Anscombe talk covers gender differences

Boris Spiwak
Princetonian Staff Writer

    The Anscombe Society sponsored its first event Wednesday night, a talk
titled "Androgynous Feminism's War Against Women" led by Dr. Steven Rhoads
'61.

    Rhoads, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, focused
on medical and psychological data that points to biological differences
between the sexes. He criticized what he termed "androgynous feminists" for
largely ignoring these differences. Rhoads kept the talk largely
nonpartisan, disagreeing with views traditionally taken by both liberal and
conservative politicians.

    Claiming that gender roles have a place in modern society, Rhoads
argued that women are more "relationship-oriented" than men and are
inherently happier when married with children, while men are more
aggressive and tend to be independent, preferring to work outside the home.

    Rhoads argued against the popular feminist claim that "gender is
socially constructed," saying he tries to "break through an androgynous
understanding of sexuality." The talk included data from his latest book,
"Taking Sex Differences Seriously," to buttress his claims.

    He also emphasized that women are naturally "better with children" than
men. "Stereotypically feminine, median women are fulfilled when married
with children, especially when they spend adequate amounts of time with
[the children]," Rhoads said. "Although some women have more testosterone
and hence will enjoy some of the activities more typically enjoyed by men,
women are statistically happier as mothers with part-time jobs. Many
feminists claim that this is due to society, but scientific evidence shows
that biology is a big factor."

    He concluded with the remark that understanding "sex differences can
help women." In an increasingly liberal culture, he said, women may feel
pressure to engage in sexual acts with multiple partners at a young age.
This sexual experimentation, which may lead to depression for teenage
girls, could be avoided if more women understood their natural gender
differences, Rhoads said.

    Rhoads' views elicited strong responses from the audience; the
40-minute talk was followed by a question-and-answer session that ran as
long as the talk itself. The audience was evenly divided between students
in support and in opposition to Rhoads. "I came to the talk out of
curiosity because I am very interested in gender issues," Trish Morlan '05
said. "I think many of the things he said are fascinating, but I disagree
with the way he dismissed social construction in gender roles. It seems
anti-intellectual."

    Vince West GS, however, agreed with Rhoads.

    "It was an excellent talk," he said. "He achieved a middle ground that
is hard to achieve . . . We should not deny basic facts about human
biology."

 

 

© 2004 Steven E. Rhoads
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