Biophobia and the study of sex differences

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Extra resources for Biophobia and the study of sex differences

Sample text

But this is clearly wrong. The criterion should not be sex but the individual’s ability to perform the tasks that the job entails. Women should be given entry not in the belief that they will act as role models to other women but because to deny them the right to take up a job for which they are qualified and able is a basic human injustice. Whether or not we want to alter the status quo is not a matter for psychologists but for society at large. But the last half-century has shown that there is a public will to do so.

The overlap on the distribution is great. Even for the most male-advantaged tasks (running a marathon, lifting weights) there are always some women who do better than the least able men (and vice versa). This is even more true of psychological characteristics. We must avoid restricting opportunities on the basis of crude stereotypes about what men and women are able to do. My concern with stereotypes is not so much that they drive people to conformity—I have already explained that stereotypes are more likely to be the product not the cause of sex differences—but that they may cause us, within the family or wider society, to debar entry on the basis of sex.

Whether or not we want to alter the status quo is not a matter for psychologists but for society at large. But the last half-century has shown that there is a public will to do so. But social engineering without a firm scientific understanding of sex differences is like a surgeon operating with a blindfold (Tooby and Cosmides 1992). In accepting the idea that womanhood is socially constructed and is without any psychological basis, we are already in danger of developing policies that are not in women’s best interests.

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