05. Toxic Masculinity, Rape Culture and Gender Differences


Why is it only privately educated women who get to lecture people about ‘oppression’?

Column for the Spectator about Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women. Published on 14th March 2019.


Scarcely a week passes without a privately educated young woman with a successful career in journalism publishing a book about how ‘oppressed’ women are. Names that spring to mind are Laurie Penny (Brighton College), Zoe Williams (Godolphin and Latymer), Laura Bates (King’s College), Afua Hirsch (Wimbledon High School) and Grace Blakeley (Lord Wandsworth College).

Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in order to qualify as an ‘intersectional feminist’ and present yourself as a victim of ‘systemic inequality’ you need to be a member of the ruling class. One of the distinguishing characteristics of ‘social justice’ activists is that they tend to be rich, high-achieving young women who have been to elite universities, which is why they’re such ripe targets for satire. In my mind’s eye, I can picture an alternative ending to Spartacus in which each of these women leaps up from her yoga mat and proclaims, ‘I am Titania McGrath.’

A case in point is Caroline Criado Perez, who in addition to going to Oundle is the daughter of a former CEO of Safeway. She shot to fame in 2012 when she launched a campaign to get a broader cross-section of people interviewed on current affairs programmes. ‘If public policy is going to be so responsive to the media, let’s make the media truly representative of the public,’ she argued — which meant fewer men, obviously, not fewer women who’d been to public school. After that, she focused on bank notes, arguing that Winston Churchill shouldn’t be featured on the new £5 note because he is ‘just another white man’.Thanks to her campaign, Jane Austen appears on the new £10 note.

She has now published a book called Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed For Men, the thesis of which is that nearly everything in the world that’s been designed for use by both men and women, from mobile phones to public roads, is specifically tailored for men. This is partly because women weren’t adequately represented in the data relied upon by the designers, but also due to the usual suspects: stereotyping, sexual discrimination, the patriarchy, etc.

Some of Criado Perez’s examples are quite persuasive: Fitbits, for instance, underestimate the number of steps women do during housework — while others are a bit of a stretch. She complains that there aren’t enough statues of women, but that doesn’t feel like an example of ‘data bias’ or even ‘unconscious bias’. Rather, it just reflects the fact that there aren’t many female historical figures — which is surely a shortcoming of previous eras rather than the present day?

This muddle crops up again and again. Criado Perez constantly berates the custodians of our cultural ‘canon’, such as the examiners who decide which composers to include on the A-level music syllabus, for downplaying the contributions of women. But that criticism makes sense only if women have been as influential as men in fields like classical music. Given that they haven’t, it isn’t biased of the examiners to leave out most of the 6,000 entries in the International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. The same point applies to her jeremiads against the ‘white middle- and upper-class men’ who rule the roost in academia for not including more female scientists or philosophers on university courses — and, indeed, the governor of the Bank of England for his ‘sexist’ bank notes. For her punches to land, Criado Perez has to pretend that women were less marginalised in the past than they really were, which is an odd line for a feminist to take.

But Criado Perez has another, deeper blind spot. As you’d expect, she fully subscribes to feminist orthodoxy on the subject of gender differences, which is that they’re socially constructed and have no basis in biology, and is merciless in her attacks on the male gatekeepers of the technology industry for not employing more female computer programmers. Such gender imbalances cannot be explained by biological differences in typical male and female brains, she argues, because there aren’t any.

Yet if that’s true, Criado Perez cannot criticise medical researchers for failing to include more women when developing drugs for mental disorders, which she does, at some length. After all, if there are no neurobiological differences between men and women, it doesn’t matter which gender you test a new psychiatric drug on.

Reading this book, you sense that Criado Perez, like the other Titania McGraths, is searching for things to be angry about. Which is odd, given what charmed lives they have all led.

Why are so many schoolchildren coming out as trans?

Feature for Standpoint magazine about the recent increase in the number of adolescents identifying as transgendered and gender nonconforming. It was published in the February 2019 issue.Standpoint

Last November, a school in Brighton called Dorothy Stringer made the news when it was revealed that 76 of its pupils are either transgender or gender-non-conforming (TGNC). This isn’t as unusual as you might think. At another school, which also hit the headlines last year, 17 pupils are in the process of changing gender, and many schools now have policies in place to support pupils who identify as TGNC, including more than 80 with “gender neutral” uniforms. Referrals to the Tavistock, Britain’s only NHS clinic specializing in children and young people who are TGNC, jumped from 697 in 2014-15 to 2,016 in 2016-17, an increase of 289 per cent. 

In some cases, these patients will be prescribed “puberty blockers”, drugs that delay the onset of puberty, or, if they’re over 16, be offered hormone therapy so they develop the secondary sexual characteristics associated with the gender they identify with – breasts for those transitioning to female and facial hair for those transitioning to male. Older patients may even be given the option of gender reassignment surgery provided their psychotherapist is satisfied they are genuinely suffering from “Gender Dysphoria” (see below).

Should we be alarmed by this trend? And make no mistake, it is a growing phenomenon. The Sunday Times reported in January that a record number of children are applying to change their gender by deed poll – seven to 10 a week. Before answering that question, some definitions might be useful, although it’s hard to be precise because the “correct” words to use when discussing this subject are constantly changing. Until 2013, Gender Dysphoria was referred to in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the psychiatrist’s Bible, as “Gender Identity Disorder”. But it was renamed because of the stigma attached to the word disorder and it is now taboo for mental health professionals to think of it as a mental illness. (Last year, the World Health Organisation stopped classifying transgender people as mentally ill.) Nonetheless, the condition, if that’s not too inflammatory a word, is still classified as a form of mental illness in the DSM, albeit one that is defined a bit more carefully. A person who is gender dysphoric is someone whose gender identity – that is, the gender they intrinsically feel themselves to be – is at odds with their biological sex, usually referred to as “natal sex” or “sex assigned at birth” because the word biological is also controversial. This is sometimes expressed as the feeling that they were born in the wrong body. People who identify as “transgender” generally fall into one of two categories – trans male (chromosomal female, but identify as male) or trans female (vice versa). Those who present as “gender-non-conforming”, by contrast, can fall into one or more of over a dozen categories, including “non-binary”, “gender fluid”, “bigender”, “genderqueer”, “demi-boy”, “demi-girl”, and so on. At Dorothy Stringer School, a comprehensive for 11-16 year-olds, 40 of the children identify as transgender and 36 as gender-non-conforming.

So should we be concerned about the growing number of young people presenting as TGNC, particularly as some of them are opting for medical treatment? For lobby groups like Mermaids, a transgender charity that was recently awarded £500,000 by the Big Lottery Fund, the answer is emphatically “no”. According to trans activists, the rise in the number of young people identifying as TGNC and seeking help at places like the Tavistock is entirely attributable to the decrease in the social stigma attached to the condition and, as such, should be celebrated. They are adamant that the underlying rate of TGNC people in the general population hasn’t changed. Rather, as the taboo attached to expressing feelings of Gender Dysphoria has faded, those who would otherwise have suffered in silence have found the courage to “come out” – and the parallels between trans youth and teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual don’t end there.

A common mistake made by those who are new to this discussion is to assume that trans people are also homosexual, but that isn’t true – at least, not exactly. While only a minority of adolescents diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria identify as “straight”, it isn’t always clear what they mean by that. For instance, if a teenager who was born with two X chromosomes but now identifies as male says they are attracted to men, does that make them gay? If they’re attracted to women, by contrast, does that make them straight? Most trans adolescents would say “yes” to both questions, but for some it can be difficult to disentangle gender identity from sexual orientation and they might opt for the catch-all term “queer” to cover all bases. One psychological theory about Gender Dysphoria is that it is a way for teens who don’t want to think of themselves as gay to rationalise their attraction to people of the same sex. Whether consciously or not, the theory goes, it is easier to think they are born in the wrong body than to admit to themselves or others that they are homosexual. That hypothesis has now fallen out of fashion – although some experts still stand by it and it might help explain why more sex change operations are carried out in Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, than any other country apart from Thailand.

Mermaids is a cheerleader for what is known as “affirmative care”, whereby any claim by a child or adolescent to be gender dysphoric should be taken at face value, and if they express a desire to transition they should be unquestioningly supported. Mental health professionals who recommend a more cautious approach, exploring whether a young person might be feeling this way because of other, extraneous factors before committing to a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, are looked on with intense suspicion by activists. They’re often compared to religious bigots who think homosexuality can be “cured” by conversion therapy. Indeed, anything less than an enthusiastic rubber-stamping of a child’s self-diagnosis is generally frowned upon and can lead to accusations of “transphobia” or attempting to “erase” the identity of the young person in question.

This same approach – affirming the way a child feels about their gender rather than questioning it – is recommended in the school “Toolkit” co-authored by the Allsorts Youth Project, another charity in receipt of lottery funding, and adopted as official policy by Brighton and Hove City Council. It is clear from the public statements made by the headteacher of Dorothy Stringer, which repeat this advice verbatim, that he and his staff have been following the guidance.

The Toolkit encourages teachers to be open-minded and non-judgmental when faced with a child who claims to be TGNC. But not “open-minded” in the sense of entertaining the possibility that the child could be mistaken. On that score, the advice is pretty dogmatic: “The important thing is to validate the young person’s identity as it is now, and support any changes that may arise as they come to explore their gender identity further.”

As part of this overall strategy, the guidance urges schools to embed “trans inclusive practice” in their teaching materials: “The curriculum should be used to explore and raise awareness of issues of assigned sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and transphobia and to make visible and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Work to challenge sexism and champion gender equality will benefit all pupils and students, including those who are trans.”

On the vexed question of whether someone who identifies as trans should be allowed into male- or female-only spaces, such as girls’ changing rooms, the guidance is also pretty unequivocal: “In most cases, trans pupils or students should have access to the changing room that corresponds to their gender identity.” If a teenage girl or her parents objects to an adolescent natal male who identifies as female using the girls’ changing rooms, the “appropriate response”, according to the guidance, is to offer “alternative changing arrangements for the child who feels uncomfortable around the trans person”. Ditto if a girl or her parents complain that it’s unfair that she should have to compete against a natal male on sports day. The child in question should be “supported to do a different activity”.

