Why Gender Matters, Second Edition: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences Info

Which weight loss plan works best? What are the best books on health and nutrition - What is the best free weight loss app? Discover the best Health, Fitness & Dieting books and ebooks. Check our what others have to say about Sax M.D. Ph.D.,Leonard books. Read over #reviewcount# reviews on Why Gender Matters, Second Edition: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences before downloading. Read&Download Why Gender Matters, Second Edition: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Sax M.D. Ph.D.,Leonard Online


A revised and updated edition (with more than 70% new
material) of the evergreen classic about the innate differences between
boys and girls and how best to parent and teach girls and boys
successfully, with completely new chapters on sexual orientation and on
transgender and intersex kids.
Eleven years ago, Why Gender
Matters
broke ground in illuminating the differences between boys
and girls--how they perceive the world differently, how they learn
differently, how they process emotions and take risks differently. Dr.
Sax argued that in failing to recognize these hardwired differences
between boys and girls, we ended up reinforcing damaging
stereotypes, medicalizing normal behavior (see: the rising rates of
ADHD diagnosis), and failing to support kids to reach their full
potential. In the intervening decade, the world has changed drastically,
with an avalanche of new research which supports, deepens, and
expands Dr. Sax's work. This revised and updated edition includes new
findings about how boys and girls interact differently with social media
and video games; a completely new discussion of research on gender
non-conforming, LGB, and transgender kids, new findings about how
girls and boys see differently, hear differently, and even smell
differently; and new material about the medicalization of bad
behavior.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Why Gender Matters, Second Edition: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences:

1

Mar 03, 2010

This guy is nothing short of a neo-Nazi. His approach to gender and anthropology belongs in the nineteenth century--and has the same reasoning. For instance, he claims that the sizes of women's and men's brains are what contribute to each respective sex's intellectual inhibitions and/or talents. (i.e., men excell at math because they have larger brains; boys misbehave because they do not hear as well as girls; etc.) The claim that one sex performs better in one academic arena whereas the other This guy is nothing short of a neo-Nazi. His approach to gender and anthropology belongs in the nineteenth century--and has the same reasoning. For instance, he claims that the sizes of women's and men's brains are what contribute to each respective sex's intellectual inhibitions and/or talents. (i.e., men excell at math because they have larger brains; boys misbehave because they do not hear as well as girls; etc.) The claim that one sex performs better in one academic arena whereas the other sex excels at another is a problematic argument in itself to say the least. I know women who excel at chemistry and men whose ability to write and express themselves borders on the poetic. Dividing the entire population into such categories AND placating this argument on supposed "scientific" evidence is not only violent, but dangerous. This filth that is somehow regarded as "unbiased" gender analysis is disgusting in that Sax's arguments only reiterate his own biases--which he apparently has never explored nor even considered. His claim that EVERY "fact" he states in this book is based on "science" is but another indicator of Sax's subconscious and repressed prejudices. In other words, he feels that by hiding behind science he can state whatever he wishes without any threat of accusation. The irony is his very use of science and proclamation that science is unquestionable, indisputable is not only false, but just another indicator of how, frankly, stupid this man is.

His arguments are essentialist and ignore the fluidity of gender; in fact, he sees no fluidity in gender! What makes no sense (among other things)is that he claims gender is not a social construction at all; he thinks everything (yes, everything) associated with gender is "natural" and "biological."

His assessment and "cure" for homosexuality is equally offensive, claiming gay men can be "cured" by having sex with a woman but imagining her as a man. Yes, this makes perfect sense!

I encourage anyone who found this book useful to read Sandra Harding. She claims that our concept of "science" is more respected because we associate it with being emotionless, analytical, unbiased, unarguable--all qualities we associate with masculinity. She says science is just as malleable and gray as any "feminine" discipline, such as English Literature. I state this because Sax claims his argument is the best because it is scientific, as though using "science" makes his claims indisputable. What nonsense.

