What Are Feminists Afraid Of?

By Stephanie Herman
Rightgrrl Co-Founder
Published in the Greeley Tribune
February 1995

If you watched John Stossel's report on the gender gap: Men, Women, and the Sex Difference, which aired Wednesday night on ABC, you were left to wonder, "Are feminists afraid of the truth?"

The hour-long investigative report revealed scientific evidence that men and women think differently, that women are better at noticing and recalling details and men are better at directional navigation; that women posses higher verbal and language skills, while men are generally better at math; that women are concerned with relationships and communication, men with competition and brute force. What's more, the research named a cause: physiology.

The scientific evidence came from studies done at UCLA, York University in Toronto, and the University of Rochester. So what was Bella Abzug's reaction to the conclusions of this research? "Poppycock." After all, feminists have faithfully contended that gender differences, when visible, are the result of sexist parenting, sexist toy manufacturing and educational gender bias.

In fact, feminist matriarch Gloria Steinem scolded Stosser for reporting on them, stating flatly that these areas of research are "really the remnants of anti-American crazy thinking." Perhaps we should ask Steinem, What's so crazy and anti-American about science?

Of course, in the past women have suffered for the widely-held beliefs that they existed as the weaker sex in every sense. Jobs in business, politics, medicine or law, previously seen as typically "male," were off-limits to women who could, it turned out, perform them as well as men. But saying women are equal to men does not define the genders as the same--a fact lucidly illustrated by Stosser's report.

To the liberation movement, admitting gender difference is considered a stroll on thin ice; feminists believe any suggestion of difference will cripple their argument for "equality" -- especially in the area of compensation. In fact, the end of more pay for women justifies the means, as society has been witness to much feminist finagling: affirmative action, a willful dissemination of inaccurate rape and anorexia statistics; "gender norming" and "reach down" policies forcing such institutions as the military, police and firefighting forces to lower their strength test standards to allow women access to the field. When male soldiers, police officers and firefighters must compensate for less-able female co-workers, what we witness is the transformation of the feminist slogan, "Equal pay for equal work!" into "Equal pay for unequal work!"

Ironically, while feminists like Steinem indignantly insist women can perform in combat just as effectively as men, it is woman's superiority over man due to her nurturing capabilities that is time and again the argument feminists fall back on. Stosser's report even suggested that perhaps women, possessing superior arbitration and peace-making skills, would be better suited than men to hold positions as heads of state. Fully in agreement, Abzug described the world to Stosser as being in a state of chaos -- experiencing a world-wide nervous breakdown--and placed the blame squarely upon the warring shoulders of the men in charge. Alright, but which is it? Is combat a skill to be aspired to by women, or a social ill to be criticized and eradicated by women? If it is to survive and break any new ground in equality for women, feminism will have to face scientific realities. There is no reason why gender differences must result in gender inequality. Rather than fearing the fact that women have higher language skills, why not exploit those skills? Rather than deny an inability in math, why not offer more help and attention to young girls studying math? And yet, for a feminist investment in the truth, the societal return must be the understanding that basic gender differences do not occur at a rate of 100 percent -- that every able-bodied female firefighter recruit should have the opportunity to show her stuff, just as every soft-spoken, nurturing mother of five shouldn't be hassled by female executives for wanting to stay home to raise her kids.

The fact -- a proven one -- that the majority of women share biologically female characteristics should not be ignored or denied by feminism. Instead, it should be recognized that the proverbial truth shall set women free.

This article copyright © 1995 by Stephanie Herman and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.