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"Culture is a caricature of biological differences." 


"Sex is not an absolute, essential quality any more than age 
is; it is the sum of what happens." 

Joanna Amateau 

A. Two Causal Theories 

Although there is much agreement on the description of sex differences, with some exceptions in the psychological area there is not much agreement on their cause. The disagreement is usually complicated; it is not always rational or polite. One paper that outlines it more clearly and thoroughly than any other is Ellen and Kenneth Keniston, "The Right to Be Equally Different." Since many at Hampshire have read this, there will only be a brief review here. 

The central question is whether characteristic differences in male and female life styles are caused by Nature, through genes, chromosomes, and hormones, or by the Environment, through culture. As Kelly writes, "Sex difference research is essentially a part of the larger question of heredity versus environment -- or nature-nurture research -- which has proven to be one of the most complicated problems that scientists have yet undertaken." The Kenistons' 

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article gives an excellent description of both the "nature" and the "nurture" side of the question, citing their principal proponents. It then discusses whatever objective evidence might be used to judge between the two sides. The footnotes give a good record of that evidence, although additions should be made. One factor the authors omit, but others emphasize, is the sex bias of the researchers themselves. Also, the authors do not cover research done on animals, birds, and fish from which analogies are made to human sex differences, and they leave out cross-cultural studies, probably because there are still few of them. one could add, too, interesting points about the character of research into sex differences. It has its humor: women are discovered to have a better sense of smell than males, apparently, and there is an article called "Masculinity and Femininity of Musical Phenomena" that gives sex ratings to composers and musical instruments. It also has its fashions. Most psychologists are on the side of Nature: Caroline Bird called them the New Masculinists; most social scientists believe in Nurture: they are the New Feminists. The Nurture position has an old-fashioned flavor, whereas Nature is 11now." Moreover, the research is often narrow: it seems suspicious that experiments into "natural" differences between women and men have never turned up any that are different from cultural ones. 

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All these emendations only add weight to the Kenistons' conclusion: 

The scientific evidence does not really permit us to choose between a bio-anatomical and a socio-cultural explanation of women's psychology. . . . Indeed, it seems unlikely that empirical research will ever resolve the conflict between the two interpretations of women. For these two views do not differ over facts as much as they differ over the interpretation of facts; and the accumulation of new facts is not likely to provide any crucial test for either theory. There is one further and final comment to make. At the very least, the result of psychological research into sex differences has been to show that there is some range of separation between individuality and sex. To put it another way: psychology allows us to say that, for each of us, there is something more than being a male human being or a female human being. Thus, among other inferences, Chapter I of this report is credible. 

B. Three Theories of Action 

The argument over the cause of sex differences leads to disagreement over what should be done about them. Since those who believe in natural causes think that sex differences are inevitable, they can only favor preserving them. Bruno Bettelheim gives a representative view: 

What is needed, I believe, is not sex equality in work and home, as some advocate, not participation by women on an equal basis in activities which are considered masculine, but the creation of work and working conditions 

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which permit women at least as much self-realization in the social and work sphere of life as are presently available to men, and do so in line with women's natural inclinations, talents, physiological and psychological make-up which, after all, is different from that of men. 

What is wrong is that today women are expected to enter man's working world . . . 

In some cases, theorists even would exalt sex differences. They feel that the masculine abilities of "abstractness," "manipulation," "initiative," and the like have led our world almost to ruin, so that our only hope is to realign society around the feminine virtues of "concreteness," "nurturance," "acceptance," and such. Erickson writes: 

[Woman] may, in new areas of activity, balance man's indiscriminate endeavor to perfect his dominion over the outer spaces of natural and technical expansion (at the cost of hazarding the annihilation of the species) with the determination to emphasize such varieties of caring and caretaking as would take responsibility for each individual child, born in a planned humanity. 

Opposed to the "naturel" school, the "nurture" group feels that since sex differences are only arbitrary creatures of culture, they should disappear for good. Alice Rossi is one spokeswoman for this view. In an essay called "Equality Between the Sexes" she writes: 

It will be the major thesis of this essay that we need to reassert the claim to sex equality and to search for the means by which it can be achieved. By sex equality I mean a socially androgynous conception of the roles of men and women, in which they are equal and similar in such spheres as intellectual, artistic, political and occupational 

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interests and participation, complementary only in those spheres dictated by physiological differences between the sexes. This assumes the traditional conceptions of masculine and feminine are inappropriate to the kind of world we can live in in the second half of the 20th century. 

