Testosterone Rex in which Cordelia Fine self-deprecatingly talks about how, when she introduces herself to people, she is always saddened by the fact that she is not immediately surrounded by fangirls and fanboys who carry copies of her book around and want her to autograph it right then and there.
I admit that I don't carry Fine's Delusions of Gender around with me, but I am a HUGE fan of the book, and I'm pretty sure that if I were ever to meet Fine in person, I would be a total fangirl and absolutely ask to take a photo with her and all sorts of other things.
SO NOW YOU KNOW, CORDELIA - you are just meeting the wrong people. You have LOADS of fans who love you and your work.
I was pretty excited to learn that Fine had a new book out, this one about how people assume that testosterone is a hormone that creates vast differences between men and women (besides the private bits), and that it can explain a lot of things about human and animal behavior, from risk-taking to spreading the seed to being successful at work. And, as she does, Fine shoots all of these assumptions down using science.
The book clocks in at less than 200 pages before the footnotes, so it's not long, but there's a LOT packed into its pages. I don't remember this happening at all while I read Delusions of Gender, but I admit that reading all these details about the sex habits of fish and insects was a little trying for me. I didn't love every page of this book the way I loved every page of Delusions of Gender, but I do think the pay-off for this book is really just as good! Just know that I skimmed some parts of it.
Fine makes a lot of great points, and some of them really resonated with me. For example, she talks about risk-taking and how studies have shown that men are more likely to take risks than women are. Then she totally breaks apart this whole thing, and it was amazing. FIRST, she says that when you separate people by ethnicity, it is actually mostly just white men who feel the world is super-safe and therefore are quite willing to take risks. And, within that subset, it was white men who were "well educated, rich, and politically conservative, as well as more trusting of institutions and authorities, and opposed to a "power to the people" view of the world..."
Who would have thought? The people with the most privilege are the ones most likely to take "risks," possibly because they are the least likely to lose.
Fine goes on to state that people view risks very differently, and someone may consider one thing quite risky and something else quite safe. For example, a skydiver could be very conservative with his money, and a Wall Street speculator could drive a Volvo. It's the individual's perception of the risk that is important, not a general idea of what is risky and what is not.
A salient point to bring those two facts together? "When asked about the risks to human health, safety, or prosperity arising from high tax rates for business, now it was the women's and minority men's turn to be sanguine." (Ah, so rich white men were very worried about the risks that would come with taxing business, whereas the people who would more likely benefit from taking that risk were not so worried!) Basically, people of both genders and all races take risks all the time, it is just that we seem to value some actions as being more risky (skydiving) than others (accepting a job at a company where that you will be the only woman, surrounded by bros).
Cordelia Fine is one of those people with so much glorious righteous anger PLUS a fantastic sense of humor that you kind of want her to fight all your battles for you. She shares a story about how she went to a school sale and some woman was selling plastic knives, and made a point to say the girl could have a pink knife, but her brother could have red or blue. She talks about how early kids become aware of gender and what they are "supposed" to do. (She goes into even more detail on this in Delusions of Gender). She reminds us that we should never say stupid phrases like, "Boys will be boys," as though we should give them a free pass for being jerks. She really carries the banner on gender equality, and I love her for it.
Really excellent book! Go read it!
I really loved this when I read it, I wasn't at all bored by the fish bits :) But then again I do read the very occasional natural history book so maybe I have strange tastes in non-fiction.ReplyDelete
I loved the bits on risk taking, it all made so much sense. And I agree, Fine has a great way of being passionate and humorous, makes her work very easy to read.
No, I don't think it's strange at all! It may have just been my mood and concentration level. But there's nothing wrong with enjoying natural history :-)Delete
Only recently did I discover that she'd written this one: it sounds pretty great! I'm late to the DoG party myself, just finished chapter eight today, in fact. And while I do find something on nearly every page that makes me want to nudge the person next to me, so I can share my latest "discovery", I do find it's a fair bit of work.ReplyDelete
She packs a LOT of detail into a paragraph. So I can see where one might be inclined to want to skim. It's had the opposite effect on me with this one, however, as it's really slowed me down (but in a good way). Thanks for encouraging me to watch for Testosterone Rex next. (And, by next, I mean "who knows when, but someday, right?")
Haha, yes, I completely understand that feeling! And I didn't have any difficulty with the details in DoG, but in this one, I struggled a bit more. Could have just been my mood. DoG totally blew my mind and probably cemented my feminism. This does a lot of that, too :-)Delete
YAY! My only note on this topic was that she barely spoke about trans and intersex people at all, and I'd have liked to know her thoughts on the ways that trans and intersex folks complicate gender binaries and the way we talk about that stuff.ReplyDelete
However, the book still blew my damn mind. I'm like spoiling for a fight with the people who try to say that thing about how men are programmed to blah blah blah because evolution. I AM READY FOR IT NOW. (Seriously, the part where she laid out what would have had to happen for a guy to impregnate 100 women a year, that was gold.)
Ohmigosh, you're right! The math behind that section was so excellent! I loved it.Delete
And you're right on the trans and intersex - she briefly mentions how differently we might approach the world if we were more flexible on definitions around that, but not to a huge extent. Possibly there isn't enough scientific study on these yet?
I really want to check this out at some point. Just having a very quiet reading year, so haven't been adding any books to my TBR!ReplyDelete
It's ok :-) It will still be around in future!Delete
I don't know when this whole 'risk' thing began. All of a sudden, it seemed like 'team-building' in schools and offices, and outward-boundy sorts of things were all the rage. Slogans came out about risk, making it sound like such a good thing, and that everyone should take risks. Where are the quiet introverts who are happy just being. Just being where they are, not wanting to go on a zip line or go to Thailand or jump out of a plane? Well, maybe I am the only one, but I am definitely not a risk-taker. Never have been, never will be. ;<))ReplyDelete