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Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting The Story

by Angela Saini

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6604335,971 (4)42
"What science has gotten so shamefully wrong about women, and the fight, by both female and male scientists, to rewrite what we thought we knew. For hundreds of years it was common sense: women were the inferior sex. Their bodies were weaker, their minds feebler, their role subservient. No less a scientist than Charles Darwin asserted that women were at a lower stage of evolution, and for decades, scientists--primarily men--claimed to find evidence to support this. From intelligence to emotion, cognition to behavior, science has continued to tell us that men and women are fundamentally different. Biologists claim that women are better suited to raising families or, more gently, uniquely empathetic. Men, on the other hand, continue to be described as excelling at tasks that require logic, spatial reasoning, and motor skills. But a huge wave of research is now revealing an alternative version of what we thought we knew. The new woman revealed by this scientific data is as strong, powerful, strategic, and smart as anyone else. In Inferior, acclaimed science writer Angela Saini weaves together a fascinating--and sorely necessary--new science of women. She takes readers on a journey to uncover science's failure to understand women and to show how women's bodies and minds are finally being rediscovered. Saini tells this alternate story of science with personal stories, controversial research, and an investigation into the gender wars in biology, psychology, and anthropology"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain by Gina Rippon (Taphophile13)
    Taphophile13: Both authors review the scientific research that "proves" male superiority. The brain-based gender differences turn out not to be not so great after all.
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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
A great niece of mine recently mentioned "Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story." As she's exceptionally bright, I thought it worth finding, and having completed it, I think it was worth reading. Angela Saini has provided a broad overview of various research and anthropological viewpoints from centuries past up until modern times. I found Saini's style to be one which kept the research materials from being too dry.

I think it's also worth noting one of the points she mentioned, that of research showing that women in early hunter-gatherer societies were in fact sometimes hunters. Just yesterday a report on National Public Radio described a meta-analysis of many years of anthropological records, and it seems that the analysis is showing that the records, when viewed collectively, show a much higher prevalence of very deliberate hunting by females in these early societies.

Overall, Saini provides strong evidence for the ways in which women over the centuries have been suppressed by men and have been denied the credit and equality which they have deserved. ( )
  Michael_Parish | Jun 29, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Somehow this entry got deleted and I am re-entering it to comply with the necessity of a review. I gave the book away; didn't like it. I had difficulty reading her writing style. I can't go in to more detail because it has been a long time. ( )
  book58lover | Dec 13, 2022 |
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
  fernandie | Sep 15, 2022 |
A fascinating, grounded and thought provoking book on the truth about sex differences, of course, but also a wonderful book about the messy realities of science when human beings are the ones doing the work. Not quite as conceptually sharp as her later book, Superior, I think, but closer to the scientific coal face - in both cases likely due to the state of the science. ( )
  litesiders | May 8, 2022 |
類似於微博上的#看見女性勞動者#,這本書的主題也可以概括為「看見科研學說中有意無意被隱去的女性角度」,把從演化生物學到靈長類動物學再到神經科學的性別爭議都大致梳理了一遍。

人們常說科學理性而客觀,但科研人員自己都經常做不到這一點,囿於時代和文化的成見也會不由自主地投射在科學研究之上。無論是男性科研人員拼命抬高男性的作用,還是女性科研人員努力為女性正名、洗脫各種以科學為幌子加深的偏見,都不免會帶上主觀色彩。以前第一次讀到祖母假說時深以為然,這次讀到了中立方的看法倒也覺得有些道理,也許只有二者合一才能看見真正客觀的科學的全貌。(當然認為絕經也要歸功於男性的父權精還是趕緊 quit your bullshit 得了*白眼*

個人的年度好書,唯二缺點是作者碰到自己不太熟悉的領域就寫成了文獻綜述,沒能寫出什麽洞見、光是在堆砌論據,顯得很乾癟……第五章寫靈長類學和人類學時尤甚;以及作者本人的 bias 也是很明顯,寫到采訪爹味科學家時語氣通常會變得很輕蔑;雖説有些人的觀點和受訪態度確實很難不讓人嗤之以鼻()作爲女性主義讀物非常理解,但作爲科學讀物就略顯偏頗了。

有趣的是看到第四章神經科學時就想到了先前買的 The Gendered Brain,結果立馬就看到採訪了該書作者 Gina Rippon,也太巧了!neurosexism 和 neurofeminism 之爭大概很難有定論,畢竟在這一方面上 everyone has their say

