A favorite way to avoid facing up to sexism (or racism, or other institutionalized bias) is to explain its biological origins, often with a little bonus of how such behavior helped the human race evolve. Who can argue, right, with a scientific explanation that has “evolution” in it? And biology? That’s a real science, plus chromosomes that you can see with a microscope. And animals? There’s animals, too–even primates! Plus hunting and gathering, and babies, and it explains so handily all that troublesome business about how so few women really hold any power (political or corporate), and end up in the fields that don’t pay so much (nurses and teachers vs. technology), or why they spend so much money on diets and clothing and makeup, and that strange thing about movie and television roles for actresses who turn forty, and porn and prostitution, and pregnancy makes you less fit to do your desk job than a man, and all that. You know–stuff like this:
Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance (the study is available for download from the linked article, “It Doesn’t Add Up..”)
Long story short: Black women aren’t considered less attractive because of biology. Men and women are raised–not born–to behave differently. Girls are discouraged from science and math education, and women are pushed out of those fields once they start careers. It has nothing to do with evolution, and everything to do with how society values women and what activities it considers appropriate for women to engage in. There is a construct of “womanhood” that has been carefully tended for years and years and years that makes it easy for men to justify, well, hogging all the money and power. It’s all made up. There is nothing inherently different about men and women that explains why men and women MUST behave in these ways. People just like it more when they do that. And using science to defend why you just like stuff in an attempt to give your preferences authority is using science irresponsibly.
If you still don’t believe that there’s a construct of womanhood (and manhood, for that matter, and for any sort of cultural identity), think on this: What is considered attractive varies by time and place, from the titillation possibilities of ankles to breast size to the amount and placement of body hair. Humans just aren’t evolving fast enough to explain scientifically why certain looks go in and out of fashion, but if you can throw in some scienciness to go along with your explanation for why you think that actress needs a body double for that close-up of her hands, then you can pretend that it’s not your fault you are holding her to a ridiculous, unattainable standard–it’s just natural! Not arrogant and obnoxious at all! There aren’t that many women on your coding team, or in your lab, or in upper management, not because men are being unfair but because, oh yeah, babies and women just don’t like to worry about the hard, hard jobs and stress like men have to do and don’t have the right hormones to handle it anyway. You might even convince yourself women are lucky that they don’t have to control the whole company or worry about deciding things in government or take home big paychecks and get to stay home all day where it’s peaceful and there are fresh vegetables to can and cats to pet. And also babies.
You might convince yourself of that instead of acknowledging that you are benefiting from women being shut out of power and that at the very best you are enabling systemic, perpetual inequality. It’s hard to admit that, and even worse when you realize that you have an obligation as a decent human being to work to change it. Because then you have to expend extra effort in your life or else feel a little worse every day for doing nothing in the face of obvious injustice.
But let me play Devil’s Advocate for a moment–let’s say that it’s all true. That men and women have evolved certain biological differences which means that the average woman is worse than the average man at some things. Let’s say that’s true, and that it’s true for every other primate in the world, too. So what? That doesn’t excuse bad behavior, or unfairness, or discrimination, or sexism, even if the first and most natural impulse in a given situation is to implement it. Humans have learned to override their natural instincts all over the place, despite sometimes adding extra steps that make an act less efficient and more cumbersome than we evolved to do it. You can unlearn sexism, and put a stop to even natural behaviors that all of evolutionary theory backs you up on.
I’m pretty sure our pre-human ancestors brought food right from the kill to their mouths with their hands. We don’t do that now, however, for no particular reason (although that varies by culture and place, too). In fact, we spend a lot of time teaching children to use forks and spoons despite the fact they could feed themselves faster without it. It’s because of health and sanitation; we don’t have to worry about contaminating food because there’s plenty of clean water around for most of the people who use forks and spoons. We can just wash our hands before and after. It’s a behavior we learn with with great effort for no other reason than manners and etiquette–even though it denies our natural survival instinct to eat food as fast as possible before a rival takes it. We value this non-natural behavior so much that some people go out of their way to learn to use chopsticks in certain restaurants that always have forks available! But there are no scientificky rationalizations to explain this. It’s just what you do if you’ve been “raised right,” and there are social consequences for people who vary from this norm. People may note that it’s arbitrary and maybe pointless, but they don’t come up with reasons why we must engage in this behavior or else species! Doom! They don’t have to, because there is nothing really at stake if the culture changes and forks become obsolete.
If we wanted to, we could easily as a group decide to override any purported evolutionary holdover instincts that lead to the suppression of women’s abilities in certain arbitrarily designated areas (like math and science, or governance, or executive leadership) and make sure that women are given full opportunities from infancy through adulthood to participate in public life and create social consequences for people who weren’t “raised right” enough to understand this. Easily. But we don’t, for very particular reasons, and they have nothing to do with science or evolution and everything to do with power and sharing it.