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How Do Feminists Explain Immunology?

In certain circles, it is politically incorrect to suggest that men and women are different. (Just ask former Harvard president Lawrence Summers.) Ignoring the entire field of biology, feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir famously philosophized that, "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," implying that social constructs hoisted upon women by a patriarchal society explain why women become who they are.

That ideology still persists today.

According to Amazon, the book Delusions of Gender, written by Cordelia Fine, "debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men's and women's brains...[and] gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender." Basically, it's Simone de Beauvoir's feminist philosophy applied to neuroscience. Fine even uses the word "neurosexism" to disparage research which shows differences between male and female brains.
shutterstock_110533712.jpgOur immune systems are different.

However, as I discuss in my new book, Science Left Behind (in a chapter titled "Boys Have Wee-Wees and Girls Have Hoo-Hoos") the scientific consensus simply does not support her ideological viewpoint. Yet, many neuroscientists are afraid to openly discuss gender differences over the fear of being labeled "sexist" by people like Cordelia Fine.

An article in Slate describes how this timidity has outraged female scientists, two of whom "called the aversion to studying innate differences anti-scientific

and an impediment to understanding mental illness in women."

In addition to this growing scientific backlash, feminists have another problem to contend with: immunology.

A new review published in the journal BioEssays describes how men and women respond differently to viral infections. From the abstract:

The intensity and prevalence of viral infections are typically higher in

males, whereas disease outcome can be worse for females. Females mount

higher innate and adaptive immune responses than males, which can result

in faster clearance of viruses, but also contributes to increased

development of immunopathology. In response to viral vaccines, females

mount higher antibody responses and experience more adverse reactions

than males. The efficacy of antiviral drugs at reducing viral load

differs between the sexes, and the adverse reactions to antiviral drugs

are typically greater in females than males. Several variables should be

considered when evaluating male/female differences in responses to

viral infection and treatment: these include hormones, genes, and

gender-specific factors related to access to, and compliance with,

treatment. Knowledge that the sexes differ in their responses to viruses

and to treatments for viral diseases should influence the recommended

course of action differently for males and females. [Emphasis added.]

It is simply not possible to blame immune differences on socially contrived gender roles. Indeed, from genetics to psychology, research shows that men and women are simply different. Rejecting this is denying biological reality.

However, none of this is to imply that social factors and cultural norms don't play a role in shaping male and female behavior. Of course they do. But to throw out accusations of sexism against biologists for simply reporting their data hinders medical progress. As a society, we should embrace scientific reality, not comfortable ideologies.

But I could be wrong. Maybe I'm just an immunosexist.

(Photo: Boys and Girls via Shutterstock)

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