Article Analysis: “Rethinking Women’s Biology” by Ruth Hubbard

The article “Rethinking Women’s Biology” by Ruth Hubbard attempts to explain the sex differences between men and women. Hubbard outlines the biological inequality of women in a unique way. She argues that women’s biology is socially constructed and political, and there are large overlaps for all characteristics that are not directly concerned with procreation. Hubbard therefore proposes that women and men can perform any task they value. She says that egalitarian division of labor does not require biological changes but political will and action. Both men and women can contribute to any activity that is socially useful and should be rewarded according to their talents and abilities.

This analysis and critique paper argues that the article by Hubbard is self-justifying; a proposition of a woman who tries to justify herself or themselves as a woman (women) as she tries to oppose scientific and natural explanations of women biology which seemingly (according to her) indicate inferior natural abilities of women. The article uses criticisms of scientists and physicians, comparison between men and women, cause and effect, and analysis approach to justify its arguments. Hubbard is successful in her approach, and she has successfully convinced her audience that women are not different from men except in procreation terms. Therefore, she successfully convinces her audiences to stop believing that women are naturally and biology and naturally weak and inferior. Her advocacy for equal treatment of women has been clearly and successfully been achieved through her social constructivism and political approach.

The target audience of this article is the general population of the US, but mainly those who seemingly believe that women are naturally weaker and more inferior to men. Hubbard attempts to inform them that the differences that exist between men and women are few, and actually overlap; hence women are equally important and capable to perform what men can perform, and that women deserve equal treatment as men in the labour market. She tries to confront the arguments of scientists and physicians who argue that being biologically a woman is natural. Her audience is keen to know why being a woman is not a natural phenomenon. She provides various reasons to demonstrate that.

In her first approach, Hubbard supports her argument that women biology is socially constructed and political by explaining three ways that validate this argument. In order to support her argument even more strongly, she uses literature from pas studies. For instance, she quotes Simone de Beauvoir (1953) and argues that, “One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman.” This forms the basis of the first of her three ways in which she thinks biology is considered a social construct and a political concept. Hubbard suggests that the way people dress, perform activities, play, eat and perform in school all affect our biology and social being. In this case, the article uses cause and effect approach to determine what causes womanhood or manhood. According to Hubbard, it is our efforts as social and biological beings that determine who we are and not the environment in which we live. In this argument, Hubbard has succeeded to convince her audience by using her own views and evidence from past research.

The second way in which Hubbard thinks women biology is socially constructed and political is based on her criticism of women biology as described by physicians and scientists. Hubbard challenges physicians and scientists whom she perceives as historically well educated men with personal and political reasons to describe women in natural ways. She regards those descriptions as self-serving. However, it may be argued that her criticisms and descriptions are also self-serving. While scientists and physicians attempt to describe women’s biology in a way that suits their well being, Hubbard also offers oppositions and counterpropositions which suggest that she is also advocating for her wellbeing and the wellbeing of her fellow women. Therefore, her arguments are self-justifying and self-serving. This can be seen in her statement that, “No one has suggested that men are just walking testicles, but again and again women have been looked on as though they were walking ovaries. If Hubbard’s suggestion in this statement was not self-serving, then she should not have supported her argument in the context of how the society views men.

Hubbard also supported her claim that women biology is socially constructed and political by using historical scientific claims. She argues that scientists in the 19th century proposed that women should not be educated because their brains are too small, and that they should devote their time to developing their wombs. By criticizing historical scientific view of women biology, Hubbard has succeeded in providing evidence that social construction and political concept are the key factors that determine woman biology; hence strengthening her proposition.

The article has also used cause and effect mechanism to support its main point. Hubbard has used the concepts of height, weight and strength to clarify the social construction of women biology. She argues that, women and men are physically not very different.” Using evidence from height difference studies in USA, Hubbard successfully informed her audience that men and women are approximately of the same height. She suggests that the small difference in height between men and women is caused by several social factors including diet. In this regard, Hubbard uses an interaction of both evidence and cause and effect methods to explain her position. She uses evidence to explain why some people are shorter than others.

The growth patterns in girls and boys also explain why men grow taller than women. In this case, Hubbard again uses menstruation as a causal evidence to show that women grow at a slower rate than women. Concerning weight, Hubbard says, “Weight clearly has considerable social components”. She goes ahead to support her social construct claim by arguing that different societies define beauty differently, and weight is one considerable factor in such a construct. Some societies consider fat women as less beautiful. Furthermore, the weight of women may change depending on physical activity, diet, and other life patterns. Therefore, the differences between men and women in terms of weight are determined by socio-political aspects. This inter-play between causes and effects, and evidence from studies clearly illustrates the effectiveness of Hubbard’s approach in supporting her claims, though self-serving and self-justifying.

Hubbard continues to criticize scientists by providing evidence from women. This is interplay between evidence and criticism whereby evidence is used to criticize scientists’ natural construct on women biology. Hubbard argues that, “We need to get information directly from women and not rely on so-called experts, who are often male and whose knowledge trends to be based on experience of patients – that is, of women with problems.” This statement appreciates the need for social evidence in this issue to criticize scientific evidence, but it seems to be self-serving and subjective in its approach rather than being objective. This is because the author criticizes male scientists and does not highlight the arguments of female scientists. It seems ambiguous for the author to suggest that scientists are mainly men, but does not talk about the few female scientists.

Indeed, Hubbard has succeeded in addressing her audience and asking them to treat women equally as men. This success has been achieved through the interplay of evidence, cause and effect and criticisms to explain the social construct and political concept of women biology. However, the author is self-serving and self-justifying in her approach because she seeks explanations and arguments that satisfying her wellbeing and those of other women. This is quite ironical because she seemingly criticizes scientists and physicians for being self-serving in their approach, something that she also does in her approach.

 

References list

Hubbard, R. (n.d.). Rethinking Women’s Biology.

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