Goodbye vaccination, for a while, hello gender. With the vaccination chapter of my parenthood book 90% finished, I'm going back to the gender chapter. First, more reading.
From reading social constructionist writing on gender, I've gotten the impression that Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters, is seen by feminists as an idiot. Based on a quick perusal, he doesn't seem to be a total idiot. He wants parents to anticipate gender differences, not reinforce them ... or so it seems. Maybe it will turn out that he's not an idiot at all.
He does say "for starters" too much. And there's a funny argument about a bird on pg. 13. "Research in laboratory animals, for starters, has demonstrated large, innate, genetically determined sex differences in the brain." Given the sweeping scope of the claim, it's odd for the first item of support to be one bird. UCLA scientists found this bird. (Where? When? Are there others? Who knows?) The bird was a "lateral gynandromorphic hermaphrodite." Wow. Male on one side, female on the other. On the left, an ovary, on the right, a testicle. On the left, female plumage, on the right, male plumage.
Here's where it gets funny, if you like black humor. So they killed the bird. Or as he puts it, "Now let's take a look at this bird's brain." Right, they had this amazing bird, and they chopped off its head to get a look at its brain. Okaaay....what did they find out? The male and female sides of the brain contain "intrinsically different" brain tissue. The image in the book certainly shows that it looks different--
So how is it different? I guess this book isn't oriented to people capable of asking such a penetrating question.
Brief aside: When I searched online for the image in the book, I found it in an article by Sax, but found a second image as well (both are from a Nature article). I wonder why he put just the image on the left in his book, not the image on the right. (Translation: I don't wonder.)
Anyhow, did the UCLA scientists actually slay the only lateral gynandromorphic bird who ever lived? No thanks to Sax, I now know the answer is "no"-- these birds show up here and there. In fact, a nice article about these birds is at Jerry Coyne's website. Here's a picture Coyne got from a reader.
Cardinals make the best lateral gynandromorphic birds!
I'll probably have another report or two from Sax's book. One last quick grumble. What's with the gender quiz at the back? Does Sax really think it's indicative of innate femininity that I know what an endive is? I confess that I do, but I'm pretty sure I learned my vegetables types. Males, I think, could manage this. I bet many foodie males even know there are two sorts of endive, the one on top being especially delicious.