Meet the neuroscientist shattering the myth of the gendered brain

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/24/meet-the-neuroscientist-shattering-the-myth-of-the-gendered-brain-gina-rippon

Why asking whether your brain is male or female is the wrong question


Sun 24 Feb 2019

You receive an invitation, emblazoned with a question: “A bouncing little ‘he’ or a pretty little ‘she’?” The question is your teaser for the “gender reveal party” to which you are being invited by an expectant mother who, at more than 20 weeks into her pregnancy, knows what you don’t: the sex of her child. After you arrive, explains cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon in her riveting new book, The Gendered Brain, the big reveal will be hidden within some novelty item, such as a white iced cake, and will be colour-coded. Cut the cake and you’ll see either blue or pink filling. If it is blue, it is a…

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Whatever its sex, this baby’s future is predetermined by the entrenched belief that males and females do all kinds of things differently, better or worse, because they have different brains.

“Hang on a minute!” chuckles Rippon, who has been interested in the human brain since childhood, “the science has moved on. We’re in the 21st century now!” Her measured delivery is at odds with the image created by her detractors, who decry her as a “neuronazi” and a “grumpy old harridan” with an “equality fetish”. For my part, I was braced for an encounter with an egghead, who would talk at me and over me. Rippon is patient, though there is an urgency in her voice as she explains how vital it is, how life-changing, that we finally unpack – and discard – the sexist stereotypes and binary coding that limit and harm us.

For Rippon, a twin, the effects of stereotyping kicked in early. Her “under-achieving” brother was sent to a boys’ academic Catholic boarding school, aged 11. “It’s difficult to say this. I was clearly academically bright. I was top in the country for the 11+.” This gave her a scholarship to a grammar school. Her parents sent her to a girls’ non-academic Catholic convent instead. The school did not teach science. Pupils were brought up to be nuns or a diplomatic wife or mother. “Psychology,” she points out, “was the nearest I could get to studying the brain. I didn’t have the A levels to do medicine. I had wanted to be a doctor.”

A PhD in physiological psychology and a focus on brain processes and schizophrenia followed. Today, the Essex-born scientist is a professor emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University, Birmingham. Her brother is an artist. When she is not in the lab using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to study developmental disorders such as autism, she is out in the world, debunking the “pernicious” sex differences myth: the idea that you can “sex” a brain or that there is such a thing as a male brain and a female brain. It is a scientific argument that has gathered momentum, unchallenged, since the 18th century “when people were happy to spout off about what men and women’s brains were like – before you could even look at them. They came up with these nice ideas and metaphors that fitted the status quo and society, and gave rise to different education for men and women.”

Rippon has analysed the data on sex differences in the brain. She admits that she, like many others, initially sought out these differences. But she couldn’t find any beyond the negligible, and other research was also starting to question the very existence of such differences. For example, once any differences in brain size were accounted for, “well-known” sex differences in key structures disappeared. Which is when the penny dropped: perhaps it was time to abandon the age-old search for the differences between brains from men and brains from women. Are there any significant differences based on sex alone? The answer, she says, is no. To suggest otherwise is “neurofoolishness”.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/24/meet-the-neuroscientist-shattering-the-myth-of-the-gendered-brain-gina-rippon

Ilhan Omar Knows Exactly What She Is Doing

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/opinion/ilhan-omar-anti-semitism.html

The Minnesota Democrat is bringing Corbynism to the Democratic Party.

By Bret Stephens
March 7, 2019

There’s an old joke about upper-class British anti-Semitism: It means someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary. Ilhan Omar, the freshman representative from Minnesota, more than meets the progressive American version of that standard.

Like many self-described progressives, Omar does not like Israel. That’s a shame, not least because Israel is the only country in its region that embraces the sorts of values the Democratic Party claims to champion. When was the last time there was a gay-pride parade in Ramallah, a women’s rights march in Gaza, or an opposition press in Tehran? In what Middle Eastern country other than Israel can an attorney general indict a popular and powerful prime minister on corruption charges?

