It might seem odd to have to pen a book like this, but we live in odd times. Throughout history people have known that men and women are different. But recently we have been told that men and women are not different after all. Perceived differences are due to society, not biology, and sex and gender differences are both interchangeable and malleable.
In this view, gender is a social construction. Moreover, one can change one's gender like one changes one's clothes. Male today, female tomorrow, bisexual one day, homosexual the next. This is the brave new world of the gender benders.
The thesis Rhoads offers is simple: men and women are different, and these differences are basic, profound and rooted in our very nature. With a wealth of documentation and research, Rhoads sets the record straight, informing us of the clear scientific and biological case for male-female differences.
Hormones and other chemical/biological determinants cannot be dismissed when assessing gender. Their very presence means that nature has hotwired the human species into two clearly different sexes, and these differences cannot be wished away by social engineers.
And these changes can be found from our earliest moments, refuting the notion that social or environmental factors are the sole explanations for such differences. For example, day-old infants will cry when they hear a recording of another infant crying, but girls will cry longer than boys.
Women tend to be more communitarian, more nurturing and less aggressive than men. Researchers have found that there are universal constants running throughout every known human society, including division of labour by sex, women being the primary child carers, and the dominance of men in the public sphere.
Now if sex differences were due to socialization, and not biology (nurture, nor nature) then we would expect to see these differences quickly fading, at least in western cultures, where sex role changes have been most dramatic. But this has not been the case.
These differences, in other words are enduring and they are significant. No amount of social reconstruction will make them disappear. If so, argues Rhoads, we are doing great damage to men, women and society when we act as if they do not exist. Forcing little Johnny to play with dolls and compelling little Jennie to play with toy soldiers, in other words, is counterproductive, and may simply make things worse.
Those who seek 50/50 marriages, for example, and attempt a complete equality of roles and jobs usually come to frustration. Conflicts tend to be higher in such households, and child rearing also suffers as a result. And role-reversal families tend to be short-lived, with most reverting to more traditional patterns.
Those who seek to turn their children into androgynous role models find they only come to grief in their attempts. Children cannot be taught to change what they are by nature.
Rhoads also notes that those researchers who seek to demonstrate the biological and physiological fixity of the sexes have real trouble getting funding and publicity, because of the stranglehold of political correctness and feminist orthodoxy. And the majority of these sex difference researchers happen to be women.
And he shows that if sex differences are indeed true, then there are implications for what sort of family structures we promote. He details the now familiar evidence of how children, and especially boys, suffer in fatherless households. A mother just cannot replicate what a father provides in a home, just as a dad cannot take the place of a mother.
And children need a biological father living in the home, says Rhoads. Step-dads, boyfriends, male role-models, just do not cut it. Children need both sexes: they need a biological mother and a father, not a committee, not an alternative lifestyle arrangement.
Career options too need to be reassessed. We need to rethink the wisdom of putting career first and children last. Mums can do certain things dads cannot, and it is not just breastfeeding. Women are the nurturers and child carers throughout the world, not because of male chauvinism, but because of their very natures.
And whole nations need a rethink. Social engineers, like the Swedes and the Israeli kibbutzim, have tried long and hard to eradicate stereotypical sex roles and to enforce androgyny. But both experiments have failed miserably.
And feminism must be rethought. Women are losing their choices, not expanding them, when they follow the feminist script. Women in fact tend to like having babies and raising children - it is part of who they are. So it does no good for feminists to say to women that they should deny these instincts and seek instead careers.
Pregnancy and childbirth can be adversely affected by high-powered careers. The harm of stress impacts not just the mum, but is transferred to the baby in the womb as well. The vital importance of breastfeeding is also jeopardised by careers. Thus we are selling women short, as well as the next generation, when we insist that women can have it all. They can, but not necessarily at the same time.
The debate over day care also arises here. If mothers are best equipped by nature to care for and nurture the young, then we should stop the rush to let strangers raise our children. The benefits to children of being looked after by mom for the first few years are clearly documented. So whose interests do we put first in this regard?
In sum, this is a great book. Feminists will hate it. Social engineers will detest it. And slaves to political correctness will wretch over it. But ordinary men and women will find it a breath of fresh air. And in the stagnant stench of modern ideologies, fresh air is just what we need.