I am disturbed by how many people like this book or claimed they learned a lot from it. Sax is someone who would have seriously benefited from a Women's Studies class--or at least reading Foucault. This book could be very dangerous when in the wrong hands, and I denounce everything he claims. Let's not forget how the "science" of the nineteenth century which claimed slavery was justified because of the sizes of people's skulls affected our culture.... ...more
2

Jan 04, 2011

Take what you will from this book. Much of the advice in here is fascinating and some of it true, based upon my own observations of my 2 boys and 1 daughter. However, some of the issues, like anomolous males, irked me. Sax suggests we, as parents, try to stop this behavior if it appears around the age of 3 (anomolous means: likes to play sports that aren't team oriented, associates with more females than males up until puberty--then it's the girls that pull away he says--and these males, Take what you will from this book. Much of the advice in here is fascinating and some of it true, based upon my own observations of my 2 boys and 1 daughter. However, some of the issues, like anomolous males, irked me. Sax suggests we, as parents, try to stop this behavior if it appears around the age of 3 (anomolous means: likes to play sports that aren't team oriented, associates with more females than males up until puberty--then it's the girls that pull away he says--and these males, supposedly, have a certain facial shape). To 'get rid' of this behaviour we are to force that child into competitive sports, which will in turn foster a better male/male friendship. This is one section that made me want to write him and ask: why does he want us to change our children from who they are? Yes, they will have a harder time when puberty hits and their female friends may move onto their girlfriend groups. Puberty is hard, our job is to be there for our child and provide them with the tools and morals to make it through middle and high school. Alive.

Also, the "Are you Feminine/Masculine" quiz was a joke! It's not masculine to read alot and you aren't feminine unless you know what the parts of a sewing machine are? Is Sax from the 1920s? Come on, grow up and be grateful for all the wonderful individuality that is out there!

I do agree learning styles are different for males and females and, as a preschool teacher, may even try to apply some of his thoughts. His chapter on sex and teens has spurred me to talk more with my kids, so these issues he talked about were beneficial.

This would be a great bookclub book and will definitely spur on some interesting, albeit heated, discussions! ...more
4

Jun 10, 2015

Great information here on the current state of brain science with regard to the differences between boys and girls. Some fascinating stuff here. At the same time, Dr. Sax sometimes wanders off into telling some off-the-track pediatrician anecdotes. He also sometimes flinches when giving us the bottom line. He will say something like this: "I don't want to go back to the bad old days of woodworking for boys and home economics for girls. But we need to recognize that our society lost something . . Great information here on the current state of brain science with regard to the differences between boys and girls. Some fascinating stuff here. At the same time, Dr. Sax sometimes wanders off into telling some off-the-track pediatrician anecdotes. He also sometimes flinches when giving us the bottom line. He will say something like this: "I don't want to go back to the bad old days of woodworking for boys and home economics for girls. But we need to recognize that our society lost something . . ." Yeah, we lost woodworking for boys and home ec for girls. I don't know why he is so diffident in his conclusions when he is so courageous in stating the actual state of the research. Dr. Sax does not have a biblical worldview and so the end result is a mish-mash. But the mish in here is dazzlingly illuminating. ...more
0

Aug 24, 2011

Bogus. This is very simple: the difference in *average* between male and female is always less than the difference between the *range of normal* for either. [This is the same sort of crap science used to support the ideas behind racism.] If you try and base your parenting or your educating on the average for one gender, you're going to be wrong for the individual most of the time. and if you're going to be wrong most of the time, frankly, it's just easier to have one standard, rather than two.
1

Jan 22, 2014

I am going to write this review by taking this book on its word that the scientific research is accurate (that is another debate) - even with that assumption the arguments and conclusions made are very troubling and problematic:

- Contrary opinions are presented as straw men, despite having their own scientific research to back them up.
- The first few chapters use peer reviewed scientific studies, but the book quickly turns to anecdotal evidence ("a principal told me that children's books are I am going to write this review by taking this book on its word that the scientific research is accurate (that is another debate) - even with that assumption the arguments and conclusions made are very troubling and problematic:

