statements. And I know many homes struggle to raise children without gender roles. But as soon as a kid walks out the door, she or he is bombarded with advertising that represents women as virginal sex objects and men as misogynistic beerguzzlers. Movies and television shows routinely treat women as props and background noise or else are relegated to the dreaded "chick flicks" bin. We are told to be desirable but not slutty, smart but not nerdy.

When does a discussion about sex differences in the brain become one of culture? Why are men the doctors and women the nurses? I know that I, for one, was discouraged pretty strongly from taking the hard math courses from the time I was old enough to choose classes – and I’m damn good at math. We are gaining strides in female representation in the sciences, which gives me hope. Some feminists’ heroes are bell hooks and Naomi Wolf – and I love their writings. But my real heroes are Maire Curie, Gertrude Belle Elion, and Sally K. Ride – not to mention Hypatia! Let no one say that women cannot do science and math.

I think, too, that we should remember basic biology: that men and women are not dichotomous but on a spectrum of physiology and hormones and sexuality. Maybe we should listen to those filthy liberals and stop treating everything about humanity like it has to be either/or. Black and white thinking, after all, is a symptom of many mental illnesses - and we can't think hard thoughts if we're also crazy.

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Cat F
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