Who’s Afraid Of Charles Darwin?: Debating Feminism And Evolutionary Theory

2520 words - 10 pages

There are many feminist theories and each of them is informed by different sources. There is overlap of where various feminists get to their conclusions but there continues to be unending variations. Griet Vandermassen the author of Who’s Afraid of Charles Darwin?: Debating Feminism and Evolutionary Theory seeks to draw feminists attention towards science as a new source of information to help understand women’s roles and to reinforce women’s rights to equality. She outlines her intentions and her reasons for the book and follows it with an exhaustive argument. Comparing her work to other feminist viewpoints especially views from other women in the sciences helps to shed light on the weaknesses of her argument. Vandermassen is unable to successfully argue the benefits of incorporating a Darwinian feminist viewpoint in feminist ideology.
Vandermassen made the decision to write the book after realizing how her own views of feminism and human sexuality were incorrect because she had not used a Darwinian perspective to shape her views. She erroneously believed that all people were born bisexual and the majority chose to maintain heterosexual relationships because of cultural conditioning. When through research she discovered the mistakes in her worldview and saw that many others had been labouring under the same misconceptions. She feels that many feminists see science as a completely patriarchal construct which has nothing that can be used to enhance feminist thinking.
Vandermassen spends the first five chapters of her book outlining the scientific theories she feels feminists should pay more attention too. She also describes and critiques feminists who have argued against them. She looks at how Darwinian theories have been interpreted and misinterpreted by members of the scientific community.
Vandermassen claims that there is no such thing as feminist science. She says that despite large gaps in equality between men and women in science that science itself is genderless. She uses the example of Barbara McClintock to show this. McClintock found that pieces of DNA could move around and were not static (Vandermassen, 47). Her findings were not accepted for years as they contradicted the conventional wisdom of the time. Her discovery was eventually validated and she was awarded the Nobel Prize. Vandermassen feels that the eventual acceptance of McClintock’s work by the scientific community proves the genderless nature of science. It wasn’t the work which kept it from being accepted after all, it was the scientist. She is further bolstered in her thinking because McClintock herself agrees.
Another of Vandermassen’s theories that must be understood to follow her argument is that she does not find validity in the nurture theory of human behaviour. Social scientists often debate whether human behaviour and society as a whole are formed through biology (nature) or through other human interactions and surroundings (nurture). Vandermassen completely...

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