Never mind the throwing gap

Janet Hyde, a former psychology department head and women’s studies professor at the University of Wisconsin, employs a familiar argument in explaining research showing that gender-based differences in the throwing of a ball are considerable:

“The more we argue for gender differences, the more we feed people’s stereotypes. A belief in large gender differences is incompatible with equal opportunity.”

But the theory forwarded by University of North Texas education dean Jerry Thomas is that these differences may be less biological than neurological, and that better techniques can help females improve their performance.

Whether those methods would fully close the “gender gap” is left unexamined — does it need to be closed at all? — but that’s not really the point as far as Hyde is concerned.

For when it comes to belief and science, those claiming to be scientists but whose first duty is to stamp out “stereotypes” are instead the blindest of true believers.

(See Part 4 of my book “Beyond Title IX” for similar examples from women’s sports activists.)

Hyde’s “scholarship” has gained plenty of mainstream currency, especially mathematical aptitude differences between the sexes that she insists are rooted in cultural stereotypes above all else.

When Larry Summers opened up his big mouth about all this as Harvard president, it was such easy low-hanging fruit to pick.

I’m neither a scholar nor a researcher, but a former youth athlete (and lousy at math) who had just as good an arm as the boys until puberty.

Perhaps it is too anecdotal to admit that I realized then that I was actually a girl, even though I’ve never thought I threw like one.

I would love to believe that continued research into these topics would include the scholarly freedom to honestly explore where the line between culture and biology exists, no matter how blurred.

But the virtually unchallenged respectability that Hyde enjoys is not encouraging.

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One Comment

  1. Bern
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Well Said. The most frustrating and counterproductive aspect of the denial of the well documented post-puberty physical differences between the sexes is the ongoing and substantial injury risk that female athletes are being subjected to without their (or their parents) knowledge.

    The exponential risk of ACL tears to young women athletes is completely unacceptable. The documented fact that there are so many female kinesiology PhDs in academia who continue to ignore the obvious for political purposes would be humorous if it wasn’t so sad. The institutionalized corruption of academia on this issue is mind-boggling.

    Our friends at the University of Minnesota have been in the forefront of this denial of reality going back to Sokolove’s book review in 2008.

    We’re going to be pushing for a parent acknowledgement / disclosure form to be nationally adopted for grades 1 – 12 female athletes that calls out the risk to them and forces the issue to be addressed on a national basis.

    If you or any of your readers are interested in being involved they should step up and say so. Either way we believe that when the facts come out, as Lucy used to say…There’s gonna be alota ’splainin to do”.