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The Truth About Girls and Boys by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett (thoughts)

January 9, 2012


The Truth About Girls and Boys is a slim, no-fluff kind of book, in which journalist Caryl Rivers and neuroscientist Rosalind C. Barnett aim to debunk many of the common gender myths educators and parents encounter in modern America. As such, I think it succeeds perfectly: they systematically dismantle the ‘evidence’ and ‘authority’ of those who argue for innate gender brain differences. Along the way, they give advice to parents (and educators) on how to counteract the negative effects of these stereotypes on children, both boys and girls. I think its succinctness is a strength, in that busy parents and educators are more likely to pick up such a short book and read it through. It’s so important, in an era of widespread pseudoscience, for actual scientists to reach the general public, especially when it affects such important issues as sexism and the public education system. And they do an admirable job of not ‘politicising’ their text, in the sense that I can’t imagine either democrat or republican readers feeling excluded (although they certainly aim to affect public policy with respect to education and gender). They’re also concerned with both boys and girls, which will help reach the ‘post-feminist’ audience. For all of these reasons, I very much enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. In fact, I think it should be required reading for anyone who interacts with a child or children on a frequent basis!

That being said, as someone who’s read several books on this and related issues, not much of the information or studies were new to me. (I do love reading about studies, though, because often the scientists come up with the most ingenious approaches to measuring whatever effect they’re curious about.) This is more of a synthesis than ground-breaking work. And I couldn’t help wishing for a wee bit more detail. Fortunately, the authors were happy to reference several other books, and I think it’s about time that I picked up Pink Brain, Blue Brain by another neuroscientist, Lise Eliot, and Delusions of Gender by psychologist Cordelia Fine.

If you’re new to gender and brain research, or you just want to know the most current scientific findings and studies without having to devote a lot of time to a book, The Truth About Girls and Boys is perfect for you. If you’re more like me (or Ana), this will probably still be a good read but is less ‘essential.’ Either way, I’m glad that wrote it, and I just hope it gets into the hands of those in power!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 6:13 am

    “without having to devote a lot of time to a book” <—Sounds like just the book for me. :P Seriously, it really does sound fabulous, and I'm off immediately to see if our library has it. Thanks, Eva!

  2. January 10, 2012 3:03 pm

    I loved, loved, loved Delusions of Gender, but I am guessing I could persuade more people to read this one – as you correctly point out.

  3. January 11, 2012 3:20 pm

    I like a good scientific read that doesn’t mean I have to study it for hours and hours. This book seems to satisfy my curiosity about the topic without meaning a huge time commitment for me.

  4. January 14, 2012 4:05 pm

    I’ve been interested in the books about gender stereotypes and studies on it, especially as you and Ana bring such good-sounding ones to light. The size of this book might make it a good starter book, as you suggested.

  5. January 16, 2012 7:53 am

    I started reading this, but soon concluded that I knew most of what was being said, and that, being very busy with thesis-writing at the time, I had better pick up something better suited to my mood. I would be interested in returning to this some day.

  6. January 31, 2012 9:50 am

    This sounds fantastic, definitely going on my list thanks for the review. I have Delusions of Gender to read myself on the Kindle I believe and am really looking forward to it.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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