Psych lecturer: Time to end 'binary' gender

Psych lecturer: Time to end 'binary' gender

If men are from Mars, so are women, according to a senior psychology lecturer at Auckland University.

Dr Pani Farvid is calling for "gender equality" education in schools, saying there's virtually no difference between how the sexes think, despite our binary "hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine" culture.

"You just have to pick up a women's magazine or a men's magazine to see these ideas reinforced over and over again," she told Paul Henry on Wednesday.

"Thirty or 40 years of psychological research has shown consistently that men and women are more similar than they are different in every single way possible."

Dr Farvid has been studying the differences and similarities for nearly 15 years, and recently delivered a talk at TEDx Auckland called 'Saying goodbye to binary gender'.

She says both masculine and feminine extremes in thought "tend to disappear the more gender-neutral the social or experimental context".

"What I found fascinating, or kind of alarming as I was doing the research was this complete disconnect between what we hear publicly and in the media, the discourse of gender difference, and what we're seeing in research. We tend to buy into this idea that men and women are very different when it comes to all sorts of traits - they have different desires, different abilities, different characteristics, and this just isn't backed up by research."

Dr Farvid wants New Zealand to follow Sweden and introduce gender equality education from the very beginning, to undo the social indoctrination - which she says begins when parents start talking to their unborn children differently, depending on whether they're a boy or a girl.

After all, she says, it's a single chromosome that separates men and women at the biological level.

"Physiologically, what makes us different is this one chromosome - the sex chromosome - out of all the chromosomes that we have. That sex chromosome is not responsible for our psychology - it's only responsible for minor physical differences between us...

"It doesn't matter what genitals what you're born with. The way that we understand this link between genitals and gender needs to be completely rethought, and we need to embrace much more gender fluidity and understand there are multiple ways of being men and women, and not just this kind of polarised, very hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine version that's the popular version of it now."