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The incredible story of gender theory

By Daniela Wagner for Apollo News.

A central thesis of gender theory is that gender is mainly socially constructed. The pioneer of this theory is the psychology professor John Money. The terms gender identity and gender role that are ubiquitous in gender studies today can be traced back to Money. In 1975, Alice Schwarzer described it as one of the “few exceptions that do not manipulate, but do justice to the task of research”. The case of the Reimer twins was used as evidence of the social construction of sex, especially in the 1970s. Time magazine celebrated the experiment: "This dramatic case supports an important claim by the women's movement: that conventional patterns of male and female behavior can be changed." However, from a scientific perspective, it is extremely questionable to rely on just one experiment to verify a thesis. It is also important to state that this experiment has absolutely failed.

The Reimer twins were circumcised in infancy. Bruce, one of the two boys, burned the penis and testicles so badly that they had to be amputated. The desperate parents then turned to John Money, who claimed that the gender was freely changeable until the age of three. For him, the twins were the perfect experiment. Bruce underwent gender reassignment and was given the name Brenda. Money asked the parents to let Brenda know that she was born a boy.

Initially, the experiment seemed successful. Brenda was neater than her brother and seemed to identify herself as a girl. However, the problems started when puberty began. At the age of 13 Brenda had thoughts of suicide. She urinated while standing and resisted the mother's first attempt to put on a dress. At school, she fought with classmates and had hardly any friends.

Fearing that his experiment would fail, John Money tried to do everything possible to prevent it. The twins reported traumatic events during the therapy sessions. Money asked the twins to simulate sex positions on his sofa. He also showed the two sexual images that played a central role during the therapy sessions. It should also be mentioned that Money took the view that mutual sexual relationships between adults and children are not pathological.

Finally the father broke the silence and told Brenda everything. She decided to do another sex change and took the name David. David met the journalist John Colapinto, to whom he told his story. He met a woman with three children, whom he married and whose children he adopted. However, David became depressed in his thirties. He lost his job and his wife separated from him. His brother suffered from schizophrenia and died from a drug overdose. David committed suicide two years later.

John Money did not comment on the outcome of the experiment until suicide. After David Reimer's suicide, Alice Schwarzer preferred to blame journalist John Colapinto rather than John Money. The reason: Colapinto would not have given enough consideration. She also relativized Money's actions by the fact that David and the psychology professor had no contact 22 years before his death.

Empirical research has not confirmed that gender is mainly constructed by social factors. Children aged 9 months and older prefer to play with gender-specific toys. An ad hoc hypothesis by representatives of gender theory would then be likely that children were already affected by the white cis patriarchy at the age of 9 months. This is contradicted by the result of a study in newborns, according to which there are gender differences in behavior shortly after birth. Boys tend to be more interested in mechanical-technical objects and girls are more interested in faces. Female and male rhesus monkeys also showed similar preferences. While male rhesus monkeys preferred to use frosted toys, there was greater variation in preferences among the females. Are the sexes of rhesus monkeys only social constructs?

In addition, some studies speak against the assumption often made in the left milieu that gender differences decrease as society becomes more egalitarian. A study with more than 23,000 participants from 23 countries came to the conclusion that the gender differences in character traits were greater in more egalitarian countries. Another study with more than 450,000 participants from 67 countries examined gender differences in the choice of subject. Countries with a higher gender equality index tended to have a more pronounced gender imbalance in the MINT subjects.

So far, the evidence for the core thesis of gender studies has not been presented. Maintaining his ideology was more important to the founder, John Money, than the well-being of the children he experimented with. Well-known feminists like Alice Schwarzer still trivialize his actions today.

Author's sources here for further in-depth research:


Photo: Yong Hian Lim/Dreamstime.
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