Kogiopsis's Reviews > Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
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really liked it
bookshelves: favorite-2015-reads, nonfiction, reviewed, why-i-love-my-kindle

Many of the general ideas presented in this book were familiar to me: claims of true neurological basis for differences between the sexes are bunk; areas in which people seem to be 'deficient' are often socially created rather than biological; current conceptions of binary gender essentialism must be abandoned. However, for all that the conclusions Cordelia Fine drew were hardly surprising to me, reading this book had a significant impact. It felt almost like an out of body experience, to read about these studies and then look at similar cases in my own life and, all of a sudden, to be able to see the strings. This is probably what Neo felt like when he learned to see the Matrix. It's disorienting.

I read this book on a road trip with my parents, and I'm sure they wish I hadn't because I would not shut up about it. Partly, that's because I couldn't really process it without talking about it and applying it; partly, that's because my mom is a teacher and my dad is an engineer and I feel like the things I was learning from Cordelia Fine are intimately applicable to their work and dealing with other people. That's probably true of most people, though; but since one has direct impact on how confident students feel speaking in her courses and the other interacts with younger engineers, this seemed very relevant. I think I've probably brought the book up once a week since, too.

The one concept that sticks with me the most is that of stereotype threat. Simply put, stereotype threat describes an effect when someone, being aware that a group they are part of is believed to have a certain capability, changes the way they approach that task. (For instance, women who are reminded of the stereotype that women are bad at math perform worse on math tests.) I had to set the book aside when I read that, because it explained so much about things I've struggled with: when you're under stereotype threat, your brain switches from trying to achieve success to trying to avoid failure, making you less innovative and confident, and slowing you down in completing the task. It's a feeling of being stifled, being trapped, that I've experienced a lot more than I'd like to, and finally having an explanation for it is clearing up a lot in my life.

I wound up taking a star off of my rating for this book for two reasons - one, Fine's very binarist, cis-normative handling of gender erases or ignores trans* people, and while I see the rhetorical reasoning for that given the book's argument, it's still a weakness; and two, while she dissected research that she disagreed with very thoroughly, I found myself wondering if the studies she cited would stand up to a similar level of scrutiny. Given the nature of the book, I assume her research was thoroughly done, but there's still a distinct rhetorical strategy to the final work and I couldn't stop wondering if that had shaped the results presented.
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Reading Progress

November 6, 2010 – Shelved
Started Reading
May 28, 2015 – Finished Reading
June 22, 2015 – Shelved as: favorite-2015-reads
June 22, 2015 – Shelved as: nonfiction
June 22, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed
June 22, 2015 – Shelved as: why-i-love-my-kindle

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