The following is a direct quote from the first chapter of Brizendine’s book “The Female Brain“:
“Males’ and females’ brains are different by nature. Think about this. What if the communication center is bigger in one brain than in the other? What if the emotional memory center is bigger in one than in the other? What if one brain develops a greater ability to read cues in people than does the other? In this case, you would have a person whose reality dictated that communication, connection, emotional sensitivity, and responsiveness were the primary values. This person would prize these qualities above all others and be baffled by a person with a brain that didn’t grasp the importance of these qualities. In essence, you would have someone with a female brain.”
The sheer pretense of her rationale and ridiculousness of her conclusion in the final sentence almost tangibly blows my hair back like a cacophonous explosion of nonsense—I don’t even know where to begin. Before even entering into the serious implications about gender and the brain that she throws about so easily, the terms “communication center” and “emotional memory center” jump right out at you. It’s as if when doctors first removed the top of the skull to observe the tissues of the brain there were bold, highlighted labels on each section stating its exclusive and autonomous function. They merely had to sketch a diagram and jot down nature’s labeling scheme: the lump over there had “Communication Center” written across it, the fold over here had “Center for Humor and Sarcasm,” and the notch at the back said plainly “Emotional Memory Center.” No. Last time I checked, human communication was a little bit more complicated than a hormone or a region of neurons. Communication, emotion, and memory are not simple computational functions that occupy a little niche of the brain like the distributor occupies a little niche of an automobile. Scientists do not even purport to understand the scope of how communication and emotion are handled by the brain, let alone which specific regions handle what. It has been shown that the logistics of language syntax seem to be partly associated with certain areas in the brain, but that says nothing as to how one produces intelligent sentences. There’s a big difference between what enables you to put words in the proper grammatical order and what enables you to express your ideas.
Further venturing into the mine field of Brizendine’s quote calls into question the size of these apparent “centers” for brain functioning. There simply isn’t any substantive evidence that whether the regions she might be referring to are larger or more pronounced as a trend in one sex or the other has anything to do with greater ability. Also, she implies quite strongly that such differences (if they did exist) are the result of evolution as opposed to developmental changes. Again, there’s no scientific data to support the claim that females evolved to be more social than men. She also states that the female brain has a greater ability to read cues in people, but it has been shown that such perceptive abilities vary far more greatly within a gender than across genders. Additionally, what sort of “cues” are being referred to and how inherently gender-biased are the tests that are being done? What men look for in each other and what women look for in each other is likely have some degree of difference. If the types of “cues” were changed, men might appear much more observant than women. It’s all relative.
You have to understand that it doesn’t necessarily do any good at all to observe sex-related differences in the functioning of adult brains. We know that everyone assumes there are some tendencies that seem to better characterize women (empathizers, they say) and some traits that better characterize men (systemizers, they say). If we see some trace of these generalizations in the laboratory, it doesn’t mean anything. All that was shown was that, yes, this female subject appears to think differently than this male subject does, and, yes, it seems to partially agree with gender stereotypes. Unless their personalities were exactly identical, we already knew that! So, what does such a study NOT tell us anything about or provide any evidence whatsoever for? It does not show that the female brain is designed differently than the male. It does not show that the brain evolved to have gender specific differences. It does not show that a female is predisposed to think differently than a male. It does not show that one sex inherently possesses a greater affinity for anything than the other. It does not give any reason to believe that a female is born to be mentally distinguishable from a male. In other words, it offers no evidence that any and all gender differences are not the result of developmental differences—basically that girls are conditioned to be girls and boys are conditioned to be boys; the brain may well be genderless until conditioning.
Finally, it is inherently wrong to connect observed mental-emotional “qualities” with brain sex. They vary far more on an individual basis, to the point that comparisons between sexes become very difficult. It is not valid, scientifically or ethically, to assume that society’s stereotypical sense of gender is rooted in nature, evolution, and DNA. Rather than shackle a human being in pseudoscientific gender roles, we should focus on the untapped potential for the human mind to be anything it chooses.