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4.3 out of 5 stars73
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 15 September 2015
A fascinating and somewhat terrifying debunking of the so-called science behind claims that men and women have different brains and different minds, causing different preferences and abilities between the sexes.

The sheer amount of misinterpreted or completely fabricated results was a real eye-opener. And the instant willingness to believe claims when they are backed by apparent neuroscience was scary too.

Although quite dense to get through in parts, the whole neuroscience section was very educational. I, as it seems most of the world, had no idea that neuroscience is still very much in its infancy and all the fancy brain scans in the world still haven't allowed us to fully understand how and where the brain does what it does (never mind how it might, or might not, be done differently between the sexes).

I never usually read much nonfiction or science, but I still found this a very accessible read. I recommend it to absolutely everyone, whether male or female, parent or child-free, whatever! The sheer impact of overtly or subconsciously perceived gender roles or stereotype threat is greater and more insidious than I could have ever imagined, but the more people know about it the more we can (hopefully) start to combat it.

The book does not purport to have the solutions. How do we raise our children to be happy and effective people instead of always putting so much emphasis on being boys and girls, men and women? I don't know, but at least now I have a lot more information on taking the first steps.
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on 19 May 2014
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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on 17 October 2014
What is undeniable from this book is that Cordelia Fine has really done her groundwork reading around the topic. The fact that 40% of my kindle edition was footnotes and index goes to show just how extensive her research was.

The premise of the book is simple. As the title suggests, Cordelia Fine's thesis is that "fixed" notions of "male" and "female" are simply delusions, fabricated and disseminated by questionable sources and a wealth of misinformation. In my opinion the most interesting things which Fine draws attention are: the bigotry which occurs through neuroscience, the impossibility of gender-neutral parenting and gender stereotypes as self-perpetuation.

Fine's book does on occasion become a little bit too polemic. Her out-and-out rebuttals of Simon Baron-Cohen's extensive corpus of research is all well and good, but I feel she throws the baby out with the bath water on occasion, as Baron-Cohen has said defence of his work - "[Fine] ignores that you can be a scientist interested in the nature of sex differences while being a clear supporter of equal opportunities and a firm opponent of all forms of discrimination in society". I know the focus of the book was on biology as a starting point, but I do wish Fine had drawn a bit of attention to the wider social implications. However, this probably would not have strayed more into social science, whereas this book is more scientific.

If I had to be hyper-hyper picky about this book, I would say, not a terrible lot of the research in this book is the author's own. Since she draws very heavily on sources, it is quite difficult reading the book to pick out what is her opinion, and what are the results of a case study.

However, all in all, the book is an excellent starting point to get people questioning the roots of gender. The ideas expressed in this book are not only specific to gender, but any ideology which has been allowed to mutate over time.
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on 27 June 2014
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 are, I would recommend it. It is an easier read than most academic text, but it still gets the point across in an educated, intelligent way. Quite scary reading it and being able to identify with so many of the gender-congruent claims!
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on 24 April 2012
Don't quote anything you "know" about gender brain differences again until you have read this book. Fascinating, amusing, illuminating. Casts a critical eye over so called evidence relating gender, brain difference and behaviour. Must Read.
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on 18 August 2013
Since working recently for a company that sells books for children all neatly published in lists either for 'girls' (princess, fairies, shopping and pink), or 'boys' (space, transport, animals and science), and having my concerns dismissed because "that's just the way boys and girls are", gender roles and gender stereotypes have been on my mind a lot.

There has been much in the media recently about the male and female brain and resulting assumptions about gender that people seem to take as gospel truth, but have made me uncomfortable and a little sad.

I was worried that my ideas about gender, and my aversion to gender role stereotypes, were wrong and that all this new 'science' was proof of inherent unavoidable differences; but this book has very convincingly shown me that I was right to be skeptical. It's opened my eyes to the importance of skepticism toward anything based on incomplete and not yet fully understood science. It really showed me just how separated by society men and women are, and now that my eyes are opened I've noticed so much more in the media and general life that reinforces traditional presumptions about gender.
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on 4 January 2014
Cordelia Fine's analysis of the pseudo science that is often trotted out regarding 'proven' inherent differences between the way men and women's brains function is both thorough and convincing. She takes many of the oft cited myths and systematically debunks each one. However, because of the thorough way the information is delivered, including many references to the various research that supports her arguments, it is more of an academic work than a book for entertainment.

If you want reliable information, this is for you. If you want entertainment then you probably need to look elsewhere.
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on 22 December 2013
A really great book for anyone interested in childhood development, gender studies, parenthood or feminism. I feel that the author has been really thorough. She myth busts a few things which is great too.
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on 24 May 2013
If you go on what the media says, you might think that gender differences are immutable. This book shows the gaps in scientific knowledge and explores what we do know about gender.
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on 11 November 2015
Fine's book is accessible and thoroughly entertaining. It challenges so much of the received 'wisdom' about gender and sex differences that you develop a healthy distrust of one-off studies and, more especially, the way the media and others pick them up and ram them down our throats. Her warning about a backlash against feminist thinking being fuelled by these studies - and vice versa - is chilling. Read it!
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