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A framework for integrating evolutionary and feminist perspectives in psychological research

A framework for integrating evolutionary and feminist perspectives in psychological research
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  Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology 2013, 7(4), x-x.  2013 Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology 1   Letter   1 2 A FRAMEWORK FOR INTEGRATING EVOLUTIONARY 3 AND FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES IN PSYCHOLOGICAL 4 RESEARCH 5 6 7 * Daniel J. Kruger  8 School of Public Health and Population Studies Center, University of Michigan 9 10 Maryanne L. Fisher   11  Department of Psychology, St. Mary’s University 12 13 Paula Wright 14  Department of Psychology, University College Cork 15 16 17 Abstract 18 There is growing interest in a feminist perspective on evolutionary research, yet no clear 19 consensus on exactly what this viewpoint entails. We present a framework with three 20 core components for the purpose of generating a constructive dialogue regarding this 21 approach: 1) Think critically about sex and gender, and do not adopt assumptions, 22 regardless of the source, without supportive evidence; 2) Explicitly recognize females as 23 active agents in evolutionary processes; 3) Explicitly recognize women as active agents 24 in human dynamics, including those related to inter-sexual selection and intra-sexual 25 competition. Adoption of these principles may help advance understanding across 26 disciplines, though there may be some feminists and even some evolutionary researchers 27 who will balk at some or all of these principles. 28 29 Keywords:  Feminism, science, evolution, psychology, theory   30 31 Introduction   32 33 It is critical that we begin with an appropriate definition of feminism, as there is 34 considerable variation in definitions and interpretations. We rely on the definition 35 provided by Anne Campbell, in that feminism is a “social movement and political 36 program aimed at ameliorating the position of women in society” (Campbell, 2006, p. 37 63). Campbell notes that this goal is one that a large number of evolutionary 38 psychologists have in common, and that many scholars within the field of evolutionary 39 psychology have written about feminist issues. Although we recognize progress in this 40 area, there is no unified approach to merging feminism with evolutionary psychology. 41 This letter represents our attempt to provide core concepts we believe will help advance 42 this effort. 43 This is an exciting time for such an approach, given the considerable discussion 44 AUTHOR NOTE: Please direct all correspondence to Daniel J. Kruger, 1420 Washington Heights, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029. Email:    A framework for evolutionary feminist perspectives Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology – ISSN 1933-5377 – Volume 7(4). 2013. 2 in conference sessions, online forums, and reviews of scholarly books. A growing 1 number of evolutionary scholars are proclaiming their interest in a feminist perspective. 2 Indeed, the letters in this issue reflect this growing interest, as does the special issue of 3 the academic journal Sex Roles  devoted to the topic of feminism and evolutionary 4 psychological views of mate selection (2011, volume 64). 5 Reactions have ranged from strong support to incredulity, and recent on-line 6 discussions have generated more heat than light. One of the informal but common 7 criticisms against those attempting to bridge feminist theory (or viewpoints) with 8 evolutionary psychology is that science is supposed to be performed without bias; that 9 entertaining a feminist perspective means placing an ideology upon hypothesis testing, 10 for example. However, this criticism is not unique to the feminist evolutionary approach. 11 The sciences seem to be plagued with biases with respect to the type of questions that are 12 asked, methods that are employed, or the conclusions that are reached (for a review, see 13 Tuana, 1989; see Fausto-Sterling, 1985, for specific comment about evolutionary 14 psychology). Irigaray (1989) examines the language of science and argues that 15 gender/sex influences the actual types of questions scientists ask, while Hubbard (1989) 16 points out gender/sex’s influence in laboratory structure, assumptions about human 17 nature, and gender/sex bias in scientific language. Some, like Tuana (1989, p. xi), argue 18 that science is a cultural construction, structured by political, social, and economic values 19 within which it is practiced, and therefore, by default, contains a number of biases, 20 including those of gender/sex. In addition, many feminists since the second wave deem 21 the scientific method as a practice that is profoundly and historically unfeminist (Hyde, 22 1996). 23 In the interest of advancing the dialogue regarding a feminist perspective and 24 research in evolutionary psychology, we present a framework with three core 25 components. We hope this provides a basis for consensus on the minimal necessary 26 criteria for what we call “a feminist evolutionary approach.” Other elements may be 27 added in time, and there will likely be an extended process of defining additional 28 parameters of this approach. 