Stephen A. Haines
We should all applaud the generation of feminist rhetoric and bombast we've endured. The repeated charge that "patriarchal" society has kept women in a subdued role has led to a wealth of studies investigating that assertion's validity. The result has been the generation of a string of books granting us enlightenment. We are beginning to find out just who we are as a species. Rhoads' fine book is an assemblage of many of these studies, organised and presented with clarity and verve. The message is: men and women aren't "the same" and that the differences go deeper than mere plumbing. We need to understand what distinguishes men and women. We then need to apply that knowledge realistically.
The difference in brain functions between men and women have long been known. Rhoads shows that those distinctions are expressed in behaviour patterns. Men don't act the same as women, nor should they be expected to. The approach to sex and relationships, no matter how much women have tried to feminise men, are by very diverse routes. The male genetically-urged drive to spread their genes is fundamental. To deny or disparage this, as many feminist writers have done, is self-defeating. It has led to grave misunderstandings and worse judgements. Rhoads wants this outlook rectified - which can be accomplished by "taking sex differences seriously" through a more scientific approach. Ironically, the thrust of this research has been done by women wishing to confirm the feminist rhetoric, which they found refuted by empirical data.
Rhoads outlines the many findings of behavioural differences among men and women across many cultures. Although little in human behaviour is firmly "hard-wired" into our genetic definition, there clearly are patterns manifested from our evolutionary past. Mate selection is, of course, the most visible of these traits. While men are concerned about youth, symmetry and "beauty", these aren't cultural artefacts or "constructs", but signals of health. Women are naturally concerned with sustained resources to support family needs. The "powerful" man not only represents physical strength, but likely social status as well. In many societies, that means economic security and family stability for the woman, Rhoads notes.
The key evidence in many of the studies Rhoads cites is the emergence of different behaviour traits in children. No matter how many parents or teachers of primary grades attempt to feminise boy children, the male preferences will emerge whenever allowed. Young boys will play together, roughhouse, and express aggressive tendencies while little girls will gather and converse. These traits emerge at far too young an age to be the product of "patriarchal culturalism", Rhoads notes. A young boy, deprived of toy guns, demands one as a gift at the first opportunity. Rhoads reminds us, if we needed it, that the "culture wars" are about women's roles, not men's.
This "battle of the sexes" is far from over, Rhoads contends. The battleground remains in the worst possible location - the classroom. While he briefly notes that public school attempts to feminise boys has "backfired", his real concern is with collegiate athletics. For the past thirty years publicly funded education has struggled to end "sexual discrimination" in university sports. Known as "Title IX", the provisions of these regulations have led to the dismantling of a significant portion of these competitive activities. What has replaced them is a "women's athletics" programme which is fully funded, under-utilised version of "equality". These programmes simply ignore the distinctions between men and women on competitive activities, whether sports, business or other fields. Women, of course, are better where competition isn't the measure of success, as the number of women executives abandoning office for home indicates, Rhoads notes. The law and educational regulators have failed to note these "serious differences", or unthinkingly dismiss them.
All this said, Rhoads makes clear he doesn't make simple distinctions between males and females. In fact, he postulates the notion of a general description for males, but females are divided into two basic types. The division is mediated by long-term evolutionary unfolding of hormone secretion - chiefly testosterone, estrogen and oxytocin. These chemicals influence a wide range of behaviour traits, from aggression to nursing. Vigorous testing programmes have shown which of these neurohormones are present in varying conditions. Subject reactions even show feedback loops in which initial activities lead to greater expression of the hormones to intensify the activity. Women may become masculinised by enhanced levels of some hormones, but the loss of it doesn't "feminise" men. The key is in the level of aggression exhibited.
It's simple, if not simple-minded, to criticise works such as Rhoads' as "just-so" stories or "soft science". The accumulating evidence suggests this view is merely special pleading. The studies Rhoads sites are from across cultures and through the ranks from blue-collar workers to corporate executives. The bibliography alone is sufficient indication of the scope and depth of studies Rhoads relied on. This book is required reading for a wide range of people - from parents and teachers to regulators and enforcers. There is much to be learned and acted on. A fine starting point for change. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]