Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Fine s sharp tongue is tempered with humor Read this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is The New York TimesIt s the twenty first century, and although we tried to rear unisex children boys who play with dolls and girls who like trucks we failed Even though the glass ceiling is cracked, most women stay comfortably beneath it And everywhere we hear about vitally important hardwired differences between male and female brains The neuroscience that we read about in magazines, newspaper articles, books, and sometimes even scientific journals increasingly tells a tale of two brains, and the result is often than not a validation of the status quo Women, it seems, are just too intuitive for math men too focused for houseworkDrawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men s and women s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men s brains aren t wired for empathy and women s brains aren t made to fix cars She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men s and women s behavior Instead of a male brain and a female brain, Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender Passionately argued and unfailingly astute, Delusions of Gender provides us with a much needed corrective to the belief that men s and women s brains are intrinsically different a belief that, as Fine shows with insight and humor, all too often works to the detriment of ourselves and our society This nature vs nurture debate is getting old.This book argues against the claim that women and men have different brains and that this difference causes women to be significantly better or worse at some things and men significantly better or worse at others As far as I knew, few legitimate scientists today make this claim, which is clearly sexist and would justify discrimination, so I was pretty surprised and somewhat skeptical to discover this immense sexist contingent among brain scientists This nature vs nurture debate is getting old.This book argues against the claim that women and men have different brains and that this difference causes women to be significantly better or worse at some things and men significantly better or worse at others As far as I knew, few legitimate scientists today make this claim, which is clearly sexist and would justify discrimination, so I was pretty surprised and somewhat skeptical to discover this immense sexist contingent among brain scientists and psychologists, some of whom are women I ve heard of some of them Steven and Susan Pinker were clearly misrepresented Others, such John Gray, aren t even scientists.This book spends most of its pages presenting psychological studies showing that people are suggestible, that messages from the culture can influence one s confidence and feeling of belonging, even their very identity and personality, and that this can impact their abilities to perform or their interest in a subject All this does is show that society can influence people, not that brain differences can t.Many of the studies in this book seem legitimate and factual Some of it was pretty persuasive and really made me think But the presentation of these studies often seemed to exaggerate them For example, after discussing subtle ways social cues and whether one feels they belong can influence people to prefer and perform differently, all very reasonable, the book concludes A few words to the effect that a Y chromosome will serve in your favor, or a sprucing up of the interior design, is all that it takes to bring about surprisingly substantial changes in career interest Having seen what effect on career interests a simple, brief manipulation in the lab can have, one can t help but wonder at the cumulative influence of that giant, inescapable social psychology lab known as life Wait, so there were some findings of subtle influence in a lab, and so the book s conclusion, based only on one can t help but wonder is that only a few words is all it takes for substantial changes in career interest in life That s a huge exaggeration of the findings It s also pure speculation based on ideology, not facts based on evidence Actually, it seems pretty sexist to claim that women are so flimsy and suggestible It sounds suspiciously like the delicate flower argument of traditionalists Be careful what you say to girls, lest you crush their fragile little spirits I know it would take a hell of a lotthan a few words to talk me out of my dreams.Here s another gem This anecdote suggests a workplace environment that tolerates a deep disrespect for women Mmm, anecodotes suggesting deep things Now there s some seriously rigorous research.Sometimes she s clearly reaching Like when she talks about a study that found gender differences in babies who are only one day old She claims this study was flawed because there could have been some socialization that happened in that one day since their birth.An argument this book uses over and over again is scientists were wrong before I can almost hear neener neener behind the words So what Scientists are wrong all the time That s how science works Being wrong isn t cause for dismissal in science That s what ideology does Being wrong in the past does not imply claims in the present are false This is called the continuum fallacy, and it s usually employed by pseudoscience cranks like creationists and global warming deniers.Consider the facts that are not in dispute We know that humans are