Charities like Mermaids and the Allsorts Youth Project are not shy about invoking the 2010 Equality Act to underscore this approach. The Act identifies “gender reassignment” as a protected characteristic, meaning it’s unlawful to discriminate against someone because they have that characteristic. According to Brighton and Hove’s official guidance, a trans person doesn’t need to have done anything other than announce that they want to start transitioning to qualify for this protection. Gender reassignment, it says, is defined in the Act as applying to anyone who is undergoing, has undergone, or is proposing to undergo, a process of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes. “This definition means that in order to be protected under the Act, a pupil will not necessarily have to be undertaking a medical procedure to change their sex,” it says. “Pupils who are undergoing a social transition, for example, going by a preferred name or pronoun are protected by the Equality Act.”

The police and courts seem to share this interpretation of the law. Last year, a teacher accused of “misgendering” a trans child, i.e. refusing to use their preferred gender pronoun, was told by the police that she had committed a hate crime, a verdict confirmed by the Crown Prosecution Service. In another case, a teacher was dismissed for saying “well done, girls” to a group of natal females that included a trans student who identified as male. However, it’s worth noting that the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) interpretation of the Equality Act on some of the above points isn’t as hard line as Brighton and Hove’s. For instance, it says that schools are only required to provide “appropriate changing facilities” to trans pupils, not to let them use the changing rooms of their preferred gender. So letting them use the staff changing room would be fine. Similarly, the EHRC says it is not always unlawful to restrict participation in sporting competitions to children of a particular natal sex: “Section 195 of the EA 2010 makes it lawful to restrict participation of transsexual people in competitions where physical strength, stamina or physique are major factors in determining success or failure, if this is necessary to uphold fair competition.”

The other big lever used by trans activists to encourage schools and parents to “validate” and “affirm” children presenting as transgender or gender-non-conforming, rather than question their self-diagnosis, is to flag up their high risk of suicide. Sceptical parents reluctant to approve risky and potentially irreversible medical procedures are often told “Better a live son than a dead daughter” (or vice versa) and the Brighton and Hove Toolkit claims 25% of transgender students have attempted suicide and a further 25% have considered it.

Is that true? While surveys do suggest the suicide rate for trans adolescents is well above average, exact figures are hard to pin down because nearly all the research evidence is contested. Susie Green, the CEO of Mermaids and herself the mother of a trans child, claims that attendees at the Tavistock have a “48% suicide attempt risk”. According to the clinic, the true rate is less than 1%. When an NHS psychiatrist accused her on Twitter of “making stuff up”, Green wrote: “You need to f*** off. You know nothing.””

So that’s the case for the defence. The growing number of young people presenting as TGNC should be welcomed because it reflects our society’s more enlightened, better informed attitude towards gender identity. There’s still some way to go, but as the stigma has lifted, so it has become easier for children suffering from Gender Dysphoria and related conditions to get the help they need. Nearly all the websites of the trans lobby groups include video testimonials from confident, attractive teenagers who’ve successfully transitioned and are now leading happy, fulfilling lives, often with their own YouTube channels where they proselytise about the benefits of “T juice” (testosterone injections) and “top surgery” (a double mastectomy). The favoured metaphor is of a chrysalis becoming a butterfly – indeed, Butterfly was the name of a recent three-part ITV drama about an 11-year-old natal male transitioning to female that received Mermaids’ seal of approval. And it’s not just the ITV drama department that echoes the views of the trans lobby. It has been so successful that its militantly affirmative approach – if you say you’re trans, then you’re trans, period – is rapidly becoming the official view, endorsed by the NHS, local authorities, the Department for Education and MPs from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. Indeed, this seems to be the thinking behind reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, which will almost certainly result in it becoming easier for people to legally change their gender. That’s an initiative of the present Conservative Government and few Tory MPs are willing to publicly dissent, partly because they’ve bought in to the idea that being trans is like being gay – some even think it’s the same thing. They are haunted by the ghost of Section 28 and don’t want to appear bigoted or behind the times.

What about the alternative position – that the number of children identifying as TGNC is something we should be alarmed about? Those who take this view aren’t necessarily opposed to transgender rights. Some are, obviously, but it would be a mistake to dismiss all the critics of the current direction of policy as Bufton Tufton types who think men are men and women are women and there’s an end to it. Many believe that children with genuine cases of Gender Dysphoria should be supported and, in some cases, given the help they need to start transitioning. But they worry that it’s become fashionable for teens to identify as TGNC, particularly in trendy, metropolitan areas, and a policy of “affirmative care” –  unquestioningly accepting a trans child’s self-diagnosis – is prompting some adolescents to seek life-changing medical treatment that they will later come to regret.

The starting point for these critics is usually a large dose of scepticism about whether teenagers identifying as TGNC really are as dysphoric or uncertain of their gender as they claim to be. There is no consensus among psychiatrists as to what the true underlying rate of Gender Dysphoria is in the general population, but few would put it as high as it appears to be at Dorothy Stringer School. In the US, the Williams Institute estimated in 2016 that 1.4 million Americans were transgender, double the number a decade earlier, but still only 0.6 per cent of the population. (That rises to 0.66 per cent for 18-24 year-olds.) Even if we discount the 36 pupils at Dorothy Stringer who identify as gender non-conforming, that still leaves 40 out of 1,653 children claiming to be transgender, which is 2.5 per cent. According to the sceptics, that’s abnormally high.

So what could be prompting these young people to come forward? One of the chief witnesses for the prosecution, albeit a reluctant one, is Lisa Littman, an American physician and researcher at the School of Public Health at Brown University. Last August, she published a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal in which she discussed “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD), a proposed form of dysphoria that is less authentic than typical Gender Dysphoria. For one thing, ROGD only manifests itself during adolescence or early adulthood and not during pre-pubescence, suggesting it’s less hard-wired than the standard condition. For another, it comes on very quickly – in some cases overnight – and the young person in question is often a member of a peer group in which one or more people have “come out” as TGNC.

Littman, who surveyed the parents of 256 gender dysphoric young people, suggested several reasons why their children’s claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. For instance, 62.5% of them had one or more diagnoses of a psychiatric disorder or neurodevelopmental disability prior to the onset of Gender Dysphoria and many had experienced a traumatic or stressful event just beforehand. In addition, 21.5% belonged to a friendship group in which one or more person had identified as transgender at the same time as them, 19.9% had exhibited a recent increase in their social media/internet use and nearly half ticked both those boxes. This suggests that “social contagion” could be a factor in the spread of ROGD, in much the same way it is in the spread of eating disorders like anorexia. Littman noted that 82.8% of the children of the parents in her survey were natal females and the Tavistock reports a similar skew among its patients in the last few years.

What are we to make of that imbalance? Littman cites it as a reason to doubt that the surging diagnoses are entirely due to the lifting of the taboo. “Although a decrease in stigma for transgender individuals might explain some of the rise in the numbers of adolescents presenting for care, it would not directly explain the inversion of the sex ratio,” she wrote.

Other sceptics have made similar points. Jane Galloway, a parent and women’s rights campaigner, questions whether the growing number of children identifying as TGNC can be explained by more enlightened attitudes alone. “If that’s the case, where are the adults, the middle-aged people seeking transition?” she told the Sunday Times.

An alternative explanation suggested by the parents in Littman’s survey – apart from “social contagion” – is that claiming to be transgender is a way for otherwise fortunate teens to claim the mantle of victimhood. Nearly all the parents in Littman’s sample were white and college-educated and most were well-off. Among their children, straight white people – particularly those who are “cisgender”, which means someone who’s gender identity matches their natal sex – have become demonised as complicit in “systematic oppression”. Being trans, by contrast, is cool and au courant and enables them to enhance their status by mocking “privileged” classmates.

“They passionately decry ‘Straight Privilege’ and ‘White Male Privilege’—while emphasizing their own ‘Victimhood’,” said one parent.

“To be heterosexual, comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth, and non-minority places you in the ‘most evil’ of categories with this group of friends,” said another. “Statement of opinions by the evil cisgendered population are consider phobic and discriminatory and are generally discounted as unenlightened.”

Bradley Campbell, a sociologist at California State University and the co-author with Jason Manning of The Rise of Victimhood Culture (2018) says that claiming to be oppressed in order to boost your moral status is commonplace among American college students.

“In doing so, activists and others can create a kind of reverse hierarchy where those perceived as victimizers are denigrated and stigmatized while those perceived as victims receive aid and admiration,” he says. “This happens in a ‘victimhood culture’, and it’s very different from what you see in the ‘honour cultures’ of the past, where strength and the ability to use violence were sources of moral status. It’s clear victimhood culture has spread beyond universities, and even large corporations have adopted much of the oppression framework in employee training. It seems likely, then, that it’s begun to alter the moral life of adolescents as well.”

Theories such as these are vigorously disputed by trans activists, who succeeded in persuading Brown University to stop publicising Littman’s research. They question whether ROGD is a real thing, rather than a diagnosis invented by parents trying to persuade their children that they’re not really suffering from gender dysphoria, and point out that the costs of being transgender far outweigh any superficial gains, such as an increase in status among one’s peers. Why would anyone volunteer to become a member of  such an oppressed group? It makes no sense to them. On the contrary, it’s grossly insensitive since it ignores the discrimination trans people suffer at the hands of the straight, white, cisgendered population.

Critics of Littman’s research point out that two thirds (67.2%) of the parents in her survey had been told by their children that they wanted to take cross-sex hormones, while more than half said they wanted surgery. Surely, it’s implausible to think that any adolescent would embark on the process of medically transitioning, up to and including painful operations on their genitals, just because they’re swept up in a teenage fad?

For sceptics, however, the seriousness of these medical procedures is all the more reason to proceed with caution. Puberty blockers can affect bone density and, according to the NHS guidance, some of the side effects of hormone therapy are blood clots, gallstones, weight gain, acne, hair loss, sleep apnoea and, eventually, infertility. Beyond this, the long-term effects of taking massive doses of testosterone during adolescence – a standard treatment for natal females who identify as male – are unknown.

A natal female who has a double mastectomy cannot reverse the procedure, while a natal male who takes estrogen in order to grow breasts will have them for the rest of their life. Both a “phalloplasty” – the creation of a penis for a natal female – and a “vaginoplasty” – the opposite procedure for a natal male – are hard to reverse for obvious reasons.

None of that would matter so much if the patients never had second thoughts about their gender identity, but some do. They are known as “de-transitioners” and are becoming an increasingly vocal lobby in the U.S. The American journalist Jesse Singal interviewed several of them for a cover story in the Atlantic last year and was promptly rounded on by trans activists who accused him of exaggerating the scale of the problem.

