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Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences [Paperback]

Cordelia Fine
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Feb 2011
This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes - with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and 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 social psychology, "Delusions of Gender" rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind'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. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made - and not born.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848312202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848312203
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'We are all in [Fine's] debt. She has the expertise to check the research references cited by academic as well as popular books on the subject, and she has the clarity and wit to impart her findings to the lay reader. She exposes shockingly lightweight research that is taken seriously and nuanced research that is misreported.' -- Guardian "Delusions of Gender' ... carefully and with great precision demolishes the nonsense that pervades the popular and technical literature pretending to be scientific fact, exposing it as truthiness which is nowhere close to truth. ... When I first heard about this book it was clear, even before reading it, that this is the book we've been waiting for. Now, having read it, I can assure you that it is even better than I thought it could be. ... Buy it. Get your friends, your colleagues, your family members to buy it, or buy it for them. Get it to your local school board. Make it required reading, not only in gender studies, but in freshman sociology, biology, education and business courses. Get it on the New York Times bestseller list. ... Our culture is saturated with sloppy self-reinforcing non-thinking about gender. It will take a monumental effort to get it off those tracks. 'Delusions of Gender' is an excellent place to start.' -- Professor Judy Roitman, Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter 'The hard data is illuminating, and engaging, but Fine manages a light touch throughout. This is a truly startling book.' -- Independent on Sunday 'A fascinating subject. A bracing argument.' -- Evening Standard 'The result of Fine's irritation is a witty and meticulously researched expose of the sloppy studies that pass for scientific evidence in so many of today's bestselling books on sex differences... Can we stop talking about brains now? Those who can't, and anyone else who would like to know what today's best science reveals about gender differences - and similarities - could not do better than read this book.' -- Carol Tavris, TLS '['Brain Storm' and 'Delusions of Gender' are] well-informed, well-argued and (for science books, perhaps unusually) well-written interventions in ... one of the most important debates in current sexual politics.' -- Trouble and Strife Journal 'Two books came out this year (2010) which, in the long-term, could change how we view gender for ever. ... Cordelia Fine's 'Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences' (Icon Books) finally debunked the myth that men and women's minds are significantly different ... Both books were favourably reviewed and hotly discussed. Over time their conclusions could have far-reaching consequences as significant as 'The Female Eunuch." -- Viv Groskop, Guardian 'If you believe that the tide of blue and pink that greets children whenever they walk into a toy or children's clothes shop is just about colours ... think again.' -- Working Mums 'This is a book with such a large scope that it's near-impossible to overestimate its importance. Much like 'The Spirit Level' did for socio-economics, this book ropes together decades' worth of studies on gender differences and casts a cool, calm eye (and an arched brow) over them all... This book will cast a light on gender assumptions you didn't know you had, and it's hilarious - with chapter titles such as 'We Think, Therefore You Are' and 'Sex and Premature Speculation,' Dr Fine is a brilliant tour guide - making light, fun and engaging work of the research. By debunking the rubbish, this book opens up possibilities for a (slightly) clearer vision of the future. Not to be missed.' -- Fat Quarter 'In 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine does a magnificent job debunking the so-called science, and especially the brain science, of gender. If you thought there were some inescapable facts about women's minds - some hard wiring that explains poor science and maths performance, or the ability to remember to buy the milk and arrange the holidays - you can put these on the rubbish heap. Instead, Fine shows that there are almost no areas of performance that are not touched by cultural stereotypes. This scholarly book will make you itch to press the delete button on so much nonsense, while being pure fun to read.' -- Emeritus Professor Uta Frith, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Research Foundation Professor, University of Aarhus 'Cordelia Fine has a first-rate intellect and writing talent to burn. In her new book, 'Delusions of Gender,' she takes aim at the idea that male brains and female brains are 'wired differently,' leading men and women to act in a manner consistent with decades-old gender stereotypes. Armed with penetrating insights, a rapier wit, and a slew of carefully researched facts, Fine lowers her visor, lifts her lance, and attacks this idea full-force. Whether her adversaries can rally their forces and mount a successful counter-attack remains to be seen. What's certain at this point, however, is that in 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine has struck a terrific first blow against what she calls 'neurosexism.' -- Professor William Ickes, author of 'Everyday Mind Reading: Understanding What Other People Think and Feel.' 