- Contrary opinions are presented as straw men, despite having their own scientific research to back them up.
- The first few chapters use peer reviewed scientific studies, but the book quickly turns to anecdotal evidence ("a principal told me that children's books are dominated by female protagonists" or claiming that bisexuality in men doesn't really exist, it's just gay men still figuring things out, with no citation, evidence, or example of this statement).
- He also quickly devolves into a conflation of gender and sex - claiming that gendered behavior that has been clearly documented to be socialization is biologically rooted - without providing scientific evidence.
- The author has an agenda. Sax is the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.
- His solution to the problem (same-sex education) does not have support from scientific studies or educational professionals: http://www.nea.org/tools/17061.htm

One can argue that our educational system needs improvement, that we need to pay attention to sex and gender in education, and that single sex education may have its place for some students - but you don't have to do so in a way that mischaracterizes the science, has an agenda, and that perpetuates harmful ideas about the immutability of gender. ...more
2

Feb 17, 2009

Worth reading, but Sax goes way too far with the gender essentialism arguments. Often he does not provide enough evidence for a reasonable person to agree with him. He also gets too finger-wagging about teenage sexual culture and makes implausible claims about the damage it does. I found myself becoming increasingly skeptical of his claims towards the end of the book. He ends by making an absurd and unconvincing case for gender segregation in K-12 education. The science of gender difference Worth reading, but Sax goes way too far with the gender essentialism arguments. Often he does not provide enough evidence for a reasonable person to agree with him. He also gets too finger-wagging about teenage sexual culture and makes implausible claims about the damage it does. I found myself becoming increasingly skeptical of his claims towards the end of the book. He ends by making an absurd and unconvincing case for gender segregation in K-12 education. The science of gender difference certainly shows us that teachers must construct their lessons carefully, so that both boys and girls' needs are met, but gender segregation would do more harm than good. ...more
5

Apr 16, 2008

This book was so good. It went into quite a lot of scientific detail of how boys and girls develop DIFFERENTLY. It isn't that boys are "slower" at developing - it is that their brains / eyes / ears develop differently than girls do. The author provides a lot of advice on how to parent and teach boys vs girls (and especially on some difficult topics such as drugs and sex).

My mom would definitely approve on the section on discipline (she teaches middle schoolers and we talk about this topic a lot This book was so good. It went into quite a lot of scientific detail of how boys and girls develop DIFFERENTLY. It isn't that boys are "slower" at developing - it is that their brains / eyes / ears develop differently than girls do. The author provides a lot of advice on how to parent and teach boys vs girls (and especially on some difficult topics such as drugs and sex).

My mom would definitely approve on the section on discipline (she teaches middle schoolers and we talk about this topic a lot - especially as it relates to her students!!) - the author maintains that a lot of discipline problems today have to do with the shift of parental - child power. In previous generations, parents didn't "consult" or "ask" or "suggest" that their children do things - they expected it. Now, the trend is towards parents asking/consulting/suggesting, and never never putting their foot down and truly disciplining (i.e. TV's in bedrooms, computer privileges, expectations of behavior) because their child would get angry with them (what?! you, the parent, are afraid your child will be angry with you?!) I obviously agree with the author - sometimes my implementation may be flawed, but I definitely agree!!

One thing to note - I've seen over and over again where studies show that dinner time has a significant impact on how well children do. This author talks about that as well. ...more
2

Jun 12, 2009

I loved Dr. Sax's other book (written after this one), Boys Adrift, but I really didn't care for this one.

The first few chapters WERE really interesting and contained information that the title led me to believe would be found within. Perhaps it is worth reading the book just for these very interesting chapters. But the rest of the book degenerated into a typical parenting book with lots of lectures and opinion, the focus on "difficult" children with "serious" problems.

Dr. Sax makes himself I loved Dr. Sax's other book (written after this one), Boys Adrift, but I really didn't care for this one.

The first few chapters WERE really interesting and contained information that the title led me to believe would be found within. Perhaps it is worth reading the book just for these very interesting chapters. But the rest of the book degenerated into a typical parenting book with lots of lectures and opinion, the focus on "difficult" children with "serious" problems.

Dr. Sax makes himself sound like one of those doctors who knows best--his examples were rife with hapless parents who were either set straight by the good doctor OR who disregarded the doctor's advice and rued the day.

