Anthropology professor asks: 'Are women superior to men?'

Melvin Konner, professor of anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University, prompted a discussion Wednesday about each chapter of his most recent book, "Women After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy."

In his book, he argues that women are not equal to men; rather, they are superior.

“It is important to understand that the similarities between men and women’s brains are much greater than any differences," Konner said. "The differences that exist are unrelated to general intelligence but they are tied to specific dispositions. Men greatly exceed women in violence and sexuality."

A panel made up of ASU instructors from a range of departments related to the topic of gender gave their opinions, including anthropology professor Kim Hill. 

“I was a little taken aback at first by what seemed like a little of hyperbole,” Hill said. “Women are superior to men in some realms and men are better than women in some ways. My reaction is that yes, I kind of agree with most of the book. Bottom line is that you can’t proclaim either sex is superior to the other.”

Anthropology and primatology professor Sarah Hrdy had a similar opinion to Hill and said there are large differences between men and women, but none that make either gender superior.

“I was really glad that Mel started where he did,” Hrdy said. “He reminded us, yes, there are some respects having to do with pro-social impulses that make women better adapted to the peculiar conditions of the twenty-first century. He’s not telling us that one sex is superior to the other.”

Women’s and gender studies professor Sally Kitch enjoyed the book but was skeptical of the statements made about the progress of women in society in the book.

“I found a lot to enjoy (in the book),” Kitch said. “I’m more skeptical about some of that progress. What I wanted to know more about is how that progress interacts with genetic and evolutionary material. Even with progress just having a woman in charge does not bring nirvana.”

Computational biology genetics professor Melissa Wilson-Sayres touched on the genetic and sex research done to support conclusions and ideas made by Konner in the book.

“I am a geneticist and for me getting a perspective, anthropological and biological, was very good for me,” said Wilson. “For me the point that’s most important is to try and distinguish between sex and gender. Just like there’s variations in gender identity we have variation in sex.”

Konner has written eleven books, including works such as "The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit," "Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School" and "Why the Reckless Survive... and Other Secrets of Human Nature."

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