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Rethinking the Imperatives of Gender

Has society become toxic to both genders?

By Richard Handler


Although women clearly have the ability to do what men do, Pinker cites more studies and stories dem­on­strating that a good percentage of them don't want the prize, even if they can get it. We meet Elaine, author of the op-ed piece "My Class Ceiling Is Self-Imposed." She was short-listed to become a CEO, but decided that she wouldn't cart her family around for the company, as men often do. Like many other women, she didn't want a career defined by overwork and disrupted family time.

Of course, the argument that women are genetically different from men has been used for generations to justify a system that's kept women down by denying them an education, a vote, access to capital, and career advancement. For many women, the social playing field still hasn't been leveled. Working women often can't find adequate child care. National standards for maternity leave or guarantees of job security don't exist. Women are expected to follow and support their husbands' professions, but not the other way around. So an ambitious woman reading that women are "creating their own glass ceilings" may find such a statement hard to take.

Despite her investigation of the roots of "difference feminism" and the dilemmas of women today, Pinker claims that The Sexual Paradox was inspired not so much by the question of why so many women opt out of their superstar careers, but by why so many boys she was seeing in her therapy practice were so troubled.

Most of her young clients were aggressive, driven, often tormented boys. Many of them had either dyslexia or some form of autism. Pinker cites statistics showing that boys are 10 times likelier than girls to have Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, often found among those in specialized technical and computer fields. Boys comprise two-thirds of high school dropouts. According to Pinker, men are the more fragile sex: testosterone engenders not only more competitiveness, but more biological frailty, more inclination to stress, more chronic disease.

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Last modified on Monday, 30 July 2012 10:21

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