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