Then there was the entire chapter teen sex and another on homosexuality in children, both troubling. This book walks in alarmist territory and states unequivocally that bad behavior is widespread. It talks too much about managing bad children and not enough about raising good ones.

And I have trouble getting past the impression that this book (after the first few chapters) is a collection of his opinions backed up by various research studies (and we all know that research studies are out there to back up just about ANY opinion). One of the reasons I liked Boys Adrift so much more is that I felt Dr. Sax was offering a point of view (supported by research, naturally) that the reader was free to believe or disbelieve. This book was much more opinionated. Didn't like that.

Read Boys Adrift, though--it was great! ...more
5

Jun 12, 2011

This book is phenomenal. The author talks about the emerging research into the fundamental differences between boys and girls. He also debunks a lot of commonly believed false differences. It's really amazing that psychologists and teachers had to go through forty years of unisex philosophy, thinking that boys and girls are different only because we raise them that way, when any parent of more than one gender can tell you that there are very distinct mental and emotional differences between This book is phenomenal. The author talks about the emerging research into the fundamental differences between boys and girls. He also debunks a lot of commonly believed false differences. It's really amazing that psychologists and teachers had to go through forty years of unisex philosophy, thinking that boys and girls are different only because we raise them that way, when any parent of more than one gender can tell you that there are very distinct mental and emotional differences between them.

Even better than his explanations of the research, though, are his comments about how to apply the research to raising kids. The studies that point out that boys and girls are more confident and happier when they have a firm sense of gender identity are fascinating.

And I never expected to develop sympathy for the idea of gender-segregated schools, but his comments on the topic and why it's valuable make me wish that we had schools like that nearby. ...more
4

Jun 05, 2015

My friend recommended this book to me and it was beyond interesting to me. Four years later, it finally clicked why my oldest child who loves school, hated kindergarten. He loved preschool and loved first grade but not kindie. Why because he had a soft spoken teacher who wanted him to describe colors and read fiction and sit still. He does so good with loud teachers who allow him to stand at his desk instead of sit in a chair. But yet my daughter who always struggled in preschool thrived in My friend recommended this book to me and it was beyond interesting to me. Four years later, it finally clicked why my oldest child who loves school, hated kindergarten. He loved preschool and loved first grade but not kindie. Why because he had a soft spoken teacher who wanted him to describe colors and read fiction and sit still. He does so good with loud teachers who allow him to stand at his desk instead of sit in a chair. But yet my daughter who always struggled in preschool thrived in kindergarten with a calm soft spoken teacher. (Those poor boys in her class.) On page 24, it said, "Girls draw nouns, boys draw verbs..." Oh golly, duh, never realized it but makes complete sense. I love hearing children describe their pictures before kindergarten, especially boys.
Since I just read a different book on neurology, I was surprised when he said males feel emotions in their amygdala while women experience it cerebral cortex. Which explains why my husband never wants to discuss his bad moods. Its hard to verbally express what is happening in the amygdala. Also I thought it was useful to hear the difference in how boys prefer to discuss books. Makes so many conversations with my husband or oldest son make so much more sense.
I also thought it was interesting when the book said, "Ironically, the result of her lack of awareness of gender differences is a reinforcement of traditional gender sterotypes." Accepting that males and females are different allow them to thrive beyond gender stereotypes.
Since I only have small children I loved the beginning of the book. The chapter on teenage sexuality was beyond depressing. I hate the sexual revolution because it seemed that instead of empowering females it has turned them into objects by males instead of liberating them.

I'm always pleased to be reminded as a parent "Your job is not to maximize your child's pleasure, but to broaden her horizons." 172

Lastly the book mentioned in 1999 the Colorado state school board approved a resolution advising teachers not to recommend or suggest psychotropic medications for any student because they are utilized for discipline. I thought now I know why I love Colorado. I don't have a problem with medication as long as it is needed, but I think its used too early when diet and exercise can change lots. Not to mention active children are normal not sick. ...more
4

Nov 25, 2008

Sax's writing is very clear, interesting and informative. The overall thesis of his book can be summed up in one of the last lines of the book: "Our job now is to create a society that has the courage and the wisdom to cherish and celebrate the innate differences between the sexes while at the same time enabling equal opportunities for every child."

