Daily Archives: October 22, 2010

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

Delusions of Gender is a blistering attack on Louann Brizendine’s books and others that claim that girls are sweet and cooperative and boys, well, will be boys because it’s in their genes. And it’s not a righteous, emotional rant, no, it’s a methodical, if passionate, refutation of the studies and experiments used by the researchers. From tiny sample sizes to faulty designs to outright errors (and I would even say fraud, as in citing other researchers who were never contacted), the author makes a powerful case that manipulation is rife to achieve the desired results.

And that brings us to the truly terrifying heart of the book. It turns out that an almost fail-proof method to get humans to behave in gender-stereotypical ways is simply to prime them with the stereotype before the experiment. Which means that a cultural environment that shows girls dressed like princesses and boys leading the charge, that produces kids’ books in which mommies always defer to daddies, or that routinely assumes that mothers will want or adopt flexible work hours more than fathers will perpetuate itself. I remember being berated harshly for dressing my then three-month old daughter in blue (to match her then blue eyes: she looked great). perhaps I was ahead of the times? It must be why she has chosen a scientific career, huh? But seriously — read this book.

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