Saturday, January 26, 2008

Helen Fisher, Anti-Feminist of the Year (So Far)

Helen Fisher is not only a feature of the BBC website, but also apparently the economic summit in Davos. Shocking to discover her anti-feminist drivel is being circulated so widely.

She starts well, claiming she is "definitely not a feminist", in which case she should presumably reject all the advantages feminism has garnered for her - like the vote, the right to work and the chance to express her (wrong) opinions all over the place.

Then the BBC informs us that her word is FACT. "[this] is not psycobabble. She bases her findings on archaeological evidence, MRI brain scans, genetics and large-scale surveys of how men and women behave"

She's telling people how to hire people to work for them. "On average, women gather more data, consider the context, are intuitive, have a sympathising mind and think more long-term. Ms Fisher calls it "web thinking". Men, on the other hand, are more focused, think linear, focus on rules and the short-term - "step thinking"."

Sure on average that may (or may not) be true. But that isn't the way you should hire people, based on averages. On average men are taller than women. But that doesn't mean we should hire only male firefighters, we should hire any man or woman tall enough and capable enough to do the job effectively.

And if you don't believe the rubbish about "testosterone makes you think differently" she's got proof: "
Research shows that film scripts written by women are more complex and have more ambiguous endings than those written by men."

Which would also constitute (in my world) conclusive proof that the barriers to entry in the world of movie script-writing are higher for women than men.

Here's how wrong her analysis is, she at one point says "[some rubbish theory]
may be the reason why women are better talkers", ignoring the fact that recent research shows women do not talk more than men, we just get ignored more.

And when she describes the male-female differences, a lot of them sound to me like subtle "digs" at women:

"Men can have tunnel vision, women may fail to get to the point."

So men are focussed and women stupid?

"Women find it difficult to counter aggression. When men push back, it earns them the respect of other men."

So women can't handle aggression and men thrive on it. Fuck off!

"When women apologise, they are not really sorry. For men it's a serious affair, a perceived weakening of their status."

Women are fickle and don't mean what they say. Men aren't. Excuse me while I barf here.

Her overall point is you need to have some men and some women on your team to benefit from the two utterly distinct ways of thinking and operating. But there are more than two distinct ways of thinking and operating, we all know creative people, problem-solvers, diligent workers, inspiring people and people with great social skills. The balance of which of those you need for your team depends on what you're trying to achieve.

Expecting women to think one way and men another does two things:

1) It prevents women (and men) being considered for roles they may be more than capable of because assumptions have been made about their ability based on their gender.

2) It throws open the door for prejudice and justifies it.

8 comments:

Ms Noir said...

I went to read the news this morning and saw this headline on the BBC website and did not get what I expected!

My favourite quote from this article has already been mentioned above "You want proof? Research shows that film scripts written by women are more complex and have more ambiguous endings than those written by men" - yep that's all the proof I need. Gospel. What sort of journalism is this? (written by a man you might notice)

Helen Fisher talks of MRI brain scans and genetics being the reason for gender difference but then goes on to say that the "reason why women are better talkers: language is the key tool to control children" suggesting social influence.

She comes across as under qualified to be speaking on such matters and as such to be honest will no doubt have little impact. We feminists have little to fear from Helen Fisher I think.

Ms Noir said...

I went to read the news this morning and saw this headline on the BBC website and did not get what I expected!

My favourite quote from this article has already been mentioned above "You want proof? Research shows that film scripts written by women are more complex and have more ambiguous endings than those written by men" - yep that's all the proof I need. Gospel. What sort of journalism is this? (written by a man you might notice)

Helen Fisher talks of MRI brain scans and genetics being the reason for gender difference but then goes on to say that the "reason why women are better talkers: language is the key tool to control children" suggesting social influence.

She comes across as under qualified to be speaking on such matters and as such to be honest will no doubt have little impact. We feminists have little to fear from Helen Fisher I think.

Susan said...

I kind of wish I hadn't read the piece from the BBC website. Now I'm mad. She's not a feminist? Then why is she a research professor at Rutgers? If she's not a feminist, shouldn't she be in a kitchen somewhere, making dinner for some man?

I took a look at her CV from the Rutgers website and the Wikipedia entry about her (which contained the following just-a-tad-snarky comment, "By many accounts, including her own, Fisher is considered the world’s leading expert on the topic of love..."). She got a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from Colorado University in 1975. There is no mention in either of a husband or family. So given the information we have, it looks like Ms. Fisher is a 62 year-old woman who got a Ph.D. at a time when there weren't too many women getting them, but she's not a feminist? She's apparently not married, herself, but she's the world's leading expert on love? Am I out of line for thinking she's being a little hypocritical?

Susan said...

Oh, just to clarify my comment: I don't happen to think a woman needs a man to be happy, but isn't taking advice on finding a mate (which she does via a contract she has with the websites match.com and chemistry.com, lectures and books) from someone who hasn't got a mate a bit like getting advice on car maintenance from someone who only owns a bike?

Vince M said...

"I kind of wish I hadn't read the piece from the BBC website. Now I'm mad. She's not a feminist? Then why is she a research professor at Rutgers?"

Are you implying that non-feminists aren't qualified to be research professors at Rutgers?

"If she's not a feminist, shouldn't she be in a kitchen somewhere, making dinner for some man?"

What a misogynist remark!

Cruella said...

Without feminism women would not be allowed to apply for jobs like research professor at Rutgers. So if she rejects feminism presumably she would want to express that in her actions by rejecting the rights that feminism has handed her and return to the role that women had before feminism. She presumably would also want to refuse to vote, to wear trousers, etc.

Femenist said...

She reminds me of Camille Paglia-I think these women are misogynist-very male identified! Great blog!

Adam Knowles said...

What a relief to discover someone else thinks this lady and her unevidenced nonsense should be called out, not called upon by the likes of the BBC and TED.