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A Few Words on Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

April 26, 2011
Cover of "Delusions of Gender: How Our Mi...

Cover via Amazon

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine is an extremely informative psychological text discussing gender roles and neurobiology.  Cordelia Fine is an academic psychologist and writer with degrees in experimental psychology and criminology.This book is both comedic and scientific.  Fine spends a lot of time contradicting neurosexist claims that gender roles are hard wired into the brain.  She cites several psychological tests done that provide great insight into what causes some of the largest claims made, such as that women are worse at math and better at language than men.

A lot of ground is covered in this book from our willingness to take brain scans and neurology at face value and not question the gender stereotypes they at times provide.  She discusses social gender stereotypes and how they affect roles and performance and she discusses children and how they come to embrace gender roles.

The best parts come from when she refutes claims made by “experts” in neuroscience who state that gender stereotypes are “hard-wired” and do exist.  She is excellent at breaking down books that cite sources that are inaccurate.  She covers many books out there from those claiming that based on neuroscience men and women in the workforce should be handled differently to those that children should be taught differently due strictly to their brain types.

It is a very well written book and easy for the lay person to read.  Fine adds several jokes that puts the reader at ease.  She also is very careful to cite sources and provide excellent studies to back up her discussions.

“In one study, researchers transformed a pastel “My Little Pony” by shaving the mane (a soft “girlish” feature), painting it black (a “tough” color), and adding spiky teeth (for an aggressive demeanor).  Both boys and girls classified the altered pony as a boy’s toy, and most of the boys (but not the girls) were extremely interested in obtaining one.”

While reading this book I also found her references to historical documents of scientific studies and papers extremely amusing as she contrasted them with current ones.  I also found that having read “The Subjection of Women” was another excellent pairing to this book as she cites John Stuart Mill a few times and his excellent arguments against gender stereotyping.  Whenever she talks about current scientists using arguments of men and women having differently developed parts of the brain, it is easy to go back and think of the historical arguments about differences in brain size.  I then find myself thinking of Mill’s argument that if brain size were an appropriate measure then elephants would be vastly superior in intellect.

Overall, this is a very well written and easy to read book about how neuroscience and gender stereotypes affect our views of gender roles.  I would highly recommend anyone to read Delusions of Gender as it is an extremely accessible text.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 6:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one – definitely a book I’m very interested in reading at some point!

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