gender differences

All posts tagged gender differences

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

Published March 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The fiercest new voice of feminism – Emer O’Toole is the perfect mix of Caitlin Moran, Germaine Greer and Lena Dunham.

Emer O’Toole once caused a media sensation by growing her body hair and singing ‘Get Your Pits Out For The Lads’ on national TV. You might think she’s crazy – but she has lessons for us all. Protesting against the ‘makey-uppy-bulls**t’ of gender conditioning, Emer takes us on a hilarious, honest and probing journey through her life – from cross-dressing and head shaving, to pube growing and full-body waxing – exploring the performance of femininity to which we are confined.

Funny, provocative and underpinned with rigorous academic intelligence, this book shows us why and how we should all begin gently to break out of gender stereotypes. Read this book, open up your mind and, hopefully, free your body. GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS is a must-read wake-up call for all young women (and men).

What did I think?:

Girls Will Be Girls was the third book on my Five Star TBR Predictions post and one I had high hopes for after reading some fantastic reviews and learning about some of the content. As an ardent feminist myself, I am always hungry for books that explore the topic in a new, fresh and exciting way and I’m delighted to announce that Emer O’Toole gave me everything I had been looking for. Using her personal experiences, brutal honesty and novel ways to look at gender equality, Girls Will Be Girls was a fascinating read that I found difficult to put down. Although it wasn’t quite five star, it was extremely close and I have no qualms about highly recommending this to everyone if you’re intrigued by the subject matter.

The book is divided into twelve chapters and a conclusion and explores a variety of topics surrounding gender interspersed with tid-bits from Emer’s own life to illustrate the points she is making. She starts off completely honestly, admitting that she hasn’t always been the best feminist in the world and often conformed to those pesky female stereotypes to fit in with a group of friends or her male friend/boyfriends points of view. She laughed at their sexist jokes, dampened down her own vibrant personality and ambitions in order to “be like a girl.” It wasn’t until a bit later on in her early adulthood that she started realising she didn’t have to do all that, she could be her own person and there was no need to bow to the whims of society. So started her journey of experimenting with her gender – dressing like a boy, refusing to shave her legs and underarms and even shaving her head to try and understand how deeply rooted gender stereotypes really are in our world and if there was a possibility she could bend things so other women wouldn’t feel so pressurised to act/be a certain way.

I absolutely loved that Emer used her real-life experience to approach the gender debate and this book was packed full of humour, heart and real honesty as she embarked upon her journey of discovery for the good of womankind. I had heard about her infamous interview on This Morning here on the UK where the presenters quizzed her about her refusal to shave and I was delighted to discover an genuine, intelligent woman who was just as funny and “real” as the writing in her book. She had some incredibly sound points to make about how society constrains young girls and puts unrealistic, sometimes very unnecessary pressures on them. I admire her bravery and resilience for standing up for what she believes in and think all women could take a leaf out of her book in their approach to being a woman. If we’re ever going to have anything close to gender equality, I really think we need to challenge things like the media, people’s expectations and how we raise our children if we’re ever going to teach the next generation that women are in fact, not second-class citizens to men.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Delusions Of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference – Cordelia Fine

Published October 3, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A vehement dismantling of the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes.

Sex-based discrimination is supposedly a relic of the distant past. Yet popular books, magazines, and even scientific articles increasingly defend continuing inequalities between the sexes by calling on immutable biological differences between the male and the female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and education, Delusions of Gender rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. This book reveals the brain’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider “hardwired” is actually malleable, empowering us to break free of the supposed predestination of our sex chromosomes.

What did I think?:

In my other, non-blogging life, I work as a scientist and every so often you’ll see a review popping up on my blog about a non-fiction book I’ve read that has more than likely been science-y. I’m also a firm believer in gender equality and women’s rights so Delusions of Gender seemed like the perfect mix of science and feminism which encouraged me to pick it up. I found it to be a fascinating read which I learned a lot from and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the differences between our two genders. The book is divided into short chapters with intriguing titles such as “Why You Should Cover Your Head with a Paper Bag if You Have A Secret You Don’t Want Your Wife to Find Out,” “Sex and Premature Speculation,” and “Gender Detectives.” With titles like these you may want to read this book already but let me assure you that the author backs up the humour in her writing with clear facts, possible theories and very strong evidence that lends a note of seriousness into why exactly we still have gender inequality in a modern, 21st century society.

You’d think we’d have come a long way in achieving more rights for women since say, the nineteenth century yet consider this point that the author makes in the introduction. An English clergyman called Thomas Gisborne wrote a manual called “An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex,” and noted that things such as legislation, political economy and the conduct of government should be assigned to men as they have “the powers of close and comprehensive reasoning, and of intensive and continued application.” Whereas, females enjoy “powers adapted to unbend the brow of the learned, to refresh the over-laboured faculties of the wise, and to diffuse the enlivening and endearing smile of cheerfulness.” Ladies, I hope you are extremely insulted right now. But then Fine encourages us to move forward 200 years and look at The Essential Difference written by Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge University psychologist who states “the female brain is pre-dominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.” Hmm… sounds pretty much the same thing as what Gisborne was trying to say in the nineteenth century?

Throughout the book, Cordelia Fine investigates how different males and females really are. Are we all so hard-wired into our gender that there is no wiggle room in terms of qualities we should possess? Is it really a man’s world? Is it absolutely pointless for a woman to even consider a top level management job as it requires stereotypically more aggressive characteristics that for a woman is considered unattractive? I did enjoy the way that the author discredits work carried out by Baron-Cohen, and theories from the author of A Female Brain, Louann Brizendine that seem to want to put males and females in their own little boxes. For example, the assumption that a woman can use more areas of the brain than a man i.e. multi-tasking, was an experiment based on only 14 brains and the conclusions weren’t even statistically significant? In this way, a lot of experiments dealing with differences between the sexes have used just a few subjects, or made scientific “guesses,” depending on what their own stereotypical views were.

This is a brilliant and fascinating book, injected with a little bit of wit and sarcasm which I always appreciate in a non-fiction book and which I think is needed when dealing with this subject which can sometimes be a little bit touchy. I don’t think Baron-Cohen or Brizendine will be amongst her fans if they ever read it but I really enjoyed the way she picked apart neurosexism and shone a light upon the shadier areas of gender research. Oh, and you don’t need to be a scientist to read or enjoy this, it’s very accessible without being patronising.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0