Title

Neurosexism and Neurofeminism

Document Type

Article

Publication/Presentation Date

11-2016

Academic Year

2016-2017

Abstract/Description

Abstract: As neuroscience has gained an increased ability to enchant the general public, it has become more and more common to appeal to it as an authority on a wide variety of questions about how humans do and should act. This is especially apparent with the question of gender roles. The term 'neurosexism' has been coined to describe the phenomenon of using neuroscientific practices and results to promote sexist conclusions; its feminist response is called 'neurofeminism'. Here, our aim is to survey the phenomena of neurosexism and neurofeminism using a largely philosophical approach, incorporating concepts from the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of science, ethics, and feminist philosophy. First, we delineate how neuroscientific studies purporting to show sex brain differences may be prone to bias at a number of methodological levels including the choice of categories to be studied, and the choice of tools for data gathering, analysis, and presentation. Then, we show how interpretations of such studies may wrongly assume the notion of 'hard-wiring'. Furthermore, lack of attention to distinctions within philosophy of mind may result in a mistaken supposition that brain differences lead to mental and/or psychological and/or behavioral ones. It is not difficult to see how these forms of neurosexism, leading to claims of 'hard-wired' gender differences that map onto traditional and harmful gender stereotypes, raise ethical questions. We conclude by briefly considering one: are the harms caused by neurosexist studies and their interpretations outweighed by their potential benefits?

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