The sexual revolution was not just a struggle for equal rights; women also had science on their side. A leading neuroscientist has dismissed the "myth" that women's brains are wired differently from men's.
Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University, has accused fellow researchers of producing scientific findings that can be used to support the old prejudice that women are not men's intellectual equals.
It follows a spate of bestselling books promoting the idea that there are structural differences between men's and women's brains. They include 'The Essential Difference' by Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of psychiatry at Cambridge, which argues that female brains are better at empathising while men's are wired for analysing the physical world.
A more recent bestseller, 'The Female Brain', by Louann Brizendine, an American academic, reaches similar conclusions and suggests that women spend most of their lives on a psychological "roller coaster"controlled by fluctuating hormone levels.
Rippon sees all such ideas as "patronising nonsense" and will set out her views this week at the British Science Festival in Birmingham.
She said: "There is increasing concern within the neuroscience community about the misinterpretation and abuse of our findings on the links between brain structure and behaviour. This 'neurohype' is designed to support stereotypes and to suggest that there is a major biological and structural difference in the brains of men and women that explains their social roles and status.
"This is nonsense. There may be some very small differences between the genders but the similarities are far, far greater. The idea is that men and women have different brain structures; but there is no real evidence for any of it," she said.