What is harder to dispute is that the vast majority of minors who identify as trans do, eventually, change their minds. (The technical term for these children is “desisters”.) According to the latest edition of the DSM, 70 to 98% of gender dysphoric boys and 50 to 88% of gender dysphoric girls come to accept their chromosomal sex over time. Partly for this reason, the American Psychological Association cautions against immediately embracing a trans child’s self-diagnosis, even early on, when no medical interventions are on the table, since doing so “runs the risk of neglecting individual problems the child might be experiencing and may involve an early gender role transition that might be challenging to reverse if cross-gender feelings do not persist”.

I’ve tried to be even-handed in this article, but as you can probably tell I lean towards the sceptics. There are some thoughtful clinicians who, while endorsing the “affirmative care” approach in principle, believe it’s possible to be supportive of adolescents who present as trans without rubber-stamping their self-diagnosis. Jesse Singal encountered some of these in the course of reporting his piece for The Atlantic. “I would say ‘affirming’ isn’t always doing exactly what the kid says they want in the moment,” one told him. Another said: “Our role as clinicians isn’t to confirm or disconfirm someone’s gender identity – it’s to help them explore it with a little bit more nuance.”

After surveying all the evidence, it’s hard not to agree with Jane Galloway, the parent activist who told the Sunday Times that the militantly affirmative approach borders on recklessness.

“People are embarking on medical transitions they may not need or want in the end,” she said. “I fear greatly that in 10 to 15 years’ time, we will find ourselves with a slew of young adults with mutilated bodies, no sexual function, who will turn round to the NHS and ask, ‘Why did you let us do this?’”


I have little doubt that some children identifying as TGNC have a genuine case of Gender Dysphoria and will lead happier, more fulfilling lives if they transition. The tricky thing is that word “genuine”. How can you tell? The DSM sets out various diagnostic criteria, but what if an adolescent failing that test insists they are dysphoric nevertheless? It’s one thing to dispute a child’s self-diagnosis of a physiological condition, but telling them they’re dysphoric feelings are “all in the head” doesn’t really cut the mustard. After all, isn’t the head where gender identity is supposed to sit?

One way out of this conundrum may be provided by neuroscience. Various teams of brain researchers have done MRI scans of trans people and found that, when it comes to specific areas of the brain, they have more in common with cisgender people of the opposite sex than with people of the same sex. That suggests there may be a neurobiological basis for our gender identity and it could be at odds with our natal sex.

It’s important to stress that the evidence for this is fairly limited to date, partly because there just aren’t that many transgender people around to study – not until recently, anyway – and partly because MRI scans are expensive to do and research funding is scarce.

Dr Qazi Rahman of King’s College London thinks it’s a plausible hypothesis. His area of expertise is the neurobiology of sexual orientation and he says it might be that gender identity is “innate” in the same way that being straight or gay is, something for which there’s a good deal of research evidence.

“Could people be born with gendered brains that are at odds with their natal sex?” he says. “Yes, they could. The brain systems involved in gender identity might be the same as those involved in self-recognition and recognizing others and it’s possible that those systems could get swapped around in transgender people.”

However, he says it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. Some MRI scans show that transgender people have more in common with the brains of cisgender people of the opposite sex than the same sex, but some don’t. The picture is complicated if you factor in sexual orientation – and that’s assuming you can sort out how to classify transgender people as “gay” or “straight”. Finally, gender identity may be less fixed in children than it is in adults and that could influence the findings of brain imaging studies. “There isn’t really a compelling signal in the noise at the moment,” he says.

I quite like this hypothesis because it contradicts the post-modern shibboleth that gender is a “social construct”. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons for the schism between trans activists and “gender critical” feminists. If gender is rooted in biology, as some in the trans community maintain, that suggests the broad differences between males and females – differences that persist across societies, across time and even across some species – are less easily eradicated than most feminists would like. That’s not an argument for eroding women’s rights, obviously, but it means the emphasis on achieving gender parity at every level in every profession could be wrong-headed. Perhaps, at a population level, men and women to have different interests and should be allowed to purse them without being chastised by ‘social justice’ advocates. The idea that these gender differences might float free of chromosomal sex, at least for a fraction of the population, is a novel one and I’m still not sure what to make of it. But if the evidence for this hypothesis becomes overwhelming, we will have to accept it. (One reason to think it might be true is that some children identify as transgender from a very young age, almost as soon as they start talking.) It could also provide us with a useful diagnostic tool for deciding whether a person really is gender dysphoric. Not with a view to denying adults with “normal” brains the right to transition, but to accurately diagnosing minors presenting as transgender before discussing treatment options.

In the meantime, schools should avoid parroting every word of the pro-trans lobby. I think it’s sensible for them to have a transgender policy, but it shouldn’t be bundled together with their policy on lesbian, gay and bisexual children – we need to separate the “T” from “LGBT”. Affirming and validating the self-diagnoses of children who identify as one of the first three makes sense, not least because there’s no attendant risk of them going on to make irreversible, life-changing decisions. A teenager can decide she’s bisexual one minute, a lesbian the next, and straight a year later. If she changes her mind, there’s no harm done. But if a natal female decides they’re transgender and then injects massive doses of testosterone and has “top surgery”, only to then have a change of heart, that would be tragic.

A majority of teens presenting as TGNC don’t go on to have these procedures and schools probably shouldn’t fret about the growing number of children who want to experiment with different gender labels. The risk of treating them all with the same furrowed-browed intensity, nodding along gravely when they say they’re “non-binary” or “tri-gender” and handing them leaflets about transitioning, is that they’ll take what may be a temporary phase more seriously than they should. We owe it to adolescents at risk of making medical mistakes to urge caution and not just unthinkingly applaud their “honesty” and pack them off to private clinics. Schools need to find the courage to stand up to the trans activists and not let them dictate best practice in this area. Teachers would be better off trusting to their common sense.

The unending war against masculinity and men

Column I wrote for the Spectator on the American Psychological Association’s guidance on how to treat men and boys. It was published on 12th January 2019. 


For the first time in its history, the American Psychological Association (APA) has issued guidelines for mental health professionals working with men and boys. That may not sound like a momentous event, but the APA is a powerful body in the US. It has 117,500 members, including the vast majority of practising psychologists, and an annual budget of $115 million. Its guidance documents carry the imprimatur of scientific authority and are hugely influential when it comes to policies and behaviour in public institutions. This edict will be referred to by university administrators when policing sexual interactions on campus, by the courts when deciding who to award custody to in divorce hearings and by HR departments when assessing complaints about male employees. It’s not an exaggeration to say this new guidance will affect the lives of millions of men and boys for years to come.

I cannot claim to have read the entire 30,000-word document, but I’ve got the gist: masculinity is a bad, bad thing. Traditional male qualities like courage, self-reliance, competitiveness, stoicism, personal ambition and a love of adventure are ‘psychologically harmful’. On the face of it, men and boys might appear to benefit from ‘patriarchy’ — after all, 95.2 per cent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are men — but in reality the emotional repression needed to maintain this ‘privilege’ exacts a terrible toll. It is the ethical duty of psychologists, as well as parents, teachers, coaches, religious and community leaders, to root out these masculine pathologies and help men become… well, less manly.

If you’re in any doubt about the takeover of the American psychological profession by grievance studies professors, look no further than these guidelines. There’s scarcely a sentence that isn’t freighted with the ideology of the social justice left. Gender is ‘socially constructed’ and ‘non-binary’; sex is ‘assigned at birth’ rather than observed and recorded; ‘dominant masculinity’ is historically dependent on ‘the exclusion of men who are not white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and privileged’; psychologists should learn about ‘the impact of racism and homophobia on the behaviour and mental health of boys and men’ and ‘counter the damaging effects of microaggressions’; on it goes. Racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism… blah, blah, blah. The word ‘transgender’ occurs more often (56) than ‘masculine’ (53). This isn’t impartial, evidence-based advice. It’s a manifesto.

Needless to say, this identitarian mumbo jumbo is about as ‘scientific’ as the ravings of David Icke. The ‘unhealthy’ male characteristics the APA believes are created by ‘gender stereotypes’, such as a reluctance to spend hours talking about your feelings, are not foisted on men by white, heteronormative society. Rather, they’re rooted in our biological nature. Contrary to the postmodernist dogma that the differences between men and women are ‘socially constructed’, men exhibit the same basic qualities regardless of what sort of society they’re brought up in. The psychological drives experts attribute to ‘Western culture’, such as territorial aggression, date back to the emergence of homo sapiens from the primeval forest. Indeed, many masculine traits are cross-species, too. When baby monkeys are given the option of playing with toys, the males choose trucks and the females pick dolls. The traditional male characteristics these pseudoscientists are objecting to are part of our ineradicable essence.

What does appear to be genuinely psychologically harmful is this unending war on masculinity. The effect of telling men that their desire to protect and provide is ‘sexist’, as well as persuading women they’re better off without us, has been to unleash an epidemic of family breakdown. A whopping 25 per cent of American children are being raised by single mothers. No doubt the APA thinks boys who grow up without fathers are better off. After all, they’ve been spared exposure to noxious male role models. But the grim reality is they’re more likely to drop out of school, become alcohol and drug addicts and end up in the criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, the men who’ve been told that they’re no longer needed spend their lives playing video games, getting addicted to opioids and, in increasing numbers, committing suicide. The average life expectancy of American males last year was 76, down for the second year in a row. If the APA is looking for toxicity, it should start by examining itself.

Why are we lying to ourselves about trans rights?

Column I wrote for the Spectator about why so few people in public life challenge trans orthodoxy. Published on 1st December 2018.

On 21 November, a debate took place in the House of Commons about proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender people to self-identify as men or women. Among the public, this is a widely discussed issue, with most echoing the concerns of feminists about the risks of allowing biological males to enter women’s changing rooms, etc. But until last week the issue hadn’t been debated in the Commons, partly because MPs who have reservations about changing the law are afraid to speak out. Sure enough, nearly all the backbench MPs who contributed to the debate toed the line of the trans-rights activists.

