The Physical Differences Between Women and Men

Question:  Dr. Dobson, you stated that men and women are vastly different, not only with regard to cultural influences, but physiologically as well.  Would you discuss these differences and their implications further?

Answer:  Dr. Paul Popenoe, founder of the American Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles, has written a brief article on the subject you have raised.  I will let him respond to the question, "Are Women Really Different?"

"One of the least acceptable parts of the Women's Lib and related movements is the attempt to magnify the differences between the sexes.  The main thrust of their debate or more correctly their assertions, is that such differences as exist are merely the result of differences in education and training, and therefore not basic,  Since many of these differences, even if associated with education and training, have been maintained for a million years or more, it would indeed be surprising if they are not by this time deeply ingrained.  But in fact, the sexes differ so markedly in ways that are not subject to change--anatomy and physiology--that is a serious mistake to ignore them or to try to make them disappear by talking.

"Take a conspicuous difference, which is certainly not produced by education or training--the feminine function of menstruation.  David Levy found that the depth and intensity of a woman's maternal instinct, her motherly feeling, is associated with the duration of her menstrual period and the amount of the flow.  The extensive changes in the activity of her glands of internal secretion also produce marked differences in her behavior.  In any large group of women of child-bearing age, 18% will be menstruating at any one time.  Against this percentage, autopsies of women suicides find that 40%, 50%, even 60% were menstruating at the time they took their own lives.

"Dr. Katherina Dalton, in THE PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (Springfield, Ill., 1964) summarizes many studies of behavior change that show a large portion of women's crimes (63% in an English study, 84% in a French) are not distributed evenly over time, but clustered in the premenstrual period along with suicides, accidents, a decline in the quality of school work, decline in intelligence test scores, visual acuity, and response speed.  In the United States, she calculated that absenteeism related to menstruation costs about five billion dollars a year, but accidents, absenteeism, an domestic quarrels are only part of the social repercussions of symptoms that affect everyone.  "A book might be filled with discussion of other biological differences between the sexes, that are of great importance in one way or another, in everyday life, and are certainly not the outcome of differences in education, training, and social attitudes toward the two sexes.  Here is a quick rundown of a few:

1.  Men and women differ in every cell of their bodies.  This difference in the chromosome combination is the basic cause of development into maleness or femaleness as the case may be.

2.  Women have greater constitutional vitality, perhaps because of this chromosome difference.  Normally she outlives man by three or four years, in the U.S.

3.  The sexes differ in their basal metabolism--that of woman being normally lower than that of man.

4.  They differ in skeletal structure, woman having a shorter head, broader face, chin less protruding, shorter legs, and longer trunk.  The first finger of a woman's hand is usually longer than the third; with men the reverse is true.  Boy's teeth last longer than do those of girls.

5.  Woman has a larger stomach, kidneys, liver, and appendix, smaller lungs.

6.  In functions, woman has several very important ones totally lacking in man--menstruation, pregnancy lactation.  All of these influence behavior and feelings.  She has more different hormones than does man.  The same gland behaves differently in the two sexes--thus woman's thyroid is larger and more active; it enlarges during pregnancy but also during menstruation; it makes her more prone to goiter, provides resistance to cold, is associated with the smooth skin, relative hairless body, and thin layer of subcutaneous fat which are important elements in the concept of personal beauty.  It also contributes to emotional instability--she laughs and cries more easily.

7.  Woman's blood contains more water (20% fewer red cells).  Since these supply oxygen to the body cells, she tires more easily, is more prone to faint.  Her constitutional viability is therefore strictly a long-range matter.  When the working day in British factories, under wartime conditions, was increased from 10 to 12 hours, accidents of women increased 150%, of men not at all.

8.  In brute strength, men are 50% above women.

9.  Woman's heart beats more rapidly (80, vs. 72 for men); blood pressure (10 points lower than man) varies from minute to minute; but she has much less tendency to high blood pressure--at least until after the menopause.

10.  Her vital capacity or breathing power is lower in the 7:10 ratio.

11.  She stands high temperature better than does man; metabolism slows down less."

Book: What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women

By Dr. James Dobson

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