But America is a free country, and Omar is within her rights to think what she will about Israel or any other state. Contrary to a self-serving myth among Israel’s detractors, there’s rarely a social or reputational penalty for publicly criticizing Israeli policies today. It’s ubiquitous on college campuses and commonplace in editorial pages. And contrary to some recent comments from Senator Elizabeth Warren, no serious person claims criticism of Israel is ipso facto anti-Semitic. My last column called on Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. Last I checked, the Anti-Defamation League has not denounced me.

Omar, however, isn’t just a critic of Israel. As the joke has it, her objections to the Jewish state go well beyond what’s strictly necessary.

“Israel has hypnotized the world,” she tweeted in 2012. “May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Last month, she wrote that U.S. support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby.” A few weeks after that, she told an audience in D.C. that “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Confronted with criticism about the remark from her fellow Democrat Nita Lowey, she replied: “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”

Under intense pressure, Omar recanted those first two tweets. But she’s standing her ground on her more recent comments. It’s a case study in the ease with which strident criticism of Israel shades into anti-Semitism.

For those who don’t get it, claims that Israel “hypnotizes” the world, or that it uses money to bend others to its will, or that its American supporters “push for allegiance to a foreign country,” repackage falsehoods commonly used against Jews for centuries. People can debate the case for Israel on the merits, but those who support the state should not have to face allegations that their sympathies have been purchased, or their brains hijacked, or their loyalties divided.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/opinion/ilhan-omar-anti-semitism.html

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Manhattan Transfer

The Industrial Revolution of Shame

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/opinion/sunday/internet-shaming.html

Outrage is strange bait: It can feel wrong not to take it.

By Salvatore Scibona
March 9, 2019

In the 1954 John Cheever story “The Country Husband,” a man goes to a dinner party in a New York suburb and recognizes his host’s new maid, but from where? Suddenly, the scene returns to him. Years earlier, at the end of the Second World War, in a small French village where he had been deployed, he had looked on while this same woman — the wartime consort of the village’s German commandant — had been carted into a crossroads. Her neighbors had jeered while a little man had cut off her hair and shaved her skull. They had made her remove her clothes. Someone had spat on her. Crying and naked but for her worn black shoes, she had walked away from the village, alone.

Imagine, if you can bear it, this episode updated to the present: the viral video, the scene captured, shared, archived, never forgotten, its popularity measured in screen views. Rather than the gathering of a few dozen people in a town with one church and one restaurant, imagine the thousands or millions broadcasting their blame in comment sections, tweets, blog posts, many of them available forever to anyone anywhere. The offender is denied even the mercy of exile.

We are undergoing an industrial revolution in shame. New technologies have radically expanded our ability to make and distribute a product. The product is our judgment of one another. As in past industrial revolutions, the mass manufacture and use of a product previously available to just a few or in small amounts has given us the power to do harm at a previously unthinkable scale.

The defendants carted into the virtual crossroads are public figures as well as previously inconspicuous people — a drunk in a parking lot, a girl who overshares on Instagram. One day an actor is accused of faking a hate crime, another day a politician admits he attended a dance contest wearing blackface, another day a high school student’s grin seems to embody the contemptuous privilege of his class, another day those describing his grin that way are shamed for shaming him on preliminary evidence. To bring up any one of these examples is to invite the objection, “That time it was deserved!” Maybe so. But is there no way of discussing these controversies that doesn’t come down to whether an offender deserved the punishment?

Media culture has found a sweet spot in the collective psyche — outrage. Headlines are baited with it, promising an injustice. This is strange bait: It can feel wrong not to take it. Because looking away from an injustice has so often amounted to perpetuating injustice, we may feel we have a duty to click through, read the article and get mad. Even the private person who doesn’t tweet or otherwise share his thoughts in public gets sucked in, his conscience demanding the solidarity of judging in his heart, if not aloud.