He is a proponent of single-sex education, and his arguments are very convincing. For most of us educating our children within the framework of the Sax's writing is very clear, interesting and informative. The overall thesis of his book can be summed up in one of the last lines of the book: "Our job now is to create a society that has the courage and the wisdom to cherish and celebrate the innate differences between the sexes while at the same time enabling equal opportunities for every child."

He is a proponent of single-sex education, and his arguments are very convincing. For most of us educating our children within the framework of the American public education system, single-sex education isn't really an option, however. He also advocates cross-generational single sex activities as a way to help children and teenagers grow into healthy, happy, well-adjusted and productive individuals. I couldn't agree more.

The chapters on education and discipline are really enlightening, and have already helped me understand my kids, especially my sons, better. The chapters on Sex and Drugs were a bit alarming, but a good wake-up call. ...more
1

Jan 30, 2010

Blech. I wish I hadn't assigned this, I knew it had an essentialist position (boys and girls are different, so they should be treated as though they're different) but I had no idea this guy was so lacking in logic or critical thinking. His conclusions are farfetched based on the evidence he provides, and he offers trite 'examples' which sound absolutely as stereotypical as possible, highlighting how absolutely different girls and boys (and men and women) can be...
I had no idea boys had to kill a Blech. I wish I hadn't assigned this, I knew it had an essentialist position (boys and girls are different, so they should be treated as though they're different) but I had no idea this guy was so lacking in logic or critical thinking. His conclusions are farfetched based on the evidence he provides, and he offers trite 'examples' which sound absolutely as stereotypical as possible, highlighting how absolutely different girls and boys (and men and women) can be...
I had no idea boys had to kill a living thing in order to feel self-esteem, did you?

Will never use this in class again- wanted my students to use it for critical thinking and the bits of good research it provides, but I overlooked his ridiculous writing style and agenda. Boo.
...more
4

Jul 12, 2008

The author, a family physician and psychologist, cites numerous studies and his own experience to support his assertions. There is so much food for thought in this book, all very interesting, some terrifying. I'm really glad I read this book, even if I didn't believe everything in it, and I plan to read his next one as well. It's worth reading even for those without children. Covers how we as a society raise and educate our children based on what we believe about gender and what common beliefs The author, a family physician and psychologist, cites numerous studies and his own experience to support his assertions. There is so much food for thought in this book, all very interesting, some terrifying. I'm really glad I read this book, even if I didn't believe everything in it, and I plan to read his next one as well. It's worth reading even for those without children. Covers how we as a society raise and educate our children based on what we believe about gender and what common beliefs may or may not be accurate. ...more
1

Feb 07, 2011

Complete and utter drivel. Sax jumped from an interesting hypothesis: biological differences between the sexes matter to how we teach and parent kids to a gender essentialist platform filled with his own prejudices and speculation. Choice gems include an endorsement of spanking (for boys only!), advice to avoid rape by never letting your daughter date someone more than three years older, and getting your sensitive son involved in team sports before age three or he may be condemned to being a Complete and utter drivel. Sax jumped from an interesting hypothesis: biological differences between the sexes matter to how we teach and parent kids to a gender essentialist platform filled with his own prejudices and speculation. Choice gems include an endorsement of spanking (for boys only!), advice to avoid rape by never letting your daughter date someone more than three years older, and getting your sensitive son involved in team sports before age three or he may be condemned to being a "mission specialist on the space shuttle but never the pilot." ...more
5

Jul 06, 2010

If you are a current or future teacher, current or future parent, or someone who may interact with children or the opposite sex on occasion, this book is for you. It systematically debunks those gender stereotypes that are not supported by research, while asserting the gender differences that are due to physiological disparities.

After reading this book, you will never tell your daughter (or another young girl) she's not likely to be as good at math as boys her age. After reading this book, you If you are a current or future teacher, current or future parent, or someone who may interact with children or the opposite sex on occasion, this book is for you. It systematically debunks those gender stereotypes that are not supported by research, while asserting the gender differences that are due to physiological disparities.

After reading this book, you will never tell your daughter (or another young girl) she's not likely to be as good at math as boys her age. After reading this book, you will never urge your son (or another young boy) to talk about his feelings in the same way a girl his age might do.