29 30 Thinking Critically about Sex and Gender 31 32 First, one must think critically about sex and gender. Cultural practices and beliefs 33 regarding gender roles vary widely, and yet there is a universal foundation due to our 34 common evolutionary heritage. It is important for evolutionary researchers to educate 35 other scholars and the public continually about the realities of contemporary evolutionary 36 theory regarding psychology and behavior. Critics of the evolutionary approach often 37 assume that it involves genetic determinism, excuses unsavory behaviors and eliminates 38 personal accountability, or that it enforces the maintenance of the status quo, for example 39 (e.g., for a review, see Gaulin & McBurney, 2003). The recognition that behavioral 40 patterns emerge as a product of a complex interaction between genotypes shaped by 41 evolution over many, many generations and the developmental environment of 42 individuals has existed for at least half a century (e.g., Tinbergen, 1963). Human 43 sexuality has a basis in sex differences shaped by millions of years of sexual selection, 44 yet there is considerable psychological and behavioral variation within each sex and 45 sometimes overlap in important characteristics. Rhonda Unger (1979) proposed that those 46 working in psychology use the term “sex” to refer to the biological bases of an individual, 47 and “gender” to refer to the socio-cultural influences. This distinction is similar to 48   A framework for evolutionary feminist perspectives Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology – ISSN 1933-5377 – Volume 7(4). 2013. 3 Tinbergen’s (1963) ultimate and proximate levels of interpretation, such that both allow a 1 richer understanding of human behavior. Although distinguished by definition, sex and 2 gender likely have a complex interrelationship. 3 4 Females as Active Agents 5 6 The recognition of females as active agents in evolutionary processes may not be 7 universal among evolutionary scholars. Some hold the position that because males have 8 greater variation in reproductive success than females, they act as the primary (or sole) 9 “genetic filter” where selection occurs (e.g., Moxon, 2012). Females are the physiological 10 engines of reproduction, yet individual females are arbitrary to the process. In contrast, 11 we recognize that females are also responsible for considerable variation in reproductive 12 success, which of course is influenced by many factors in addition to the immediate 13 production of offspring. For example, across many species the ability of females to obtain 14 reliable paternal investment will affect the survival and future prospects of her offspring. 15 Fisher, Chang, and Garcia (2013) argue that “evolutionary behavioral research 16 has been misled due to assumptions of women as docile in mating, and has too often 17 neglected topics such as mothering, female alliances, female aggression, female 18 physiology, female intrasexual competition, and women’s role in human evolution at 19 large. When these topics are examined, they are often viewed in terms of how they affect 20 women, rather than human evolution overall” (p. 2). Indeed, examining women as being 21 active agents of human evolution is truly necessary, if one hopes to advance evolutionary 22 informed research, but also if one hopes to incorporate a feminist perspective. 23 Lastly, perhaps most importantly for those working within the behavioral sciences, 24 it is key to recognize that at the interpersonal level, women are active agents in human 25 dynamics, including those related to inter-sexual selection and intra-sexual competition. 26 Many misconceptions of evolutionary psychology (perhaps even expressed by those who 27 advocate for the approach) appear to view women solely as a resource and passive 28 recipients of male strategies (e.g., Milam, 2010 for a review). There is growing evidence 29 that this is not the case. Women actively select male partners consistent with their 30 reproductive interests, for example choosing men who are likely to provide substantial 31 paternal investment for long-term relationships, but favoring cues of phenotypic quality 32 for brief sexual relationships. Women can readily identify male mating strategies and 33 make decisions based on this information (e.g., Kruger, Fisher, & Jobling, 2003; Kruger, 34 2006). Women also actively compete with each other for status and male partners, in 35 ways that are both similar and different from male intra-sexual competition (see Fisher, 36 2013 for a review). 37 Women have provided the mainstay of calories for groups in that their gathering 38 efforts typically provide a daily calorie offering, whereas men’s provisioning is more 39 sporadic. Among foraging societies, steady calories are provided to the group from 40 gathered goods, even when the most calories come from hunted sources of meat (Kaplan, 41 Hill, Lancaster, & Hurtado, 2000). Rather than focusing solely on “man the hunter,” for 42 example, one should also look at the influence of women’s active role in providing 43 consistent nutrition to the group. 44 Adoption of these principles may help advance understanding across disciplines, 45 though there may be feminists and evolutionary researchers who will balk at some, or all, 46 of these principles. We do not deny that both feminism and evolutionary psychology have 47 started in unique ways, as independent fields. For feminism, the first wave focused on 48   A framework for evolutionary feminist perspectives Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology – ISSN 1933-5377 – Volume 7(4). 2013. 4 women's suffrage in the belief that once women had the right to vote for political 1 candidates, inequality with men would disappear (Heywood, 2003).   As we now know, 2 this was not the case.   