Posts Tagged gender

Neuroscientist teaches about Intersex

Thanks to Carol Clark who wrote this piece for Emory University’s Escience Commons on Sara Freeman’s innovative teaching on Intersex.

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As a little girl growing up in Atlanta, Sara Freeman says she was a tomboy, preferring to play in the dirt than with dolls. “I dealt with the psychological issue of not behaving like a feminine ideal,” she recalls, “but I don’t think most people ever feel like a perfect version of their sexual assignment.”

She went on to major in biology at the University of Virginia, where she developed an interest in reproductive endocrinology. Freeman is now on the brink of receiving a PhD in neuroscience from Emory, focused on the evolution of behavior, especially in relation to hormones. Her thesis involves the oxytocin system and the social attachment of mammals, drawing from her work in the lab of behavioral neuroscientist Larry Young.

“I find it fascinating that a chemical like a hormone can have such a big influence on an organism’s social interactions,” says Freeman, who loves teaching as much as research.

Last fall, Freeman taught an undergraduate class that she developed called “Intersex: Biology and Gender.”

Read more here.

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Doing Neuroscience, Doing Feminism: Interview with Dr. Sari van Anders

This post, by Emory Neuroethics Scholar and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality PhD Candidate, Kristina Gupta, was originally featured on The Neuroethics Blog.

Dr. Sari van Anders

 After attending the Neurogenderings Conference in Vienna, where participants debated whether it would be possible to conduct feminist neuroscience research, I decided it would be useful to interview an actual practicing feminist neuroscientist – and I knew just who to talk to. Dr. Sari van Anders is an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological & Cognitive Psychology from Simon Fraser University. In her social neuroendocrinology lab at the University of Michigan, she conducts feminist neuroscience research on a variety of topics, with a principle focus on the social modulation of testosterone via sexuality, partnering/pair bonding, and nurturance. She has received grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Institute of Bisexuality and has published articles in Hormones and Behavior, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and Psychoneuroendocrinology, among others.

I asked her to talk about what she sees as feminist about her own behavioral neuroscience research, how she has secured support for her work from other behavioral neuroendocrinologists, and what advice she would give to early career scientists who want to incorporate feminist concerns into their research. Read on for Dr. Van Anders’ thoughtful and thought-provoking answers.

I have heard you describe your research as a behavioral neuroscientist as ‘feminist.’ Can you explain what you see as feminist about your behavioral neuroscience research? Read the rest of this entry »

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Response to “Society Does Not Make Gender” by Dr. Larry Young and Brian Alexander

“A queer symbol of new gender image”by Finnish artist Susi Waegelein

*This piece was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog by Kristina Gupta.

At the beginning of August, Ruth Padawer published a piece in the New York Times magazine about gender non-conforming children and parents. Last week, Dr. Larry Young of Emory University and science writer Brian Alexander (who are publishing a book together, The Chemistry Between Us) published a response to the article, in which they argue, essentially, that gender is biologically hardwired into the brains of fetuses by the organizational effects of hormones. They go on to implicitly endorse what has been called the “brain sex theory” of transgender identity/behavior. According to this theory, hormones organize the sex/gender of the brain much later than they organize the sex/gender of the genitals, allowing for a discordance to develop between the two (Bao 2011).

Admirably, Young and Alexander use the brain sex theory to argue for an acceptance of gender non-conforming children. They write, “so rather than seeing threat, we should embrace all shades of gender, whether snips and snails, sugar and spice, or somewhere in between.” However, there are (at least) four major problems with their argument: they essentialize gender; they uncritically embrace human brain organization theory; they uncritically embrace the double-edged sword of essentialism on behalf of transgender people; and they selectively (mis)use evidence about intersex and transgender people to support an ideological claim about the innateness of gender differences.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Neurosexism and Single-Sex Education (or support your local ACLU)

 Emory Neuroethics Scholars Program Fellow, Kristina Gupta, recently wrote a piece for The Neuroethics Blog on “Neurosexism and Single-Sex Education”. Kristina is a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies PhD Candidate at Emory and co-taught the course, Feminism, Sexuality, and Neuroethics with Emory Neuroethics Scholar Program Fellow, Cyd Cipolla. She researches the  “intersections of feminist theory, asexuality, and scientific and medical research on sexual desire.” Her piece for The Neuroethics Blog can be read below.

Twenty or thirty years ago, single-sex education for girls was a feminist clause célèbre. However, beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, people began to worry that boys were “un derperforming” in school and in life (an idea nicknamed “the boys’ crisis” by the popular press). The media framing of the boys’ crisis has been critiqued on a number of fronts – specifically, critics have pointed out that both girls and boys are performing better in school than in the past and that the difference in educational achievement between white and middle-class students and low-income and minority students is far more pronounced than the difference between female and male students (see a 2008 report from the American Association of University Women).

However, despite these critiques, cultural commentators began to advocate for single-sex education in public schools as a solutionto the boys’ crisis. Commentators like Michael Gurian (author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently!) and Leonard Sax (founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education and au thor of Why Gender Matters) argued that boys’ and girls’ brains develop differently, so boys and girls should be separated in school and should receive education targeted to their specific neuro-developmental patterns and mental strengths.

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