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Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and…

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That's…

by Angela Saini

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I expected this to be a one- sided feminist diatribe about all the ways women were NOT inferior to men. While that feeling may have laced the author's intentions (and probably mine too), Saini expertly presents evidence for each of the assertions she makes whether it's a clear topic or rather murky gray area. "Where the facts weren't clear, I wanted to highlight the debates around them." Ultimately, this was in fact what I wanted and the most scientific way of presenting all the theories Saini described in her book. Bravo to not falling into the traps of unadulterated bias! ( )
  karmabodhi | Apr 17, 2017 |
Interesting and important. The segments discussing possible flaws in mathematical models analyzing evolutionary data and bonobo hierarchy were especially compelling. ( )
  dele2451 | Apr 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Great book exploring the science (and sometimes pseudo-science) behind sex and gender research. A lot of this book just felt GOOD to read because I so hate evo-psych and how it's used to "scientifically rationalize" why women are inferior to men, even though it's based on very questionable scientific grounds. Saini does a wonderful job explaining the flaws in much of the research that has been done in a way that even laypeople can understand. Highly recommended. ( )
  lemontwist | Apr 4, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Saini shines a light on the complexity of objectivity in science regarding the differences between the sexes. Does the science reinforce stereotypes or are the stereotypes underpinning the science? Saini explores this question through a number of different investigations, from medicine to neuroscience to evolutionary biology. Her book often reads like an un-fun game of "pinpoint the bias." Is it in the mind of the scientist? Ingrained in the methods? Deep in the world of scientific publishing? Or, for some studies, maybe it isn't there at all, but the study's stereotypical results just leave a bad taste in the mouth. I am not leaving this book with answers, but I'm leaving it with a much more informed and critical opinion. ( )
  KendallBall | Apr 2, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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 football-crazy Ohio and basketball-obsessed Indiana where I did most of my work. Maybe those coaches and teachers were right. Look who took home most of the medals on the US team from the Rio Olympics. But Title IX was about so much more than sports--equal access for girls and women to all aspects of education.

I knew about many of the studies described in this book, but it was still educational seeing them all pulled together and analysis of their techniques and possible biases hashed out. One of my favorite chapters dealt with brain science. Try as they might, neurologists and endocrinologists cannot find differences between the brains of males and females. There is far more variation within each sex than between them. Another favorite chapter was on women's sexuality which explored in depth the myth that women were naturally more modest, choosy, and had lower sex drives than men (only in those societies that demand it of women and punish the non-conformers). In all the chapters Saini comes to some conclusions based on the evidence, but her final chapter is ambiguous and (as a woman of a "certain age") my favorite of all--"The Old Women Who Wouldn't Die"--that looked at the evolution of women living after menopause.

There are only a handful of species, including killer whales, where the females continue to live and thrive after their childbearing years are over. She discusses the "grandmother theory" which posits that a few long-lived females way back in the mists of time were able to contribute additional resources and important knowledge that favored their daughters and grandchildren. This set up a virtuous cycle that resulted in human females living well-past child bearing years. The opposite is the "rich old man" theory that said a few long-lived high status males had access to many females and passed on their long-life proclivity to their offspring including daughters. You can imagine which theory I favor, but there isn't enough evidence or ways of studying to come to any provable conclusion. We'll just have to live with all of us old broads continuing to positively contribute to society long past the time when we're "useful" as incubators.

I found the book quite readable, but I like this kind of thing. Saini does a great job of putting the science in historical and social context. She is NOT "male bashing." Individual men who did poor science or let a male agenda color their conclusions, might feel pinched. But this is not a "women are better in every way" book. It shows how science was used to marginalize women, as the basis for laws and societal norms. By updating that science, Saini demolishes those arguments for keeping women from having equal access to all the advantages of modern life. She writes plainly and gives lots of background for the studies, so you don't have to read them yourself. This was an ARC and I missed the index which will be in the final version. Highly recommended for casual science geeks and people who like women. Misogynists and fundamentalists of all stripes should give it a pass. I learned long ago before the current post-fact fad, that people with biases can't be persuaded with facts. However, sometimes--just sometimes--they can be persuaded with stories and personal connections. ( )
1 vote MarysGirl | Mar 22, 2017 |
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