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Special Event

Millennium 2000: She and He

Aired January 3, 2000 - 10:13 a.m. ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: He won't ask for directions. She's better with words. He's strong and silent. She opens up.


RUBEN GUR, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: We haven't changed physically since we were roaming in the savannas. We haven't really changed in our brain.


CLANCY: The differences between men and women: It's all in our heads.

Well, from the caveman to the modern woman, one thing has withstood the test of time: the chasm between the sexes is ageless. The differences go much deeper than our appearances and our attitudes.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's how you see it anyway.

Well, some say it's all in the mind and, to some extent, it's not too far off base.

Here's CNN's Holly Firfer.


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For thousands of years, men and women have baffled each other by their differences.

GUR: We are still the same animals. We haven't changed physically since we were roaming the savannas. We haven't really changed in our brain. So, all those differences that we were evolved into are still here.

FIRFER: These differences are the result of the hard-wiring of our brains.

(on camera): But the illusive question remains: Why are men and women so different? It wasn't until this millennium that scientists were able to look inside of our brains to see exactly why.

(voice-over): Why is it that women seem to do all the talking? Why are men considered the strong, silent types? Dr. Ruben Gur of the University of Pennsylvania has been studying gender differences in the brain for more than 20 years. He says while men's brains can be 10 to 15 percent larger in size, women have more fibers that connect the two sides of the brain together in an area called the corpus callosum.

GUR: There is more tissue available for transferring information between the two sides of the brain. That's why we think that women have better interhemispheric communication.

HELEN FISHER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: And I think that this was -- is a woman's tool.

FIRFER: Anthropologist Helen Fisher has written many books on how men and women use these differences to survive.

FISHER: I think that women's ability at communication evolved millions of years ago on the grasslands of Africa, as women held that baby in front of their face, cajoling it, reprimanding it, educating it with words.

FIRFER: Some argue that women's vocabulary is no larger than men's, nor do women necessarily have anything more interesting to say, but science has shown, when put to verbal task, women do better.

GUR: If the task were to come up with as many words as you can that start with C and you get one minute to do it, women will produce more words. Verbal memory, if I gave you a list of words to remember, women would remember more of those after an initial -- after they just heard it once. Men will catch up after they hear it maybe for the third or fourth time.

JOE MATASSINO: I think that I have a very good sense of direction. I can go down that road and just kind of say, all right, well, this is about where I need to make a left turn to get back to where I'm supposed to be going.

MADELINE SHABABY: As far as Leo stopping to ask for directions, he'd say, well, we're just going to go a little further, just a little further, just a littler further. How many miles did we go out of the way?

FIRFER: Ever wonder why men refuse to stop and ask directions? Well, researchers say males have an internal compass that tells them where they are in relation to where they need to be. To test this theory, we set our producer, Susan, against our volunteer, Larry, on a spatial relations task, looking at objects and trying to figure out how they relate physically to other objects, and the results were on par with Gur's research.

GUR: That brings a big sex difference. He got all nine correct, and she got two of the nine correct.

FIRFER: The difference here lies in gray and white matter. Gray matter in the brain are the actual nerve cells that process information, white matter consists of long nerve fibers that move information long distances, and these spatial tasks are processed in the visual area, as you see lit up here, in the back of the brain. GUR: Men are organized so they, within each hemisphere, can move information more easily from the front to the back, because they have more white matter inside the hemisphere and less likely to have the two sides of the brain cooperate.

FISHER: For millions of years, they set out just about every morning to go out, to surround, and track, and follow, and kill, and then bring home the woolly mammoth, and if they lost their way home, certainly they were dead, and their family might have died out, too. So, spatial ability was essential to men's hunting skills, and indeed. today, over 80 percent of engineers are men, over 90 percent of mechanics are men, a vast majority of architects are men.

MATASSINO: I think Kathy's (ph) very, very compassionate and caring, and she's always being very considerate of other people.

LLOYD WRIGHT: Tracey's (ph) more the emotional one. She tends to react quicker to things and more emotional with things, and I tend to be more laid back.

FIRFER: An MRI experiment at Gur's lab at the University of Pennsylvania shows men and women slides of faces portraying different emotions and then tracks the activity in the brain while looking at these photos. As suspected, the area of the brain that is thought to control emotion showed a much stronger response to varying emotions in women than it did in men, especially when it comes to identifying sadness. And the early study results showed women could also detect subtle emotional changes more often than men. The theory revolves around the evolution of parts of the brain called the limbic system.

