Can we finally stop talking about 'male' and 'female' brains?

In 17th-and 18th-century Europe, the rise of egalitarian ideals created the need for a scientific account of women's inferior status. Thus was born gender biological complementarity - the notion that, as historian of science Londa Schiebinger explains in The Mind Has No Sex, "women were not to be viewed merely as inferior to men but as fundamentally different from, and thus incomparable to, men". It has been with us in one way or another, roping in science to explain the gender status quo, ever since.

At its core is the persistent belief that men's and women's natures can be usefully and meaningfully carved into two categories or "natural kinds" that are distinct, timeless and deeply biologically grounded.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'Can we finally stop talking about 'male' and 'female' brains?'. Subscribe