a sexually dimorphic species Men and women are physically different They have different reproductive systems and different physical proportions We know that sexual selection is a part of the evolutionary process, and we know that males and females have had vastly different selective pressures, which have manifested as different mating behaviors in all other dimorphic species.So this theory that all of gender psychology is socialized is extremely tenuous It does not square with what we know about evolution All that is required to falsify it is evidence of only one difference It only takes evidence of one innate psychological difference between men and women to prove that there is at least SOME difference Once that is established, then it s only a question of which differences are genetic and how significant they are.Since that is all that is required, and since this theory is basedon presuppositions from feminist ideology than evidence based, the easiest way to disprove it is to offer one piece of evidence that coincides with mainstream feminist ideology, so they cannot possibly dispute it I will do that now Most psychologists now agree that sexual preference is, at least in part, an innate psychological characteristic Homosexuality is innate in some individuals For the rest of us, men are innately attracted to women and women are innately attracted to men On average, there is a vast difference between men and women as to which gender they find sexually appealing You cannot socialize children to be gay, so there is no reason to deny gays the right to marry, and it s abusive to try to socialize young homosexuals to be heterosexual This is a position most feminists take very strongly, and it s clearly an innate psychological difference between men and women.The exception is lesbian feminism This is the position that sexual orientation is socialized, and that lesbianism is a choice and therefore a legitimate political act However, this form of feminism is extremely contentious within the movement, as it opens the door for homophobia.Oh, and then you have difference feminism, complete with their own quack psychologists such as Carol Gilligan who claim that, yes, there are innate differences between men and women, but that women s way of knowing is superior to men s I wonder why this wasn t one of those sexist psychologists, with talk of brain differences between men and women, to be debunked in this book Strange, that It seems fallacious gender research gets a free pass as long as it s sexist in the right direction Indeed, this book seems to be on board with difference feminism in the chapter, Backwards and in High Heels i.e everything a man can do, a woman can do better, in spite of all society does to limit her, that s how bad ass she is This isn t science It s reasoning based on what s politically expedient and expecting reality to conform to that If there are innate differences, then she should just say so and stop equivocating Then we can get on to theinteresting discussion of how much difference is innate, and how significant those differences are It may very well turn out that women are superior to men, but they can t simultaneously be better and the same.The sad thing is, this book is very interesting and insightful in so many other ways, in outlining some ways human behavior is socialized It could very easily have been a valuable part of that discussion Why can t that be enough The intellectually honest position would have been to admit that there is much we still don t understand about human psychology, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that there is at least some difference between the psychology of men and women, but that it is the belief of the author that these differences are not hugely significant, and that socialization also plays a major role If that s all she did, I d have trusted this book so muchAs it stands, I find myself dubious even of claims that sound reasonable.Advice for the author check your ideology at the door and let the evidence speak for itself, rather than trying to exaggerate or stretch it to fit into your worldview Oh, and knock off all the outrage How you feel about what scientists discover has no bearing on the merit of their research It only discredits your presentation of it by making readers suspicious of confirmation bias and emotional reasoning It feels less like science andlike propaganda At best, it is merely distracting.If you like this book, please read The Blank Slate It will show you a completely different side of this issue This is a remarkably good book, and anyone who s remotely interested in claims that there might be inherent differences in mental function between men and women should read it It s insightful, carefully researched, well written and often very funny And if it doesn t make you change your mind about at least a few things in this area, you are either a remarkably knowledgable person or an incurable bigot.I had read a few books and articles that touched on the subject of inherent gender difference This is a remarkably good book, and anyone who s remotely interested in claims that there might be inherent differences in mental function between men and women should read it It s insightful, carefully researched, well written and often very funny And if it doesn t make you change your mind about at least a few things in this area, you are either a remarkably knowledgable person or an incurable bigot.I had read a few books