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Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  18 reviews
By carefully examining the biological, genetic, evolutionary, and psychological evidence, a noted biologist finds a shocking lack of substance behind ideas about biologically based sex differences. Features a new chapter and afterward on recent biological breakthroughs.
Paperback, Revised Edition, 320 pages
Published September 30th 1992 by Basic Books (first published 1987)
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Alok Vaid-Menon
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
People attempt to legitimize prejudice against trans people using the rhetoric of biology. The argument goes that “biologically” there are indisputably males and females. This is not scientifically accurate; it is far more complex. This is a continuation of a long history of weaponizing the language of science to justify sexism. Scientific language is used as a sheen to make discrimination seem natural. This is not actual science. The reduction of this biological complexity to establish social h ...more
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A brilliant demolition of the bad science behind gender-role-affirming memes like "men have better visual-spacial perception than women". While much of the book looks at work from the late 70s and early 80s, some of the ideas are still "common knowledge" today, and the sort of bad science (or at least bad science reporting) that perpetuates those myths is still being done. ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism-gender
Biology is not a one-way determinant but a dynamic component of our existence.

A surprisingly funny (in a totally snarky way) attack on both positivist essentialism and the idea that science could exist in a political vacuum.
Ronald Lett
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender-studies
An excellent overview and deconstruction of several often cited studies. Beyond the specific studies cited, it offers great extensive analysis on how the methodology of experiments can be both purposefully and unknowingly biased if they are not carefully designed. Citation of older studies especially is problematic when the language and words used have different intrinsic definitions. Although this book is a little older, and has some outdated ideas in the area of neuroscience (which has recentl ...more
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Written by a medical doctor, Myths of Gender explores studies on 'gender', focusing on the medical aspects. Fausto-Sterling discusses genes, hormones, brain differences, animal behavior, homosexuality, and how science affects society. Succinct, objective, and fascinating. ...more
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fausto-Sterling challenges the assertions of certain brain scientists and geneticists (among others), and offers a history of scientific misconceptions based on biology. Her main argument is that these gender myths are used to defend or protect the status quo.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Tons of evidence, plus some sharp insight into the weakness of many "studies" on gender difference. Fausto-Sterling dissects commonly held beliefs, neatly comparing what's produced as evidence, but also things that "experts" on gender difference spout from their perches in academia and media.

The writing is frequently dry and didactic, but readable. Occasionally, however, Fausto-Sterling shifts into a more conversational or even sardonic tone, and that's when the book comes alive.
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was an interesting read and the author made many good points about research and methods used to enforce our "age old" myths about gender. My only complaint is the book's age; some of the content is outdated. I'd be very interested to read an updated version with commentary regarding new research. ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is crushingly hard to get through, but I had to for the sake of my Sociology of Women class. I understand what Fausto-Sterling is trying to do here - proving that the "differences of biology" between men and women are tenuous at best - but this book is so steeped in science and theories and that sort of talk that I often fell asleep. I am more interested in the differences between men and women from a psychological and women's studies point of view. Not that the sociological should be ...more
Miranda Sofe Nelson
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Some good information, a little bit research heavy for my taste (I do better with philosophy than fact, sometimes) but it was well written and persuasive. However, I think the nature vs. nurture debate, in any sense, is an impossible question to properly study. And even if we could find accurate information swaying one way or the other, does answering this question really help us? Part of being human involves the natural desire to fight your nature, to progress and become better. And if you beli ...more
Haris Zofos
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
More Fausto-Sterlings in this world, please
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating that Fausto-Sterling picks about a hundred different scientific 'female inferiority/male-dominated society' claims and just devastates them, showing their problem-riddled studies with details about their neglect to noticing sociological bias and variables. It was a WEE bit science-y, though. My main issue is that it doesn't come off as a book to sway anyone who would be thinking differently and reads like a biology textbook half the time, with pages of completely unnecessary factual ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is, as they say, an oldie but a goodie - still shockingly relevant. Fausto-Sterling dives into the nitty-gritty of the biology of gender - what it is and what it isn't - which reveals the sociology of science, how science can be biased and flawed. A really good read for anyone wanting a better understanding of gender. ...more
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting historical look at gender science. It really provides a window into some of the large questions of the 1980's. It is interesting to see what we have learned since then, and what people have known is wrong for 40 years which is still perpetuated in society.
Again if you're looking for recent science, try a more recent book. But for the 1980's this is pretty good.
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book to read. It seemed very "textbook" at times, but the author does a wonderful job of throwing in snarky comments from time to time and elegantly shooting certain theorie down. This is the kind of book that I would suggest you only read if you have a genuine interest and some background in the topic. ...more
Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
she's fun, funny, and smart. ...more
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! Review coming soon...
May 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Utter rubbish...
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Anne Fausto-Sterling is the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University. She participates actively in the field of sexology and has written extensively on the biology of gender, sexual identity, gender identity, gender roles, and intersexuality.

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The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
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“Male and female babies may be born. But those complex, gender-loaded individuals we call men and women are produced. The complex assembly line includes all of our socialization processes, of which the acquisition of scientific knowledge is but one. Since our culture offers a privileged place to science, however, it is an especially important one.” 0 likes
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