Are men and women different? Obviously, they are. They dress differently, walk and talk differently, and might even think about things differently. But this is to give an uninteresting answer to what many people believe to be an interesting question. So what do they really want to know? Are men and women naturally different? Are there any differences that are not results of training and culture? That is an interesting question, but it is not as simple as we might assurne; we are not too clear about how to answer it. John Stuart Mill saw the problem clearly more than a century ago. We never see men and women apart from cultural influences, which means that we may never be able to answer the question. 1
Mill saw no need to answer the question about natural differences between the sexes. He saw that subjection of women was unjust and was a loss to society, which was depriving itself of the use of human resources. He held that the dominant role of men was a result of superior muscular strength, a social practice that converted "a mere physical fact into a legal right."2 He did not think the dominance of men over women ever had social value. He wrote, "[t]he generality of a practice is in some cases a strong presumption that it is, or ... once was, conducive to laudable ends. . .. If the authority of men over women ... had been the result of a conscientious comparison between different modes of government of society" and was found to be "the arrangement most conducive to the happiness and well being" of both sexes, it might have some evidence in its favor. Alternative social arrangements have never been tried; the choice of male dominance was
Research on Sexual Differences
Some scientists have tried to discover the nature of males and females, and some of them think they have discovered the differences, even though other scientists have opposing opinions. There are some widely accepted opinions about sex differences, other than the obvious primary sexual characteristics. Only four differences are commonly considered weH established: verbal ability in females and visual-spatial and mathematical ability and aggressiveness in males. These claims appear more impressive when they are explained in right/left-brain terminology, based on the theory that functions such as visual acuity, spatialsense, mathematical ability, and linguistic ability are dependent on separate sides of the brain. Some researchers hold that men are more right-brain, therefore more efficient in dealing with mathematics and spatial relationships, with more laterality (separate functioning of each side). Ultimately, such theory might or might not be recognized as significant.