and articles that touched on the subject of inherent gender differences, and I m afraid I had swallowed them rather uncritically Without understanding any of the details, I had absorbed the vague idea that science had now established, with the help of modern neuro imaging techniques, that there were clear differences between male and female brains Men had stronger spatial and mathematical skills, and women had stronger verbal and emotional skills, and this all dovetailed sensibly with various biological and evolutionary stories.Fine, who works in psychology and appears to know the literature well, demonstrates that this story absolutely fails to stand up to critical examination The science of gender differences turns out to be very bad science indeed it seems that everyone has an agenda, and is willing to do whatever it takes to advance it Researchers carry out poorly designed experiments with inadequate numbers of subjects, and then draw sweeping conclusions from differences which are not even clearly significant They look at coarse measures of activation in parts of the brain whose functions are still largely unclear and mysteriously deduce general cognitive principles, relying on the fact that few people know how to interpret a brain scan In surprisingly many cases, they flat out lie I am shocked, though I suppose this just shows how naive I am I have worked for a long time in Artificial Intelligence, a field that is notorious for overhyping its achievements Somehow, I had thought these people were better than us, but that does not appear to be true.Having read Fine s masterly demolition job, it is tempting to jump to the other extreme and conclude that there are no inherent differences between male and female minds, and that those differences we see are entirely due to social conditioning I do not think, however, that that would be true to the deeper spirit of the book Fine, who comes across as an admirable person, is upfront about the fact that no one is neutral in this debate, and she does not even pretend to be neutral herself this is indeed one of the things which makes her writing so amusing She shows how researchers, time after time, have made claims about gender differences which in hindsight have turned out to be utterly absurd The rational response is to be as skeptical as possible about all such claims, and I will pay Fine the compliment of treating her own arguments with the same skepticism I am indeed convinced by the way she refutes arguments that women are incapable of performing as well as men on a variety of tasks where they have traditionally been supposed inferior The section on the notorious spatial rotation task was particularly startling But there are, all the same, a number of facts which I do not think are obviously explained inside the framework she describes here With some misgivings, I will outline what they are To begin, there is the uncontroversial fact that autism and Asperger s Syndrome are farcommon in men than in women I know a fair amount about this from personal experience my older son is autistic, and I have spent a large part of my life interacting with chessplayers, computer scientists, mathematicians, and other groups where Asperger s types turn out to be common It is hard to believe that this is coincidential The highly focused, obsessive, narrow Asperger s mindset seems to be a natural fit to these occupations, orexactly to certain ways of approaching these occupations I would like to make it clear that I am in no way saying that women cannot be chessplayers, mathematicians or computer scientists I know many women who are world class in these fields But there is a way of doing such things which is characteristically Asperger s autistic, and hence characteristically male The clearest and most extreme example I can come up with is inventing a new chess opening There are several hundred accepted chess openings, and, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have been invented by women Why is this Obviously, I don t know, but here are some thoughts Inventing a chess opening is something that requires a great deal of talent and hard work, but there is somethingto it than that, which is hard to pin down the best description I have seen is in Lev Polugaevsky s wonderful book Grandmaster Preparation , which I have read many times Basically, inventing an opening is not a useful activity in any normal sense of the word Most strong chessplayers most World Champions, even have never invented an opening It is not likely to make yousuccessful competitively, since most new openings are soon refuted and fall into disuse the rational thing to do from this point of view is to use other people s openings It is not necessarily very creative The real reward is that it appeals to a kind of stubbornness The person who invents the opening goes his own way, against the whole world, just to show that he can Thinking in this way is a kind of madness that is much commoner in men It is not so much that women can t do it it isthat hardly any women can see why they would want to do it, which is entirely sensible But, somehow, society as a whole seems to benefit from the existence of this small group of people who are willfully different, even if the majority of them have wasted their lives without achieving anything Chess is a richer andinteresting game because there are all these different paths one can take.So Fine hasn t convinced me that men and women really do think alike