The two principal justifications she discusses are that men lead 
unsatisfactory lives because their wives cannot find personal 
fulfillment, and that women no longer need to expect only marriage and parenthood. The bulk of the essay deals with the second of these, and provides a forceful argument against sacred motherhood. 

 Actually, there is no one who has ever written a more careful,  thorough, and cogent brief on this position than J. S. Mill, in The Subjection of Women (1869) which Alice Rossi cites in her introduction to the paper above. 

 Against this all-pervasive counterpoint, there is yet a third 
point of view on what to do about sex differences, and it is neatly put by Margaret Mead. It falls, of course, between the other two. 

Historically our own culture has relied for the creation of rich and contrasting values upon many artificial distinctions, the most striking of which is sex. It will not be by the mere abolition of these distinctions that society will develop patterns in which individual gifts are given place instead of being forced into an ill-fitting mould., If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human personalities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place. 

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C. Current Social Trends 

While the intellectuals argue about how sex differences came to be and what to do, society is quietly starting to erase them. As Alice Rossi writes, "It is often the case that lively public debate about ideology takes place after rather than before the fact of social change." Just recently , signs of androgyny are abroad in the land. The "Pill" has brought an enormous change in both men's and women's sex habits. A random sample of newspaper clippings shows that women have tested "Men Only" bars and airplane flights and have entered ROTC. In athletics, women have become jockeys and, in some New York schools, have been given permission to play on the same teams with boys. of course, men's and women's fashions have been merging, with women wearing pants and men ruffled shirts. There has also been an increase in "Unisex" wear. Even though some stores won't sell it and others use euphemisms to describe it, the fact is that Unisex is good apparel business. As a young customer said, "Both men and women are working for peace; men used to be warriors; now they're becoming as anti-violence as women. This closeness is bound to show up in what we wear." All these circumstances, not profound in themselves, nonetheless indicate a changing mood about sex traditions. Many young women are no longer self-conscious about working, marry men in their own fields, share child-raising responsibilities, 

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and forget about the discriminatory support laws. After all, women are getting married and having children earlier, and dying later. so that they can expect many years of life without children. They are more educated: in 1966, half of the white women in the U.S. older than 25 had over 12 years of schooling, almost a year more than in 1960. They are having a taste of employment; jobs are becoming desegregated; professional and special interest organizations such as local bar associations and the like are mixing the sexes. Research with children in 1960 shows that girls were more 11masculine" in certain preferences than they had been thirty years earlier. Edna Rostow, in her essay "Conflict and Accommodation," pictures the contemporary scene as one in which sexual stereotypes have lagged behind reality. Women actually do have quite a bit of freedom, she suggests, although they still have trouble coping with it. She sees that "new mores have developed which require husbands and wives to share tasks and forms of social and recreational activity previously the province of either one alone." She is optimistic: 

[Young people] live with novel conditions, ahead of experience and of the literature. But they have a singular advantage. For the young man accepts his wife's freedom as the order of nature, and both know that accommodation follows this fact. Moreover, the environment recognizes the magnitude of their task and is finding ways to favor their efforts. However, despite omens of a changing society, most young women and men have not wandered very far from their traditional roles, as the next chapter shows. 

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A. Two Causal Theories 

The Kenistons' paper is cited above. My reference to it here is limited only to its descriptive half, for I do not agree with its conclusions, as the rest of my report will show. E. Lowell Kelly's remark is the key to his paper, "Problems of Research: Design Difficulties," Proceedings of the Conference on Talented Women and the American College," ed. Philip I. Mitterling (New York: Columbia University, 1964,(mimeograph); p. 66. 

For summaries of evidence and additions, see references for Chapter III above. The Stoller book gives evidence that sex differences are learned, extending Money and the Hampson's evidence that it becomes increasingly difficult or impossible for people raised as one sex to change their sex role when physiological evidence necessitates it. The Masters and Johnson book is not about sex differences, but a sidelight of their investigations of sexual response showed men and women to be remarkably similar. 

