On Air: Sex on the brain

Feminists blame society for gender differences. A new series begs to differ.
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The Independent Culture
AMANDA SMITH is a handsome, sensible, almost tweedy-looking young woman who grew up hating gender stereotyping. She and her husband Lionel were adamant about bringing their children up "in a nice, asexual way", and their two boys and a girl were given dolls, cars and other non-violent toys to play with.

Now seven-year-old Rose spends hours playing happy families with her doll's house, while Amanda came home to find two-year-old Lawrence had tied Barbie to a chair leg and was in the process of beheading her. Gender will out, it seems, which is the premise for a provocative new three-part series on Channel 4, Why Men Don't Iron.

This is a rigorous scientific series that sets out to show that men and women have different brains; that we're wired differently. "Feminist philosophies say differences between the sexes are the result of socialisation," explains series co-producer Jim Meyer. "We're seeking to prove that there are strong biological forces as well."

Meyer's co-producer is biologist turned documentary-maker Ann Moir, and the series is based on her 1988 book Brainsex. "The emergence of new technology has allowed scientists to look at living human brains at work, she says.". Among the conclusions are that boys and girls start behaving stereotypically at a very early age; new Men are a fantasy; and the `glass ceiling' preventing women from getting to the top of their professions is partly made out of their own hormones.

The series does not give space to dissenting voices. "We chose not to use the programme as a vehicle for debate," explains Meyer. "It's supposed to be a serious science programme exploring the biology of gender difference. The social debate can carry on afterwards." One suspects it will

`Why Men Don't Iron' begins on 23 June at 9pm on Channel 4