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The Physical and Psychological Differences Between Men and Women:

The science behind the division of the sexes

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This Talk

Lewis Wolpert.

Are men and women really from different planets?

Professor Lewis Wolpert, the renowned developmental biologist, examines the scientific evidence underlying a controversial view of physical and psychological differences between men and women.

Author of Six Impossible Things and Malignant Sadness and Vice President of the British Humanist Association, Wolpert is known for his staunch defence of science and rational thought.

'Brilliant and persuasive' - Sunday Times

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Jessica Ng on 09/11/2013 10:40pm

I was gravely disappointed by the halfway point, and 'm astonished at how many people have completely missed the point of the talk.

Of course he's pandering to the female audience. He's trying to convince us that inferior psychological traits are "obviously" innate to us (ha) while providing little to no proof that these psychological differences are the product of biology rather than the nurturing of patriarchal societies. [Please tell me how you would present this opinion to what I can audibly hear to be a predominantly female audience without prefacing it with a sizable amount of flattering.]

This is, as josietj has said, a rehash of Mars/Venus with very poor scientific evidence.

Charlie on 13/08/2013 9:45pm

It's extraordinary how one or two comments dismiss the main ideas of this lecture as a 'pandering' to women or 'complimenting' women when in fact (as he alludes to vaguely and briefly himself) this type of biological determinism goes AGAINST a lot of influential feminist thought.

The tone of his presentation is very kindly-old-man-respecting-women but we should be paying attention to the CONTENT, which details the supposed genetic basis for women's weak health, weak bodies, disinterest in sex, emotional-ness, etc. These are the STAPLES of misogynist ideas that justify excluding women from the workplace, and in fact that excuse rape and abuse.

Many feminists, rightly or wrongly, have been interested in proving that there are more biological similarities than differences. This speech is hardly "part of the widespread feminist campaign of misinformation and hatred against boys and men."

I'm sorry but it's ludicrous and misinformed to suggest as much, and betrays a total lack of understanding both in what Wolpert argues, and what feminism is.

FURTHER, it seems to me he rather picks and chooses as to when social conditioning can be a factor.

Differences in behavior prior to 12 months are compelling, but to cite DEPRESSION as a marker of women's GENETICALLY weaker health is astonishing. Especially given medicine's history of creating a hypochondria in women resulting in an unnecessary but very lucrative market for remedial products and services aimed at women. 'The Beauty Myth' has a very informative chapter on this, but for a briefer version see this Mitchell and Webb video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9fFOelpE_8

Oshea on 12/07/2013 12:31am

Wolpert switched the patriarch from the father to the cell. His: "All you ladies have" speech while addressing to the female audience reveals his apparent necessity to conserve the separation of persons around you because of gender. This speech echoes the arguments to justify homosexual behavior from biological grounds. People try to deny the possibility of a 'cure' reasoning that homosexual behavior implies the existence of a particular cause dwelling within our genetic material. As a careful and open vision of modern society, specially within urban areas, sexual diversity is revolutionizing the immediate way people think about relation with contingent sex interaction. Wolpert's program seeks to maintain the character of the novel masculine, the caring male who provided security and nurture hunting very frightening feral mammoth.

CPS Bhasker on 10/06/2013 10:15pm

Wolpert is a famous biologist. You would expect a decent technical and well-informed presentation from him, well, here are some nuggets from his lecture -

"Men have discriminated against women for as far back as you want to go. There has been no time when men have not discriminated against women."

"Women were subordinate."

"In general, it is men more than women who have a greater desire for more casual sex. ... Men will do almost anything for sex."

"Women are crazy and men are stupid. And the main reason that women are crazy is that men are stupid."

"So all you Ladies have XX chromosomes [whereas] we poor (i.e. inferior) males have X and Y."

"Why do men have breasts and nipples? ... they are not very sensitive or attractive."

"Women are much more emotional than men. There is absolutely no question [about this] ... and a major difference, genetically determined, is aggression. ... Men are unquestionably more aggressive than women."

And, this one tops it all -

"all the physical crimes are carried out by men."

