We sketch the feminist roots in/of neuroscience in order to reveal how destabilizations were introduced to the field and briefly outline their historical origins.As a neurophysiologist, Ruth Bleier was able to combine feminist and biological knowledge in a unique manner.She paid extensive attention to the feminist critique of the “context-stripping” methods applied in neuroscience to make the “political biological” or the “historical natural” (Bleier 1984b, 1988, p. She also identified many flaws of compulsory sex-difference brain research and argued against sociobiological and deterministic assumptions that have infiltrated neurobiological research and “in essence den[y] the unique qualities of the human brain” (.).In an empirical neuroscientific paper that she co-authored with William Byne and Lanning Houston (1988) on the human corpus callosum, she showed a sex/gender similarity, not difference, in the splenium, which her colleagues had begun to codify as sexed at that time (e.g. This latter work can be seen as a “better” way (Harding 1991) of doing neuroscience, since this research was conducted from a feminist standpoint from within empirical neuroscience.
Exposing the tendency in mainstream sciences to naturalize inequalities based on gender, sexuality, race and class, biologists (along with others in the feminist movement) engaged with science as part of a political struggle ( (Foucault 2010).Elizabeth Wilson’s research also belongs to this earlier feminist critical body of work.More recent important contributions have been made by Catherine Vidal, Sigrid Schmitz, Rebecca Jordan-Young and Cordelia Fine, Anelis Kaiser, Deboleena Roy, Daphna Joel, Emily Ngubia Nuria, Hannah Fitsch, Robyn Bluhm, Robyn Bluhm/Anne Jaap Jacobson/Heide Lene Maibom, Gillian Einstein, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Odile Fillod.Bleier’s main topic of neuroscientific interest was the hypothalamus on which she wrote several books (e.g. Interestingly, the hypothalamus (together with the hypophysis) is probably the most sexed and sexualized area in the brain, because for decades, it has been argued to be the center that “monitors” the supposed ontological origin of sex/gender : the instance of control of reproductive functions.
In summary, Bleier, Fausto-Sterling and Wilson all formulated fundamental critiques of neuroscience from a feminist perspective.Our aim here is to outline and make visible the feminist research that was done already a generation before.