This was a real eye-opener for me in terms of which gender differences should be carefully acknowledged--such as the different learning styles of boys and girls, both generally and in regards to specific subjects--and which should be ignored for lack of supporting evidence--boys are not as good at art or languages as girls their age, and girls are not as good at science or math.

You may not agree with everything this author has to say, but I guarantee you'll learn something. :)
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4

Nov 19, 2011

This was a fascinating book. So much of what this author wrote seemed to click in my mind and made sense. I now think differently about how boys and girls learn and the advantages of all-girls (or boys) schools. I know that this will effect how I raise my son. I loved the authors sample lesson for boys and girls. The girls' one definitely had me more interested! It makes me wonder if I would have liked science and math better if I would have been taught with a more girl-friendly approach. There This was a fascinating book. So much of what this author wrote seemed to click in my mind and made sense. I now think differently about how boys and girls learn and the advantages of all-girls (or boys) schools. I know that this will effect how I raise my son. I loved the authors sample lesson for boys and girls. The girls' one definitely had me more interested! It makes me wonder if I would have liked science and math better if I would have been taught with a more girl-friendly approach. There was a lot of interesting parenting advice.

My few complaints are minor. I thought it would have been helpful to hear more of the debate against this theory. For example, I wish that he would have stated some of the benefits of co-ed schools. I think it would have given his argument more credibility. Also, he specifically states that ballet places too much focus on how a girl looks and in the next chapter he encourages girls to take ballet. That confused me a little bit.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am SO glad that I read it. I think this is an excellent read for teachers and parents, if only to challenge existing beliefs on gender. I hope that I remember what I learned from this book. ...more
1

Mar 24, 2008

I decided to read this because Sax's work was referenced in a very good NY Times Magazine article about single sex education...I am glad to be informed of Sax's views, but I do not agree with many of them. For example, Sax would view Owen as an "anomalous male" because he loves to cook and bake, and would encourage us as parents to deprive him of opportunities to be in the kitchen and instead sign him up for football, preferably tackle. This is in order to prevent "problems" for him in life I decided to read this because Sax's work was referenced in a very good NY Times Magazine article about single sex education...I am glad to be informed of Sax's views, but I do not agree with many of them. For example, Sax would view Owen as an "anomalous male" because he loves to cook and bake, and would encourage us as parents to deprive him of opportunities to be in the kitchen and instead sign him up for football, preferably tackle. This is in order to prevent "problems" for him in life later. Come on. ...more
5

Jan 06, 2009

I just finished reading this one again, and I highly recommend this to all parents and teachers of children. It gives some great insights into what your children might be thinking. Also, there's some great eye openers for parents of teenagers.
4

Mar 30, 2015

Why Gender Matters Review

Why Gender Matters is a non-fiction book written by Lenard Sax. In it he explains that the innate differences between girls and boys are a result of different genetics. Sax emphasizes that boys and girls each have different needs and respond differently to various approaches in teaching and punishment. His book goes into these differences and explains how one can best deal with their child based on sex.

Sax believes that female and male brains are wired differently and Why Gender Matters Review

Why Gender Matters is a non-fiction book written by Lenard Sax. In it he explains that the innate differences between girls and boys are a result of different genetics. Sax emphasizes that boys and girls each have different needs and respond differently to various approaches in teaching and punishment. His book goes into these differences and explains how one can best deal with their child based on sex.

Sax believes that female and male brains are wired differently and responses to various punishments and teaching strategies vary between the genders. Throughout his book he cites many convincing examples of different responses between male and female children and most interestingly he discusses the benefits of single sex classrooms.

Pg. 150: There is now very strong evidence that girls are more likely to take courses such as computer science and physics in girls-only schools boys in single sex schools are more than twice as likely to study art, music, foreign languages, and literature.

Sax discusses other differences in a very respectful way. He talks about how boys are more verb orientated and girls are more noun orientated, how boys learn best shoulder to shoulder and girls learn best face to face. Sax even discusses how boys have worse hearing than girls and how this can affect their learning in the classroom. Though pointing these differences and the affects that non-gender orientated teaching can have on children Sax made an extremely convincing argument for gender orientated teaching and child rearing.

