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Why the Fuss Over Gender Differences?

Men and women don’t have to be same to be equal
 Buy ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women’

A study published this week revealed some shocking news: Men out perform women on timed-tasks. “If you look at the ability of someone to perform well in a timed situation, males have a big advantage,” the report’s author commented.

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Naturally, feminist groups are crying foul. “These results are bogus,” said one activist. “It’s clear that the study was biased against women. The suggestion that gender influences intellectual capacity is garden-variety sexism.” A prominent women’s studies professor likewise lambasted the findings: “The real purpose of research like this is to convince girls they aren’t as capable as boys and to perpetuate patriarchy.”

At least, that’s what would have happened if the research had reached the aforementioned conclusion. In truth, the report released by Vanderbilt University found that women—not men—perform better on timed tasks. The researchers describe the relevance of their findings thus: “The higher performance in females may contribute to a classroom culture that favors females, not because of teacher bias but because of inherent differences in sex processing speed.”

In other words, this may be one explanation for why women are outperforming men in high schools and colleges across the country. It likely isn’t teacher bias or discrimination against men; rather, females’ innate abilities may enable them to outperform male peers under certain classroom conditions.

The media has greeted these findings with a collective yawn. It’s easy to imagine however, the uproar that would have ensued had the results been reversed. Only a year ago, Harvard University president Larry Summers sparked a national gender-war by suggesting to an audience of academics that—gasp!—gender difference might be a reason relatively few women reach the upper echelons of certain scientific fields. Displaying what we now know is innate female quickness, feminists instantly exploded with rage at Summers’ suggestion that men and women may have differing aptitudes.

The reaction of Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, featured prominently in press coverage. After hearing Summers’ remarks, she reportedly stormed out of the conference in a huff. “When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn’t breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill,” she told the New York Times. “Let’s not forget that people used to say that women couldn’t drive an automobile.”

No word yet on Professor Hopkins’ reaction to the Vanderbilt study, but perhaps she will be able to avoid another bout of gender-bias induced nausea. Feminists who screech at claims of natural differences between men and women tend to be oddly silent when women come out on the winning side.

There has been scant feminist outrage, for example, at recent data showing women trouncing men in academia. Women now account for 58 percent of college undergraduates. Instead of celebrating this achievement or turning attention to underperforming young men, the feminist establishment fixates on the few areas in higher education, such as the hard sciences and engineering, where women have yet to dominate.

In 2001, men earned about 80 percent of engineering degrees and 75 percent of degrees in computer science. By the feminists’ logic (oh wait, is that a male concept?) this necessitates government programs to root out discrimination and fund more feminist programs. Alternative explanations—that fewer women are interested in engineering or have an aptitude for it—are greeted with howls of “sexism!” and “misogyny!,” not debate.

Men and women don’t have to be the same to be equal. Research on gender differences provides insights into how individuals learn, which can help maximize individual educational potential in both genders. Feminists might support such inquiry if they weren’t so fixated on “winning” a non-existent competition.

Written By

Ms. Lukas is the director of policy at the Independent Women's Forum. She is the author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism" (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

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