The biggest critics of feminism claim that women shouldn’t be marching for their rights as they have no basis for their complaints – they are the most privileged group in the world with countless benefits at their feet. They have separate queues, men hold doors for them and things seem to be sunshine and rainbows for everyone involved.
But is that really a privilege? Have women ever been the privileged class when they’ve put up with the myth that men are somehow more rational than them? Let’s consider the argument from a psychological point of view.
According to Sternberg, a leading psychologist, intelligence can be cognitively defined as the mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment. It remains, to this date, as one of the most debated, controversial aspects of individual psychology, with psychologists striving to measure and theorize intelligence according to their own paradigm.
However, one key concept has remained stable, or more appropriately, stagnant through the decades; men are naturally more rational than women.
This particular concept is fascinating as it manifests itself in daily life as well as psychological research, quite unconsciously. The human mind assumes that the reason why male X chose a, let’s say, the engineering program at a college, is because men can understand scientific, systematic patterns better than women. This phenomenon extends to nearly all cultures and ethnicities around the world.
But does this particular concept have any truth to it?
According to researchers at Erasmus University, men have brains which are 14% larger on average than a female’s and this anatomical difference leads to higher systemic intelligence. This study has been criticized for stretching the concept of intelligence by linking it to larger brains without explaining how a larger brain can neurologically account for it. However, it comes as no surprise that such claims are still used as the basis for further psychological study linked to gender differences in intelligence
The question, thus, remains; are men more systematically intelligent than women due to innate differences or physiological factors or is this simply a myth that is in desperate need to be debunked?
The roots of this blatant bias against one gender are so old that they can be traced back to ancient times. Even the Greeks claimed that women were less intelligent than men due to their anatomy, going as far as to say that this was because they possessed fewer teeth. Funny, is it not? Similar arguments were used by the Greeks to deprive women of citizenship and later on to stop women from voting until the Suffragette Movement struggled to break through.
In the 19th century, Thomas Gisborne and Herbert Spencer argued that women were not only less intelligent as they did not possess the same level of gravitas or rationality as men but also that they were incapable of abstract thinking due to their excitable, volatile nature. However, up to this point there were no scientific studies that could challenge these claims made by men; mainly because women were not encouraged to learn which led to men dominating all spheres of academia, even psychology, which ironically should be a field for women as it involves empathizing more than systemizing, if the ideas of these thinkers were to be regarded as true!
So to sum it up; for decades, we have been pressurized into thinking that men are somehow more rational than women based on almost no scientific researcher!
The first scientific study to be conducted was by Lewis Terman in 1916, who aimed to understand whether the IQ of girls was less than that of boys, by administering a number of IQ tests on children till the age of 14. Surprisingly, he found no such evidence that suggested a significant difference in IQ level. However, he did find that boys were better at arithmetical reasoning while girls performed exceptionally well in comprehension questions. This, he accredited to their vastly differential upbringing rather than intellectual inferiority as girls were encouraged to be kinder and sympathetic than boys rather than to learn these skills from a very young age.
But if men aren’t physiologically superior to women when it comes to rationality than what propagated this myth for decades?
Simply the fact that social barriers and stereotypes were designed to hold women back – they weren’t allowed to get an education equal to that of men, employment opportunities were almost non-existent and they couldn’t even vote simply because society assumed that women were too emotional to be in touch with logic. Even though the landscape has vastly improved in the West, the situation in Pakistan, sadly, remains the same as that of nineteenth-century Europe.
So the next time someone points out that women in Pakistan have no need for feminism, do remember this one myth of many hundreds that populate today’s society, hindering any progress for women’s rights.
The only way we can morph into the adored idea of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ is if we leave these tropes behind and work towards shedding stereotypes, leaving them back in the Middle Ages where they truly belong!