'Fine turns the popular science book formula on its head.' -- USA Today 'Fine is fun, droll yet deeply serious. Setting a cracking pace, 'Delusions' tackles the power of implicit association (those unconscious associations we make about men and women) and of negative stereotyping, plus the empathising/systematising theory proposed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, and the messy world of brain scans and genetic research. Her conclusion: we are in thrall to 'neurosexism'.' -- New Scientist 'The author, Cordelia Fine, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from University College London, is an acerbic critic, mincing no words when it comes to those she disagrees with. But her sharp tongue is tempered with humor and linguistic playfulness, as the title itself suggests... It's too late to tell that to Dr. Sax, a proponent of single-sex education, who cited the Connellan study as evidence that 'girls are born prewired to be interested in faces while boys are prewired to be more interested in moving objects.' But it's not too late to read this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is.' -- New York Times 'So both sexes should rejoice at Cordelia Fine's new book, Delusions of Gender, a vitriolic attack on the sexism masquerading as psychology that is enjoying a renaissance.' -- Rosamund Irwin, London Evening Standard '...impeccably researched and bitingly funny.' -- Rosamund Irwin, London Evening Standard 'Fine's tone is witty but the citations are detailed and the bibliography extensive...This book is an entertaining weapon in that fight (for education and social justice) and will make a nice 'thwok' sound bouncing off the heads of sexists.' -- Sarah Ensor, Socialist review 'Fine's conclusions provide a timely warning against taking too seriously the deluge of books and articles that would have us believe that men are biologically advantaged when it comes to mathematics, racing, driving or map reading - and that women are naturally more intuitive and nurturing, so better at childcare and multitasking.' -- Claire Jones, Guardian 'In 'Delusions of Gender' the psychologist Cordelia Fine exposes the bad science, the ridiculous arguments and the persistent biases that blind us to the ways we ourselves enforce the gender stereotypes we think we are trying to overcome.' NB - this article goes on to claim that Fine does not go far enough nor give us any solutions. The subtitle of the article is 'Terri Apter wishes that a study of genes and gender had gone further.' -- Terri Apter, Guardian 'Fine eviscerates both the neuroscientists who claim to have found the answers and the popularisers who take their findings and run with them.' (NB quote referenced in the Guardian article 11th September - ) -- Katherine Bouton, Deputy Editor of New York Times Magazine. 'Timely and provocative, her argument is also excellent at debunking oversimplified theories, for instance, that biology is destiny.' -- Metro "well-stocked armoury that includes extensive research, sharp whit and a probing intelligence, and which refuses to be satisfied with the delusional myth-making that often passes for popular science." -- Metro 'Fine offers persuasive proof that many of the claims we commonly swallow about male and female brains are based on very bad science indeed. Her entire book ... is worth a read, and perhaps should be taught in high school and college science classes. Maybe if young women were exposed to the truth about their brains, they'd no longer feel like they had to chuck their gender overboard in order to pursue their dreams.' -- Anna North, Jezebel 'With 'Delusions of Gender,' we welcome a brilliant feminist critic of the neurosciences ... In a book that sparkles with wit, which is easy to read but underpinned by substantial scholarship and a formidable 100-page bibliography, she attacks the ready generalisations on sexual differences made by neuroscientists and their media exegetes ... every page of Fine's brilliant, spiky book reminds us that science is part of culture and that the struggle against sexism in the neurosciences and the struggle against sexism in society are intimately linked. Read her, enjoy and learn.' -- Hilary Rose, THES 'Popular science writing at its best ... beautifully and accessibly written ... It is a cracking good read, by turns witty, passionate and learned.' -- National Childbirth Trust Journal 'An excellent introduction to the scientific method ... mind-opening ... prepare to be a relative expert on the subject.' -- British Neuroscience Association Bulletin '[a] brilliant debunking of 'neuro-sexism' ... a powerful case that who we are is much more closely attuned to the culture that surrounds us, than to the biology of our brains.' -- Mslexia 'A pinnacle piece of feminist literature, which I thoroughly recommend and could quote all day.' -- Fran Hall, Huffington Post 'Fine draws together research that shows people who pride themselves on their lack of bias persist in making the stereotypical associations just below the thre...

