Biology Deniers and “The XX Factor”

Claire Lehmann published an article at Commentary Magazine about the dangers of ignoring or dismissing very real biological differences between men and women for the sake of ideology.

In “The XX Factor” she mentions the creeping, stultifying influence of “intersectionality” in the sciences.

In particular she mentions intersectionality creep in science and medicine, as gender feminists are apparently willing to sacrifice advances in human health by denying basic human biological truths in service to the dramatically untrue claim that “biological sex is a social construct“.

She cites as an example of this ideology a work the works of Australian social psychologist Cordelia Fine who in her 2010 book, Delusions of Gender  wrote (as Lehmann quotes) that neuroscientific findings “reinforce and legitimate the gender stereotypes that interact with our minds, helping to create the very gender inequalities that [they] seek to explain.”

In short, all neuroscientific findings must conform to intersectional feminist ideology, no matter how ridiculous, and no matter the damage it does to science or humanity:

Fine’s 2013 call for neuroscientists to incorporate intersectionality is just one of the more recent attempts by anti–sex difference academics to dilute the objective methods of the natural sciences with theories emanating from the humanities. This is bad news. The Ambien and Addyi fiascos make clear that women would benefit from more rigor in science, not less. Instead of injecting subjectivity into scientific methods, feminist advocates should be demanding that the influences of biological sex differences be investigated and accounted for systematically, as a matter of routine practice.

Most disturbing, Fine and her fellow travellers are often held up by the uninformed press as fearless advocates for women; “a pinnacle piece of feminist literature” is how one reviewer in the Huffington Post described Fine’s Delusions of Gender. In reality, their contributions amount to little more than obscurantism. That women have many more adverse drug reactions than men and that male subjects are consistently overrepresented in the early stages of clinical research at women’s expense seem not to register with them as legitimate issues to care about. These realities are merely mentioned in passing, or in glib disclaimers about why they are not prima facie opposed to studying sex differences (just as long as they don’t show that male and female brains are actually different).

The discovery of sex differences in the human brain and nervous system should not be seen as a blow to gender equality. Men are not the “gold standard” version of the human species, and women should not be viewed as a deviation from the norm. In stoking fears about difference, these political activists dressed in scholars’ clothing unwittingly imply that female-typical traits are something to be ashamed of and are by default inferior. Why would the discovery of differences be so ominous if one didn’t secretly harbor the view that female-typical traits were unsatisfactory? Whether such attitudes will ultimately be remembered as sexist or feminist is something only history can decide.

When the aims of political zealots converge with institutional inertia and profit-hungry industry, significant harms can result. And while it might be fun and games to the humanities scholars who spend their time waxing lyrical about the social construction of gender, for clinicians and their patients, ignoring the reality of sex can be fatal. Long impugned for being a “neurosexist,” Larry Cahill now has the beleaguered appearance of a man who has carried the weight of a heavy and inconvenient truth for years. Meanwhile, Cordelia Fine has just recently been celebrated in the New York Times and the Guardian with hagiographic reviews of her latest pop-science book

Anti-sex difference academics are not personally responsible for women overdosing on sleeping pills and not being able to access medical treatments tailored specifically to their sex. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the ideology they have pushed for years—that biological sex differences are trivial—almost certainly is. The scientific enterprise and its quest for truth will win in the long run. But how many casualties will this battle eventually claim?

It’s well worth the read, particularly how Lehmann cites the cases of Ambien, Addyi, and Thalidomide as why it’s so dangerous to dismiss sex differences in the science or medicine for any reason, to say nothing of appeasing radical ideologues.

You can read the rest of “The XX Factor” here.