How Male-Centric Myths Poisoned Science and Shaped Our World

And why they remain so stubbornly persistent even today

Katie Jgln
The Noösphere


Image licensed from Shutterstock

Scientists have long assumed that when it comes to mammals, males are bigger than their female counterparts.

The key word there, though, is ‘assumed.’

Even when Charles Darwin first proposed this idea in 1871 in his seminal book The Descent of Man, he didn’t cite much evidence to back it up. Still, it aligned with the widely accepted beliefs about male superiority — in size and otherwise — and was quickly accepted as fact. And although some studies later disproved it — which we’ll get to in a bit — it remained a prevailing idea in science until, well, today.

However, a new study published in Nature Communications examined the size differences between males and females of the same mammal species — called sexual dimorphism — and found it not to be universal.

In analysing data on the weights of males and females in 429 mammal species across 66 of the 78 mammalian families, researchers discovered that males weighed more than females in 45% of them, while females weighed more than males in 16%. In 39%, males and females were about the same size. But even the differences in mass between males and females were not extreme for most species.