Monday, 21 August 2017

The Ish Mother Reads: 'Delusions Of Gender' by Cordelia Fine

I mentioned in my last post that I've been trying to read after the kids have gone to bed every night. Well, it's paying off - I actually finished a book intended for grown ups for the first time in ages! And a brilliant book it is too.

Gender is a hot topic at the moment with the documentary 'No More Boys and Girls' starting last week - and coincidentally, the day after the first episode, I finished reading 'Delusions of Gender' by Cordelia Fine. (This really is a coincidence - as any of my Instagram followers can attest to, I actually started reading it back in January! In my defence, I have read other books in the meantime ...)


It's the kind of book I want to pass on - because what it says is so very important. It is a thoroughly researched and meticulously thought-through look at our society's view of gender, how that view has been formed and our society's view of how that view has been formed.

I have to admit at times I found it difficult to read - I haven't studied science in any form since I was 16 and I don't remember neuroscience being on the GCSE curriculum, so at times keeping track of the argument was tricky. That said, it is written surprisingly clearly considering how densely packed each chapter is. The references take up a considerable chunk of the endpapers because Fine really has left no stone unturned in searching for the answers to our questions about the 'gender divide'.

Unsurprisingly - to me, anyway, it may well surprise others - Fine reveals that male and female brains are extremely similar, and that the reasons for gender difference lie in our socialisation. She has read the literature, lots of it, on both sides but has found the case for innate gender difference paper-thin and pulls no punches in debunking much of the evidence put forward for this case. It's a truly fascinating, witty read, and made me think a lot about how we raise our children according to the stereotypes even when we're trying not to.

I found that the book really challenged me, even though I was in agreement with it. It made me realise that I still see the world through a social filter, and that my own efforts in 'gender-neutral' parenting are in fact still heavily biased towards the traditional model. I always knew this - hello, stay-at-home mum with full-time-working husband here - but hadn't fully considered the implications for how this affects my parenting. No matter how much I reinforce the message of gender equality with my kids, our lifestyle still reinforces the status quo.

I'm not about to hand in my SAHM notice just yet - hopefully I will have plenty of time to redress the balance in years to come - but it has made me more aware of the need to show my kids that our family life isn't the only way, nor is it even the norm these days. I don't think I'm doing too bad a job though, seeing as a few weeks ago Eleanor told me she'd be going back to work the day after her baby was born!!

It's also a sobering read as it reveals just what I'm up against as a parent who tries to challenge gender stereotypes - these stereotypes are firmly ingrained in our culture, can I really take on an entire society? But much as I don't think the stereotypes will be entirely wiped out in this generation, I'm hopeful that just trying now will make things easier for my children, and their children, and so on.

I'd recommend this book to - well, anyone really. Gender inequality affects us all, so we all have an interest in knowing the actual science behind it.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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6 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read and you're right very much talked about at the moment! Thanks for sharing with #readwithme

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    1. It's not like me to be so topical! Thanks for hosting #readwithme

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  2. This sounds like a really interesting book. I find it especially interesting that however we try and bring our children up in a gender neutral way our own behaviours can contradict what we are trying to do.

    #ReadWithMe

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    1. Yes, part of the book goes into how children read non-verbal cues more than the words we actually say. Challenging to think of! #readwithme

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  3. That sounds really interesting, although perhaps the science side might be a struggle to read! I didn't try too hard with gender-neutral parenting, but I bought my eldest (a boy) toys more usually played with by girls. Once I had two boys, I realised how different boys could be from each other, so they are definitely not defined by their gender, but by their personalities.

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  4. This is definitely a book I'd love to read. Like you I try to challenge the gender stereotypes but there are so many behaviours we do without even realising it! #readwithme

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