The ex-lobby correspondent James Kirkup, now director of the Social Market Foundation, has become a must-read commentator on this issue and he recently disclosed he’s been keeping a ‘private list’ of people who’ve told him they’re deeply worried about gender self-identification, but haven’t said anything: ‘That list includes: more than a dozen government ministers (including cabinet members); several Labour frontbenchers; numerous backbench MPs (the majority female); lots of BBC journalists (some very famous); charity executives; senior business people; teachers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals; and lots of ‘ordinary’ women who can’t understand why the potential implications of a law change are not being addressed.’

Kirkup describes their refusal to speak up as a ‘political failure’ — the worst he’s witnessed since he began covering British politics in 1994 — and ascribes it to the aggressive tactics of the trans lobby. Numerous feminists have been targeted for challenging these activists, the most recent being Jenni Murray, the presenter of Woman’s Hour, who had to cancel a talk she was due to give at Oxford University after being accused of ‘transphobia’ by LGBTQ+ students. Her sin was to write an article last year headlined: ‘Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a “real woman”.’

This strikes me as a classic case of ‘preference falsification’, the concept first introduced by the social scientist Timur Kuran in his 1995 book Private Truths, Public Lies. The idea is that people sometimes falsify what it is they genuinely believe, either to curry favour with a powerful group or to avoid any negative consequences of expressing dissent. If Kuran was merely pointing out that people do this when their views are deeply unpopular there would be nothing particularly interesting about ‘preference falsification’ — it would be entirely rational. But he notes that we also hide what we feel about issues when the vast majority share our views. Why? Because we aren’t aware that plenty of others think as we do.

When it comes to the issue of gender self–identification, the relevant constituency is not the public. Most politicians, doctors, BBC journalists etc who are afraid to voice their concerns are aware that a majority think a person’s gender is determined by their biological sex and trans women should not be given ready access to women-only spaces. But on this issue, they would no more be guided by the public than they would on capital punishment or immigration. Indeed, their default position is probably to treat the majority view on a subject like this as highly suspect because they think of ordinary people as narrow–minded bigots. Rather, the relevant group are other educated, professional folk like themselves — the intelligentsia. These are the people they are all too happy to defer to and on this issue they think the majority of their peers subscribe to the trans orthodoxy.

They’re almost certainly wrong, but the fact that most members of the intelligentsia share their scepticism isn’t common knowledge, and until it becomes so the trans lobby will continue to hold sway. It’s this that makes the shaming tactics of these activists so effective. Dissent is stifled, not just because anyone expressing it is punished, but also because, with so few people willing to brave these brickbats, the impression is created that the majority of the chattering classes believe the law should be reformed. Until there’s an ‘Emperor’s No Clothes’ moment, people will carry on indulging in ‘preference falsification’.

I like this theory because it doesn’t just apply to this particular bit of progressive dogma, but to the entire panoply of social justice ideology. Its high priests have mastered the art of creating the impression that their neo-Marxist beliefs are much more widespread than they really are.

In the crazy world of identity politics, facts don’t matter

Column I wrote for the Spectator about a Thomson Reuters poll which identified the United States as one of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world for women. It was published on 7th July 2018.


According to a poll of 538 experts on women’s issues, the United States is one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for women. Admittedly, America is ranked tenth, but it’s still considered more dangerous than 183 other countries, including Iran, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh and Myanmar. That’s quite a claim when you bear in mind that Iranian women caught not wearing a full hijab are routinely sentenced to 74 lashes, that an estimated 94 per cent of women in Sierra Leone have had their genitals mutilated, and that thousands of Rohingya women and girls have been raped by Myanmar’s soldiers and militiamen in the past year. What can these so-called experts be thinking?

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which carried out the survey, it was a ‘perception poll’. In other words, none of the standard data metrics used to evaluate how dangerous a country is for women, such as the incidence of sexual violence, were used. Instead, the respondents were asked to name the five countries in six different categories that they perceived to be the most dangerous. A clue as to how objective they tried to be has been provided by Zakia Soman, a women’s rights activist and one of the ‘experts’ polled. When asked by the BBC why she had ranked India above Somalia and Saudi Arabia — India came top in the poll — she explained that she was holding India to a higher standard because it’s a democracy. But surely she wasn’t being asked to judge countries according to whether they lived up to their own ideals, just how dangerous they are, plain and simple? ‘It’s not about the ranking,’ she snapped. ‘Our society is ruled by misogyny and patriarchy.’

This poll is the latest illustration of how little regard the practitioners of identity politics have for empirical reality. I’ve been collecting instances of this phenomenon for a book I’m thinking of writing about the identitarian left and have come across the following examples: gender is a social construct (although the people making that claim also claim that greater gender equality will produce better outcomes, e.g. in households, workplaces and legislative chambers, which is odd if men and women are essentially the same); all women are oppressed; all men are misogynists; climate change is, in part, caused by misogyny; all white people are privileged; all white people are racists; Britain, the United States and Australia are among the most racist countries in the world; the British Empire was an endless procession of oppression and exploitation, including the Royal Navy’s century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, and anyone suggesting otherwise is a white supremacist; challenging progressive orthodoxies on campus, such as the view that gender is a choice and men who identify as women should be allowed to compete as women in women’s sports, is a form of hate speech that causes harm to victim groups, e.g., endangers their safety and damages their mental health; equality of opportunity leads to equality of outcome — ‘equity’ in the language of the identitarian left; and end-state equality can be maintained without the need for constant interventions by a coercive state, e.g., the state can just ‘wither away’, as it did in… well never, but that’s only because true socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

The mystery I’m trying to unravel is: how can the people making these claims believe them when they are so transparently false? A clue was provided by an orientation leaflet given to freshers at Brown University in 2015 — a leaflet produced by the college authorities — which condemned ‘quantitative data, statistical information and documentation through written word’ as tools of ‘-systematic oppression’ and urged students to set more store by ‘personal experiences’. Presumably, the same attitude underpinned the decision of Thomson Reuters to ask 538 experts to rank countries according to their perception of which posed the most danger to women rather than by anything so oppressive as facts. As far as I can tell, this dismissal of empirical reality is rooted in the post-modernist critique of scientific epistemology. There is no such thing as objective truth, just competing narratives that favour the interests of different groups, and the attempt to privilege one narrative by labelling it ‘scientific fact’ or ‘knowledge’ is just a rhetorical device used by white men to maintain their power.

So there you have it. America is one of the ten most dangerous countries for women because 538 experts on women’s issues say it is and anyone who challenges them is engaging in systematic oppression. Welcome to the madhouse that is identity politics.

Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

Essay on male-female differences that was published in Quillette on 24th May 2018.


A fascinating paper about sex differences in the human brain was published last week in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex. It’s the largest single-sample study of structural and functional sex differences in the human brain ever undertaken, involving over 5,000 participants (2,466 male and 2,750 female). The study has been attracting attention for more than a year (see this preview in Science, for instance), but only now has it been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For those who believe that gender is a social construct, and there are no differences between men and women’s brains, this paper is something of a reality check. The team of researchers from Edinburgh University, led by Stuart Ritchie, author of Intelligence: All That Matters, found that men’s brains are generally larger in volume and surface area, while women’s brains, on average, have thicker cortices. ‘The differences were substantial: in some cases, such as total brain volume, more than a standard deviation,’ they write. This is not a new finding – it has been known for some time that the total volume of men’s brains is, in general, larger than that of women’s, even when adjusted for men’s larger average body size – but all the studies before now have involved much smaller sample sizes.

Does this paper have any implications when it comes to men and women’s intellectual abilities? The answer is yes, but they’re not clear cut.

On the one hand, feminists won’t like this confirmation that men, on average, have bigger brains than women because there’s a well-established connection between total brain volume and IQ. That was the conclusion of the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis that looked at 88 studies involving 148 mixed sex samples comparing magnetic resonance images of people’s brains with their cognitive test scores. They found that the association between brain volume and cognitive ability was positive in children and adults, applied across a range of different IQ domains (full-scale, performance and verbal IQ) and was true of both men and women. According to another study led by Richard Haier, author of The Neuroscience of Intelligence, total brain volume accounts for about 16 per cent of the variance in IQ.

Remember, we’re just talking about mean differences between men and women’s brains – as Ritchie and his team point out, there is a substantial degree of overlap between the sexes on all their measures. Nonetheless, if there is a positive correlation between total brain volume and intelligence, and men generally have larger brains than women, doesn’t that mean that men are, in aggregate, more intelligent than women?

Not so fast. Don’t forget that Ritchie’s team also found that women’s brains, on average, have thicker cortices than men’s and there’s some evidence linking intelligence with the thickness of the cerebral cortex. For instance, this 2009 study of 216 children found a positive association between cortical thickness and general cognitive ability, as did this 2013 study. However, this finding is less robust than the link between total brain volume and IQ, with some studies failing to replicate it and others both replicating it and seeming to contradict it at the same time. For instance, this 2015 paper involving 514 subjects found that the association between cognitive ability and cortical thickness was negative for 10-year-olds – that is, the smarter they were, the thinner their cortices – but positive for 42-year-olds.

It is worth noting that Ritchie et al – who studied more than 5,000 subjects, don’t forget – confirmed the positive association between total brain volume and intelligence. The men in their sample scored, on average, fractionally higher than the women on a test of verbal-numerical reasoning and recorded slightly faster processing speeds on another test. After extensive statistical analysis, they concluded that the modest sex differences in verbal-numerical reasoning were almost entirely due to differences in brain volumetric and surface area measures and the differences in reaction time were partly due to the same.

Ritchie’s team caution against reading too much into this finding and note that the cognitive tests given to their subjects were fairly rudimentary and their sample may not be representative of the population at large. They also point out that previous, representative studies have found no mean difference between men and women in general cognitive test performance. Back in 2017, before his paper had been peer-reviewed, Ritchie was keener to talk about another of his team’s findings, namely, that the male brains they studied were, on most measures, more variable than the female ones. He was excited about the fact that this discovery complemented a 2008 study of male-female IQ differences, also carried out by a team from Edinburgh, which found only negligible differences in the mean scores of men and women on intelligence tests, but that men outnumbered women at either end of the cognitive bell curve. So greater variability among men when it comes to cognitive ability. That was also the conclusion of a 2007 paper which found that among those scoring in the top two per cent of the Armed Forces Qualification Test, men outnumbered women by a ratio of 2:1.

