Through the eyes of women…’solutions’ to our sustainability predicament

Our innate (female) biological destiny, colors the lens through which we view and engage in the world. Our primary values are communication, connection, emotional sensitivity and responsiveness…just what we need to live more sustainable lives…

I have been reading a book called “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine. In it she describes the process  all brains of fetuses in utero as looking female until at eight weeks when those that will be males have their brains marinated in testosterone. This brain-washing results in “a reduction of the emotional memory and communication centres and an increase in the aggression and sexual  centres”. Those that will be female, on the other hand, brains continue to grow unperturbed. The “fetal girl’s brain cells sprout more connections in the communication centres and areas that process emotion”…

…this “defines our innate biological destiny, coloring the lens through which each of us views and engages in the world”.

The big take out message from this well-researched book is that males and females brains are different by nature. In the female brain: the communication centre is bigger; the emotional memory centre is bigger. She has a greater ability to read cues in people. This reality than dictates that communication, connection, emotional sensitivity, and responsiveness are primary values.

And yet there are many books written and presentations given by males that say that it is these values – communication, connection, emotional sensitivity, and responsiveness – are what is required for living more sustainably. These same males seem to consider all brains as the same, for when they talk about society it is almost always described from a male perspective (with this some how applying directly to women also). We have been thinking this way for quite some time: Brizendine notes that “until the 1990s researchers paid little attention to female physiology, neuroanatomy, or psychology separate from men”. Women were often considered the same as men or that for researchers women’s cycles would upset their studies.

A good example of this focus on a male view is the book “Relational Being: beyond self and community” by  Kenneth Gergen, in which he proposes that if we accept ourselves as bounded beings (individuals, distinct from each other) then we are required to deal with issues of separation, we must always be on guard, concerned about exposing faults in our thinking, the cesspools of our emotions and embarrassing emotions. Even though the idea of Relational Being is to be sought after, in this book Gergen does not recognise that females do not live their lives this way. Indeed Brizendine’s highly researched book bringing together material from neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, child development, brain imaging, and psychoneuroendocinology and more, describes the “unique brain-body-behaviour system” that is a female reads emotions and that this equals reading reality, further “girls’ well-developed brain circuits for gathering meaning from faces and tone of voice also push them to comprehend the social approval of others”. Also “if you are a girl you’ve been programmed for social harmony…The testosterone-formed boy brain simply does not look for social connection in the same way a girls brain does”.

The concept of a Female Brain is an important addition to considerations of becoming more sustainable:

  • If women understand their innate biology better, they can empower themselves or be empowered to “better plan for our future” . Brizendine takes this to a personal proposition “now that so many women have gained control over their fertility and achieved economic independence, we can create a blueprint for the road ahead. That means making revolutionary changes in … our personal choices of partners, careers, and the timing of our children”
  • She also notes that we can make “revolutionary changes to society” and it is here that I want to focus attention. Of course personal choices will have flow on effects into society but given that we now have a pending crisis of ecology with its attendant effects on humans, flora and fauna we need a faster adaptation than this rolling change.
  • If both men and women understand the differences in their innate biology there is more chance that there will be changes to the way that male and female ways of being in the world are valued.

More to come in a further post on this topic…

About Jenni

I am interested in working with others to enhance the sustainability of human systems. My practice is to engage with people by drawing on their own ways of knowing and understanding. I orient people toward the “pull” of future intentions, rather than the blind "push" of past habits and "best practice". I encourage people to break out of their cognitive silos, to think laterally and to focus on the whole problem systemically in all its inter-disciplinary complexity. My practice works through the essential processes of innovation – mobilising resources, enrolling peers, engaging allies and building public support. This form of engineering practice is about manoeuvring, dissolving boundaries, always being in action, and recognising that function, congruence and transformation are emergent properties generated through active learning by doing.
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