Patriarchy Brain

I’m turning 34 today, which at least in my life is the moment when seemingly everyone around me has young children, is pregnant, or both. That in itself is great—I love other people’s children. Yet, I can’t help but feel anger and disgust in the face of the patronizing treatment to which my childbearing and childrearing female friends are being subjected. In many cases, my friends are complicit in their own abuse and perpetuate it by uttering the following self-deprecating remarks like mantras:

“I have baby brain syndrome.”

“Oh, it’s my pregnancy brain again.”

“That’s just my momnesia.”

“What else can you expect from my mommy brain?”

If you’re unfamiliar with the manifold offensive ways these (popular/pseudo-) scientific terms are being used, just take a look at this, this, this, and this Google Image search.

I thought I had to write a paper on the history of these ideas to help my friends understand that these stereotype-laden insults are not objective truths but contingent historical constructs crafted to keep them down. To my surprise and amazement, I came across the following mind-blowing selection of existing scholarship. Continue reading

Dear Neuroscience: Stop Trying to “Fix” Diversity

I announced recently that I had been trying to publish an op-ed and that I would post it here if no newspaper would have it. No newspaper would have it, so here you go (and please imagine it were still the end of December, when this was all more recent and it still seemed a fitting time for new year’s resolutions):

As the year in which President Trump reinstated the ban on trans* persons from military service is coming to a close, many of us are hoping for a less transphobic new year. But the current year of sickening transphobia isn’t quite over yet. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling just made headlines by expressing support for Maya Forstater, an openly transphobic researcher who claimed that sex was unchangeable and had nothing to do with identity. Anthony Ramos from the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD referred to Forstater’s view as “an anti-science ideology.”

The disturbing truth is that some scientists hold similar views as Forstater. A recent publication in eNeuro, an open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience, proves this point. Author Stephen Gliske, a nuclear physicist by training, proposed a novel theory regarding the neurobiological underpinnings of gender dysphoria (the distress that some trans* individuals experience because of the incongruency between their bodies and gender identities). Much of the argument relies on data from previously published rodent studies.

Continue reading

Emily Willingham Criticizes the Binary Brain, Or: Why the Brain Is like an Elephant

Today I want to share Emily Willingham’s excellent article “The Non-Binary Brain.” The subhead makes the article’s politics clear: “Misogynists are fascinated by the idea that human brains are biologically male or female. But they’ve got the science wrong.”

There’s much more to this article than debunking the myth that there are male and female brains. For instance, Willingham connects the ideology of the binary brain to sexist theories about autism, and she compares doing neuroscience to being a blind person who only explores one part of an elephant—the trunk or the foot or the ear. Most importantly, the post features one of my greatest heroines: Daphna Joel.

I suggest you read it if you get a chance. Although I’ve long been familiar with each individual argument, I found the combination of topics and epistemological critiques refreshing.