Here's an interesting article from Newsweek's website on Lise Eliot's new book: Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps—And What We Can Do About It
As usual my mind fell down the rabbit hole on this one and in an attempt to organize my thoughts I accidentally wrote a new post. I warn you, I make references to articles I don't cite and haven't read in years which I suppose is better than most of wikipedia and cable news. I also use the word "which" a lot. I think my idiosyncrasies are showing. Serves me right for dressing like a hussy. Anyway, on to the tangled mess of my thoughts.
I remember reading an article that found the anterior commissure is somewhat larger in women than men, but that this same difference is also seen in homosexual men when compared to heterosexual men. This article discussed a number of similarities between homosexual men’s and heterosexual women's brains when compared to heterosexual men’s brains. If parents' subconscious gender stereotypes effect how they treat their kids and subsequently effect how their children's brains develop then why would there be cross gender similarities when homosexual men are brought in to the mix? One could make the argument that parents shift how they treat their children in regard to stereotypes if parents suspect their kids might be or know their kids are homosexual. I feel Martha McClintock shoots that theory down with the results of her study concerning how most people begin forming true sexual gender preferences during adrenarche, which doesn’t really occur till around the ages of 7 to 10 and is far past the infancy stage which Eliot seems to argue is the time parents are effecting these changes in their offspring via stereotyped upbringing (for lack of a better term). Also, when similar comparisons of brain structures were made including homosexual women it was found that homosexual women’s brain structures were not similar to heterosexual men, but in fact even more developed in a prototypically heterosexual female fashion. I'm not sure to what degree this information (which is neither properly cited or adequately described, I know, bad poser academic, bad!) deflates Eliot's argument, which isn’t my intention necessarily, but it’s food for thought.
I think an interesting aspect of this kind of research debate is the "give and take" effect it has on how people view gender and sexuality. On one hand, we have the argument that a slew of gender differences are caused by how both parents and society treat and view children from a very young age based off of gender stereotypes, which I think is likely true to a large degree. A part of this argument is that the effects of a stereotyped upbringing include neurological effects, again not hard to believe. However, this argument seems to indirectly detract from other research that finds neurological similarities (some argued to be caused through a stereotyped upbringing) between homosexual men and heterosexual women which use these findings to argue that there is a biological basis for homosexuality (ie it isn’t just some fucking choice... no pun intended, or that society makes someone gay). It seems the results of both studies can be turned over and against the other vice versa, ad infintum. As discussed above, it seems hard to reconcile these findings. We seem to have a situation where research attempting to dispel gender difference myths is butting heads (however accidentally and silently) with research trying to dispel sexuality preference myths. How much do we take from column A versus column B? So Sophie, which kid do we chose?
Perhaps the solution is at once simpler and more complicated: we still don’t know the extents to which nature and nurture effect us all and more research is, as always, required. One possible likelihood is that the myraid of ways nature and nurture combine to twist us into who we all are or will become might be different for each and everyone of us, that there is no exact formula that illustrates how much one effects us versus another, and that the attempts to generalize assumptions and results from studies and to form studies of this nature will always be haunted by specters of the gray area (which is located next to the Phantom Zone). Not that I feel Eliot is trying to assert that stereotyped upbringing is responsible for everything. In fact I think what she’s doing is calling us to reexamine the literature and our own assumptions on gender, and subsequently (at least for me), sexuality preference stereotypes and studies. The assertion that gender differences in behavior and neurological makeup might be more related to parents' unconsciously reinforcing gender stereotypes is certainly compelling, though I still think the true extent of the effect is still unknown.
If anyone knows which articles I’m referring to in the up there in the first paragraph would you be so kind as to pass them my way again. I hate not being able to cite articles I bring up.