Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Library Loot ~ December 10-16

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference ~ by Cordelia Fine, 2010, women's studies
A brilliantly researched and wickedly funny rebuttal of the pseudo-scientific claim that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  It’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 more often than not a validation of the status quo.  Women, it seems, are just too intuitive for math; men too focused for housework.  Drawing 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, this book 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.
The line that jumps out at me is that "we tried to rear unisex children — boys who play with dolls and girls who like trucks — we failed."  I have two daughters and one son.  The twins are three years older than their brother, and I was a feminist when they were growing up in the 1960s.  I gave toy cars and trucks and dolls to all three children, but yes — "we failed."  My children didn't become "unisex," but I do have competent daughters and a compassionate son.  What "failed" was that, although each of them played with the same toys, their play was different.

Cars and trucks
My daughters "talked" as they pushed little cars from place to place.  "We go around the corner and over the bridge to grandmother's house, and we park the car and go inside."  My son, on the other hand, pushed his cars while making noises for it:  "Vroom!  Vroom!  VROOM!  Screeeech, BANG!"  I didn't teach them how to play, so it must have been innate.

The girls cuddled their dolls and rocked them to sleep.  They put them to bed and covered them up with doll blankets as they played "house" with each other.  My little boy insisted on having G.I. Joe dolls, not baby dolls.  His idea of playing with dolls was to tie a handkerchief or wash cloth to the doll with strings and throw it off the deck to see if his make-shift parachute would work.  G.I. Joe usually fell rapidly to the ground, landing with a splat!

How scientific is that anecdotal evidence?  Not very.  But I'll be interested in seeing what Cordelia Fine has to say about society and neurosexism.  I can debunk the idea that "men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars."  I could do a better job of fixing what was wrong with my car than the man who pulled up behind my stalled car one day, jumped out and ran up to grab the pliers out of my hand (he was truly trying to be helpful).  But then he just stood there, staring at the motor of my car.  I took back my pliers, thanked him, fixed the problem, and drove off.  Meanwhile, I can assure you I raised a perfectly fine young man with oodles of empathy, who cares for others.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

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