GUR: Now, what we found in terms of sex differences is that that part of the brain that wants to attack when you're angry or to run away when you're fearful, that's the old limbic system. Men have more activity in that part than women.

FIRFER (on camera): That's the amygdala.

GUR: And that's the amygdala and the associated regions around it. There's another part of the emotional brain, or limbic system, and that's the newer part that deals with the emotions symbolically and through speech, vocalization. In the cingulate gyrus, women have more activity then men.

FIRFER (voice-over): Dr. Mark George and his colleagues at the Medical University of the South Carolina have also found women's brains seem to be more sensitive to sadness than men's.

DR. MARK GEORGE, MEDICAL UNIV. OF S. CAROLINA: And if this circuit that regulates regular mood sometimes go awry, this extra activity in the women may be a clue as to why women have an increased risk of depression in their life.

FIRFER: In another test, when hearing the sound of a babies' cry, women's brains seemed to light up like Las Vegas in the areas that control emotion, while men's brains showed very little response. Dr. George thinks this response may explain the strong bond between mother and child.

FISHER: If you can empathize with the baby and sympathize with the baby, then you're going to be willing to get up in the middle of the night, climb down out of that tree, five million years ago, and go and get the baby water or go and get the baby food, and more willing to sacrifice yourself to raise your DNA.

LEO SHABABY: I consider myself having half-heimer's disease, so I write things down now, I really do. If I were to tell you a biography of my own life, I'd probably have to write it down so I could make sure I remember that part I want to remember. It's terrible.

FIRFER (on camera): Have you ever been at a loss for words or perhaps forgotten an old friend's name? Well, that's normal. As we age, we lose brain tissue. Our brain cells die, and, in essence, our brains shrink. And once again, there is a difference between men and women, and as we age, the difference is dramatic.

GUR: They lose attention, verbal memory, spatial memory and spatial abilities.

FIRFER (voice-over): Ruben Gur says, as we age, men's brains deteriorate three times as fast as women's.

GUR: The main difference is that men -- that men lose frontal and temporal parts of the brain. Frontal part of the brain is the big inhibitor, is the part of the brain that tells you, stop, think about long-range plans, think about the consequences, and the temporal lobe is the part of the brain that deals mostly with memory, and that may explain why men tend to lose the ability to pay attention.

FIRFER (on camera): So what do these biological gender differences mean in the grand scheme of life? Well, many say these basic differences, the minutiae of detail, allow us to work together to survive and that we need to behave differently to continue to perpetuate our species.

(voice-over): But as it has only been the last 15 years or so that modern technology has allowed us to explore the inner-workings of our brains, we are reminded by one researcher that a millennium is but a second of evolution, and our lessons have just begun.

Holly Firfer, CNN.


CLANCY: Well, quite a lot of theories there. I don't know how much of that I believe, but anthropologist Helen Fisher, who was one of the experts that appeared in that piece, well, after a break she's going to be join us live. She'll be telling us about the differences between the sexes.

KAGAN: And we'll also be joined by the head of a London marriage counseling service: How those differences play out at the home.



CLANCY (voice-over): The 20th century didn't see a female prime minister until 1960, when Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected president of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. In 1966, Indira Gandhi became prime minister of India and remained in that position for 15 years. She was assassinated during her fourth term in office. The third woman to emerge as head of state was Israel's Golda Meir in 1969, who worked to establish peace in the Middle East. And in 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister of England. Dubbed "The Iron Lady," Thatcher presided over her country for 11 years, Britain's longest-serving prime minister since 1827. Currently, there are 11 female heads of state.


CLANCY: We continue our millennium focus, now, on relationships. It's not just gender that makes men and women different, it's an array of things, perhaps beginning with the makeup of our brains.

A few moments ago, you heard some of the opinions of anthropologist Helen Fisher. She joins us now from New York to talk more about relationships between men and women. She's an author, she's also a member of the anthropology department at Rutgers University.

Happy New Year. Thank you for being with us.

FISHER: Thank you. Glad to be here.

CLANCY: All right, we know there's fundamental differences between men and women...

FISHER: Right.

CLANCY: ... but also know that our relationships, at least in the past 20 years, have changed dramatically the way that we relate to one another. Is this part of a permanent change?

FISHER: I think that it is a direction, actually, towards a permanent change. I mean, we're really seeing women in the job market. We are beginning to see as much as 45 percent of the world labor force is now women, and we're going to see -- because there's so many changes in this century that need the female mind. I mean we're moving into a communications age, women are very good at language, we need women's people skills, we need their contextual views, so I think we're going to see more and more women in the job market, and that is going to really -- actually, I think, move our male/female relationship back to the kinds of relationships that we had millions of years ago on the grass plains of Africa. We're moving towards equality between the sexes.

