Wednesday, January 16, 2008

gender essentialism for smarties

Pinker, Susan. The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women, and the Real Gender Gap. March 2008. Scribner. 336p. b&w charts and illustrations throughout. ISBN: 978-0-7432-8470-7. $25.00.

for Library Journal

Psychologist and Globe and Mail columnist Susan Pinker’s first book The Sexual Paradox makes a well-constructed case for interpreting workplace trends through a vintage lens of gender-based sex differences. Equally conversant in clinical psychology, neurobiology, linguistics, and social science, Pinker engineers a dichotomy between “apparent opposites—fragile men [and] gifted women,” proposing that gendered biological wiring—and not discrimination—is at the root of workplace inequities. Pinker offers evidence showing young males to be more vulnerable to everything from premature birth to behavioral problems, ADHD to chronic illness. Considering then why women aren't running more board meetings, Pinker likens men and women to two “software programs that run at different speeds,” arguing that subsequent hormonal changes females experience at puberty lead women along separate professional trajectories. Generalizations throughout the book weaken the credibility of this rigorous research, as when Pinker concludes a section on women opting out of high-powered business roles for more people-oriented jobs by asserting that women demonstrate “a capacity to be attuned to others,” a tendency “that makes women feel pretty good.” Recommended to reignite debate in all libraries. Elizabeth Kennedy, Oakland, CA