13 March 2010

Girl Thoughts

So, I've been plodding through Blood Meridian and trying to read some other things on the side. I read about Louann Brizendine's book, The Female Brain in the New York Times and thought I would give it a try. I was reading (and will continue to read) Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, which is really verbose and heady and I am learning from it, but not necessarily enjoying it (but I'll save all that for a later post when I actually do finish it).

So, in a similar vein I picked up Dr. Brizendine who is a neuropsychiatrist and also a very accessible writer. I thought this book was going to piss me off as a feminist who leans heavily towards nurture in its debate with nature. I was surprised. I really enjoyed reading about the scientific differences between the male brain and the female brain and I recognized many of my own experiences in the books examples of women struggling with their hormonal realities. Brizendine states in the epilogue of her book:
"There are still those who believe that for women to become equal, unisex must be the norm. The biological reality, however, is that ther is no unisex brain. The fear of discrimination based on difference runs deep, and for many years assumptions about sex differences went scientifically unexamined for fear that women wouldn't be able to claim equality with men. But pretending that women and men are the same, while doing a disservice to both men and women, ultimately hurts women. Perpetuating the myth of the male norm means ignoring women's real, biological differences..." (160-161).

I thought this quote really clearly explained why it doesn't make me mad to know that there is a biological basis for many behaviors that often are consider stereotypical of women: emotionality, nurturing, etc. Many theorists examine power structures within dichotomies that form our modes of thinking. When a trait becomes empowered, it becomes the center, or the norm. Then everything that differs from that norm becomes marginal. For instance, rational thought (male thought) has always been privileged in Western societies. Women are clearly capable of rational thought as well, but may biologically tend towards emotional reaction and thought based on emotion. This serves an evolutionary function and is fueled by female hormonal and neurological reality. However, in our culture this emotionality is marginalized and associated with "craziness" or being premenstrual, etc. In fact, this is also a valid form of thought and if we decenter the male reality by recognizing that it is not the "norm" but just one type of thought, then the gender based hierarchy begins to break down. This is only one example.

Anyway, this book took me out of the violent West of McCarthy and I read it in two days. It was definitely worthwhile.

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