at the deepest level I believe it will be a long time before we understand what s going on there But she has convinced me that the facile arguments about brain scans proving that women are inherently wired to read emotions but not to understand calculus are utter crap If you haven t already done so, check out this book.Postscript, about a year and a half later I m glad to say that I might have been wrong about women and chess openings Looking at Bologan s book on the Chebanenko Slav, it certainly seems like there s a case for a Stefanova Variation it goes 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Nc3 a6 5 a4 e6 6 Bg5 and now Stefanova s trademark reply is 6 a5 , reaching the following position Bologan thinks it may be the best move and explicitly mentions former Women s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova as the person who s done most to help make it respectable indeed, a quick look at the Chessbase online game database shows that she s defended this position eight times, drawing seven and winning one One of her opponents was Beliavsky, a previous top 10 player and still very strong.Go Stefanova Surely others will follow where she has led Update, Apr 20 2015 Former World Championship finalist Nigel Short enters the debatedetails here.Despite the fact that my lifetime score against Grandmaster Short is 2 0 in my favor, I would like to make it clear that I in no way consider myselfintelligent than he is Statistics can be very misleading when taken out of context.Update, May 30 2015 The Chessbase site today posted another piece on gender differences in chess and academia, Women in chess the role of innate ability beliefs by Wei Ji Ma Although the paper is interesting and makes some excellent points, I m struck by the way the participants in this debate seem to be talking past each other Ma says early on that the available statistical evidence indicates that gender differences in achievement are largely or entirely due to differences in participation But this is exactly what the Howard study quoted by Short claims is not true.I think we needactual data here It would be particularly interesting to see the Howard analysis repeated with proper attention paid to obvious sources of bias introduced by the fact that women play disproportionately often against other women.Update, Feb 2 2016 Nigel Short, whose comments about women and chess have been widely circulated, lost earlier this week to Harika Dronavalli, India, in the third round of the Gibraltar Masters Despite the fact that GM Harika thoroughly outplayed him and won a good game as Black, it would be premature to draw any sweeping conclusions from a single result.Update, Apr 15 2017 Hou Yifan, the highest rated woman player in the world, posted a disappointing loss against Vassily Ivanchuk in their recent match But today she came back strong in the first round of the GRENKE Classic and destroyed Fabiano Caruana, who s currently World 4 She then followed up by beating Meier, a normally very solid German grandmaster, and drawing with World Champion Carlsen.Go Hou Update, Apr 19 2017 From a recent interview with chess legend Alexander Morozevich Between a man and a woman there are differences, and significant ones, but we re all, first and foremost, people Can I, simply looking at the notation of a game, say that it was played by a woman I tried it a couple of times and I didn t manage there are no clear differences In the results, meanwhile, there are differences, and only a few women have so far been capable of playing on the level of the men s Top 100, and I don t fully understand why that s the case In other intellectual games the proportions areor less the same, with the very top occupied by men It would be interesting to do research on that topic Women in chess have one undoubted advantage they can play in men s tournaments, while we can t play in women s I once asked a FIDE official Why is there such an injustice His answer surpassed all my expectations You understand, there s a World Championship for women and a World Championship for people.Update, Aug 2 2017 Hou Yifan just won the Biel Grandmaster tournament, ahead of a field that included a former world champion, a former world championship challenger, and three other players currently in the world top 40 Details here.Nice going, Hou Didn t realise Cordelia was Australian This is a lovely video of her views s say you have read a couple of books on the science that explains the differences between the sexes So, just what are you likely to have been told Well, one thing would be that men have brains that are built to belogical and mathematical than women s brains this is due to men s better spatial rotational abilities that are a consequence of right brain localisatio Didn t realise Cordelia was Australian This is a lovely video of her views s say you have read a couple of books on the science that explains the differences between the sexes So, just what are you likely to have been told Well, one thing would be that men have brains that are built to belogical and mathematical than women s brains this is due to men s better spatial rotational abilities that are a consequence of right brain localisation and that this helps to explain why men end up in most of the high status jobs like Engineering or Science, just as their greater aggression ensures they end up President or CEO But that this comes at a cost men tend to besocially dysfunctional a consequence of their