KAGAN: But Ms. Fisher, do you see the female mind coming in and influencing a male world, or that male world influencing the female minds that are coming in and, as you see women in the workplace, taking on male characteristics.

FISHER: I don't see either. I see the workplace itself changing in ways that are going to draw women in to help men. For example, in the communications industries, I mean we're going to -- we're soon to see 500 channels on television. Now, who's going to do all of that talking? I mean, we're going to need women as well as men.

So, I don't think that women -- I think we're going to begin to really understand that women are different and that they come with special skills. I don't think that the rise of women economically is going to mean the decline of men. I think the changes in the -- in the 21st century are going to be such that we're going to need women as well as men.

CLANCY: Well, I'm very happy to hear that. We're not doomed here.


FISHER: So am I.

CLANCY: Let me ask you this: When you refer to this about being on the savannas of Africa, when you look at African society, today, it's history, as an anthropologist, women have always worked, women have been the people who planted and harvested the crops.

FISHER: Right. Much of West Africa women have been exceedingly powerful. It's -- I really trace the, really, sort of, the decline of women economically to the invention of the plow several thousand years ago. With the invention of the plow and farming, men's roles became much more important. They had to move the rocks and saw the trees and plow the land and bring the produce to market and came home with money. And women's ancient jobs as gatherers declined and they really became sort of secondary citizens. But now in the post-industrial age, more and more of the world is requiring the skills of women. So, they are returning to a kind of a position of economic power, and along with that, sexual power, and...

CLANCY: Political power.

FISHER: Politic -- not as much political power as you would expect. I mean, women are piling into medicine, where they're going to be very good, they're piling into law, they're piling...

CLANCY: How do you see the next century?

FISHER: I think that women are going to be extremely powerful in politics largely because they're going to be such a large voting block. And because we're seeing the whole world is getting older, we're seeing a grain of the population. Women simply live longer than men do, and so they're going to be a powerful voting block, and they're going to be very powerful, I think, in the non-profit world, all of the -- all of the what they call civil society, all the associations, non-governmental organizations, and those -- that part of the political process becoming more and more important. So, I don't see women piling into traditional governmental positions until middle age, and I don't see them going to the very top of the major Fortune 500 companies, but they are going to the top in the non-profit world, and that world is becoming more and more important.

CLANCY: Helen Fisher, anthropologist, thanks for being with us. Helen, of course, seeing the situation very bright for women in the future, and men will be right there with them in a lesser role.

KAGAN: Of course, because she's a woman, because she gets it. Get it?

Well, from the evolution of the sexes to the revolution of the so-called "gentler sex"...

CLANCY: We continue our Millennium 2000" coverage with a look at how gender roles have evolved in the past to the present.


CLANCY: More now on our focus on relations between the sexes.

KAGAN: During the 20th century, women became extremely influential in everything from business to politics.

CLANCY: And as we enter the new millennium, there will be even more changes in the roles of men and women.

CNN's Leon Harris takes this look at where we are and how we got there.


LEON HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1999, the end of a millennium. A woman can run for president.

ELIZABETH DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what we've done is pave the way for the person who will be the first woman president.

HARRIS: A man can choose to stay at home, raise the children; women hold top jobs in the world's most powerful corporations; men gather to redefine their role at work and at home. Well, images like these might seem to suggest that men and women are more alike than they are different. But how did we get here?

(on camera): At the dawn of this millennium, the roles of men and women in society were pretty much set in stone. But those roles would change and evolve more over the next thousand years than they have in any other period in human history, and that evolution would change forever the way that we deal with each other as men and women. And historians all agree: For that, we must credit women, because, time and again, women have battled for change.


"Wait till my banner touches the fort, then go in and all is yours. -- Joan of Arc


HARRIS (voice-over): She was just a teenage girl with a vision in her heart and a voice in her head when she announced that she would liberate her country. Slowly, leaders began to listen, then armies became inspired to fight; and in 1429, Joan of Arc led an outnumbered French force over the English in a battle that is recognized as a turning point in the Hundred Years War. Joan of Arc earned her position as a military leader.


"I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king."

-- Elizabeth I


HARRIS: Far more common were women who ruled because it was their birthright -- royalty. But none broke the mold like Queen Elizabeth I whose reign lasted from 1558-1603. Men who expected to use her as a means to their own ends were quickly disappointed. Elizabeth fended off threats outside the kingdom and religious unrest inside the kingdom.