Ritchie and his co-authors note that this finding has been replicated many times – ‘almost universally’ is the phrase they use – but that doesn’t mean it’s universally accepted. Far from it. When Lawrence Summers, then the President of Harvard, suggested that the higher preponderance of men on the right-hand tail of the IQ distribution curve might help to explain why there are more male than female professors in the maths and sciences at top universities, he was rounded on by almost the entire liberal establishment. Distinguished Harvard alumni withheld donations, the university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences passed a motion of no confidence in him and he was forced to apologise – over and over again – like a supplicant at a Chinese show trial. In the end, he had no choice but to tender his resignation. This controversy is thought to be the reason he didn’t get the job of Treasury Secretary in the first Obama administration.

Summers made things worse for himself by using the word ‘intrinsic’ to describe this difference between men and women, suggesting it is genetically hard-wired. ‘Research in behavioural genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialisation weren’t due to socialisation after all,’ he told TheBoston Globe. He wasn’t claiming that all men are cleverer than women, or that the average man is brighter than the average woman, or that the most able women aren’t as intelligent as the most gifted men – although many of his critics understood him to be saying those things, or at least pretended to so they could justify how outraged they were. All he was saying is that the greater variability of men’s IQ – at both tails of the distribution curve – might be rooted in genetic differences between the sexes.

You can see why such a claim would be controversial. According to most progressives, the fact that only 48 of the almost 900 people awarded Nobel Prizes since 1901 were women – and the Fields Medal has only been won by a woman once – is entirely due to social/cultural factors. If you allow that genetic differences may be a factor, then parity between men and women when it comes to intellectual eminence won’t easily be achieved. Just levelling the playing field – eliminating gender stereotypes, sexual discrimination, implicit bias, and so on – won’t be enough.

Is Summers’ right to claim that this variability difference is hard-wired? We can’t say for sure, but there are some reasons for thinking so. We know from family studies, twin studies and adoption studies that IQ is about 50 per cent heritable in adolescence, rising to 80 per cent in adulthood. It would be odd if genetic differences accounted for such a large percentage of the variance in IQ, but had no effect on its variability. We also know for certain that some cognitive differences between men and women, such as the fact that rates of Alzheimer’s disease are higher in women than men, are at least partly due to genetic differences. And other psychological differences, such as the higher rates of autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and dyslexia among men, are part-biological too. If these phenotypic differences between the sexes are genetically influenced, why not others?

Another consideration is that explanations of the gender gap in IQ variability that rely entirely on cultural/social factors aren’t very convincing. In Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, Angela Saini argues that the reason men outnumber women by 2:1 among the top two per cent when it comes to cognitive ability is because intellectually gifted boys receive more praise and encouragement than their female equivalents. She quotes Melissa Hines, a Cambridge psychologist, who believes this is why there are more highly able boys than girls. ‘I think in some social environments they don’t get encouraged at all, but I think in affluent, educated social environments, there is still a tendency to expect more from boys, to invest more in boys,’ says Hines.

If that was true, you would expect to see a greater discrepancy between the sexes in the variability of IQ among subjects from rich backgrounds than from poor backgrounds. To date, that has never been detected (although to be fair I don’t think anyone has looked for it). Even if we park that, the evidence that expecting more from children and giving them more encouragement boosts their IQscoresis pretty threadbare. (One oft-cited study that purports to show that IQ can be raised by those kinds of inputs is the Abecedarian Early Intervention Project. But the number of children in that study was only 111, with just 57 in the treatment group.) Then there’s the issue of how this same mechanism could account for the higher preponderance of men in the left-hand tail of the bell curve. Do boys who struggle with basic arithmetic receive lessencouragement than girls? How does Hines square that with her claim that we invest more in boys?

Saini points out that male science professors outnumber female science professors by a higher ratio than 2:1, suggesting that there are other factors at play – the same factors that account for why only nine per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female and why she was the only girl in her A level Chemistry class and the only engineering student in her university class.

Well, yes, there are other forces at work and some of them may be the ones Saini identifies – such as the view among employers and schoolteachers (although not many these days) that women are, on average, less able than men when it comes to science and maths, which isn’t true. But some of those other factors may also be linked to differences between men and women that don’t, on the face of it, appear to be cultural/social either.

For instance, on average women are more interested in people and men more interested in things – a gender difference that remains constant across cultures and across time, suggesting it’s at least partly biological. (See this 2010 paper by Richard Lippa.) In his now famous debate with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Jordan Peterson suggested it was this that explained why men outnumber women in professions dealing with things, such as computer science, and women outnumber men in fields dealing with people, such as nursing. Additional evidence for the same point has come from several international studies showing that the more gender equality there is in a society, the lower the percentage of women going into engineering and tech, implying it’s the result of women exercising their free will rather than misogyny, patriarchy or even low-level sexism. (See this recent article in The Atlantic headlined ‘The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM’.) Women are eschewing those fields in favour of professions like health-care (82 per cent of obstetrics and gynaecology medical residents in the US in 2016 were female) because of population-level gender differences, not because they’re victims of oppression.

One final point: women who score in the top two per cent or higher for general cognitive ability are more likely than men to get strong verbal scores, meaning they have more career options than their male counterparts. Could that be why the ratio of male to female professors in science and maths is higher than 2:1? Perhaps women capable of landing chairs in STEM subjects at top universities – like Lady Gaga, who has a genius level IQ – are more interested in other ways of using their talent. Ironically, writers like Saini who are so eager to ascribe the low numbers of female professors in science and maths to sexism are guilty of something like sexism themselves – namely, under-estimating the agency of the women who could go into these fields but choose not to.

If you’re a conservative male, making these points can result in you being depicted as a ‘custodian of the patriarchy’, as Peterson was in an absurdly one-sided New York Times profile last week. To be clear, I think the likelihood that there are genetically-based differences in men and women’s personalities – at an aggregate, population level, not to be confused with essentialist claims about every man and every woman – and that these are linked to average differences in men and women’s brains is pretty high; but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to equal rights. Saying that women have certain population-level characteristics is not the same as saying allwomen have those characteristics, so it would be irrational for an employer to discriminate against a woman, or a teacher against a female student, by citing these average differences. In any case, women are morally entitled to equal rights, regardless of their characteristics. So please don’t confuse this post with a defence of sexual discrimination. That remains wrong whether or not psychological gender differences are, in part, biological. And it follows that defenders of equal rights don’t need to continually deny the scientific evidence backing up that hypothesis. As countless others have pointed out, to maintain that equal rights are contingent upon behavioural differences being reducible to social/cultural factors is to commit the naturalistic fallacy.

The difficulty this evidence presents is not for believers in equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome. The differences between men and women are such that gender parity in STEM fields, particularly at the top of those professions, is unlikely to be achieved without some highly intrusive state interventions. And I don’t mean equal pay or paternity leave legislation which, as we’ve seen in Scandinavia, has resulted in fewer women going into engineering and tech, not more. What this data tells us is that hard gender equality of the kind favoured by intersectional feminists can only be achieved at a huge cost to human freedom, particularly the freedom of women.

Back in 2017, Stuart Ritchie cautioned against ascribing any of the differences between male and female brains to genetic differences. ‘Our manuscript is just about describing the differences, and we can’t say anything about the causes of those differences,’ he told New York magazine. But he added that it won’t be long before we’re in a position to start talking about the genetic and environmental causes of those differences – he is hoping to get his hands on imaging data for 100,000 brains soon. I have little doubt that future studies of this type involving huge sample sizes will reveal the biological underpinnings of human nature, like the genetic research looking at the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people which I’ve also written about. Whether it’s the new genetics or cutting edge neuroscience, the egalitarian left is on a collision course with science.

The Google ‘anti-diversity memo’ isn’t anything of the sort

Column for the Spectator about the controversy provoked by James Damore’s famous memo. It was published on 8th August 2017.

Earlier this week, a technology website published an internal memo written by an employee of Google called James Damore criticising the company’s efforts to diversify its workforce. This is where-angels-fear-to-tread territory. The America technology sector has come under heavy fire for a number of years for failing to hire and promote enough women and Google is currently being investigated by the US Department of Labour for allegedly under-paying its female employees. But what makes this memo particularly controversial is that Damore takes Google to task for discriminating in favour of women.

He begins by saying he is pro-diversity and accepts that one of the reasons women don’t constitute 50 per cent of the workforce in the tech industry is because of sexism. But Damore goes on to say that psychological differences between men and women are also a factor and that these differences are, in part, biologically-based. For instance, he points out that women in general are more interested in people than things, which helps to explain why fewer women than men study computer science at university and apply for programming jobs. He also says that women in general value a good work-life balance, whereas men are more inclined to work long, anti-social hours to further their careers – probably a more important reason than ‘unconscious bias’ when it comes to explaining why there aren’t more women in leadership positions in tech. He goes on to argue that, in light of these differences, positively discriminating in favour of women may end up harming Google at the expense of better-qualified, harder-working men.

Before I get to the reaction the memo has provoked, which I’m sure you can imagine, it’s worth noting one more thing. Damore laments the fact that it has become dangerous to challenge the progressive orthodoxy within the company. ‘When it comes to diversity and inclusion,’ he writes, ‘Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.’

So how did Google react? It fired Damore for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’, thereby confirming his point. This was after his memo had provoked a tsunami of moral outrage across the liberal-left. The Guardian reported the story on its front page under the headline ‘Google apologises after employee’s anti-diversity tirade’ which was doubly misleading: Damore is pro-diversity and his carefully argued 3,300-word memo is the opposite of a ‘tirade’. In a similar vein, CNN referred to the memo as an ‘anti-diversity manifesto’ and Gizmodo, the website that published the memo, called it an ‘anti-diversity screed’. As far as the liberal media is concerned, there is no such thing as a nuanced position when it comes to diversity and inclusion. You either embrace the progressive narrative about why there aren’t more women in high-powered jobs, i.e. it is solely due to bias, or you’re ‘anti-diversity’.

Almost everyone who has condemned Damore, including the female Google employee who threatened to resign if he wasn’t sacked, misunderstood what he says about gender differences. When he claims that women in general have certain characteristics – such as a lower tolerance for high levels of anxiety – he is not saying that is true of all women. Rather, it is true of women in aggregate. To illustrate this distinction, take height. Saying that American women are, on average, five inches shorter than American men is not to say that all American women are shorter than American men.