另外一個捉蟲(看的實際上是粉紅封面的一版,但更喜歡這版封面):Afterword 提及 Ashley Montagu 的大膽宣言 bold statement,結果打成了 bald statement…… 這個 typo 莫名挺好笑的hhhhhh ( )
  puripuri | Sep 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
The book ranges widely over the scientific investigations of the differences between male and female in humans and other animals. Saini looks at the bias towards male subjects in medical research, and peers into studies of hormonal and gender influences on brain size and structure. She examines the evolutionary and ethnographic evidence for differences in behaviour, work patterns, social power and sexual promiscuity, and digs into the intriguing theories that are competing to attribute the menopause to the influence of patriarchy or of the role of grandmothers in childcare.

Step by step Saini reveals that in all these areas, early findings of clear differences between men and women – almost invariably to the advantage of men – have frequently unravelled upon deeper and broader scrutiny. Disparities evaporate when one takes a more holistic view of the variation between individuals, or extends the investigation to other animal species or human tribes, or simply repeats the experiment with better controls. Saini leavens her careful dissection of the science of gender differences with surprising accounts of the hunting prowess of Agta tribeswomen in the Philippines, the habitual affairs of married Himba mothers in northern Namibia, and the violent dominance of female bonobos over males (the inverse of chimpanzee behaviour).

The tone throughout is measured. Saini's even-handed treatment of disagreements over the proper interpretation of results and observations should give even hardened sceptics pause for thought. Her balanced approach is reinforced by the care taken at every turn to cite her sources. The text might lose a little poetry because of this attention to detail, but it is a price worth paying to make the book as resilient as it needs to be. Although respect for evidence is often spouted as the sine qua non of science, the reality is often very different – especially in the study of human behaviour, which is so readily perturbed by norms and presumptions that affect us all. The prickliness of some of Saini's interviews with male researchers is telling, but not as revealing as the accounts of some of the women scientists she spoke to. Primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, whose work in the 1970s on Langur monkeys challenged established ideas about female passivity and promiscuity, met stiff resistance from male colleagues that was not altogether scientific: stick to housework, she was told.
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Stephen Curry (Jun 1, 2017)
 
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Epigraph
To prove women's inferiority, antifeminists began to draw not only, as before, on religion, philosophy and theology, but also on science: biology, experimental psychology and so forth.

— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949)

1. Woman's Inferiority to Man.
The evidence is clear: from the constitutional standpoint woman is the stronger sex.

— Ashley Montague, The Natural Superiority of Woman (1953)

2. Females Get Sicker But Males Die Quicker.
Girls and boys, in short, would play harmlessly together, if the distinction of sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference.

— Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

3. A Difference at Birth.
The clearness and strength of the brain of the woman prove continually the injustice of the clamorous contempt long poured upon what was scornfully called 'the female mind'.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898)

4. The Missing Five Ounces of the Female Brain.
We still live in a world in which a significant fraction of people, including women, believe that a woman belongs and wants to belong exclusively to the home; that a woman should not aspire to achieve more than her male counterparts.

— Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, in her banquet speech on being awarded the Nobel Prize or Medicine, December 1977

5. Women's Work.
Dedication
For my boys,

Mukul and Aneurin
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For centuries, scientists have influenced decision makers on important issues including abortion rights, granting women the vote, and how schools educate us. (Introduction)
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"What science has gotten so shamefully wrong about women, and the fight, by both female and male scientists, to rewrite what we thought we knew. For hundreds of years it was common sense: women were the inferior sex. Their bodies were weaker, their minds feebler, their role subservient. No less a scientist than Charles Darwin asserted that women were at a lower stage of evolution, and for decades, scientists--primarily men--claimed to find evidence to support this. From intelligence to emotion, cognition to behavior, science has continued to tell us that men and women are fundamentally different. Biologists claim that women are better suited to raising families or, more gently, uniquely empathetic. Men, on the other hand, continue to be described as excelling at tasks that require logic, spatial reasoning, and motor skills. But a huge wave of research is now revealing an alternative version of what we thought we knew. The new woman revealed by this scientific data is as strong, powerful, strategic, and smart as anyone else. In Inferior, acclaimed science writer Angela Saini weaves together a fascinating--and sorely necessary--new science of women. She takes readers on a journey to uncover science's failure to understand women and to show how women's bodies and minds are finally being rediscovered. Saini tells this alternate story of science with personal stories, controversial research, and an investigation into the gender wars in biology, psychology, and anthropology"--

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