My respect for Stefan Molyneux knows very few bounds, indeed. I have watched a great many of his YouTube videos, and read a great many things he has said about freedom. He is, as far as I’m concerned, a life-oriented man. I encourage anyone with time on his hands to listen to just about any video he’s posted. You’ll learn a few things in the process, I can assure you. He is incredibly smart.
With all of this in mind, I feel I must take issue with one interview that he posted with Dr. Cordelia Fine. I’m also warning you beforehand that I find myself in agreement with some of what she says, and I’ll specify what it is as I write. (So if you’re looking for my regular surplus of sarcasm, look elsewhere.) However, it seems to me that the direction in which the thinking of both Molyneux and Fine is headed is ultimately a dead end for society and a dead end for men.
The video is concerned with a dispute over what constitutes brain differences between males and females. I think Dr. Fine is right to take a closer look at scientific study, if her inquiry into these matters is honest. I will leave it to researchers better equipped than a lazy-ass doofus like myself to determine whether her methodology is correct. I, too, believe that mass media, which is driven by the corporate need to fulfill corporate greed, looks for anything sensational that can be fed into desires that the viewing audience already has. The more sensational the supposed sex difference is, the more airtime it will receive. Having come from the religious right, I can say that they like nothing better but to take “scientific” studies and tote them around to keep naughty boys like me in line.
Unfortunately, I think what Dr. Fine proposes, and what Molyneux seems to be open to, is impossible, and probably should never be attempted. The human brain, I am coming to believe, is always going to be a lot of science mixed with a lot of mystery. I am sure that we will continue to study it, and it goes without saying that we will continue to amass useful information, but for what Fine appears to be proposing, I think it would be better to begin mankind’s inquiries with the study of various animals, and end those inquiries where damage could be done to humans.
As with the work of Dr. Marian C. Diamond, this is already being done, and the results sound interesting:
“For the female animal, the main functions in life are to bear, protect and raise her offspring. These roles challenge her to go in many directions, both geographical and conceptual, something that may be more accessible and readily achieved with a symmetrical brain. We might conjecture that the trend to right dominance in the older brain of the female without ovarian hormones suggests a shift to the more visual focus demanded of the male…
“What might be the advantage of having some cortical areas asymmetrical in the male? In general, male behavior involves finding and defending his territory and finding his female, all rather focused functions, possibly benefiting from an asymmetrical cortex.”
Mind you, that’s a study involving rats, not humans. So what exact criteria, if any, can be relied upon to help us understand any differences between men’s and women’s brains? I am not well-informed enough, nor sufficiently familiar with the science behind the research to know for certain. And I do appreciate a scientist’s skepticism in the face of popularly accepted conclusions that get trumpeted loudly and repeatedly in the media. We need quite a lot more of that, so long as the skepticism of those conclusions is based on logical reasoning.
It would be easier to take Dr. Fine’s assertion that she doesn’t have a background in feminism or women’s studies at face value, however, if she didn’t use that word “equality.” As I never tire of explaining, equality is non-existent. In the context of this video, she is clearly using the word to express a different idea, and I suspect it is also the reason why Molyneux decided to interview her in the first place: Girls should not be prevented from following their volition.
Well, I agree. To interrupt the process of an individual following through with what private thoughts and feelings naturally lead to, when it does not interfere with the volition of another for himself, is to kill off some small (or great) part of the self. Without your volition, you are not you. If you are not you, then you do not exist. The word for this is “death.”
The trouble with children is that, even though they are individual in nature, they are not fully developed individuals. They are almost entirely helpless at birth, and little more than slightly autonomous for the first several years. Therefore, if females, beginning at an early age, are being prevented or halted in their volition through emotional neglect, threats, physical abuse, sexual abuse, indoctrination, nutritional deficiency, or any other form of coercion, then volition is, at least in some small way, going to die. (I believe furthermore that these horrible phenomena lead to misandry, feminism, and, as I repeat ad nauseam, death.)
However, the problems with what Molyneux and Fine discuss are increased when you hear Fine critiquing the methodology of these studies. As the conversation goes on, you get the idea that the reason she and Molyneux have discarded so many human brain studies is because “gender neutrality” was not a starting point.
If that’s the case, we’re screwed. I am not now advocating, nor will I ever enforce, a sex role for a child. If she’s a tomboy, or he wants to play with dolls, fine. Kids have a tendency to grow out of these roles. One of my sisters was a tomboy, and yeah, alright, I admit it, I liked my sisters’ dolls. (Thankfully, since I was so enmeshed in so many simultaneous systems of coercion growing up that would have denigrated me for continuing the hideous practice, along came Star Wars action figures: dolls for boys. And just in case you suspect I am a total poof, most of my playtime with action figures involved a sudden, horrific ending where the base they were all in was destroyed by an earthquake.) My sister went on to be quite feminine, getting married, having kids, and I can honestly say that my fascination with girls’ toys (for the most part) is over with.
