Despite years of research documenting biological differences between men and women, only 5 per cent of the most cited gender sociology papers acknowledge differences exist, a senior sociologist has found.
This, political writer Ivar Arpi argues, is politically motivated in order to push endless social engineering projects. The result of biological differences being almost universally ignored by gender sociologists has a huge effect on the mainstream media, he says.
Sweden’s public broadcaster has even aired as “science” claims that women are shorter than men because parents subconsciously feed their daughters less.
The 2002 release of Stephen Pinker’s The Blank Slate, which reviewed decades of scientific literature, brought the realities of biological differences between the sexes to a huge audience. Despite this, research published last month by Econ Journal Watch (EJW) shows just one out of 20 of the most heavily cited gender studies papers in recent years acknowledges these differences.
Charlotta Stern, deputy chair of Stockholm University’s sociology department, says her findings show gender sociologists exist in “insular communities of highly dubious sacred beliefs and causes”.
These sacred beliefs of gender studies scholars, Stern asserts, revolve around there being only minor biological differences between the sexes, and that any differences in men and women’s behaviour and choices are the result of oppressive social structures.
This is despite researchers from a range of fields including the neurosciences, genetics, anthropology, and developmental psychology having, she writes, “amassed findings of differences in competitiveness, aggression, sexual interest, risk behavior, and many other traits, and differences in brain physiology and neuroimaging, by many different methods and approaches”.
Writing in Svenska Dagbladet about Stern’s research, Arpi points to a documentary aired on public service television as having resulted from sociologists’ blinkered approach to biology.
“Therefore women are shorter than men” was shown on SVT’s flagship science programme and claimed researchers had discovered women were shorter than men, on average, because sexist parents unknowingly give their daughters less food than their sons.
The article accompanying the broadcast claims “new theories suggest that power imbalances and discrimination are behind height differences”. Anthropologist Paola Tabet is quoted as saying: “It is incredible that we have not discovered this before.”
It argues: “Biologically, the evidence suggests that it should be the opposite, ie that women should be larger than males.” The “evidence” the piece presents is that larger women would mean fewer childbirth risks, and that female blue whales are the largest creatures on Earth.
Arpi contacted Stern to ask why she thinks most people believe differences between the sexes come about almost entirely as a result of culture and social interactions.
The professor replied: “In general, I think that the idea of biological differences has become overly controversial. People have a tendency to be very ‘dichotomous’ in their thinking; when I say there are biological differences, people think that means I am excluding social influences.
“But my point is that we must [study the effects of] both biology and social influences. Sociology has everything to gain from the inclusion of biology in knowledge making.”
Arpi suggests that the reason for ignoring biology is that it might affect policy-making attempts at social engineering.
He writes: “If genes and biology affect people, it also puts some limits to what the policy can hope to achieve. If there is a biological basis for several observable differences between the sexes then one cannot reduce everything to a question of discrimination or power.
“And then that compromises the radical feminist project. The political aim is therefore allowed to obscure scientific achievements in other fields of research.”
Arpi refers to his correspondence with the professor, who told him: “We are stuck in a mindset where our vision of an egalitarian society is one where women and men do all the same things, work in the same occupations, in identical ways, and take equal responsibility for housework and child rearing.”
Given this vision, he says “it’s perhaps not surprising that ideas about biological differences are perceived as a threat”. If the science was taken into account, Arpi concludes that society would be “better able to distinguish between differences and inequality”.