"When I began graduate school, I was absolutely certain that while the bodies of men and women were different, their minds were essentially the same. I could cite you study after study showing how parents treat male and female children differently, causing them to develop differently. I could cite criticisms of studies from the past about brain size that had been used to argue that women were intellectually inferior to men, criticisms that showed clearly how investigator bias—the belief that women were inferior—had influenced the investigator’s analysis and conclusions.
“I could cite studies showing that even before children are born, we treat boy and girl babies differently and have different expectations for them. I myself vividly recall shopping for a gift for the birth of a nephew. I found a perfect, cuddly outfit. But it was pink, and they didn’t have a blue one. I simply could not bring myself to buy pink for a boy. Instead, I settled on a yellow blanket.
And I chalked the experience up to one more example of how our expectations and treatment of the sexes differ, even when we might want to treat them the same. I was utterly convinced that at birth the “minds” of men and women are the same, and that it’s just different treatment and learning experiences that explain the differences we see in the behavior and interests of adults.
Then when I was doing Master’s work at UCLA, I attended a seminar by Jerre Levy, a young neurobiologist. The subject was brain architecture. Levy claimed to be finding clear differences in the structure of a particular brain area. The clear differences were between the brains of males and females. I remember as if it were yesterday storming enraged out of the seminar. I was furious with Levy, thinking her a traitor to her sex because she was reinforcing the notion that mentally women were different from men—that is, inferior (not her words).
But time proved Levy right. I followed the literature through the years until one day my epiphany struck. The weight of the data had become overwhelming and incontrovertible. Here and there, in this slight [and not so slight] way and that, male and female brains are different! My world turned upside down. I was going to have to deal with that unsettling fact.
My assumption was wrong, however, that difference would be taken to indicate female inferiority. The brains are simply different. They are not inferior or superior. The clear implication, however, is that if the brains are built differently, men and women may do some things slightly, or even significantly, differently.”