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03.26.2011 Posted In: Symposium Highlights By Jordan Magaziner
Is gender a social construction, caused when parents dress infant daughters in pink and paint sons’ walls blue? Or when they encourage sons to try out for sports and their daughters to try ballet? I always thought that there are minimal biological differences between men and women—until I heard Louann Brizendine’s presentation today, “The Gendered Brain.” Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist who wrote the pathbreaking books The Female Brain and The Male Brain, took us on a tour of the male and female brains during each life stage, and pointed out the differences and similarities.
She remembers one professor in medical school in the 1970s who responded to her question about a specific study (what were the effects on females?) that females weren’t tested because “their menstrual cycles would mess up the data.” At the time, she nodded her head, but years later, couldn’t believe that she’d bought into that answer! Back then, only males were tested in medical studies, so dosages weren’t set for women—males were thought to be “the human,” she noted, but in the extra chromosome that women have, there are hundreds of extra genes, and hormones affect males and females differently.