In the November 2000 issue of Psychological Science, for example, a team headed by Vanderbilt University's Camilla Persson Benbow summarized earlier research showing "sex differences in mathematical precocity before kindergarten"; "sex differences in mathematical reasoning as early as the second grade (among intellectually gifted students)"; and "pronounced sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability" in a 1980 study of 9,927 intellectually talented 12-to-14-year-olds.
New data collected 20 years later from 1,975 of these 9,927 people, the article said, showed "the predictive value" of early SAT scores "for identifying students with promise for math and science careers."
None of this is to suggest that men are biologically better suited than women (on average) for success in medicine, law, business, politics, journalism, liberal arts, languages, or the vast majority of other academic and professional fields. Indeed, some 57 percent of all four-year college degrees go to women. Nor is it to suggest that all mathematical geniuses are men, or that women cannot reach the top, or that sex discrimination has been completely eradicated.
But if most mathematical geniuses are men, as many studies suggest, then the fact that men still dominate the few academic fields requiring mathematical brilliance is not entirely attributable either to sex discrimination or to the reluctance of mothers to work 80-hour weeks. (This reluctance is itself seen by some feminists as a sign of discrimination, including society's failure to pressure fathers to spend as much time with their kids as mothers.)
This is why so many feminists have personal stakes in silencing talk, and stigmatizing study, of possible gender differences in mathematical-reasoning ability. It was an awesome display of their power that lobotomized Summers—brilliant economist and possessor of the most prestigious post in all of academia. Amid serial apologies, he contradicted his January 14 remarks by swearing allegiance to the feminist dogma that "the human potential to excel in science" clearly has nothing to do with gender.
It is ironic that while shouting down any hint that men might be more capable than women in mathematics, many so-called "difference feminists" have long contended that women are morally superior to and more caring than men. This, says Daphne Patai, a former professor of women's studies at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), illustrates "the opportunism, inconsistency, and double standards that abound in contemporary feminism, often feebly justified by attacks on logic and reason as 'masculinist.'"
Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate placed this episode in its larger context in a piece in the Boston Phoenix:
"The modern university is the culmination of a 20-year trend of irrationalism marked by an increasingly totalitarian approach to highly politicized issues. Students are subjected to mandatory gender-and racial-sensitivity training akin to thought reform.... Faculty members and administrators are made to understand that their careers are at risk if they deviate from the accepted viewpoint."