However right and necessary all this judgment feels, does it feel good? Doesn’t it quickly feel, sort of, well, awful?

Traditional wisdom cautions us against excesses of judgment (see the casting of first stones, et cetera). Maybe that’s out of concern not only for the Frenchwoman Cheever describes but also for the person who spat on her. Interesting that we describe scorn as “bitter,” as though we can taste it, like a poison. Dishing it out doesn’t feel much better than taking it, but what else can we do?

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/opinion/sunday/internet-shaming.html

Robocalls: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Marcia Ball

Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Semitic Labour Party

I pray the Democratic Party in the US doesn’t follow the British Labour Party down the same anti-Semitic rat hole the followers of Corbyn have gone down.

I have been disgusted with Left Wing anti-Semitism in this country since it first reared its ugly head in the early 1970s.  I can still romanticize my involvement with SDS and the anti-war movement of the 1960s while recognizing that with the movement I was suckered into giving credibility to some extremely nasty ideology.

From  The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/opinion/corbyn-berger-anti-semitism.html

Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream. It makes an irrefutable case for the need for a Jewish homeland.

By Roger Cohen
Feb. 28, 2019

LONDON — Europe’s gathering Jewish question came into sharp focus this month when a British M.P. declared that she had come to the “sickening conclusion” that one of the country’s two main political parties, Labour, is now “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Imagine, to gauge the import of this statement, Bernie Sanders suggesting the same thing of the Democrats.

Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream through a toxic amalgam of spillover from vilification of Israel, the return of the Jewish plutocrat as hated symbol of the 1 percent, and the resurgence of the Jewish “cosmopolitan” as the target of ascendant nationalists convinced a cabal of Jews runs the world.

The British politician was Luciana Berger, who is Jewish and has been M.P. for Liverpool and Wavertree since 2010. She has watched, with dismay, as Jeremy Corbyn has allowed a demonological view of Israel to foster Jew hatred in the Labour Party since taking over its leadership in 2015.

So, I asked in an interview, is Corbyn an anti-Semite? “Well,” she said, “he’s certainly been responsible for sharing platforms with anti-Semites and saying things that are highly offensive and anti-Semitic.”

Corbyn, Berger suggested, has contrived to make British Jews different in some way, a process she called “othering.” She’s had to endure “pictures of Stars of David superimposed on my forehead, and my face imposed on a rat, or many rats. There are pornographic images, violent images, oversize features like a witch. You name it, they’ve done it.” Nine months pregnant, the mother of a small child, she’s faced death threats and has to take security measures “a lot more now than I did before.”

Not all the anti-Semitic slurs have come from within the party, but the volume of attacks from the left has convinced Berger she had to quit Labour. “I didn’t make that decision lightly,” she told me, having always believed that Labour was Britain’s anti-racist party par excellence.

Corbyn, who has taken the party sharply leftward from the now reviled Blairite center, and whose anti-Zionism has long been apparent, has insisted, “I’m not an anti-Semite in any form.” He has promised (and promised and promised) to rid the Labour Party of any such poison.

There’s nothing anti-Semitic about sympathy for the Palestinian cause or support of Palestinian statehood or disdain for the rightist government of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its kick-the-can policies to prolong or eternize the occupation of the West Bank. That should be obvious.

But where anti-Zionism crosses into anti-Semitism should also be obvious: dehumanizing or demonizing Jews and propagating the myth of their sinister omnipotence; accusing Jews of double loyalties as a means to suggest their national belonging is of lesser worth; denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; blaming through conflation all Jews for the policies of the Israeli government; pursuing the systematic “Nazification” of Israel; turning Zionism into a synonym of racism.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/opinion/corbyn-berger-anti-semitism.html

See also;

The Algemeiner: UK Newspaper Investigation Uncovers Links Between Top Corbyn Aide and Anti-Israel Terror Groups

The New York Times: The Persistence of Anti-Semitism