(on camera): During the early part of this millennium, these women blazed trails that others would later follow. But they also forced men in traditional leadership roles to recognize that women had equal potential, equal promise. But their promise wouldn't lead to progressive change worldwide until the last 100 years of this millennium when three key events allowed women to recast themselves.


"... together we have made arguments that have stood unshaken by the storms of thirty long years; arguments that no man has answered."

-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton


(voice-over): Eighty years ago, women in the United States went to the ballot box: The end of a hard-fought campaign for the vote and the beginning of a new struggle for political power, the 19th Amendment granted voting privileges, but equality? Social change would come gradually.

In the November 2000 election, women in the United States will outnumber men at the ballot box. And this new political climate means new clout for women, and new challenges as well.

GLORIA STEINEM, FOUNDER, "MS." MAGAZINE: Now, having gotten identity, we're trying to get equality. I suspect that will take at least a century. And then there will be, perhaps, movements in the future before we have cultures when -- in which we're really treated as individuals.

HARRIS: Women in some cultures were voting decades before American women. New Zealand led the way in 1893. Other countries soon followed: Britain, Canada, Finland, Germany and Sweden. And in countries where women began to vote, women began to lead.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: I think that we women felt that we had to compete with men, that we had to show that we're as good as men leaders.

When I was prime minister, I found that I was also very aggressive because I wanted to show I'm not a weak woman. But I think the time now has come, after 25 years, a quarter of a century of women in politics, of women in the work force, for women to suddenly realize that people look towards us because we're women leaders, and they associate women leaders with care and nurturance, with sustenance, and with giving life rather than conflict and death.

HARRIS: Women's Suffrage may have changed the dynamics of politics, but it was still considered immoral for married women to work. That was about to change.


"We can do it!"

-- Rosie the Riveter


HARRIS: World War II.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American troop reinforcements and equipment leaving England for the steadily expanding beach heads on the coast of Normandy.


HARRIS: Thousands of men answered the call of their country, marching off to battle. But the country would not be the same when they returned because, at home, women, too, were answering the call and seizing an opportunity.

MAUREEN HONEY, AUTHOR, "CREATING ROSIE THE RIVETER": The labor force was depleted, as we all know, because men were in uniform. So women came into these jobs and did them very well.

HARRIS: Initially, companies hired only single women, but as more men left to fight in the war, married women were hired as well. The government created "Rosie the Riveter," a national heroine fulfilling her patriotic duty.


CHOIR (singing): Working for history, Rosie the Riveter.


HARRIS: Other countries began similar programs, a strategy crucial to the Allied victory and the Axis defeat.

HONEY: They were used this way in England for a time, but England was besieged. By 1942, England was in really bad straits and couldn't produce the war materials that the United States could produce. Interestingly enough, Germany and Japan did not use women in this capacity, and one can only wonder how instrumental that was in their defeat.

HARRIS: At the end of the war, women were pressured to give up their jobs. But the seeds of permanent change had been planted. Women began demanding equal access to career options. For men and women, the workplace had changed.


"Women are determined to decide for themselves whether they shall become mothers, under what circumstances and when. It is for women the key to liberty."

-- Margaret Sanger


HARRIS: One tiny tablet may have prompted the most enormous change to gender relations this millennium: a medical breakthrough so significant that of the thousands of prescription drugs on the market, only this one can be referred to simply as "the pill."

In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration formally approved Enovid, the first birth control pill. Women swallowed the pill and stopped swallowing their ambition. They could now manage their career and family life. But how has the pill changed our behavior and our roles in society?

Bo Emerson (ph) and Maureen Downey are married and they write a newspaper column on relations between the sexes. Billy Murphy also writes a column focusing on that topic.

MAUREEN DOWNEY, NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST: What it did is it gave women more control over their bodies, over their reproduction -- reproductive history, and I think it was very freeing for women.

HARRIS (on camera): What happened inside men? I guess we're talking about changed between the two genders, what happened inside men when that happened?

BILLY MURPHY, NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST: I think, in one realm, men were like typical men. They were going like: all right, now she doesn't have an excuse anymore, you know. And I -- but I think that, for some men, there is a -- you know, for some men, it was threatening.

HARRIS (voice-over): Maureen and Bo also argue that the pill produced many positive changes in the home, and they say they're living proof.

DOWNEY: Bo and I have 10-month-old twins. I'm back at work and he is home with them. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is to have him home.

