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"Women's Brains," the essay by Stephen Jay Gould

In his essay "Women's Brains," Stephen Jay Gould argues against prejudice against women in terms of their intelligence or lack of it. It is fascinating that the "facts" he refers to from the 19th century, which were so widely accepted then as scientific evidence, seem so preposterous today. Nobody today would claim that women are less intelligent than men because women have a measurably smaller brain, but that is precisely what Paul Broca did in the last century.

Gould is trying to get the reader to see that women have suffered from great social prejudices of many varieties, and that stereotypes about their intelligence relative to men have kept them "in their place." It seems that he is merely making small points about the well-known fact that this culture has been run by men and for men, and that this culture fears and hates women. It is no surprise that science and scientists such as Broca reflect that prejudice. Again, to this reader, Gould's essay and argument seem clearly evident. He is not telling this reader anything he does not already know.

Gould is also saying that we cannot trust science and scientists to give us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. What science deals with in many cases---measurement---tells us only a part of the story, and often a misleading part.

Still, in case the reader is not aware of this connection between science and misogyny, Gould reminds us, using Broca to represent the most dangerous kind of scientist. Not only is he starting his research from a prejudiced viewpoint (assuming that women are less intelligent than men and setting out to find evidence to support that point), but he does not even come to his statistics or analysis honestly. The measurements of Broca seem to this reader quickly meaningless and distracting, but Gould insists on going on about them for pages, trying to show the flaws in Broca's research. However, simply by taking Broca's measurements se...

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"Women's Brains," the essay by Stephen Jay Gould. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:41, May 20, 2019, from