During the entire talk whilst spouting these hateful and plainly disingenuous sound-bites Wolpert didn't bother to come up with a single reference. The danger of not challenging such sexist misinformation is that it subtly changes the social discourse via the power of authority wielded by Wolpert, Wolpert is an established "scientist", most of the people who hear his talk will think that he might be off on some points but he possibly could not be so wrong as to be espousing bigoted and plainly sexist ideas, and thus with some internal struggle they will absorb some of his ideas.

During the entire talk whilst spouting these hateful and plainly disingenuous sound-bites Wolpert didn't bother to come up with a single reference. The danger of not challenging such sexist misinformation is that it subtly changes the social discourse via the power of authority wielded by Wolpert, Wolpert is an established "scientist", most of the people who hear his talk will think that he might be off on some points but he possibly could not be so wrong as to be espousing bigoted and plainly sexist ideas, and thus with some internal struggle they will absorb some of his ideas.

This lecture has nothing to do with facts and part of the widespread feminist campaign of misinformation and hatred against boys and men.

FactCheck on 07/06/2013 1:50am

I'm sorry but he is factually incorrect on so many things. He is simply just pandering to women.

Forget facts, let's make women feel better!

I am sick of this political correctness in the form of lies to build women's forever confused self-esteems.

NoScientist on 27/03/2013 2:00pm

I agree with Rosielee below that the differences between men and women should be celebrated and not ignored. To follow this through to language and thinking I am reminded of Luce Irigaray and her essentialist position whereby one should use the means available to them in their own gender to fully express themselves and not rely on the characteristics or attributes of the opposite. A somewhat contraversial position to take but where you end up if you don't allow for compromises.

Rosielee on 20/02/2013 5:37pm

Although Wolpert doesn't satisfactorily explore the exploitation and oppression of women through the psychological and physical differences he identifies, this debate does raise intereresting questions about the scope of society's influence in gender differences. Though modern society has been successful in pushing for equality between the sexes, Wolpert's argument that many of the differences that underly the historical oppression of women are genetically determined may indicate that equality is a false aim. if equality is understood as sameness, then it's an impossible thing to achieve with regards to gender. However even if the differences between men and women is less socially determined that we think it to be, this does not and should not justify a lesser value being placed on the abilities of women. Men and women are psychologically and physically different. that's undeniable. The potentiallly interesting consequence of Wolpert's talk is that these differences might not be changed through social attitudes, and why should they? the differences should be celebrated, not ignored or denied.

jorge raul on 01/01/2013 5:47am

interesting topic but I have to say that after 10 minutes I was aware that most of his points are conventional and not too stimulating. Mostly complementing women and apologicing about men in the ussual culturally reverted sexism so common now a days. Sorry I could not finish it.

josietj on 20/09/2012 5:52pm

Very disappointing. To disregard Cordelia Fine's chapter-length arguments about why these differences are not necessarily biological with "I don't think that it can be social" in the question at the end, is ridiculous for someone who claims to "staunchly defend science and rational thought".

Assumptions abound in this talk: why should a human that is bigger be more aggressive? Why should girls preferring pink be anything to do with genes (the Victorians thought that pink was a more masculine colour, making it sound like an entirely social preference)? Why should any of the lists of differences claimed here as "obvious" be anything to do with biology, aside from the fact that Wolpert thinks that they are?

Just because a difference is observed in all/many societies does not make it inherent in all/many societies.

A boring rehashing of Mars/Venus all over again.

WhereWithAll on 26/06/2012 12:49pm

One of Foucault’s most fertile insights into the workings of power was his identification of the body and sexuality as the direct locus of social control. It is this emphasis on the body as directly targeted and formed by historically variable regimes of bio-power that has made Foucault’s version of poststructuralist theory the most attractive to feminist social and political theorists. At a fundamental level, a notion of the body is central to the feminist analysis of the oppression of women because biological differences between the sexes are the foundation that has served to ground and legitimize gender inequality. Wolpert succeeds here, I think, in embracing the clear biological differences, but doesn't return to the essentialist gender focus that has caused the oppression that he speaks of.

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