❰BOOKS❯ ✯ Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men Author Anne Fausto-Sterling – Horse-zine.co.uk


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10 thoughts on “Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men

  1. says:

    A brilliant demolition of the bad science behind gender-role-affirming memes like "men have better visual-spacial perception than women". While much of the book looks at work from the late 70s and early 80s, some of the ideas are still "common knowledge" today, and the sort of bad science (or at least bad science reporting) that perpetuates those myths is still being done.


  2. says:

    Biology is not a one-way determinant but a dynamic component of our existence.

    A surprisingly funny (in a totally snarky way) attack on both positivist essentialism and the idea that science could exist in a political vacuum.


  3. says:

    Fausto-Sterling challenges the assertions of certain brain scientists and geneticists (among others), and offers a history of scientific misconceptions based on biology. Her main argument is that these gender myths are used to defend or protect the status quo.


  4. says:

    Written by a medical doctor, Myths of Gender explores studies on 'gender', focusing on the medical aspects. Fausto-Sterling discusses genes, hormones, brain differences, animal behavior, homosexuality, and how science affects society. Succinct, objective, and fascinating.


  5. says:

    An excellent overview and deconstruction of several often cited studies. Beyond the specific studies cited, it offers great extensive analysis on how the methodology of experiments can be both purposefully and unknowingly biased if they are not carefully designed. Citation of older studies especially is problematic when the language and words used have different intrinsic definitions. Although this book is a little older, and has some outdated ideas in the area of neuroscience (which has recently exploded with data and new models), it is still well worth the read. This dialogue continues in Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference and Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, which have more up-to-date, but slightly different, discussions.


  6. says:

    Tons of evidence, plus some sharp insight into the weakness of many "studies" on gender difference. Fausto-Sterling dissects commonly held beliefs, neatly comparing what's produced as evidence, but also things that "experts" on gender difference spout from their perches in academia and media.

    The writing is frequently dry and didactic, but readable. Occasionally, however, Fausto-Sterling shifts into a more conversational or even sardonic tone, and that's when the book comes alive.


  7. says:

    It was an interesting read and the author made many good points about research and methods used to enforce our "age old" myths about gender. My only complaint is the book's age; some of the content is outdated. I'd be very interested to read an updated version with commentary regarding new research.


  8. says:

    This book is crushingly hard to get through, but I had to for the sake of my Sociology of Women class. I understand what Fausto-Sterling is trying to do here - proving that the "differences of biology" between men and women are tenuous at best - but this book is so steeped in science and theories and that sort of talk that I often fell asleep. I am more interested in the differences between men and women from a psychological and women's studies point of view. Not that the sociological should be ignored, I'm just praying that the rest of the books we have to read are far more interesting than this one. If you are a biology fiend and love dense scientific talk then this book won't be a problem for you. But I like a little entertainment with my education... or at least more philosophical and easier language to swallow. I didn't have any "aha!" moment because this book was just fact after fact. I think Malcolm Gladwell always manages to make science fascinating... but Fausto-Sterling? Not so much with this one.


  9. says:

    Some good information, a little bit research heavy for my taste (I do better with philosophy than fact, sometimes) but it was well written and persuasive. However, I think the nature vs. nurture debate, in any sense, is an impossible question to properly study. And even if we could find accurate information swaying one way or the other, does answering this question really help us? Part of being human involves the natural desire to fight your nature, to progress and become better. And if you believe that, what does it matter if women are biologically handicapped when sexism is a morality issue worth fighting to overcome?


  10. says:

    As pseudoscience used to justify racial stereotypes continues to be debunked, myths about sexual difference still remain understood as “biological truths.” Dr. Fausto-Sterling, professor of Biology at Brown University, engages in an exhaustive review of scientific research on intelligence, genes, hormones, aggression, evolution, and brain composition to reveal that there are actually very few absolute sex differences between males and females and that – actually – without complete equality between sexes, we cannot actually know what they are.

    In fact, there is more biological variation among women and among men than between them. Broad over-arching categories like “sex” and “race” oversimplify biology and ignore interactions between organisms and their environments. There is no direct correlation between genes and physical expression: genes have multiple potential expressions and biological phenotypes are produced from a complex combination of an individual’s developmental and environmental history and their genes.

    Dr. Fausto-Sterling does not argue for erasing biology, but rather argues against biological essentialism – the idea that biology is the only approach to understand humankind. Of course, biology shapes behavior, but behavior can also alter physiology. The physical structure of our brains and bodies are impacted not just by our genes, but also our nutrition, exercise, physical contact with other humans, exposure to trauma and various stimuli, and more. To illustrate the dangers of biological essentialism, Dr. Fausto-Sterling reviews how scientists historically justified discrimination against women in the name of “scientific truth.” Scientists have argued that men were smarter than women, that women were inherently irrational and incapable of maintaining leadership positions, that women should not attend higher education because it would compromise their reproductive systems, that women are inherently diseased, and that women were only fit for “sedentary occupations” and should remain at home because they were weaker than men.

    There is no apolitical science. Scientist are humans shaped by the political and cultural value systems they are part of and the literature on sexual difference is informed by the cultural assumption of a Western binary sex-gender model. So-called “objective fields” like biology are not innocent of their own non-conscious and hidden biases.


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