limited ability to use their somewhat larger brains laterally This hinders them in their linguistic abilities, men being simply not as fluent as women But this is okay, because it is women who need to be able to look after kids and do the house work something how their brains are ordered allows them to specialise in you know, Darling, did you see where I left my car keysSo while men are off hunting and thereby using their aggression to bring home the bacon, women are pacifying the kids with their delightful socialising skills so suited to recognising the emotional needs of others and cleaning the cave These are the tasks the sexes have separately evolved to perform and while these may not have been the brains we would have chosen for the sexes ourselves so as to make the worldfair well, look, the world simply isn t fair There s no point getting all PC about this If evolution and biology have decided that half of the population need to be caring rather than logical , well, all I can say is, poor dears there is about as much point in complaining about women s innate difference inferiority is such an ugly word as complaining that fish are forced to live out their lives in water Viva la difference.Such ideas essentially modern day eugenics are not only peddled by authors of limited intelligence trying to make a quick buck from the enhanced sales such sexist rubbish ensures for their books with titles like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus or Why Men Don t Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes but even by people with impressive sounding qualifications who write books called The Female Brain or The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature.Like I said, if you have read some of these books you will either be feeling rather smug at the moment as if the benefits of having a penis weren t already ample or rather annoyed It can t be nice for one half of our population to be told they are innately lesser people But is that really what the latest science does tell us about the differences between male and female brains Actually, the truth may well surprise you.Recently I wrote on one of Choupette s reviews that I would love to find a book that explained just how the latest brain imaging technology works I mean, the idea we have been encouraged to have is that it is all a bit like a video game, or rather a direct window into the brain No, bugger the brain, a direct window into the mind as it is being constructed by the brain You lie back in an incredibly expensive piece of machinery and as the author says, one that uses quantum mechanics for god sake but she could just as easily have said, and I think evenimpressively, that uses anti matter and they get you to think of something or other solve a maths problem perhaps and then blobs light up on the parts of your brain that are doing the thinking How muchproof do you need than that Thought equals blob equals male superiority QEDNo one explains that this isn t quite real time imaging No one explains that this is averaged difference No one explains that we don t really know what to make of these averaged differences, at what level these differences become significant, for example No one explains that when the brains of dead salmon have been tested sometimes they have shown significant emotional responses to visual stimuli All we get to see are the blobs of colour lighting up and we assume someone smarter than us has worked out that those blobs mean something significant.You might have been lead to believe that they have done these tests and seen the blobs lighting up and they by they I mean the guys in white have seenblobs firing away in the touchy feely side of women s brains and at the same time and with the same stimuliblobs lighting up in the hard edged logical sides of men s brains so everything still holds true right Well, it s not quite as simply as that When the author set out to follow up on some of the research that leads to the million sale books of neurosexism mentioned earlier, sometimes that research was found to be somewhat lacking Did you know that the much quoted and much relied on fact that women are better able to use both sides of their brain for tasks due to their muchextensive corpus callosum was actually based on research on only fourteen brains and besides which the result from this research upon which so many sexist assumptions have been based didn t even reach statistical significance The thing that this book shows time and again is just how much edifice can be built on incredibly shaky foundations Sometimes it shows no foundations at all.Her demolition of just a small section of The Female Brain is worth the price of the book Surely the fraudulent behaviour of the author of The Female Brain ought to disqualify her for life from being able to write another book but I see that despite a review in Nature after her first book was printed pointing out the remarkable in fact, incomprehensible and gobsmacking weaknesses and down right misinformation in that book, she was able to publish another on much the same topic called The Male Brain I cannot begin to tell you how outraged I am about this Quite simply such work is lying and there should be an appropriate punishment.This book contains a long section on what is becoming a particularly fascinating area of research for me called stereotype threat This is detailed in Predictably Irrational The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and