laundry gives ladies the warm fuzzies
June 22, 2011 4 Comments
Are male and female brains wired differently before birth? Cordelia Fine takes a stab at this question in _Delusions of Gender_ and debunks many of the scientific studies claiming that they are. She shows that often, scientists will observe brain differences between the sexes and attribute the difference to hard wiring rather than societal and environmental factors (that is, lived sexism). The book merits long discussion, but I want to pull out a particularly outrageous section for now.
Before reading this book, I was ignorant about how popular it is to believe that male and female brains are naturally different from the start. Of course, I’ve heard of the “Men are from Mars” books, but haven’t paid any attention to them. Fine’s book showed me how truly neurosexist these books are.
From Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender (p 81):
A few popular writers have recently made a valiant stab at arguing that performing routine housework chores is actually selectively beneficial to women, including—if not especially—those with demanding jobs. His idea (which to my knowledge has not been empirically tested) is that because the modern working woman has removed herself from her traditional home sphere with its babies, children, and friends on whom to call with a pot roast, she has dangerously low levels of oxytocin coursing through her blood. (Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone associated with social bonding and social interactions.) Thankfully, however,
“nurturing oxytocin-producing domestic routine duties like laundry, shopping, cooking, and cleaning”
are available in plentiful supply. Phew! Such chores, however, have a very ill effect on men. For them, the priority is “testosterone-producing” tasks—for without the stimulating rush of that sex hormone, men become little better than limp rags (and not even ones that then wipe themselves along the countertops). Thus, “putting things back together after a flood or disaster” is testosterone-producing, but “[t]o expect him to join in and share each day in her daily routines as a helper would eventually exhaust him.” (Cited _Why Mars and Venus Collide_ p 123-125 published 2008)