We need to talk about Sarah Ditum

Earlier today we posted a piece relating to the latest post by a feminist blogger, Sarah Ditum:

http://sarahditum.com/2014/02/06/we-need-to-talk-about-gender/

In her latest post Sarah Ditum refers to Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender. It’s the feminists’ book of choice whenever anyone puts forward the theory that sex differences in behaviour might be partly biological in origin, relating to differences between the brains of human males and females at birth – a theory which is supported by a large and growing body of evidence, yet assaults a cornerstone of gender feminism.

A number of books by world-renowned psychologists and brain scientists arrive at different conclusions to those drawn by Ms Fine, one particularly good one being Professor Simon Baron-Cohen’s book The Essential Difference (2003). The book’s basic thesis is that the male brain is hard-wired for systemising (so men are drawn to fields such as engineering) while the female brain is hard-wired for empathising (so women are drawn to the caring professions). Reasonable people (by definition, feminists are excluded) would surely expect gendered brain differences to have resulted from the different evolutionary niches occupied by men and women over millennia.

So I was intrigued to read an exchange in the comment stream following Sarah Ditum’s new piece, which mentions one of Simon Baron-Cohen’s studies. In case the exchange is ‘pulled’, here it is:

CharlieOneFour:

It seems you have chosen only the statistics where women are victims and then smeared all men because ‘masculine contempt for women and desire to control women’ is the cause of domestic violence.

You scoff, ‘as if a preference for pictures of princesses or cars were a secondary sexual characteristic’, however, it may well be true. It is measurable on the first day of life that boys prefer mechanical things and women prefer faces, and all the way to adulthood that men prefer systematising, women prefer empathising. If this is the case, surely boys do prefer cars and girls do prefer the idea of romance?

Sarah Ditum:

You need to read Cordelia Fine and meet some babies. It is measurable on day one that babies can’t play with anything because they have no fine motor control. Idiot.

CharlieOneFour:

Please, if you read what I actually said, which is that it is ‘measurable on the first day of life that boys prefer mechanical things and women prefer faces’. Of course I’m referring to Simon Baron Cohen’s study, Sex differences in human neonatal social perception, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638300000321

You, Sarah, are clearly the idiot.

Sarah Ditum:

Like I said: read Fine.

‘Like I said: read Fine’. What an utterly pathetic, lazy, and yes… IDIOTIC response.

The full Abstract of the Simon Baron-Cohen study (first published in 2000) to which CharlieOneFour refers (the term ‘neonate’ means ‘newly born child’):

Sexual dimorphism in sociability has been documented in humans. The present study aimed to ascertain whether the sexual dimorphism is a result of biological or socio-cultural differences between the two sexes. 102 human neonates, who by definition have not yet been influenced by social and cultural factors, were tested to see if there was a difference in looking time at a face (social object) and a mobile (physical-mechanical object). Results showed that the male infants showed a stronger interest in the physical-mechanical mobile while the female infants showed a stronger interest in the face. The results of this research clearly demonstrate that sex differences are in part biological in origin. (my emphasis)

We look forward to seeing if this exchange continues.

About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • Hi Mike, nice article and it seems great minds think alike! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36MLtkO3PXU . The obsession that feminists have with EVERYTHING gender/brain related being culturally-determined is nothing short of laughable.

  • herbkr

    Here is a comment I have just put on Sarah Ditum’s blog. It is currently awaiting moderation. I shall be interested to know If she approves it for publication.

    “Why don’t you tell us the point you are making about Fine’s work and juxtapose it with Baron-Cohen’s, so we can see the merit of your argument, Sarah? You do neither yourself, nor your reputation any good by simply closing down discussion like this when pressed with such an obviously intelligent point. Especially when you so arrogantly spice that with the classic ad hominem, as though the views of a thoughtful person (and, yes, probably a man, perhaps one of those untermenchen in your schema) who is engaging with your views, are of no worth. After all, you have put your views out into the world for public consumption, therefore you are really ethically and morally bound to respect honest engagement with them. Calling people fools just because they are challenging your deeply-held beliefs (which, incidentally, in this case are wrong) is really very poor form you know? Do you know what the definition of bigotry is Sarah? It is blind, unreasoning belief: the stuff that inquisitions and persecutions are made of. Are you willing to learn anything new? Is your mind open, Sarah? Or so firmly closed and sealed in your dogmatic beliefs that reason is inaccessible to you. Are you interested in getting to the bottom of the discussion you started or are you just a feminist propagandist, not really interested in the balanced picture about how life really is? You are beginning to look like that by your actions here. This is not good enough I’m afraid.”

  • herbkr

    Here is the response from Sarah Ditum’s, with mine in return, to the above. My response has yet to be approved by her for publication.

    Ditum’s response:
    “Surprisingly, I’m not going to summarise all Fine’s work for you here. She presents a substantial challenge to neurosexism, and if you’re invested in sustaining those beliefs, I suggest you read her yourself. She’s a highly engaging writer and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of interest in her work. Enjoy!”

    Mine in return:
    “Sorry Sarah, but this is a cop out. As with previous commentators, you have clearly not read what I said, which was just make your point based on Fine as your underpinning cite and meet the specific point the precious commentator was making. You are avoiding the issue because you know you are in difficult water. It’s a classic: set up an aunt sally and then deal with that rather than the case in point. I note your slightly sarcastic final “enjoy”. At least, I suppose you haven’t hurled ad hominem abuse at me as you did with the other contributor. Maybe something of what I said has got through.”
    (Your comment is awaiting moderation.)

    Enjoy!

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