I spent the first half of the year reading many of the research papers she discusses here if I d read this book at the start of the year, it would have made my life so much easier Stereotype threat is the remarkable situation where you can take a group of Asian women and prime half of them to think of themselves as women and the other half to think of themselves as Asian and given our stereotypes of both groups, they will perform either better or worse on a maths test depending on how they have been primed And thesubtle the priming, theeffective the result will be Merely getting women to tick a box on an exam paper stating whether they are male or female is enough to reduce their potential score.There is a pervasive belief, particularly among middleclass parents, that they already have tried to bring their kids up in a way that is gender neutral and it simply hasn t worked The only explanation left is that biology will out in the end and we should just get used to the idea that gender differences are innate This book makes a remarkably strong case for the fact that our society is so gendered it is simply impossible for anyone to bring up their children in a gender neutral way and that really, no one tries It is like we have half changed our minds as she says repeatedly our conscious minds tell us sexism is wrong, but our actions repeatedly confirm sexism From before we are born we are constructed as male or female mothers who are told the sex of their child before it is born imagine boys kick inside themvigorously than mothers of boys who have not been told the sex of their unborn child Pinker may joke that only childless people believe in the social construction of gender but I think it is very hard to argue that gender is not the most reinforced division in human societies.This book is quite simply a must read There is a remarkable example in the book a kind of Tiresias moment Tiresias being a Greek turned into a woman for seven years to settle a bet between the gods where a female lawyer undergoes a sex change operation and overhears someone say that he has proven to be much smarter than his sister.I know, I m always telling you to do this, but do read this book And if you do remember it is very important to read the notes as you go For some reason Cordelia Fine has put all of the very best and most interesting information in the book particularly in the first ten chapters or so in the end notes A detailed but informal look at the pervasive power of gender stereotypes, backed by science Sounds good, doesn t it Not for me, though My reading of this included International Women s Day that wasn t intentional, but it felt like undeserved penance for such a day The 2 rating indicates how interesting and enjoyable this book was for me Were I rating in purely objective terms, it would be a solid 3 maybe even 4 , given the importance of the intended message.In a NutshellFine debunks t A detailed but informal look at the pervasive power of gender stereotypes, backed by science Sounds good, doesn t it Not for me, though My reading of this included International Women s Day that wasn t intentional, but it felt like undeserved penance for such a day The 2 rating indicates how interesting and enjoyable this book was for me Were I rating in purely objective terms, it would be a solid 3 maybe even 4 , given the importance of the intended message.In a NutshellFine debunks the deterministic views of gender that are often based on brain structure and organisation She seems to believe there are NO innate differences between the sexes, which is a bit of a stretch to me However, she clearly shows the impossibility of investigating possible brain differences without overestimating the multiple, and often subtle, effects of culture You can t raise or measure children in a societal vacuum She ridicules poorly designed experiments that assume too much from too little, but presents less in her own defence It was better at giving concrete examples of how research can be misinterpreted examples below than it was at revealing anything much about gender.Problems I had with This Book It doesn t know what it is it s too self consciously jokey for a serious text, but with 100 of 350 pages being notes, bibliography and index, it sthorough than one expects in pop sci The jovial tone makes it a quick casual read, but the exhaustive references would besuited to following up with one s own investigation It is painfully repetitive Fine makes good and important points, but she makes the sames ones again and again and again I ve summarised them below Fine is angry about bad and misinterpreted research Such things need pointing out, but sometimes she picks very easy targets papers by 18th century doctors, for instance , or lays into one or two individuals at excessive length principally Simon Baron Cohen and Louann Brizendine Conversely, she is utterly sure of her own rightness, even when using anecdotal cases, rather than proper studies to back up her points She criticises others for lazy stereotyping and in the next sentence suggests that men are not so keen on attending male dominated conferences because there s less opportunity for sex I am left unsure how much I trust her or those she criticises The important points she makes got lost in the haze of my mounting irritation It is narrowly about male female gender roles, rather than the broad spectrum of gender identity, which is what I aminterested in However, that s a fault of