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词汇:徐    唱


The way we are


本文选自 The Economist | 取经号原创翻译

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FOR much of history women were treated as men’s intellectual inferiors. Victorians believed that women’s reproductive health would be damaged if they strained their brains at university. A century ago few countries allowed women to vote. In 2005 Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, got into trouble for suggesting that one reason for the scarcity of women among scientists at elite universities may be due to “issues of intrinsic aptitude”. Some scientists rushed to his defence, citing research that suggested that this was true.


strain /stren/ v. to exert (oneself, one’s senses, etc.) to the utmost. 尽量利用; 尽全力

scarcity /’skɛrsəti/ n. the quality or state of being scarce 缺乏;不足

aptitude /’æptə’tʊd/ n. natural ability or skill, especially in learning 自然倾向;天资;适宜

“Inferior” by Angela Saini, a British journalist and broadcaster (who has written in the past for The Economist), is an illuminating account of how science has stoked the views that innate preferences and abilities differ between men and women. Ms Saini unpicks some of the most influential studies that have framed women as gentle, caring and empathetic and men as strong, rational and dominant—differences attributed to biology and evolution. A striking pattern emerges: almost all of the prominent scientists behind these studies are men, whereas much of the growing, more recent research that disputes them is done by women.


stoke /stəʊk/ to cause something to increase 加剧,激起

unpick /ʌnˈpɪk/ v. to examine the different parts of a subject, deal etc, especially in order to find faults 检视

Designating women as the weaker sex is biologically unfair. The natural sex ratio at birth is skewed in favour of boys, but they are more likely than girls to be born preterm and die in their first years of life. Women live longer than men and recover faster when they fall ill. Science is yet to find out why.


designate /ˈdezɪɡneɪt/ v. to represent or refer to something using a particular sign, name etc 指明

skew /skjuː/ v. to distort especially from a true value or symmetrical form 倾斜

preterm /ˈpriˌtɚm/ adj. of, relating to, being, or brought forth by premature birth 早产的

Men’s brains are 8-13% bigger than women’s. In the 19th century that was seen as proof that men were the cleverer sex. Since then, reams of research have shown that differences between the sexes in cognitive abilities or motor skills are very small or non-existent. When differences are found, they are not always in favour of the same sex and may shift over time. Girls in some countries are now better at maths than boys, for example. In America the ratio of boys to girls among children who are exceptionally talented at maths has plummeted since the 1970s. The brain, like other organs, is simply proportionate in size to men’s bigger bodies.


reams /riːm/ n. [plural] a large amount of writing or information, usually on paper 许多(文字)

plummet /ˈplʌmɪt/ v. to suddenly and quickly decrease in value or amount 垂直下降

Yet scientists keep searching for sex differences in the brain, these days with imaging machines that measure brain activity. This line of research relies on human eyes looking for patterns, and also on imperfect technology (scans of a dead fish have shown dots of “activity” in its brain). Such studies grab headlines when they juxtapose cherry-picked images of male and female brains that look dramatically different from each other. Any links to behaviours or proclivities are purely speculative, yet the media like the fiction.


juxtapose /ˌdʒʌkstəˈpəʊz/ [formal] to put things together, especially things that are not normally together, in order to compare them or to make something new 并列

cherry pick /ˈtʃeripɪk/ to choose the best things or people you want from a group before anyone else has the chance to take them 特地挑选

speculative /ˈspekjələtɪv/ adj. based on guessing, not on information or facts 假设、猜想

In fact, no two brains are the same: each is a mosaic of features, some of which are more common in men and others in women. According to one analysis of studies on sex differences in the brain, the proportion of people whose brains had purely masculine or feminine features was between zero and 8%.


“Inferior” rounds up compelling evidence against several other stereotypes that cast women as natural caregivers, sexually coy and dependent for survival on men because that is how evolution supposedly intended it. Observations of primates and isolated tribes suggest that humans’ patriarchal order may have evolved by accident rather than out of evolutionary necessity. From there, it is easy to see how social norms have ensured that men and women are groomed into separate, gendered roles. By giving dolls to girls and trucks to boys, notes Ms Saini, “we feed our babies fantasies in pink or blue.” Infants have no innate preference for either. But they respond positively to what makes their caregivers happy.


coy /kɔɪ/ adj. shy or pretending to be shy in order to attract people’s interest 害羞

primates /ˈpraɪmeɪt/ n. a member of the group of animals that includes humans and monkeys 灵长类动物

Women have come a long way since the days when they were rarely seen in universities or laboratories. “Inferior” is the story of how science made the journey tougher—until now.



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