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Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  5,433 ratings  ·  663 reviews
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 exp
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published May 30th 2017 by Beacon Press (first published 2016)
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yana emilova Yes, it is true that foetuses 'start off' as female. Here's a peer reviewed scientific paper as a reference:

"All human individuals—whether they have a…more
Yes, it is true that foetuses 'start off' as female. Here's a peer reviewed scientific paper as a reference:

"All human individuals—whether they have an XX, an XY, or an atypical sex chromosome combination—begin development from the same starting point. During early development the gonads of the fetus remain undifferentiated; that is, all fetal genitalia are the same and are phenotypically female. After approximately 6 to 7 weeks of gestation, however, the expression of a gene on the Y chromosome induces changes that result in the development of the testes. Thus, this gene is singularly important in inducing testis development. The production of testosterone at about 9 weeks of gestation results in the development of the reproductive tract and the masculinization (the normal development of male sex characteristics) of the brain and genitalia."

Taken from:

Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences; Wizemann TM, Pardue ML, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001.

( [Accessed 26 Aug 2018])(less)

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Start your review of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Thomas by: Elizabeth
A powerful book that pierces through the notion that women are biologically inferior to men. With great diligence, Angela Saini combs through decades and decades of research that tried to show how women are worse than men in several areas, ranging from intelligence to aptitude for work to physical health. She uses a thorough understanding of science and a fine eye for detail to reveal how many of these perceived sex differences were actually the product of biased researchers or flawed studies. S ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
`I enjoyed this book. I particularly found the medical stuff very interesting — the differences between male and female immune systems, the set of diseases unique to people with Y chromosones, etc. Pretty neat.

But, while there was a lot of great content in the book, I often found myself a bit annoyed with the biased presentation of some of that content. Despite claiming at the beginning that she "had no axe to grind", it's very clear that she actually did.

I especially had issues with her discus
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The overarching point of this book, that the imbalance between men and women is socially and culturally, rather than biologically or scientifically, defined seems to me to be self evident. Of course, being female might have something to do with that outlook since i'd be on the losing side otherwise. I have never seen or believed in any inferiority in my sex or gender, neither do I believe in male/female characteristics, assigned gender roles, specific colours for boys and girls...etc etc. If any ...more
Brian Clegg
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are times when a book comes along that is perfectly timed for the zeitgeist - and that's true of Angela Saini's Inferior. Most of the educational and scientific community would, I'm sure, protest their absolute lack of gender bias - but the fact remains that the scientific establishment is still predominantly run by men, even if in some disciplines there are more female students and postgrads than male. And some scientists tell us that there is evidence to underline why this is the natural ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One day in high school I was discussing with someone the possibility of getting certified in first aid. While they were encouraging, they also recommended doing some reading outside of the classroom. When I ask why, their reply was simple: "They didn't tell me that a woman's symptoms of a heart attack are different than a man's." At the time I remember being shocked that something so deadly and so important to know wasn't a part of the very lifesaving course I and many others rely on. It was the ...more
I almost classified this book incorrectly. I thought it would be more social science/feminism than it is. While there is plenty of that too, the book is ostensibly about the bias in science and scientific studies that lead to questionable findings. Indeed, the quest to maintain the patriarchy is pervasive where gender distinctions/differences are concerned. Such biases have shown up in animal studies in a sense scientifically anthropomorphize animals to fit traditional human gender roles. The as ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Edit July 7, 2019

Here is a link to an essential video on masculinity on youtube:

My review of ‘Inferior’:

Gentle readers, especially you men, if you have great expectations in raising a girl child, especially of raising a girl child who will support you in your old age, I recommend 'Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong'.

This excellent, if too brief, overview survey of the cultural history of Western science studies on women is a general reader's book, very accessible a
There were (and still are) people who like to say that men and women are inherently different, as in our minds are "wired" differently. Men "naturally" are better at science, technology, engineering, and mathematical fields (STEM), women "naturally" are better at other stuff, like having babies and being pretty. For years (and still), women in the STEM fields have been largely ignored for their contributions and their efforts, and the men in the same fields have taken the credit for the work tha ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminist
It is profoundly disheartening that a noble task - namely, to scientifically proof biological equality of men and women - saw such disappointing a realisation in this book.

The author is extremely partial to female researches, leaving the whole idea of impartiality of science behind. I first noticed that in her lashing Simon Baron-Cohen's theories. The author, for example, quite derogatorily mentioned that one of Baron-Cohen's assistance in one of his experiments was a "life-guarding on a beach i
Lily ☁️
“Sex differences in the brain are irresistible to those looking to explain stereotypic differences between men and women. They often make a big splash, in spite of being based on small samples. But as we explore multiple data sets (...) we find these differences often disappear or are trivial.”

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Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't really enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would.

For one, I didn't love the author's prose and style. A scientist says this positive or negative thought about women. Another scientist says 'no you're wrong!' Another scientists says 'actually I'm right!' That was the format...

Plus, there was pretty overt bias that women are basically not significantly different from men in any cognitive or behavioral area, which I don't really buy. For example, in the argument about differences in deve
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Inferior collects information that systematically debunks, questions and provides newer researches on the ideology that exists and has propagated the imbalance between men and women. There is always social, cultural and political aspects to this large question but science has come with its own contrived objectivity which has stunted different voices. The research that do get quoted, become sounding board for many of the modern arguments, has never been repeated with same results. Scientists have ...more
Faith Justice
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love science and history and truly enjoy it when they overlap in books such as Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story. As a feminist, I keep up with gender-based research and have for several decades. Disproving bad science that stated women's minds, bodies, and emotions were inferior to men's was a key element of my job when I worked with school systems to implement Title IX in the 70's. Title IX a.k.a "the law that will destroy boys sports" in f ...more
Kaethe Douglas
I can never decide which angers me more: sloppy science or stupid science reporting. Funny how much of both one sees reinforcing prejudice. As if tiny differences in averages between two groups could possibly justify discrimination against individuals. People are just the worst.