This is a distinction the author of the memo makes repeatedly, pointing out that it would be irrational for Google or anyone else to discriminate against individual women by assuming they possess these population-level characteristics. ‘Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women,’ he writes. Indeed, when I first read it, I thought Damore was guilty of belabouring the point. Yes, yes, we get it, move on. But he clearly didn’t belabour it enough because 99 per cent of those who’ve condemned the memo have made this schoolboy error.

But the most striking thing about the reaction is the number of seemingly well-educated people who’ve dismissed what he says about population-level gender differences as flat out wrong, when they are commonplaces among biologists and evolutionary psychologists – so uncontroversial as to be banal. As psychology professor Geoffrey Miller says, the memo’s ‘key claims about sex differences are especially well-supported by large volumes of research across species, cultures and history’. No wonder progressives try and silence people like Damore. They are rightly concerned that their dogma cannot survive exposure to some elementary scientific truths.

Football’s gender-reassignment surgery

Comment piece I wrote for the Mail about the feminisation of football. It was published on 1st April 2016.

In a departure from tradition, England fans at Tuesday night’s clash with Holland were told to leave their football shirts at home.

“We would love anyone attending to wear pink,” said the FA’s website. “The entire England home end will raise their flags to create an enormous pink St. George’s cross during the game. They’ll also be pink corner flags, pink volunteers, and a pink Wembley arch all making it a very memorable, and pink, occasion.”

What was the reason for this explosion of magenta?

Was it intended to complement “Rainbow Laces”, the FA’s campaign to persuade football fans not to shout “homophobic” abuse at opposing teams? Then again, such chants are usually directed at Brighton and Hove Albion rather than Holland.

Or was it an attempt by the FA to raise awareness of the England women’s team’s forthcoming game against Belgium? Unlike last night’s match, which was sold out, plenty of tickets for that fixture remain unsold.

In fact, it was designed to promote Breast Cancer Care, the FA’s official charity partner.

There’s no question this is a worthy cause – one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes – but what’s it got to do with football? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the FA to raise money for a disease that affects men, such as prostate cancer?

Then again, perhaps it was fitting that Tuesday’s England match was awash with pink shirts, pink ribbons and pink flags. After all, football, along with rugby, boxing, cricket and every other traditionally male sport, has been forced to undergo gender re-assignment surgery in the past few years.

An area of life that used to be associated with men has been colonized by politically-correct women, determined to prove a point about gender equality even though few of them have any genuine interest in the sports in question.

A case in point is the plethora of female presenters employed by BBC Sport, almost as if some directive had been issued by the EU telling publicly funded broadcasters they have to employ as many women as men to talk about football and rugby on our screens.

I’m thinking of Gabby Logan, Sue Barker, Suzi Perry, Hazel Irvine and the ubiquitous Clare Balding. Okay, they’re competent broadcasters, but are they all there on merit? Or is the BBC engaged in a box-ticking exercise?

Until recently, it was customary for the wives and girlfriends of football-obsessed men to treat their partners’ passion with good-humoured resignation. So what if it took them away from the family home for a few hours a week? It was a chance to let off steam with their mates, one of the few areas in modern society in which it was still acceptable to engage in a bit of traditional masculine behaviour.

No longer. These days, going to a football match is more like attending a re-education camp organised by the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution.

If you’re not being asked to wear rainbow laces or pink ribbons, you’re being bombarded with anti-racist and anti-sexist messages. It’s like a 90-minutes civics lesson taught by Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott.

There’s something to be said for all of these causes, of course. But is a football stadium on match day the right place to promote them?

Perhaps it’s understandable that the powers-that-be in football should be so determined to clean up the sport’s image. After all, it’s not as if it’s had a good year.

First we had the FIFA scandal in which 14 officials were indicted in connection with the FBI’s ongoing corruption probe, culminating in the removal of Sepp Blatter as President.

Then we had the trial of Sunderland winger Adam Johnson for having engaged in sexual activity with an underage fan while his partner was pregnant with his child. The former England international was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison last week.

The behaviour of football supporters has scarcely been any better.

Last month, the West Bromwich Albion player Chris Brunt was hit in the face by a coin thrown by one of his own fans.

And there was the appalling incident in France last year when a group of Chelsea supporters, in town to see their team play Paris Saint-Germain, pushed a black commuter out of a Metro carriage, chanting: “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”

But is it fair to blame a whole sport for the behaviour of a few bad apples?

The world of tennis has been rocked by scandal recently, with several top seeds being accused of match fixing and Maria Sharapova failing a drugs test.

Yet no one has suggested that tennis fans should be subjected to lectures on ethics and the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs when they take their seats at Wimbledon later this year.

The reason Football is an easy target is because it’s so closely associated with men. In today’s feminised world, overt masculinity is taboo and any activity in which intense competition is celebrated and physical aggression rewarded must be “modernised” for the good of society.

I witnessed this at first hand in my eight-year-old son’s football league in Chiswick, West London. This season, all competitive games have been banned. As one official explained to me, the “boys and girls” get “too worked up” if there’s anything at stake so every game must now be a “friendly”.

There are still cup days in which the players notionally compete against each other, but none of the teams are eliminated and at the end of the tournament all the “competitors” get a gold medal to hang round their necks.

I briefly flirted with the idea of signing my son up with the local rugby club instead, but there seemed little point. The commissars of political correctness are determined to root out all traces of manliness from that sport as well.

Earlier this month, a group of so-called “experts” wrote a letter to minsters, chief medical officers and children’s commissioners calling for a ban on tackling. The letter, which was orchestrated by Professor Allyson Pollock of Queen Mary University, said: “We have become increasingly concerned about the harms and risks of injuries to children playing school rugby.”

Never mind that children are more likely to be injured crossing the road than tossing around an oval-shaped ball. Rugby is still considered a male sport and, as such, it requires “fixing”, in much the same way that a male dog is “fixed” by its metropolitan owners.

If Professor Pollock has her way, it will shortly be transformed into a glorified game of tag.

Perhaps I’m getting worked up about nothing. After all, the England football team looks better now than it has at any time since 1990, when we reached the semi-final of the World Cup. If the sport has been “feminised”, maybe it’s all to the good.

But it would be nice if fans of the game and other male sports aren’t constantly made to feel like old-fashioned dinosaurs, out of touch with the modern world. Is it too much to ask to allow us to indulge in a bit of chest beating and turkey cocking for an hour-and-a-half once a week? We’ll be good little girls the rest of the time, we promise.

Why men don’t want it all

Feature I wrote for the Telegraph about why some men aren’t that keen on combining their careers with childcare. It was published on 26th April 2013.

Desperate Dad
A typical morning in the Young household

I’m often asked by programmes like Women’s Hour and Loose Women if I want to be the token male in a discussion about “work-life balance issues”. Some all-conquering female CEO of a Californian Internet company has just written a book about the difficulties of “having it all” and they want to know if I’d like to put the male point of view. After all, don’t men with successful careers also worry about not spending enough time with their children?

I always say no. That’s partly because, for me, the difficulty is the other way round. I worry about not spending enough time on my career. As a freelance journalist who works from home, I’m lucky if I can carve out 10 minutes in the day away from my children. It doesn’t help that I’ve got four of them, all under ten. Trying to convince them that making real money is more important than playing Monopoly is extremely difficult.

But there’s another reason I avoid such discussions, one that’s difficult to admit to in public. And it’s this: I don’t really enjoy spending time with my children. That sounds brutal, but I don’t think it’s just me. I think it’s true of most men, at least when their children are as young as mine. Few fathers would fess up to this in front of their wives, but in private, amongst themselves, the main topic of conversation is the sheer horror of having to look after young children.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some good moments.

I enjoy taking them swimming at the local sports club on Saturday mornings and I like sitting down with them at mealtimes, particularly if my wife Caroline has done a roast. But the majority of the time it’s pretty horrendous.

Take bath and bed, which I’ve been doing every night for the best part of 10 years. At 6.15pm, no matter what sort of day I’ve had, Caroline turns over responsibility for the kids to me. By 6.16pm, she’s uncorked a bottle of wine, retreated to the sitting room and started watching Gray’s Anatomy. I then have to persuade all four of them to get undressed, get into the bath, get into their pajamas, do their teeth, get into bed and turn out the light. And they are not merely reluctant. They are hell bent on resistance.

As far as they’re concerned, asking them to perform any of these tasks – rather than, say, letting them watch television or play video games – flies in the face of natural justice. They puff themselves up with moral indignation, completely outraged that I should have so little regard for their feelings, even though this has been the nightly ritual for every single day of their lives. The phrase “herding kittens” doesn’t do it justice. It’s like trying to herd a group of tiny lawyers, all of whom are convinced that “herding” is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As for getting them to do their homework, forget it. Now we’re running afoul of even more serious international laws – the United Nations Convention Against Torture, for instance. And I’m talking about what it’s like for me, not them. The screaming, the crying, the door slamming… it’s complete purgatory. If I was a member of a terrorist cell, I would gladly give up all my comrades rather than endure another second of this.

Call me a bad father, but the prospect of having to sacrifice these “pleasures” to spend more time at the office does not fill me with horror. That is, if I had an office. A little berth in Soho somewhere, with superfast broadband and an espresso machine, is my idea of heaven. Among my male friends with young children, it has become a standing joke that weekdays and weekends have swapped places. We used to hate weekdays and look forward to weekends. Now it’s the other way round.

Do the majority of men feel this way? Of course they do. A more interesting question is: Do the majority of women feel this way, too? Whenever I talk to women about this, they’re quick to point out that they don’t get any pleasure from making their children do their homework, either. Indeed, it’s precisely because childcare is so difficult and boring that they want their male partners to take on their share of the burden.

My wife feels no qualms about handing the children over to me at 6.15pm because she’s done two school runs at that point, negotiated a complicated timetable of after-school clubs and given them their supper. (Remember the PG Tips advert with the chimps? Enough said.)

Which is another reason I find it difficult to discuss work-life balance with high-flying career women. For the most part, the only reason they think they’re missing out is because they’ve spent so little time with their children. If they knew how difficult it is to persuade their little darlings that “crisps” aren’t one of the major food groups, they’d thank their lucky stars they never get home from work until 8pm. They imagine they’re missing some mythical, golden, just-before-bed-time period in which their children curl up in their laps, smelling of soap and toothpaste, while they read them a Beatrix Potter story. In reality, it’s World War III.

