Darwin was a product of his time and with his time came the ideas of sexism and racism which were clearly integrated into his theories. There are some facets of Darwin’s theory about the differences in men and women which can be explained by biology but overall, it is clear that his theory is based on the sexist ideas prevalent in the 1800s. Women are expected to be caring, selfless, maternal, and submissive while men are expected to be dominant, aggressive, successful and confident. Most of Darwin’s theory relating to the differences in men and women can be explained by social expectations which have shaped what is acceptable in society.
Recent studies show that women are seen as the emotional sex across cultures (Crawford and Unger). Darwin says, “[w]oman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness; and this holds good even with savages…” (Darwin 234). This is simply an observation of socially imposed standards which Darwin considers evolutionary traits. Darwin’s assumption on mental dispositions leading to differences in male and female attitudes can be explained by the stereotypes instilled within people. Gender stereotypes begin to form in children by age five and are typically completely ingrained by the end of adolescence (Crawford and Unger). Women are expected to be tender and caring for others, as well as submissive. Although none of this is to say that stereotyping is bad, as it is a normal process, it just explains why this is because of social factors and not biological ones.
A study was conducted to see people’s reactions to angry and sad faces of men and women. When these two faces were blended together, as in, the angry woman and sad woman were blended together, as well as the men, people saw sadness more in women’s faces than anger and the opposite for men (Crawford and Unger). This shows stereotypes at work. Another study found that women who were scared during horror movies were more sexually attractive to men, while men who showed no fear were more sexually attractive to women (Crawford and Unger). Granted, this is not necessarily an example that could be applied to Darwin’s time, but the concept of women being scared and men overcoming their fear is still important to understand.
Psychologist Jean Baker Miller theorized that because women are subordinate in society, they develop to reflect this (Crawford and Unger). So, in order to survive, they must be adaptive to their position. However, this development is carried through social influences rather than biological ones. Women thus become intuitive because they must be aware of behaviors so they can react appropriately. This explains Darwin’s assumption that “[i]t is generally admitted that with woman the powers of intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly marked than in man…” (Darwin 234). Although Miller’s theory has been questioned because it does not encompass cultural...