The Sciences

I Get Email: 'Are Men Smarter Than Women?'

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumMay 26, 2009 1:57 PM

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Dearest Isis, Off the blogosphere we often discuss how much we enjoy emails from our readers-- especially the letters written by young women pursuing science. They share stories, suggestions, and once in a while, questions appear on our blogs as we invite insight from across the internet. That said, over the weekend, this troubling inquiry hit my inbox:

Hi Sheril, I read with interest your article on ‘women and science’ in the Discover website. Can I ask, from your perspective, what you think of this study suggesting that men are smarter than women?  Because there are a lot of men who agreed with the study, and even some women. The truth is, while I don’t want to agree with it, I can’t help but think that men are smarter than women. Or at least, made much advances in the field of science than women. Yes, women have been kept at a disadvantage for so long, but I wonder if men also push themselves more? Maybe they want it more? I really hate feeling this way, but deep down, I kind of believe that it may be true. Have you ever heard of Camile Paguila, btw? She’s a ‘feminist’ but believes that, since most of the inventions we have in the modern world are created by men, if it were left up to women, we’d be living in grass huts. I know that the study is old, but if you could offer your perspective, that would be great. Thank you

Sigh... You can imagine my reaction. And sure, I can wax poetic on the myriad of ways that social norms, cultural mores, expectations, and more have contributed to a history dominated by XY scientists--and point out exceptions. I might discuss in detail so many of the accomplishments of women from ancient history to the present--you know I'd have a field day with the 'grass huts' part--and go on seriously about the STEM skills of modern girls. Perhaps even allude to present graduation rates and the fundamental changes necessary if we ever aim to achieve equal numbers in academia. There's so much to say... Still, I feel like I've been here so many times before. Hence, rather than launch into yet another tirade on gender, I first turn this question to you... How would you (and our readers) respond? Sending lots of love through the series of tubes, Sheril ps - We already know what Zuska would do...

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