For points about researcher's bias see Kelly, op. cit., and Naomi Weisstein, "Kinder, Kuche, Kriche as Scientific Law," paper read at Davis, University of California meeting of the American Studies Association, October 26, 1968. 

Konrad Lorenz, Human Aggression, tr. Marjorie K. Wilson (New York: Bantam, 1966) attempts to show aggressiveness is innate in the 

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males of all species, with the corollary that passivity is innate in females. An example of a cross-cultural study is Anne Steinman and David J. Fox, "Male-Female Perceptions of the Female Role 3.n England, France, Greece, Turkey and the U.S., paper presented at the nineteenth annual meeting of the World Federation for Mental Health Convention, Prague, July 18-22, 1966. 

Stoller's work, Sex and Gender, op. cit., is the one who comments on the smell data; the article "Masculinity and Femininity of Musical Phenomena" is by Farnsworth,; Trercbley and Dutton in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, IX, 3 (March, 1951), pp. 257-62. 

"The Right to be Equally Different," op. cit., p. 17. 

Caroline Bird's terminology is explained in Chapter 7, Born Female, op. cit. Old Masculinists believe a woman's place is in the home: Old Feminists believe women should be just like men. 

B. Three Theories of Action 

Bettelheim, "The Talented Woman in American Society," Proceedings of the Conference on Talented Women and the American Colleqe, op. cit., p. 11. 

Erickson gave "Concluding Remarks," published in Women and the Science Professions, the MIT Symposium on American Women in Science and Enqineering, ed. Jacquelyn A. Mattfeld and Carol G. Van Aken (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1965); the statement quoted 

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is on p. 240. But Erickson's view would seem dangerous to almost 
anybody. Most people would feel safer if the fate of the world 
were up to all of us, not to one sex or another. 

 Rossi in The Woman in America, op. cit., p. 99. 

 Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive  
Societies (Apollo ed.; New York: William Morrow & Co., 1963), 
p. 322. As a necessary step in reaching her view, and as a healthy balance, Margaret Mead tells us that the problem of what to do about sex differences is in some ways more worrisome for males than for females. 

The recurrent problem of civilization is to define the male role satisfactorily enough . . . so that the male may in the course of his life reach a solid sense of irreversible achievement. . . . In the case of women, it is only necessary that they be permitted by the given social arrangements to fulfill their biological role, to attain this sense of irreversible achievement. . . . if men are ever to be at peace, ever certain that their lives have been lived as they were meant to be, they must have, in addition to paternity, culturally elaborated forms of cross-expression that are lasting and sure. Each culture -- in its own way -- has developed forms that will make men satisfied in their constructive activities without distorting their sure sense of their masculinity. 

Male and Female (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1949), p. 160. 

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C. Current Social Trends 

For a full report on social trends, from which I have drawn most of my statements, see Born Female, op. cit., Chapter 8, "The Androgynous Life." 

The report on Unisex wear comes from the Sunday New York Times, March 2, 1969, Financial Section, p. 1. The customer is quoted in an article in the Washington Post, May 4, 1969, H 13. 

The research mentioned is from "Acquisition and Significance of Sex Typing and Sex Role Identity," op. cit., p. 142. Edna Rostow's essay is in The Woman in America, op. cit., pp. 212, 214. An even more radical opinion than Mrs. Rostow's is Ruth Hill Useem's in "The College Woman in the Sixties, "Women's Education, 11, 3 (September, 1963), p. 1. "Indeed, it is becoming increasingly recognized that sex is not only irrelevant but downright dysfunctional for most of the significant roles of modern society. As roles are becoming sexually desegregated, new formal and informal patterns are developing to strip them of their sex-linked connotations and to desex personal relationships between role holders." 

Surprisingly, the information about changing trends in this country is offset by Bruno Bettelheim's observations of women on kibbutzim in Israel. There, although women are equal with men, may do their tasks, and can use complete day-care facilities, they choose to do the traditional women's duties of cooking, cleaning, child-tending, and the like. See his essay, "The Talented Woman in American Society," op. cit.