Monday, July 07, 2008

Slate on "The Sex Difference Evangelists"'s Amanda Schaffer takes on scientists and commentators who believe that certain differences in personality traits in humans are hard-wired based on gender. For women, those traits are (perhaps unsurprisingly) emotion-based and related to empathy. Though proponents of the theory of gender based differences couch their conclusions in terms of an "empathy advantage" for women and girls, Schaffer points out that the science is faulty and the conclusions drawn by the scientists are based more on societal presuppositions than on hard data.

Even though it's being touted as an "advantage," claiming girls are inherently more empathetic than boys also perpetuates a stereotype of what types of behaviors boys and girls should exhibit--probably the same stereotype that fosters the belief that single-sex educational environments ought to be so different from one another.