Monday, February 20, 2012

The Male Brain… and Other Moronic Manuals

My wife and I were browsing through the bookstore this past weekend, when she showed me a book she’d found displayed near the front called The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine M.D. It’s a follow up to Brinzendine’s best seller The Female Brain (which I’d read in doing research for another article). The book claimed to be a “breakthrough of understanding how boys and men think.” In it, we “discover” that the male brain:

-is a lean, mean, problem-solving machine. Faced with a personal problem, a man will use his analytical brain structures, not his emotional ones, to find a solution.
-thrives under competition, instinctively plays rough and is obsessed with rank and hierarchy.
-has an area for sexual pursuit that is 2.5 times larger than the female brain, consuming him with sexual fantasies about female body parts.

Brinzedine uses her experience as a neuropsychiatrist and her male patients at various stages in their life cycle. At every stage; such as the mischievous young boy, the oversexed teenage boy, or the middle-aged man who falls for a younger woman (I obviously fall into this category since my wife is ten years younger than me. Yikes!), she theorizes her patient's behavioural brain patterns, which (she says) are aided considerably by hormones like testosterone ("Zeus") and vasopressin (the "White Knight").

Unfortunately, her “science” is nothing more than pseudo science, her “studies” are either ridiculous or have considerable difficulties (how to interpret fMRI results is an ongoing debate), and all of her patients conform to stereotypes. So then, uh, this is the “breakthrough”?

Shitty pseudo-science texts like this one are dangerous because they’re inherently used to get people to conform. If I were to take her dog-vomit literally, it would be obvious that I was born with a “female” brain. It’s like hearing a mother say “oh, boys will be boys.” Gag.

What it means is that boys will be excused for their behavior and girls will be held to a different standard. What it means is that we’re teaching young girls to accept boys who treat them like garbage because “it’s their nature.”

Bull shit.

This is no different than the release of pre-built pink Legos this past year for girls, because “girls aren’t interested in building. They just want to play!”

My stomach rots when I read this crap because people will think it’s not only true, but it’s inevitable. They’ll see a culture that has allowed men to be assholes and asked something very different of women, and assume it has to be that way because it’s science.

The same thing was being written in the 20th Century about African-Americans. So-called “science” books on their limited capacity. Yeah, so, guess they were wrong about that, eh?

As you work (painfully) through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that Brinzedine has never studied history. (And by study, I mean pick up a single damn book.) If she had, she’d notice that culture, the culture we create in how we segregate and divide people, is all that matters when it comes to gender. Our roles in society are not limited by the chemistry of our brain at birth. It’s such a moronic notion that even mentioning it seems redundant.

I know that this isn’t a typical Monday Encouragement post, but I don’t want you to be fooled by this kind of garbage. You can be whatever you want to be. You have the ability and capacity for it, regardless of gender. If you’re male and you like to dance and you like interior decorating, go for it. If you want to be a cop or a CEO or the president and you’re a woman, do it. Don’t fall for these so-called experts and their manuals that do nothing but exacerbate inequality and labeling.

Neurology has been called the last frontier for science, and while we know more than we did, much of it is still a mystery. We do know that our brain sorts and categorizes an endless sea of information. It’s normal to group ideas and people because that is how our brain works. And Brinzedine has made a career of this, opening up a clinic to explain the differences between the genders based on so-called “neuro-psychiatry”. Unfortunately, she doesn’t even seem to understand the neurological basics about decision making, about how emotion is used in ALL of our decisions, for example, and to suggest otherwise indicates her unwillingness to be honest in her research.

Are men and women different? Sure. But so are people born in different countries. Or from different financial situations. Or from different households. We’re all different. We’re all the same, too. The same struggles, the same heartaches, the same goals. Better to focus on that than using bad research to protect outdated and prejudiced stereotypes that do nothing but divide us even more.

Find what you want and do it, and don’t let someone tell you that you can’t because you’re a girl or a boy, or because you’re white or black or straight or gay. Tell them to stuff it, and if that doesn’t work, send them to me, and I’ll rip them a new one for you.

-Steve