Social constructionism became the analytical tool of choice for 3 feminists during the second wave, not because it was a superior tool (it was untested) but 4 because it represented the binary opposite of positivism and the scientific method – the 5 quest for objective truth and facts, which were thought to be corrupted with androcentric 6 bias. (Hyde, 1996). That male bias existed within the scientific method was arguably 7 correct (see Vandermassen for review, 2004), and it is generally understood that 8 objectivity is an approach to science: after all, if humans were 'naturally' objective and 9 rational animals, there would be no need for a scientific method to erase subjective 10 biases. Whether androcentric biases could be corrected with supposedly feminine biases 11 that denied the existence of truth or facts was less clear, yet this appears to be the 12 heuristic that lead to the wholesale adoption of social constructionism by second wave 13 feminist theory. 14 The binary heuristic reviewed above also appears to present a tidy solution for 15 orthodox feminists (in theory at least) to socially constructed problems such as 16 patriarchy; what is constructed can be dismantled. Following from this premise, it 17 appears to makes sense that “the prime strategy of feminists should be the deconstruction 18 of the culture of patriarchy”(Barzilai, 2004, p. 878) and not the pursuit of egalitarian, 19 liberal aims which second wave feminists felt had failed (Gamble, 2001). 20 We argue that the perspectives of feminism and evolutionary psychology may not 21 be as irreconcilable as some would assume. We propose as well that the three core 22 concepts we have outlined will help bridge the two perspectives. On the other hand, 23 though, we admit that there will be a limit to the convergence in the perspectives of 24 feminists and evolutionary scholars when feminists assume cultural determinism, reject 25 the scientific method, and embrace relativism. As Fisher, Chang and Garcia (2013) 26 review, two of the biggest obstacles to the integration of the two areas are the naturalistic 27 fallacy of conflating an understanding of what “is” with what “ought” to be, and the 28 politics of studying sex differences. Although outside the scope of this letter, scholars 29 should be aware of these obstacles. It is a hopeful time for those attempting to advance 30 both evolutionary research and the integration of evolutionary research with other areas 31 of thought. 32 33 34 Received September 1, 2013; Revision received December 5, 2013; Accepted December 8, 35 2013  36 37 38 References 39 40 Barzilai, G. (2004). Culture of patriarchy in law: Violence from antiquity to modernity. 41  Law & Society Review, 38  , 867-884. 42 Campbell, A. (2006). Feminism and evolutionary psychology. In J. H. Barkow (Ed.), 43  Missing the   revolution: Darwinism for social scientists (pp. 63–99). New York: 44 Oxford University Press.  45 Fausto-Sterling, A. (1985).  Myths of gender: Biological theories about women and men. 46 New York: Basic Books. 47 Fisher, M. (2013). Women’s intrasexual competition. In M. Fisher, J. Garcia, & R. Chang 48   A framework for evolutionary feminist perspectives Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology – ISSN 1933-5377 – Volume 7(4). 2013. 5 (Eds.),  Evolution’s empress: Darwinian perspectives on the nature of women  (pp. 1 19-42) . New York: Oxford University Press. 2 Fisher, M., Sokol Chang, R., & Garcia, J. (2013). Introduction to  Evolution’s Empress . In 3 M. Fisher, J. Garcia, & R. Chang (Eds.),  Evolution’s empress: Darwinian 4  perspectives on the nature of women  (pp. 1-16) . New York: Oxford University 5 Press .   6 Gamble, S. (2001). The Routledge companion to feminism and postfeminism . New York: 7 Routledge. 8 Gaulin, S. & McBurney, D. (2003).  Evolutionary psychology  (2 nd  edition). New York: 9 Pearson. 10 Heywood, A. (2003). Political ideologies: An introduction  (3 rd  edition). New York: 11 Palgrave Macmillan. 12 Hyde, J.S. (1996). Where are the gender differences? Where are the gender similarities? 13 In D. M. Buss & N. M. Malmuth (Eds.), Sex, power, conflict: Evolutionary and 14  feminist perspectives (pp. 107-118). New York: Oxford University Press. 15 Hubbard, R. (1989). Science, facts and feminism. In N. Tuana (Ed.),  Feminism and 16 science  (pp. 119-131) .  Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 17 Irigaray, L. (1989). Is the subject of science sexed?   In N. Tuana (Ed.),  Feminism and 18 science  (pp. 58-68) .  Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 19 Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., & Hurtado, A. M. (2000). A theory of human life 20 history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity.  Evolutionary Anthropology, 9,   21 156-185. 22 Kruger, D. J. (2006). Male facial masculinity influences attributions of personality and 23 reproductive strategy. Personal Relationships, 13,  451-463. 24 Kruger, D., Fisher, M., & Jobling, I. (2003). Proper and dark heroes as dads and cads: 25 Alternative mating strategies in British Romantic literature.  Human Nature , 14 , 26 305-317. 27 Levit, N. (1996). Feminism for men: Legal ideology and the construction of maleness. 28 UCLA Law Review, 43 , 1037-1116. 29 Milam, E. L. (2010).  Looking for a few good males: Female choice in evolutionary 30 biology. Baltimore,   MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 31 Moxon, S. (2012). The srcin of the sexual divide in the ‘genetic filter’ function: Male 32 disadvantage and why it is not perceived.  New Male Studies: An International 33  Journal , 1, 96 – 124. 34 Tuana, N. (1989, Ed). Feminism and science.  Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 35 Unger, R. K. (1979). Toward a redefinition of sex and gender.  American Psychologist, 36 34 (11), 1085-1094. 37 Vandermassen, G. (2004). Sexual selection: A tale of male bias and feminist denial. 38  European Journal of Women's Studies, 11 , 9-26. 39
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