Even the women who know this are unlikely to admit it because they’re wracked with guilt. This is the crucial difference between men and women in my experience. It’s not that mums enjoy looking after their kids any more than dads. Of course they don’t. They’re not morons. Rather, it’s that women don’t get as much pleasure from their careers because they feel guilty about not spending more time with their children.

Some feminists argue that these feelings of guilt are socially constructed – a psychological control mechanism devised by the architects of the patriarchal society to keep women in their place. But I think they’re hardwired into women’s DNA.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former member of the Obama administration and the author of a controversial essay in the Atlantic entitled ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’, acknowledges this.

‘I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job,’ she writes. Why? Not because of gender stereotyping or social conditioning, but because women have a ‘maternal imperative’ that’s hard for them to ignore. Children simply have a greater emotional claim on their mothers than their fathers. Some women can resist it and some genuinely don’t feel it. But as a general rule, mothers find not doing the school run even harder to cope with than doing it. Which is really saying something. (Yes, I sometimes do the school run as well.)

My wife is a full-time mum and you’d think I’d be happy with that, given my views on men and childcare. But I can’t help comparing myself with my father and thinking what a good deal he had. The division of labour between him and my mum was simple: he was the breadwinner and my mum was the caregiver. Now, thanks to some weird twist of post-feminist logic, I’m a full-time breadwinner and a part-time caregiver. My wife’s attitude is that being a full-time mum is a job just like mine. After the working day is over, we should split the childcare fifty-fifty.

If only I lived in a more traditional feminist household in which my wife had a real job. Men in dual-income households actually do less childcare than me. To begin with, their wives tend to overcompensate for their absence by hiring an army of domestic servants – nannies, cleaners, cooks. Even when their jobs don’t pay them well enough to be able to afford all this help, they make sure their mums come round to lend a hand.

But it’s when their partners come back from work that the real difference kicks in. Instead of expecting the childcare to be shared at the weekends, as my wife does, working women want to spend every spare minute with their children to assuage the guilt they feel about not having seen them during the week. As a result, they’re quite content for their husbands to go off to the football on Saturday afternoons and spend Sunday mornings on the golf course. I should say at this point that Caroline does allow me to go and watch QPR every other week. She’s good like that. But she insists I take all four children with me.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m whinging about my domestic arrangements. Generally speaking, it all works pretty well. If I didn’t do bath-and-bed every night, Caroline would have gone round the bend long ago. (“I’d kill them,” is how she puts it.) And I know this is highly controversial, but I think my children are probably better off being cared for by their mother and me than they would be if they were being looked after by a succession of nannies. The rewards of being a hands-on dad are few and far between, but when they do come they can pack quite a punch. Sometimes, just after I’ve read my four-year-old a story and turned out the light, he says, “I love you dad”. That produces almost as much euphoria as the first glass of wine.

But the reason you’re unlikely to hear men with good careers complaining about their work-life balance is because, with a few exceptions, they’re not interested in more “life” and less “work”. For them, 15 minutes before bedtime and a kick-about on Saturday morning is more than enough “quality time” with their kids. Until they’re old enough to go sailing or skiing – then it’s a different story.

Some men will deny this, of course, and I’m not saying they’re all liars. But any man who tells you he gets genuine pleasure from watching his child play a star in the school nativity play – for the fourth year in a row! – is a dirty fibber.

What’s happened to the chaps?

Column in the Spectator about the emergence of a terrifying new genetic hybrid: half-man, half-Barbie doll. It was published on 18th September 2010.

Bad news this week for those who fear we’re becoming a nation of girlie men. According to a survey carried out by Demos, a third of men who graduated from university this summer would give up their careers to care for their children. In addition, more than half the men surveyed said they frequently dress up in women’s clothing, while 66 per cent admitted they still hide behind the sofa during Doctor Who.

Okay, I made that last part up, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The feminisation of the latest generation of young men never ceases to amaze me. With their long, blow-dried hair, their expensive designer clothes, their ‘man bags’ and jewellery, they are like some terrifying new genetic hybrid: half-man, half-Barbie doll. God help us all if President Ahmadinejad ever decides to launch an invasion. If these milksops are responsible for the defence of the realm, the mullahs will be in Downing Street within 24 hours.

Whatever happened to the solid yeomanry of England? The obvious answer is to blame the Femi-Nazis. The relentless feminist critique of masculinity that has been blaring out of our schools and universities since the 1960s has taken its toll. Today’s young men have been ideologically programmed to believe that any overt display of masculinity — tucking their shirts in, for instance — would be an endorsement of ‘the patriarchy’. Far better to make common cause with the oppressed by using moisturiser and eating salad.

No doubt that’s part of it, but there’s also something less rational going on. Martin Amis’s analysis, as advanced in The Pregnant Widow, is that it’s women’s sexual liberation that has frightened the horses, not the endless theorising that’s accompanied it. Men simply can’t deal with women expressing sexual desire — it reduces them to timid little mice. We can cope when women burn their bras. It’s seeing them take them off and beckon us towards them that has left us castrated.

The problem with this explanation is that there’s little evidence the latest generation of men are having less sex. I went to a wedding recently at which the groom was an ex-public schoolboy in his twenties. No more prime specimen of girlie manhood are you likely to see. Here was Osric from Hamlet made flesh, a prancing popinjay of prettification. He’d probably spent more getting his hair done than the bride had spent on her dress. It was stomach-churning.

Yet the effect of this wet noodle on the assembled women was electrifying. As he got up on stage and started telling his bride how much he loved her, bursting into tears within 30 seconds, they literally began to drool. For them, this Barbie Man was the new masculine ideal. And let me tell you, his bride was an absolute knockout. In the good old days, men would have conquered continents for less. Yet here she was, giving herself to a man she probably could have beaten in a fight.

No, it isn’t that men have become more girlish as they’ve become more asexual. Rather, they’re being sexually rewarded for symbolically castrating themselves. To all intents and purposes, today’s young men have swapped places with women, parading in front of them like peacocks, while the newly empowered sisterhood stand on the sidelines, pointing at the men they want brought to their bedchambers.

And why have men done this? Why have they forfeited their role as protectors and breadwinners? Why do a third of university graduates want to put on aprons and clean up baby sick? Because it is so much easier than being a man. Kipling had it right. There’s no higher standard to which men can hold themselves – ‘And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son’ – so it’s hardly surprising they’ve have run crying into their mothers’ arms. I blame the feminists, but not for beating men into submission. Their crime was to give men the licence they craved to surrender all by themselves.

There is a glimmer of hope in all this. As the high ground of mascul-inity has been deserted by men, women have rushed in to claim it for themselves. If you’re looking for courage, tenacity and strength, look no further than the current generation of young women. When the mullahs cross the English Channel, it’ll be this lot they’ll have to contend with. While their boyfriends are at home nursing their broken nails, these harridans will be manning machine-gun posts.

From Patriarch to Patsy

Review of Michael Lewis’s Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood that appeared in the Wall St Journal on 16th May 2009.

Jerry Seinfeld once joked that if a Martian landed in New York and saw a bunch of humans following behind their dogs, scooping up their poop and placing it in little plastic bags, he would conclude that dogs are in charge on this planet. He would think the same if he observed kids and their dads in any city in America. And unlike in Seinfeld’s example, the Martian would be right.

In the most affluent parts of the Western World, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade union movement, the women’s movement or the civil rights movement — and it hasn’t even been accompanied by its own movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children. Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all — they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don’t guide their children through the moral quandaries of life; they guide them to their extra-curricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge Minivan.

This is a subject crying out for book-length treatment and, on the face of it, Michael Lewis is just the man to provide it. Not only does he have a gift for nailing contemporary social trends — Liar’s Poker anticipated America’s love affair with Wall Street that began in the early Eighties — but he’s capable of writing about familiar material in a way that’s fresh and exciting, as he proved in Moneyball, his book about baseball. Who better to write a field guide to the modern American male and his struggle to cope with the fact that he has lost an empire and has not yet found a role?

Home Game, Mr Lewis’s account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. “At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and — let us be frank — got fleeced,” he writes. The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks — tasks that his own father was barely aware of — and received nothing in return. If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr Lewis, “Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight.” American men now find themselves in the same position as Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Having done the decent thing, and ceded power without bloodshed, they are now looked on with good-humored disdain. (Full disclosure: I am a father of four living in London and can confirm that the situation for British men is no better.)

This is good stuff — the modern male is a pitiful creature — and it is followed by plenty of examples from Mr Lewis’s own life. No sooner has his first daughter arrived than he is transformed into a surrendered husband, forced to take her to a succession of “Mommy and me” classes. At one point, while living in Paris, he ends up in a swimming pool with “a dozen scantily clad Frenchmen”, all accompanied by their newborn babies. It isn’t long before he has been thoroughly brainwashed by the politically correct mumbo-jumbo that passes for wisdom on “parenting courses”. “I understood that my job was no longer to force the party line upon Quinn,” he writes. “My job was to validateher feelings.” His wife, who used to look up to him as a glamorous writer, begins to view him as an “unreliable employee”.

Mr Lewis writes beautifully about his fall in status, but what’s missing from Home Game is the trenchant social and economic analysis that he brings to his other subjects. In the ‘Introduction’, he hints at what this might consist of, comparing the absence of any agreed rules about the rights and responsibilities of modern fathers with a marketplace in which there’s no acknowledged fair price for a particular good. “Obviously, we’re in the midst of some long unhappy transition between the model of fatherhood as practiced by my father and some ideal model, approved by all, to be practiced with ease by the perfect fathers of the future,” he writes.

That sounds like a good starting point for a Grand Theory of Fatherhood, but it never materializes. Instead, Home Game consists of an endless series of set pieces — Mr Lewis at a Gymboree class, Mr Lewis in the Delivery Suite, Mr Lewis at a children’s party. Funny though these are, you can’t help wondering: Where’s the intellectual meat?

It is only when you reach the ‘Acknowledgements’ that all becomes clear. “Much of this book appeared over the last eight years as part of a peripatetic series in Slate,” he writes. So that’s it: Home Game is not really a book at all, but a series of regurgitated columns. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, but it seems a bit much to ask people to pay $23.95 for material they can read online for free.