HARRIS (on camera): That never would have happened 20 years ago.

DOWNEY: It's a wonderful situation. It's only going to last for a few more months. But I can see why men want to hold on to that because it is very -- it's just stabilizing to have someone at home like that who handles all these messy, unpleasant details, like waiting for the exterminator to come, you know, going to the dry cleaners.

BO EMERSON, NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST: But now nobody wants to do that.

HARRIS (voice-over): And that's precisely the jumping off point for gender relations as we look to the future. We start the next millennium vastly different than the last, our roles as men and women shifting and expanding.


KAGAN: And so how can couples sustain healthy relationships as they struggle to keep up with the changing roles of men and women?

CLANCY: Coming up, we're going to go to London and talk to a relationship expert. Stay with us.


CLANCY: Back to our millennium focus on relationships: The traditional role of women underwent a major transformation in the 20th century, and the 21st century promises even more changes as the roles of men and women take on new dimensions both at home and, of course, in the office.

Joining us now from London to talk more about all of this is Judy Cunnington. She is the director of London Marriage Guidance.

You've been advising people in their marriages for 27 years. We've looked at some of the tremendous change that we've seen over that period of time. Have the problems between men and women, as you see them, changed?

JUDY CUNNINGTON, DIRECTOR, LONDON MARRIAGE GUIDANCE: Well, not really. I think that the main change is that there are far more choices now; far more choices for women to decide when it is that they may make a permanent relationship, and when or if they will have children. And in a way, I think it's the women who have been driving that far more than the men. So, in that way, I think things have changed.

I think the other really very big change is that a lot of relationships now break down, and with women having more autonomy, they are able, actually, to make it on their own. And I think that, as a result, there are far more relationship and marriage breakdowns than there ever were previously.

CLANCY: As -- go ahead.

KAGAN: I want to ask you a question about raising children. So much has changed, and yet it seems with most of my friends who are raising children, it's still expected, usually, that the woman is going to take the lead and is kind of looked on as different when the man takes the lead in raising the children.

CUNNINGTON: I think I agree with that, yes. But I think that's one of the really big changes that have to happen, really, perhaps in the next 20 or so years, that men will actually become far more involved with that.

And I was interested in the piece that we've just seen where they were talking about how important it is to have somebody who is at home, someone who is the homemaker. And I think that both the couple will really have to sit down and make the decision as to which of them is going to be the full responsible one for that. Certainly getting lots of help from the other one, but somebody has to be finally responsible, I think.

CLANCY: You talked about the increased number of breakups of marital unions; we've spoken, also, about the changes, trying to decide who's going to pick up the role. How has all of this progress, if we want to call it that, or change, affected the children?

CUNNINGTON: I think it must be effecting the children a great deal. How much? It's always difficult to know. I think that there are more and more children who have not -- who are not being brought up in families and, in a way, therefore, have never really experienced what it is to be part of a family and rely on each other as part of a family.

And I think that this, again -- and it's already happening, I believe, that more and more people are living on their own and not living with their families. And I think that this is something which will grow, and I think that people will become more and more isolated if they're not very careful, particularly as we seem to be able to communication without actually meeting each other very much.

CLANCY: The very foundations of our communities is our families, no matter where you are in the world. As you talk about people increasingly living lives on their own, seeking their own goals, seeking their own self-fulfillment, are you concerned about the future and what effect this is going to have?

CUNNINGTON: Yes, I am concerned about the future. I am concerned about the future of the community. And I think -- again, this is something which is being brought up during your program -- is that women are often the ones who are actually quite busy in the community and make the connections and are much more sociable. And I think, again, that our communities are going to suffer when there are fewer women actually available to take part more actively in this way.

CLANCY: If people really do want to stay together, who really do want to make their marriages work, what is the key today, perhaps as it's always been? Is it communication?

CUNNINGTON: I think it is definitely communication. And I also think it's respect, and I think it's also having some understanding of the other person's wishes and expectations for their own fulfillment. So it's a question of, really, a lot of give and take as well.

CLANCY: And we're...

CUNNINGTON: I think we...

CLANCY: We're going to have to hold it right there before we lose our satellite.

We thank Judy Cunnington for joining us from London to tell us more about the relationships between men and women; the future of marriage, really.

KAGAN: And our conversation will evolve into the next hour. It's hard to talk about the relation between the sexes without talking about women in the workplace and how that's changed. Gloria Steinem, one of our esteemed guests, coming up in the next hour.


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