16 September 2010

Men vs. Women: Accepting Reality

- by Dr. Anne W. Carroll
First of all, biological differences, far from being insignificant, are crucial to an understanding of men and women. Men tend to be larger than women. On average they have more muscle as a percentage of total body weight than fat, more upper body strength, and larger hearts. Women, on the other hand, are better protected against viruses and bacteria, and – during child-bearing years – less subject to heart disease and heart attack. A woman’s physical advantages help her to bear and nurture and care for her children; a man’s help him to protect and provide for his family.

There are also emotional and intellectual differences between the average man and the average woman. Men are more rule-bound, less sensitive to changes in situations, more single-minded, less narrowly focused, more persevering, more mathematical, more aggressive. Women are more sensitive to touch, odor and sound, have better fine motor coordination and finger dexterity, are more sensitive to context, are better at picking up peripheral information and reading the emotional content of faces, process information faster, can draw conclusions more quickly on the basis of less evidence (so-called “women’s intuition”), are more verbally oriented.

These differences are not environmentally caused. Differences in males and females appear in infancy, before they could possibly have been learned. They are innate. Recent studies have shown that young boys don’t want to play with dolls; girls don’t want to play with trucks. Boys will be more aggressive, girls will be quieter. Boys will do better in math, girls in verbal skills, no matter what kind of environment or role models they are provided.

Why? Because the basic differences between men and women are not caused by environment but by biology. Male and female brains are different. The right hemisphere of the brain is primarily responsible for visual-spatial skills (this includes mathematics), the left hemisphere for language and verbal skills. In male brains, the right hemisphere develops faster, in females the left. That means that on average boys will be better at visual-spatial and mathematical skills, girls at verbal skills.

In male brains there is a rigorous segregation of functions between the two hemispheres of the brain. In women the brain is less tightly organized and switching between the two hemispheres is easier. The corpus callosum, the elongated bundle of fibers that carries information between the two halves of the brain, is wider and larger in females. Thus women can process information from both hemispheres faster than can men. ‘Women’s intuition’ is therefore not some non-rational process, but an ability given them by the very structure of their brains to pick up clues, integrate them, and come to conclusions on the basis of them much faster than men.

These differences in brain structure of men and women are not found only in adults or only in children but even in unborn babies. Either the masculine XY chromosomes or the feminine XX chromosomes are on the DNA molecules in every cell of every person’s body. These chromosomes produce the sex hormones which govern the development of the body as masculine or feminine. Even when the unborn child is less than two months old and only 15 millimeters long, sex differences begin to appear. If the unborn child is a boy, the Y chromosomes causes the production of testosterone, which for the rest of his development and on through the rest of his life will cause him to develop masculine characteristics in his body and brain. A little girl’s X chromosomes produce the estrogen hormone, which causes her body and brain to develop feminine characteristics, including the integration of her left and right brain hemispheres and the larger corpus callosum.

The intellectual, emotional, and biological differences noted above are all directly related to the natural roles of mothers versus fathers. The average man’s abilities make him better able to cope with the world outside the home, to earn a living and to provide for the family’s needs, including protection if necessary. Since his mind works better on long-term problems, he will be able to plan for the future and take account of contingencies. A woman’s special abilities make her better able to meet her family’s needs within the home. She will be better able to tell when something is wrong with one of her children and to figure out what it is; her ability to process information more quickly will enable her to meet immediate needs as soon as they arise.

It is not surprising, nor should it be a cause for dismay to anyone, that the universal experience of human society, except in a few isolated instances, gives men and women different roles. Even a woman who is a nuclear physicist or a professor of calculus will possess the inborn abilities needed for motherhood.

It is important, however, not to regard either men or women as genetic puppets, controlled by material factors – their chromosomes. As we know, the soul is the substantial form of the body. Thus the ultimate source of male-female differences must be in the spiritual soul. A person is a body-soul unity, and God created each person to be masculine or feminine, body and soul. Our response to who we are and how we use the gifts God has given us (and masculinity or femininity is a gift from God) depends on our free will.

We should not assume that, because of these average differences, certain jobs or talents are only for men or only for women. God gives talents for reasons. Whatever talents He gives, whether possessed by a man or a woman, should be used to glorify Him and benefit others.

We should also not assume that certain virtues are unfeminine or unmasculine. Men can and should be gentle. Women can and should be strong. Nor does it mean that certain defects are justified simply by being masculine or feminine. Being a man does not justify hostile aggressiveness or sexual indulgence. Being a woman does not justify irrationality. Virtue and vice are the same for all. Salvation is the same for all.

Finally, it is important for the individual, whether male or female, to accept what he or she is, to be secure in God’s love. Each should know his or her own talents and develop them, striving for holiness without worrying about what he or she isn’t or doesn’t have. A good self-image based on a good relationship with God will prevent anyone from envying the opposite sex. Specifically, all women must realize that motherhood is integral to a woman’s nature – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She must either live in harmony with her feminine nature or frustrate it. Even a woman who never gives birth to a child must live in harmony with her natural being. If she does not, there will only be frustration.

No comments: