This past weekend, I had the pleasure to meet two teen girls adopted from China by friends of mine. The girls are poised between childhood and adulthood where the big questions—who am I? What am I going to make of my life?—are looming. During a conversation, someone mentioned something about “girl brains.” The phrase went by quickly, and I almost didn’t notice it. Then one of the girls asked directly: “Are the differences between the sexes biological or cultural?”
After our conversation, I began to wonder: how does this popular notion that women and men have different brains affect these girls’ ambitions, hopes, and dreams? Despite all of the celebration of how great the female brain is—how it will be much more useful in the world of the future—it seemed that she had already begun to wonder if she had gotten … Read More »
A few news events have caught my eye this past week—particularly, the Orthodox Jewish newspaper that photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of the iconic Situation Room photo and The Atlantic Monthly’s report “Danger: Falling Tyrants” by Jeffrey Goldberg on the move toward democracy in the Middle East. But it was an email exchange with one of our former editors/writers, Maura O’Connor, who is reporting from Afghanistan where she’s embedded among US troops, that made me think about these events in the context of our responsibility, as sophisticated postmodern individuals who are living in a pluralistic global society. We often literally brush up against those who have very different worldviews—radically different ways of understanding reality and human relationship.
Maura told me that she and a friend, another young American female journalist, were talking about whether to wear headscarves in … Read More »
Fourteen years ago, I was forty years old, had recently received my doctorate from Harvard where I’d worked with Carol Gilligan in a small research collective that was charting new developmental pathways for girls and women, and had co-authored a bestselling book about how to transform the mother-daughter relationship in the hopes that the next generations of women could grow into fullness and power. While I couldn’t say that it was consciously intentional, my life was an almost systematic search for the keys that would unleash new potentials in women, and between women and men, that would transform our culture. I started with feminist activism and consciousness raising, moved to psychotherapy, tried assertiveness and other forms of skill-building training, and then to the dynamics of human development. Where was the lynchpin? I asked. How could true partnership and equality between the sexes become a living reality? … Read More »
Imagine what it must be like for Caster Semenya, the top South African female runner who was in the news recently because her sex has recently been challenged. By “sex” I am not referring to her sexuality, but to the physical, biological characteristics that determine whether one is male or female. That basically comes down to whether one has testes or ovaries. Her fantastically impressive victory in the 800 meters in Berlin recently raised questions about her sex—questions that she herself shrugged off as “a joke.” Semenya has no penis; all of her life, she has thought she is a girl—a very athletic girl who loves to run and compete. Actually, to say that she “thinks she is a girl” probably misrepresents that unthinking sense of simply being who you are, living the life that you have, in the context … Read More »