About the Author

Cordelia Fine is a Research Associate at Macquarie University, Australia, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She was called 'A science writer to watch' by Metro on publication of her previous book, A Mind of Its Own.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent at first 19 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first third of this book is incredible, it cited sources and large enough studies to convince any honest person of it's point and it's importance. It' completely changed my views on many of what I now consider to be key and generally poorly understood issues. But after that something strange happened. It started when she was comparing how important people perceive work of men and women to be, in support of her point she cited that 2 couples she was friends with both thought the man was more busy/ important at work, at this point alarm bells started going,

they continued ever louder while a paragraph was given to discrediting rat studies only for a rat study to be used in supporting one of her points not 10 pages later.

and they became deafening when an entire chapter was given to discrediting another persons work because although they could show a link from foetal testosterone levels to brain structure they couldn't then show a link to behaviour (although differences existed). which was fine but don't then in the very next chapter quote a nobel prize winner in support of your point saying that a great scientist is one who can try to predict the whole picture when only fragments of it can be seen.

In summary, the first 1/3 of the book is well worth the cost of the whole thing but it's worth keeping 'the filter' on if you are going to read the rest.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I found this book interesting as a further reading in my series on the eternal conundrum of man/woman relationship. This book emphasizes the environmental influence on the development of man and woman, whereas other books looked at the psychological dimension (like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus") or at the biological evolutionary aspect (like "Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps") of the differences between genders.

Put it another way, what these books purport to be hardware differences, Fine argues are only software differences, the result of education, upbringing, societal influences. Without these external conditioning there is no scientifically measurable difference in the brains of man and woman.

In my view the theory developed in this book does not necessarily contradict those of the other, hardware oriented, books. I came away persuaded both are at work and relevant. I also came away persuaded that it does not make a whole lot of difference, for practical purposes: I believe in equal rights between the genders, and so obviously we must strive for equal opportunity. That will probably not result in equal attitudes, equal predispositions, or equal approaches to problem solving. Or maybe, in time, it will. We'll see. For the time being it is clear that the most important thing is to be aware of existing differences, whether hardware or software. Pretending they don't exist can only be harmful to man/woman relationships and counterproductive to our effort to overcome discrimination.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this 17 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fascinating, thoroughly researched assessment of gender differences and where these come from.

This book convincingly argues the case that gender difference is more the result of gender inequality in society than a result of genes or biology. It scathingly pulls apart assertions in popular literature that gender differences are "hard wired" showing these without fail to be based on bad or inadequate science or misinterpretation of results.

Easy to read and laugh out loud funny in places this important book should be read by anyone interested in why we are the way we are and how our interactions with the environment affect others in around us, most particularly children and how we parent them.

In fact I think this is one of the best books I have read!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this. 19 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hands down one of the best books on gender issues and popular assumptions about gender I have ever read. And for all that it tackles some pretty heavy theory and science, it's a remarkably light read, that will even have you laughing out loud at times, without ever becoming less than serious and passionate.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and entertaining 4 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover
This book should be required reading for all women - and men, and especially all those who would wish to be enlightened parents.

The author reviews and explains neuroscience studies, real and spurious, in the area of gender that are genuinely surprising to read about. Assumptions I've made over the years are taken apart and revealed as 'tricks of the mind'. Studies are analyzed and shown to be 'bad science'. It is genuinely eye-opening, even for those of us who have always thought themselves fairly 'gender aware'. Thankfully the hardiest detractor of Cordelia Fine's work (and I'll just bet there are many - this area is always one in which you light the blue touchpaper and retire!)would have trouble finding her rabid or partisan. The wry - and overt - humour in the text is wonderful.

I heartily recommend this book - for it's balanced, scientific approach, its good humour and it's well-written prose.
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80 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning amount of research 29 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
I found this book stunning. All around you see all this stuff about 'Men's brains' and 'Women's brains', and it always struck me as odd that a sex that has, for example, written so much brilliant literature should be deemed semi-autistic, etc etc. So here comes this brilliantly researched book (just take a look at the pages and pages of notes at the end - this author knows her onions backwards and forwards and sideways) - and she points out how shoddy it all is.
And she's funny!
No one will ever again have to sit through a dinner party with some parent going on about how 'I thought that too, but you only have to LOOK at my ttwo children to see there are innate differences...bleh bleh'. She unpickes it all and shows how social pressures are so important and the brain differences that are so often claimed are, essentially, neurotosh, aka neurosexism. I think I shall carry a copy round with me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Women of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your...
In the 21st century, more women at least in the Western world, have so much more opportunity to fulfill themselves in so many more directions than in any previous generation. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Elizabeth Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars Picks apart shoddy scientific techniques and bias:
Cordelia Fine takes a fine-toothed comb to the murky world of neuroscience and gender differences and shows us just how much of the supposed research that shows such massive brain... Read more
Published 3 days ago by boots-2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard-going
Found this very hard going!
Published 11 days ago by Observer
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe 'Gender' is the delusion...
This book argues for the official sociological view that our identification with either the male or female sex is LEARNED not biological. This is why we need the word 'gender'. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Hamster
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, highly recommended
This is a serious and weighty topic, well handled and clearly presented. Very thought provoking, meticulously researched and truly well written. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mikki
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
A brilliant book, just want I've been wanting to read for a long time, but have only just found. I've been spreading the love and giving it to everyone else to read too.
Published 1 month ago by Ratchet
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
interesting information towards my independent enquiry. makes you think about how we treat children.
Published 2 months ago by Tracey F Peak
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
I bought this when I was studying gender at university and it is a real eye opener. If you're interested in gender differences or want to look further into what makes us who we... Read more
Published 2 months ago by BubbleBee
4.0 out of 5 stars Be sceptical
Cordella Fine looks at the research done into the supposed difference between how men and women think. Read more
Published 3 months ago by GrahamM
5.0 out of 5 stars feminist wonder. fast and speedy delivery
love love love this book. very informative. science based. reiterates a lot of what we already know but in the form of studies and history. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ester
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