my expectations, rather than the book itself I don t feel I learned much I read plenty of examples of experiments and studies and how to judge their validity, but people like Ben Goldacre have long covered that ground very well The gender angle was the context of the debunking, but largely confirmed what I already believed Key MessagesMost of these are probably familiar to the sort of people who read a book like this Stereotypes they re pervasive and powerful Evenso than you think They start before birth and imbue our life, as self fulfilling prophesies, however much we try to go against them Even pre schoolers extrapolate beyond what they ve been told, seeing pointy shapes as inherentlymasculine thanrounded ones like the bouba kiki effect often used in synaesthesia studies Gender matters to them, because it s the main social grouping they have, other than adult child no geeks, sporty types, arty divisions yet Context is all This applies to most things in life a crucial consideration in angry online grammar debates Where gender is concerned, if we prime people to think of gender e.g a maths exam that has a M F tick box , people arelikely to conform strongly to gendered expectations Neuroplasticity very little behaviour is hard wired in our brains Even if something is typical, that doesn t mean it s necessary or inevitable Look carefully at psychology research Is it testing what it claims to test Comparisons based on different levels of foetal testosterone use a variety of proxies, of dubious accuracy the amount found in amniotic fluid, mother s blood, baby s digit length Is there unconscious bias or knowledge in the testers If testers know the sex of a baby as they usually will , that may skew how they interact Are the results borne out by the numbers Just under 50% of women have what Baron Cohen classes as a female brain Are the assumptions fallacious When testing toy choice, are the toys really gendered the way the testers assume Why is a pan feminine to a monkey Reporting bias it sinteresting to report a difference Studies that fail to find one may not be published Various sorts of brain imaging are sexy.They use expensive equipment to produce scientific pictures But they don t necessarily show what we think they do Beware of using biology as a fall back explanation.If a little girl loves pink despite her parents best efforts to the contrary, surely huge marketing hype and peer pressure are at least as much of a factor as hormones As for the mother who couldn t understand why her daughter swaddled, cuddled and put to bed her toy hammer perhaps the reason was that it was always her mother, and never her father, that put her to bed Gender neutral parenting is almost impossible to achieve Yet until a century ago, it was normal for all under 5s to be dressed similarly white dresses , and when colours became common, it was strong red or pink for boys and pretty blue for girls When we read picture books, we tend to use male pronouns for all the unspecified characters, human or animal Female leads are remarkably rare in junior fiction none in 42 Dr Seuss , but although there are occasional tomboys, you never get a sissy boy There s a glass ceiling for ambitious women, and a glass escalator for men in traditionally female dominated jobs Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar When are a few dirty cups a symbol of the exertion of male privilege, and when are they merely unwashed dishes Having it all never meant doing it all Gloria Steinem Men aren t from Mars and women aren t from Venus We re probably all from the moon.SmilesSome have enjoyed the humour of this It certainly raised a couple of smiles for me, but most of the witty asides struck me as rather sarcastic, or just cheap uses of the sort of stereotypes she purports to hate For instance, when pointing out that the widespread use of strip clubs in corporate hospitality excludes women from important networking, she weakens her outrage imo, by suggesting that female colleagues fake a headache and stay home.I want to end on a positive note, so here are the two best ones In a passage explaining that after about 7, children tend to become slightlyflexible in their thinking about gender, she adds that those who don t, end up with successful careers writing books based on rigid gender stereotypes with a footnote The footnote says, This is a joke, rather than a scientific fact Yep, that really was the second best one, imo Following on from caveats about over reliance on neuroimaging, Fine cites an empathy study performed on salmon that were dead It produced pretty pictures of brain activity, though See Also Bongiovanni and Jimerson s A Quick Easy Guide to They Them Pronouns, which I reviewed HERE It s a comic book that is mainly about non binary and genderfluid people who don t identify fully and consistently as either male or female, so prefer non gendered nouns and pronouns Sally Hines Is Gender Fluid , which I reviewed HERE It also has a very youthful, funky format, though not comic book Alex Iantaffi and Meg John Barker s Life Isn t Binary, which I reviewed HERE It starts with sexualities and genders, but goes on to relationships, bodies, emotions, and thinking Barker likes they because I experience myself as pretty plural Robert Webb s autobiography, How Not to be a Boy, which I reviewed HERE He cites this book as an influence on his ideas about gender preferences not being innate

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