Home Game ends with Mr Lewis’s description of getting a vasectomy — at the request of his wife, naturally. Having submitted to metaphorical castration, he decides to go the whole nine yards. It reminded me of the final scene in Stepford Wives in which we see the lobotomized Elizabeth Ross wandering down a supermarket aisle. Mr Lewis laughs off the indignities of the surgical procedure, as he does all the other humiliations that his wife and children inflict on him, but beneath all the jokes there’s a sense of loss, a nostalgia for the time when father’s weren’t objects of ridicule. This is a profound and far-reaching change in American family life and it deserves more serious consideration from one of America’s finest writers.



Gender Attitudes. jpg.png

Statistical distributions

Female v Male college degrees

Male-female brain differences

HuffPo Toxic Masculinity


Considering the Male Disposability Hypothesis by Maria Kouloglou, Quillette, 3rd June 2019

A Victory for Female Athletes Everywhere by Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Quillette, 3rd May 2019

Denying the Neuroscience of Sex Differences by Larry Cahill, Quillette, 29th March 2019

A New Study Supports Evolutionary Psychology Explanation For Why Men and Women Want Different Attributes in Partners by Jesse Singal, Research Digest, British Psychological Society, 13th March 2019

Twelve Scholars Respond to the APA’s Guidance for Treating Men and Boys, Quillette, 4th February 2019

Relationship of gender differences in preferences to economic development and gender equality‘, A. Falk and J. Hermle, Science, 19th October 2018

Gender Is a Construct—Except When It’s Not by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, 17th August 2018

5 Most Ridiculous Gender Studies Papers Published by Peer Reviewed Journals by Michelle Catlin, New Media Central, 6th August 2018

Brain structure and gender dysphoria‘, J. Bakker, Endocrine Abstracts, 2018


The concept of gender identity is uniquely human. Hence we are left with the phenomenon of men and women suffering from Gender Dysphoria (GD) also known as transsexualism to study the origins of gender identity in humans. It has been hypothesized that atypical levels of sex steroids during a perinatal critical period of neuronal sexual differentiation may be involved in the development of GD. In order to test this hypothesis, we investigated brain structure and function in individuals diagnosed with GD using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Since GD is often diagnosed in childhood and puberty has been proposed to be an additional organizational period in brain differentiation, we included both prepubertal children and adolescents with GD in our studies. First, we measured brain activation upon exposure to androstadienone, a putative male chemo-signal which evokes sex differences in hypothalamic activation (women > men). We found that hypothalamic responses of both adolescent girls and boys diagnosed with GD were more similar to their experienced gender than their birth sex, which supports the hypothesis of a sex-atypical brain differentiation in these individuals. At the structural level, we analyzed both regional gray matter (GM) volumes and white matter (WM) microstructure using diffusion tensor imaging. In cis-gender girls, larger GM volumes were observed in the bilateral superior medial frontal and left pre/postcentral cortex, while cis-gender boys had more volume in the bilateral superior-posterior cerebellum and hypothalamus. Within these regions of interest representing sexually dimorphic brain structures, GM volumes of both GD groups deviated from the volumetric characteristics of their birth sex towards those of individuals sharing their gender identity. Furthermore, we found intermediate patterns in WM microstructure in adolescent boys with GD, but only sex-typical ones in adolescent girls with GD. These results on brain structure are thus partially in line with a sex-atypical differentiation of the brain during early development in individuals with GD, but might also suggest that other mechanisms are involved. Indeed, using resting state MRI, we observed GD-specific functional connectivity in the visual network in adolescent girls with GD. The latter is in support of a more recent hypothesis on alterations in brain networks important for own body perception and self-referential processing in individuals with GD.

Why women don’t code by Stuart Reges, Quillette, 19th June 2018

Why can’t we hate men? by Suzanna Danuta Walters, The Washington Post, 8th June 2018

Uncanny Vulvas by Diana Fleischman, Jacobite, 24th April 2018

Boston Marathon’s transgender policy sparks fairness debate: “We register people as they specify”, Washington Times, 9th April 2018

Debunking the male-female brain mosaic by Kevin Mitchell, Wiring the Brain, 28th August 2017

Google’s ideological echo chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion by James Damore, July 2017

Epistemic Exploitation‘, N. Berenstain, Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy, 2016


Epistemic exploitation occurs when privileged persons compel marginalized persons to educate them about the nature of their oppression. I argue that epistemic exploitation is marked by unrecognized, uncompensated, emotionally taxing, coerced epistemic labor. The coercive and exploitative aspects of the phenomenon are exemplified by the unpaid nature of the educational labor and its associated opportunity costs, the double bind that marginalized persons must navigate when faced with the demand to educate, and the need for additional labor created by the default skepticism of the privileged. I explore the connections between epistemic exploitation and the two varieties of epistemic injustice that Fricker (2007) identifies, testimonial and hermeneutical injustice. I situate epistemic exploitation within Dotson’s (2012; 2014) framework of epistemic oppression, and I address the role that epistemic exploitation plays in maintaining active ignorance and upholding dominant epistemic frameworks.

Sex is a Social Construction, Even if the Olympics Pretends it’s Not by Nathan Palmer, Sociology in Focus, 10th August 2016

Does stereotype threat influence performance of girls in stereotyped domains? A meta-analysis‘, P.C. Flore, J.M. Wicherts, Journal of Social Psychology, February 2015


Although the effect of stereotype threat concerning women and mathematics has been subject to various systematic reviews, none of them have been performed on the sub-population of children and adolescents. In this meta-analysis we estimated the effects of stereotype threat on performance of girls on math, science and spatial skills (MSSS) tests. Moreover, we studied publication bias and four moderators: test difficulty, presence of boys, gender equality within countries, and the type of control group that was used in the studies. We selected study samples when the study included girls, samples had a mean age below 18 years, the design was (quasi-)experimental, the stereotype threat manipulation was administered between-subjects, and the dependent variable was a MSSS test related to a gender stereotype favoring boys. To analyze the 47 effect sizes, we used random effects and mixed effects models. The estimated mean effect size equaled − 0.22 and significantly differed from 0. None of the moderator variables was significant; however, there were several signs for the presence of publication bias. We conclude that publication bias might seriously distort the literature on the effects of stereotype threat among schoolgirls. We propose a large replication study to provide a less biased effect size estimate.

Echoes of the Past: Hereditarianism and A Troublesome Inheritance by Marcus Feldman, The CEHG Blog, 19th August 2014


Many researchers have expressed concerns about misrepresentations of human population genetics in a recent popular book by journalist Nicholas Wade: A Troublesome Inheritance (Penguin Press, NY, 2014). A letter signed by 143 scientists, including seven from Stanford, criticized the book in the New York Times Book Review on August 8, 2014. In this post, Prof. Marcus Feldman situates A Troublesome Inheritance in a problematic intellectual tradition, highlighting a number of the book’s major problems.

The Ape That Thought It Was a Peacock: Does Evolutionary Psychology Exaggerate Human Sex Differences?‘, S. Stewart Williams, A.G. Thomas, Psychological Inquiry, 2013
This study investigates the key factors influencing acceptance of the relevance of evolutionary theory to human behaviour, and the attitudes underlying them. Using data gathered from a wide-ranging questionnaire survey of students and staff in UK universities on attitudes to science, evolution and its application to human behaviour, multivariate analysis reveals that studying social sciences and sociocultural anthropology correlate with rejection of evolutionary approaches. The incompatibility of social science conceptions of humankind and human behaviour with evolutionary theory are discussed, with particular emphasis on the cultural focus of social scientists and modern attempts to incorporate cultural interactions into evolutionary approaches.
You Can Give a Boy a Doll, but You Can’t Make Him Play With It by Christina Hoff Sommers, The Atlantic, 6th December 2012

Sex differences in chimpanzees’ use of sticks as play objects resemble those of children‘, S. Kahlenberg, R.W. Wrangham, Current Biology, December 2010


Sex differences in children’s toy play are robust and similar across cultures. They include girls tending to play more with dolls and boys more with wheeled toys and pretend weaponry. This pattern is explained by socialization by elders and peers, male rejection of opposite-sex behavior and innate sex differences in activity preferences that are facilitated by specific toys. Evidence for biological factors is controversial but mounting. For instance, girls who have been exposed to high fetal androgen levels are known to make relatively masculine toy choices. Also, when presented with sex-stereotyped human toys, captive female monkeys play more with typically feminine toys, whereas male monkeys play more with masculine toys. In human and nonhuman primates, juvenile females demonstrate a greater interest in infants, and males in rough-and-tumble play. This sex difference in activity preferences parallels adult behavior and may contribute to differences in toy play. Here, we present the first evidence of sex differences in use of play objects in a wild primate, in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We find that juveniles tend to carry sticks in a manner suggestive of rudimentary doll play and, as in children and captive monkeys, this behavior is more common in females than in males.

Sex differences in rhesus monkey toy preferences parallel those of children‘, J.M. Hassett, E.R. Siebert, K. Wallen, Hormones and Behavior. 25th March 2008


Socialization processes, parents, or peers encouraging play with gender specific toys are thought to be the primary force shaping sex differences in toy preference. A contrast in view is that toy preferences reflect biologically determined preferences for specific activities facilitated by specific toys. Sex differences in juvenile activities, such as rough and tumble play, peer preferences, and infant interest, share similarities in humans and monkeys. Thus if activity preferences shape toy preferences, male and female monkeys may show toy preferences similar to those seen in boys and girls. We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization. We offer the hypothesis that toy preferences reflect hormonally influenced behavioral and cognitive biases which are sculpted by social processes into the sex differences seen in monkeys and humans.

Sex Differences in Variability in General Intelligence: A New Look at the Old Question (2008) by W. Johnson, A. Carothers and I.J. Deary


The idea that general intelligence may be more variable in males than in females has a long history. In recent years it has been presented as a reason that there is little, if any, mean sex difference in general intelligence, yet males tend to be overrepresented at both the top and bottom ends of its overall, presumably normal, distribution. Clear analysis of the actual distribution of general intelligence based on large and appropriately population-representative samples is rare, however. Using two population-wide surveys of general intelligence in 11-year-olds in Scotland, we showed that there were substantial departures from normality in the distribution, with less variability in the higher range than in the lower. Despite mean IQ-scale scores of 100, modal scores were about 105. Even above modal level, males showed more variability than females. This is consistent with a model of the population distribution of general intelligence as a mixture of two essentially normal distributions, one reflecting normal variation in general intelligence and one refecting normal variation in effects of genetic and environmental conditions involving mental retardation. Though present at the high end of the distribution, sex differences in variability did not appear to account for sex differences in high-level achievement.