When a man sucks at cooking, not many would bat an eyelid. If a woman says so, the crowd would go berserk. This is because people believe that women are biologically designed for this task, and hence, should be naturally adept at it. The reactions would be reversed if the discussion was on how to shoot a gun – two tasks that are also stereotypically believed to be supported by a man’s brain. How does the male brain differ from the females’?
For ages, scientists have had debates over the similarities and differences in the brains of a typical male or female. As illustrated in the first paragraph, many scientists believe brains are hardwired to handle gender-specific problems. Women, for instance, are believed to show more empathy, but is this as a result of a brain function? No! At least, not according to cognitive neuroscientist, Gina Rippon.
This is the 21st century – a century that would perhaps be most notable for analyzing issues under sexist lenses – and this issue of a gendered brain hasn’t escaped Gina’s scalpel.
In her book, The Gendered Brain, she explains that the brain is some sort of tabula rasa at birth and only starts to change to suit society’s dictates. To feminists, however, Gina’s assertion is an added arrow for their quiver. The brains have been described as plastic. This simply means that the brain stretches to accommodate oft-repeated tasks until it masters them.
Using the “pink vs blue” culture – a phenomenon that encompasses the stereotypical toys parents gift their children – she explains how early configurations of the child’s brain is achieved.
Are there any differences between male and female brains?
Structurally, yes. I would bet five Naira that you have heard someone say females have chicken brains. That is a slur, mind you. However, on average, males have larger brains, but does this make any difference functionally? People believe that brain size means higher intelligence, but if this were true, it would mean that whales are smarter than humans.
A study conducted at the Tel Aviv University suggests that an individual brain is likely to be a mix of feminine and masculine features.
To Gina, nurture shapes the brain. Not nature.