Disputing Gender

Understanding how psychological gender research is used in public scientific controversies on gender in US-American media

This interdisciplinary project analyzes socioscientific controversies on gender in US-American media. The notion socioscientific controversy entails public debates in which social questions are debated with the help of science. This project focuses on public debates about gender relations in which participants draw on psychological gender research. The analysis starts with a controversy sparked when in 2005, the president of Harvard University suggested that the lack of women scientists in higher scientific positions might be due to innate cognitive gender differences. The following public debate included psychologists who used psychological gender research to either confirm or reject this position.

The study draws on discourse analysis to analyze this public debate and similar socioscientific controversies in selected US-American media. Research questions are directed at the ways in which psychological gender research shapes what can be publicly said about gender. Context information is drawn on to clarify the relation between public scientific discourse on gender and factual gender inequalities. Results are discussed in the light of the critical historiography of psychology, science studies approaches on public scientific controversies, and feminist reflections on the interpenetration of science and gender inequalities.