Most helpful critical review
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2011
Compared to the many 5-star reviews and the media hype appearing to surround Banyard's book, I found the contents of the book itself rather disappointing.
In truth, most of the official descriptions of the book ("Banyard reveals the uncomfortable truth about men and women ... ", "A dose of feminist common sense ... ", "A global perspective ... ", from the back cover and from reviews) do not say much about the actual contents of the book, so in that sense, it would be unfair to claim that the book is misrepresented by the media. It is, in fact, precisely what the media claims it to be: Polemical, name-calling and finger-pointing.
Banyard's book is about what she considers the unjust condition of women in modern society. She describes this condition across several chapters spanning the topics of body image, education, workplace conditions, domestic violence, the sex industry and reproductive rights. While all of these topics are certainly both interesting and relevant, I found that Banyard's treatment had several problems:
-First of all, Banyard comes off as constantly angry and finger-pointing, which makes the book feel lacking in objectivity.
-Banyard points out where men and women differ in society, but she takes very little time to reflect on the causes and reasons for such differences or what may be done to alleviate the inequality. For example, in the chapter on body image, she points out that many women suffer from low self-esteem as a cause of their perceived inadequate physical appearance, and she rages on about the unfairness and unacceptability of beauty norms and the fact that the same issues to not apply in the same degree to men, but does not reflect much about what could be done about it. Banyard speaks of the tyranny of beauty and the objectification of women, but her fury appears undirected. She offers little evidence as regards the causes of the problem, mostly blaming the modeling and the cosmetics industry in some way. She does little to argue who should share the responsibility for the suffering of the women afflicted by the issues. And finally, she offers few ideas for practical solutions.
-Banyard appears to use some rather cheap tricks to generate sympathy for the women discussed in the book, for example when considering a woman who is stressed because the buses are late and she forgot to recharge her bus fare card. Such personal stories are at most superficially relevant to the discussion of gender differences, and attempting to generate sympathy by anecdotal stories of this sort makes the author appear biased.
These issues aside, the societal problems discussed by Banyard are real, and particularly the chapter on the sex industry is worthwhile. In general, however, the apparent display of undirected indignation in the book, and the lack of reflection on causes and solutions, severely detracts from the quality of the book. For an example of a discussion of gender issues which appears more balanced and constructive, I would recommend "Delusions of Gender" by Cordelia Fine.