The Brain and Biological Essentialism

Most people no longer believe that women's wombs will suffer when they
use their brains, but women are still being informed by researchers and
the media that men's and women's brains are essentially different. The
media seek new ways to ask “How are men and women different?”

Social claims based on brain research have long been used to distance
privileged groups from those judged to be less worthy. As Gould
(1980:153, 1981: 52-69) shows, nineteenth-century scientists such as
Morton and Broca looked for and found “objective” evidence to prove that
whites had larger brains than Indians and Blacks. Morton, for example,
believed he was being objective and scientific, but his unconscious
biases were so powerful that they influenced his results (Gould
1981:69). Broca accepted the “scientific truth” that “[w]omen, like it
or not, had smaller brains than men and therefore, could not equal them
in intelligence.” (Gould 1980:153) Not only were women’s brains
different; they were deficient.

Despite many scientific counterarguments, problematic research about the
relative size of male, female, and African-American brains is still
being done. In his 1995 book, Race, Evolution and Behavior, J. Philippe
Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, claims
that different races have different brain sizes. On the basis of
statistical evidence he concludes (p. 190) that Blacks and women have
smaller brains and lower mental abilities than white males. He claims
that “there is a small but robust correlation between brain size and
intelligence” (p. 260). It is surprising that this research continues to
be funded and published, in spite of what Fausto-Sterling (1985:37)
calls the “elephant problem”:

 >>if size were the determinant of intelligence, then elephants and
whales ought to be in command. Attempts to remedy this by claiming
special importance for the number obtained by dividing brain size by
body weight were abandoned when it was discovered that females came out
"ahead" in such measurements.<<