But the discussion on this video is about dressing children in “gender-neutral” clothing and raising them in a “gender-neutral” environment. How is this done, exactly? Define “neutral,” and its variance in application between males and females. I would assume that this would eliminate children from wearing several colors: definitely pink and blue, but what about lavender and other pastels? In this day and age, it is fairly easy for girls to get away with wearing just about anything they want and still look like girls; not so for boys. So is Molyneux not dressing his cute little girl, whose name is Elizabeth, in any dresses at all? I don’t think Fine is advocating the elimination of dresses from women’s fashion any more than I think Molyneux would forbid his daughter, once she’s older and more able to express herself, from wearing one. But is my desire to watch little girls in their cute little pink outfits an acquiescence to some hidden system of coercion? If it is, then so is my love of Christmas, my deep and abiding interest in the orchestral repertoire, the change of seasons in the Northeast, and even my love of hot chocolate with buttered toast. Why?
Because among my fond memories of growing up in the Northeast are all of the above. My parents planted themselves here, begat four kids, and celebrated Christmas every year with a ton of decorations, music, taping Christmas cards they received to the entryways of the dining and living rooms, making food (including hot chocolate with buttered toast), caroling, parties, presents, fires in the fireplace, listening to Tchaikovsky’s wonderful ballet “The Nutcracker” (thus cementing my future “coming out” as a classical music fanatic), board games, forcing the World’s Greatest Cat to wear a fuzzy red ribbon around his neck, and on and on. Can you understand why I love all of the above?
Was there anything wrong with my parents subjecting me to all of that? How is it different that my parents subjected me to wearing pants and never got me the skirt I apparently so desperately wanted? Christmas is the same as a boy wearing pants: They are both artifacts of our culture. All cultures, like the beauty of the free market, pick and choose, based on the individual concerns of a great many participants, which items, ideas, and practices will remain and which will go.
The Christmas tree made headway with millions of revelers only in the nineteenth century, when a cultural icon, Queen Victoria, married a kraut and put one in her gigantic estate. From that point forward, on this land mass, Christmas was permanently altered. Now the practice of decorating a tree is simply not questioned. The crucial difference between this phenomenon and actual coercion is that no one who lives here and wishes to ignore Christmas, or refuses to plunk down money for a Fritz-inspired tree, has to participate. Non-threatening traditions such as these can influence one’s mind, but it can hardly be called coercive.
If I decide tomorrow that I’ve had enough of acting and dressing like a regular guy, I can whip off my pants and put on a skirt if I like. No one’s going to stop me. However, I will be subjected to stares, whispers, stifled laughter, rolling eyes, etc. Is that coercive? Well, it would certainly make my life more difficult. But as long as none of them threatens me, or puts a gun to my head, what’s stopping me?
My brain is. I have always worn pants. My parents started me on that habit. I never questioned it. I have questioned a great many things they did since then, and rejected quite a lot of it, because I recognize the important difference between coercion and benign influence. Dressing me in pants did indeed influence me according to my sex. I perceive myself differently because of my recognition of living in a society full of pants-wearing men.
Then again, everything else with which I have come into contact has had an effect on my brain. I hate to quote a character from a creepy movie, but truth is truth, and truth in popular culture should always be pointed out. In “The Silence of the Lambs,” during one of his interviews with Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) where covetousness is discussed, Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) says, “We begin by coveting by what we see every day.” This is entirely true.
Why are they called The Terrible Twos? Because she has finally figured out how to walk. Uh oh. Now she’s going to run off to wherever her covetous eyes are taking her: “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this? Go away, Mom. What’s this?” Is the oppression that is going to dissuade her from becoming an architect because she’s using her chubby little legs to run around while she’s wearing a pink, frilly dress?
The unavoidable, logical conclusion of sexless child-rearing is that ultimately it will be contradictory, because there is an unavoidable, logical fact that has to be taken under consideration: Boys have penises, girls have vaginas, and they know it.
A girl’s genitals are visible only slightly on the outside of her body; a boy’s genitals are almost impossible to hide, and to do so requires a great deal of manual manipulation. This leads, I believe, to a woman’s sexuality being more “secretive” than a man’s. This, if it is true, is part of the reason why men find women so attractive. Yes, women can show off their tits, and those marvelous glands comprise one of the many, many female erogenous zones, but many of the other zones remain hidden, as most of the vagina does.
A man’s sexuality is not hidden. It is out there for all to see. If a man within your field of vision has a hardon, there is very little hidden about what is on his mind. Even though boys are incapable of fully understanding sexuality, they get a hint whenever they experience erections. How do these researchers propose to divorce a boy’s brain from recognition of this important difference? Worse than that, his brain is going to sound a four-alarm alert when he’s 13, when he notices that this “occasional” hardness is poking out much, much further than it did before:
“Oh… my… GOD!”
I haven’t even addressed the fact that we are dealing with a language that does not have any other “gender-neutral” pronoun other than “it,” or the fact that a great many other Romantic languages have “masculine” and “feminine” words. What does it do to an “oppressed” little girl’s brain, to be subjected to a language where she understands “he” refers to Dad (who she has been told has something called a “penis”) and “she” refers to Mom (who has what she has, and she’s seen it)? Would Dr. Fine be content with a “gender-neutral” study of the brain where masculine and feminine are woven into the language, and where the female children are aware that the boys in the study have something different between their chubby little legs? That doesn’t sound neutral to me.
