This is a past event
Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall (room 115)
  • Open to the Public

The Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies Department is pleased to welcome Professor Rebecca Jordan-Young from the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Barnard College.

In spite of the growing emphasis on plasticity in neuroscience, there is still widespread credence given to the notion that some sex/gender-linked factors are fundamentally "hardwired" (usually, but not exclusively, attributed to steroid hormones, often characterized as "sex hormones"). This talk will consider this notion of an "innately gendered" brain from three directions. First, we'll review the evidence that the hardwiring theory is not consistent with empirical research on humans. Second, we'll consider what is actually known about the shape and variation of male-female differences in cognition and personality. If we began with the evidence, would a theory of "male" or "female" brains emerge? Finally, we'll look at how the continuing characterization of some steroid hormones as "sex hormones" is linked to incomplete and inaccurate concepts in biology pedagogy.

Professor Jordan-Young is an interdisciplinary feminist scientist and science studies scholar whose work explores the reciprocal relations between science and the social hierarchies of gender, sexuality, class, and race. Her first book, "Brain Storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences" (Harvard 2010), was the first systematic analysis of the idea that early hormone exposures “hardwire” sex differences into the human brain. Tracing definitions and measures across hundreds of studies, she found that the research overall doesn’t support the idea that human brains are “organized” for gender and sexuality by early hormone exposures. She is also on the Board of the international Neurogenderings Network (, a transdisciplinary network of neurofeminist scholars who aim to critically examine the production of neuroscientific knowledge and to develop better approaches for gender-informed research.

Pizza will be provided. This event is open to the public.

This event is co-sponsored by the Queer Resource Center, the Women's and Gender Center, the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, the Neuroscience Program, the Biology Department, the Lucius Root Eastman 1895 Fund, and the George Lurcy Lecture Series at Amherst College.

Contact Info

Stephanie Orion
(413) 542-5781
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail if you require contact info