And yet there are scientists in every field doing excellent work, publishing reproducible results, much of which is ignored by popular media and leaders in the field who get lots of research dollars for publishing stupid
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading now that the likes of google engineers are talking about the "science" of female inferiority. This book shows exactly how solid the science of brain differences is. Spoiler: not solid at all. Moreover, it demonstrates through several clear case studies how important representation is in scientific findings. Ever since I read this book, I've been seeing study after study that says that they tested drugs only on men. Why are men assumed to be the norm physiologically and yet we c ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: Goodreads Science & Inquiry Group
[June 13, 2018]
This is an excellent book for those interested in gender equality in the sciences. Saini reviews the changing scientific theories about sex differences in several different disciplines, from evolutionary theory to biology to psychology. She obviously has strong personal feelings about the mistreatment of women, but that's not what this book is about. She describes how the various sexist theories were developed, and how they've been disproven. And when they haven't been fully dispr
The publisher should sell the print edition plastic-wrapped with a highlighter tucked in. I don't ever highlight print books, but for this I would make an exception. Oooh! And also include a little card, with the most useful facts printed on it in fine print on both sides, that I could slip into my wallet for easy reference.

Honestly, this was the book I've often thought needed to be written. I follow the topic, so I'd heard about most of this science, but it's awfully handy to have gathered in
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
""Science is supposed to be objective," says Crittenden."
I don't think you can find much objectivity in this book. The book featured a lot of male against female research, which would be fine if it would merit to a conclusion. Unfortunately very often the "debate" about a certain topic went on, but no real conclusion was reached, which left me confused - why was such a chapter included in the first place?

The book was very chaotic and I had a hard time understanding what is going on at first. Th
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots of science, but the insights are thorough and fascinating. Saini does an impressive job of synthesizing a broad body of research with accuracy while maintaining a conversational tone. Her approach of sticking to the facts in the face of a subject that is particularly dichotomizing allows even the old research to speak with a new voice. I'm so glad I read this and I really enjoyed the audio narration.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i loved this book and what it dealt with.
Even though it was a scientific study, it actually wasn't that hard to read, it had very simple concepts that anybody can understand and boy did i understand a lot.
I'm thankful that a book like this was written, yes because of what it contained, it's eye opening and everyone should read it.
Viv JM
3.5 stars - felt it could have gone into more depth, and a bit too 'journalist-y' for my tastes but interesting reading nonetheless.
Amir Tesla
May 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two starts for the exceptional writing style.
Kara Babcock
Sometimes it seems like smug people like to point smugly to science to justify their smug opinions about their superiority. Alas, many of these people turn out to be men declaiming the natural inferiority of women. As much as some men would like you to believe it, however, “science” doesn’t prove that women are naturally inferior to men. As Angela Saini explains in her book of the same name, “science” backs up what many of us have observed for millennia: it’s complicated, y’all.

Inferior referenc
Amy Neftzger
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that needed to be written in order to explain the gaps in research as well as real life. There are differences between men and women that research has identified that don't actually exist, while at the same time missing some of the true differences. This is a study in bias as much (or more) as it is a study in gender differences. Science is a quest for truth, and while the truth may ultimately be revealed, our biases can mislead us down some dark alleys along that ques ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Would it shock you to know that the men with a vested interest in the status quo support science that doubles down on that position?
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
4- A good introduction into how science has handled gender so far (spoiler: not particularly well). It’s accessible and enlightening, although probably not very surprising if you are interested in these kinds of topics - most of us know about bonobos by now. I wasn’t fully convinced by Saini’s approach, though: it isn’t a full-on feminist thesis, rage against established/out-dated theories; but despite its attempts at objectivity, it isn’t unbiased either. I suspect it may have been more powerfu ...more
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Although the book clearly draws inspiration from Professor Fine's book, Delusion of Gender, and sometimes discusses the same studies and published papers, often it brings different material to light and expands upon Fine's work. The book also isn't afraid to interview scientists from both sides of the debate, and discuss studies which do not support as well as those that do. Perhaps frustratingly, was the finding again and again by scientists that studies that had not had their results independe
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A brief but interesting overview of some of the ways in which science—though presented as impartial—has in fact done much to reinforce societal and cultural norms about binary sex and gender. Angela Saini points out that biological differences between male and female bodies are still only imperfectly understood, and are not as clear-cut as are commonly thought. When it comes to male and female brains, it's not clear that there are inherent differences at all.

Inferior is, as I said, a brief overv
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-science
Reading the reviews of this book, I'm noticing that some people are starting their reviews with disclaimers like "I'm not a feminist but I like this book," and "This book is feminist, but it's still good." Are we serious here? Even though this book clearly argues that a more feminist science is actually more accurate and better able to avoid bias, people are still tiptoeing around the word "feminist" as if it's a pile of stinky political dog poo? The whole POINT of this book is to show that by u ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I love nonfiction that reads like fiction. I'm not a fan of textbooks however. I was hoping for the NTRLF, but this book felt more like a textbook.

The information was solid. I simply like books that are a bit more energetic.
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Angela Saini is an award-winning British science journalist and broadcaster. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired, and New Humanist. She also presents science programmes on BBC radio. She has won awards from the Association of British Science Writers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was named European Science Writer of the Year.

Saini has a Mast

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