Therefore, I would propose that for these two reasons alone, we can never truly have a “gender-neutral” study of the human brain, because the human brain develops so rapidly, from so many different influences, that it simply boggles the human brain that thinks about it.
Children aren’t sexless. There’s a crucial difference between a father who sits his son down and tells him what’s expected of him as a man, and then proceeds to indoctrinate him with false, outdated, or coercive ideas; and a father who sits his son down, tells him how his body works, how a female’s body works, some of the things he can expect, and that he’s there if the boy ever wants to talk. No dad, as far as I know, ever has to apologize to his son for always dressing him in pants, any more than any mom has to make amends to her daughter for The Pink Frilly Fiasco.
Yet Dr. Fine is concerned that people still think that men are better at the hard sciences than women, and that this “false” belief contributes to faulty brain studies and some sort of oppression of the female spirit. If brain science is truly faulty, go for it. Critique it. Challenge it. A truly hard science, like a rock, isn’t going to budge.
But there is no such thing as “gender neutrality,” and I’m not just saying this because I hate the word “gender.” Each of us is either one sex or the other (love the word “sex”), and that is going to permanently affect how the brain thinks. Beyond that, each of us is exposed to adult versions of whatever sex we are, and adult versions of the opposite sex as well. None of them, including Dr. Fine, is “gender-neutral.” Our brains, which refuse to stop the process of learning (unless they’ve been damaged beyond repair), are bound to observe attitudes, behaviors, and appearances, and from that point forward, the brain is not the same.
It isn’t that my brain thinks better because I’m a man. To the contrary, I have been bested by women at many things I have tried, from sports (which I loathe) to music (which I love). My brain is different from a woman’s brain because it is attached, and has always been attached, to a male body. Furthermore, my brain is different from every other man’s brain because my brain, body, and mind have an autonomy that is uniquely and entirely mine. Other men did not celebrate Christmas with my family. (Their loss.) This creates a great and insurmountable inequality: I am without equal. The sameness I seek with like-minded individuals has to do with similar tastes and interests. Like any other individual, I am bolstered by agreement and association. It’s electric and exciting. It is only this rewarding, however, when it is based on truth. If I were to change my views based on whatever group of individuals with whom I wish to associate wants me to think, the dishonesty would eventually catch up with my level of enjoyment. Dishonesty is coercion against the truth, which is a necessary component of volition, and I never tire of saying it: Coercion is death.
To dress and raise children sexlessly is to separate them from their sex needlessly and pointlessly. Between coercive sex roles (boys are tough, girls are sweet) and sexless mindlessness (girls and boys are equal), is a whole world of freedom: freedom to question, freedom to challenge, freedom to change, freedom to stay comfortably the same, freedom to put the toy truck to bed, and freedom to make the Barbie doll explode.
If Dr. Fine thinks there is still too much “inequality,” and that the “gender expectations” placed upon women in the First World at the advent of the twenty-first century are still that great, I would like to point out that these women have more than enough access to libraries, universities, government, birth control, menswear, the Internet, and everything else men have traditionally used to build the roads and buildings, write the symphonies, pen the books, direct the movies, steer the ships, fight the wars, and develop the philosophies upon which our civilization is based. Non-sexless women have had this access for quite some time now. They have been backed by decades of popular culture virtually screaming, “Girl Power!” They have watched their mothers go off to work.
No one forbids them to learn to drive, open bank accounts, or fix sinks. No one forbade Dr. Fine to go to school and learn about the human brain. No one stopped her from writing a book. No man I have ever known personally, or even observed on television or in print speaking his mind, stands for such nonsense.
Women who want to do something more are always going to be in the minority, because they are born into this world with bodies that create humanity and come equipped to feed that which they create, and they love it. I cannot even begin to comprehend how amazing that must be. My brain will never figure it out. Dr. Fine’s brain will probably never grasp that I myself will never have full sexual “equality,” since my pool of potential sex partners, as well as where I can or cannot openly express my thoughts about being different, are severely diminished. But where inclusion in a minority takes a back seat to individuality, these are no longer concerns.
The utopia sought by the kind of thinking in this video will never appeal to individuality in an imperfect world. The imperfection of this world, and everything living in it, is natural law. Cutting off our sex organs, or adopting some sort of cognitive dissonance by pretending that we don’t notice them, does not help us to reckon with the terror of living finite lives on a planet that doesn’t care whether we live or die. All it does is give humanity one more headache, bolster the agendas of those that despise men, and work against the freedom that Molyneux seeks. I sincerely hope men and women will wake up soon to the myth of equality, and walk their own paths to freedom in a naturally sex-differentiated world.
B.R. Merrick writes for “Strike The Root“ and “A Voice for Men,” lives in the Northeast, is proud to be a classical music reviewer at Amazon.com and iTunes, and in spite of the poisonous nature of television, God Himself will have to pry his DVDs of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” out of his cold, dead hands, under threat of eternal damnation.