The Anscombe Society sponsored its first event Wednesday night, a talk titled "Androgynous Feminism's War Against Women" led by Dr. Steven Rhoads '61.
Rhoads, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, focused on medical and psychological data that points to biological differences between the sexes. He criticized what he termed "androgynous feminists" for largely ignoring these differences. Rhoads kept the talk largely nonpartisan, disagreeing with views traditionally taken by both liberal and conservative politicians.
Claiming that gender roles have a place in modern society, Rhoads argued that women are more "relationship-oriented" than men and are inherently happier when married with children, while men are more aggressive and tend to be independent, preferring to work outside the home.
Rhoads argued against the popular feminist claim that "gender is socially constructed," saying he tries to "break through an androgynous understanding of sexuality." The talk included data from his latest book, "Taking Sex Differences Seriously," to buttress his claims.
He also emphasized that women are naturally "better with children" than men. "Stereotypically feminine, median women are fulfilled when married with children, especially when they spend adequate amounts of time with [the children]," Rhoads said. "Although some women have more testosterone and hence will enjoy some of the activities more typically enjoyed by men, women are statistically happier as mothers with part-time jobs. Many feminists claim that this is due to society, but scientific evidence shows that biology is a big factor."
He concluded with the remark that understanding "sex differences can help women." In an increasingly liberal culture, he said, women may feel pressure to engage in sexual acts with multiple partners at a young age. This sexual experimentation, which may lead to depression for teenage girls, could be avoided if more women understood their natural gender differences, Rhoads said.
Rhoads' views elicited strong responses from the audience; the 40-minute talk was followed by a question-and-answer session that ran as long as the talk itself. The audience was evenly divided between students in support and in opposition to Rhoads. "I came to the talk out of curiosity because I am very interested in gender issues," Trish Morlan '05 said. "I think many of the things he said are fascinating, but I disagree with the way he dismissed social construction in gender roles. It seems anti-intellectual."
Vince West GS, however, agreed with Rhoads.
"It was an excellent talk," he said. "He achieved a middle ground that is hard to achieve . . . We should not deny basic facts about human biology."