From intelligence to emotion, for centuries science has told us that men and women are fundamentally different. But this is not the whole story.
Shedding light on controversial research and investigating the ferocious gender wars in biology, psychology and anthropology, Angela Saini takes readers on an eye-opening journey to uncover how women are being rediscovered. She explores what these revelations mean for us as individuals and as a society, revealing an alternative view of science in which women are included, rather than excluded.
This is a wonderful read if you want to take a broad look at the differences between genders and why women are considered to be inferior to their male counterparts.
The research and citations were excellent, with plenty of anecdotes, examples and quotes to support the author’s points but presented in such a way that the book was fun to read – it’s clearly biased in favour of women not being the inferior 50% of our species, but this isn’t exactly a bad thing when all research done up until the mid 1980s seems to be twisted to prove exactly why women are lesser.
For what is actually pretty dense and contentious subject matter, I found this book really easy to read and enjoyable – Saini delves into the realms of archaeology, anthropology, history and biology (lot of ologies, funnily enough) to get a big picture view of the evolution of women and how we’ve come to this point in time still thinking that women aren’t as good as men and may as well be a different species.
One of my favourite chapters referenced some research where it’s been shown that you can develop areas of your brain during your lifetime, so the differences between male and female brains may be caused by their lifetimes of experiences which have been assigned to them by societal expectations (if you’re only allowed to play with bricks, you’re spatial awareness will be good). The example in question was that the area of the brain that stores maps/spatial reasoning is incredibly well developed in career taxi drivers – which I thought was amazing and illustrated the point quite nicely.
Parallels were drawn between human and primate behaviour, to show that patriarchal societies aren’t universal among our nearest relatives. Personally I’m not sure about the value of these comparisons, it seems reasonable to me that our behaviour has evolved into a different sphere entirely since we ditched the trees and invented doughnuts.
Possibly my favourite chapter was the last – exploring the evolutionary purpose of the menopause. It shocked me to learn how little interest or research there was in the menopause until pharmaceutical companies they could make money off ‘treating’ it in the 20th century. There’s also a prevailing theory that women only live past the menopause because they picked up a genetic favour from their fathers… apart from being insulting, I find this one hard to believe given that the female lifespan is longer than the male’s anyway.
I loved this book and will recommend it to all my friends with an interest in science and gender equality- it’s fascinating and informative, but the author hasn’t climbed up on a soapbox to write it so it doesn’t light my feminist fuse with all the outdated research on why women should stay in the home.