Lenard Sax’s Why Gender Matters was an excellent book that did an amazing job pointing out the differences between girls and boys in a respectful way. It explained how these differences can affect boys and girls through their lives and pushed for the idea of single sex schools. Its use of facts and generally non-biased approach kept me interested and made this book a fantastic read. I highly recommend it.

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3

Nov 07, 2019

going to reserve some of my judgement until I can get ahold of the revised 2017 edition of this book but here are my initial thoughts:

the first five chapters of this are super fascinating, presenting study after study on sex differences I had no idea existed (our eyes are different??? we can hear at different frequencies??? wack). this section mostly focuses on differences observed in infancy and in young children and is backed up with a lot of research, refuting the idea that sex differences going to reserve some of my judgement until I can get ahold of the revised 2017 edition of this book but here are my initial thoughts:

the first five chapters of this are super fascinating, presenting study after study on sex differences I had no idea existed (our eyes are different??? we can hear at different frequencies??? wack). this section mostly focuses on differences observed in infancy and in young children and is backed up with a lot of research, refuting the idea that sex differences are purely (or even largely) due to socialisation. there's also several places where certain gender stereotypes are recontextualised to reflect research into sex differences - for example, the lack of girls in STEM fields being at least in part due to a lack of understanding how girls learn, rather than girls being innately unable to perform well in these areas.

I found myself intrigued by all this new information and thirsting for more as the book progressed, particularly looking forward to the oft foreshadowed chapter on 'anomalous males/females' - those that don't fit into these general patterns of behavior observed in the earlier section of the book. unfortunately, I was in for a huge disappointment. after the chapter on school, the book radically changes tone from an informative yet easy to read scientific text to a conservative teen parenting manual for problem children (and one that isn't even particularly sex segregated). Sax is borderline Puritan in his view of sex and drugs, which isn't completely invalid considering the disturbing trends he outlines, but calm down dude. you're telling parents to prevent these behaviors by GPSing their kids, reading all their texts and emails, and grounding them for 3-6 months at a time. relax. he also does not offer much explanation for the rise in hook up culture and teen drug abuse or many suggestions on how to prevent these behaviors before they start - except by telling parents to put their kids in sports, I guess? dude fucking loves sports and camps and stuff: again, not invalid, but was hoping for something more.

conservative teen parenting manuals don't have a reputation for being great at sourcing and this rings true as the book dramatically shifts. a lot of Sax's claims elicited a big ol 'citation needed' from me in the later chapters, and at least a few of the citations he used were used in sketchy ways (supporting one claim, but not the one extrapolated from it). for example: in his attempt to justify suggesting spanking as an acceptable form of punishment (big cringe) he points to a study in Sweden to 'prove' that outlawing spanking does not stop child abuse - in fact, the rates have increased! gee, I wonder why child abuse would increase when spanking is suddenly considered child abuse? why have the rape and sexual assault rates risen in recent years after redefining rape and sexual assault? who knows!!

after these three chapters (on sex, drugs and discipline) my curiosity regarding the chapter on 'anomalous males and females' shifted from genuine to morbid. I was not disappointed. while Sax does not advocate conversion therapy for LGBT youth, comparing sexual orientation to an innate trait like being left handed (while also insisting there are no brain differences between gay and straight people, weirdly), he does seem to think anomalous boys should be changed into more typical males with - you guessed it - sports! (and strong father figures, and effective discipline, the latter of which isn't bad on its own but is certainly questionable in this context. mostly sports though. love me some sport ball). this is curious considering he provides evidence in the chapter suggesting that this behavior is present in infancy and at least somewhat biologically based, and the entire rest of he book is centered around the idea that we should not fuck with our hardwiring. which is it man? similarly, he spends little time talking about 'anomalous females' other than to provide an anecdote that implies...idk... they're more sexually active? despite saying in a previous chapter that athletic females are less likely to be sexually active? again, which is it?

other fun stuff includes: use of a study 'proving' that 'transsexual men' have 'women's brains' (spoiler: this is not what the study says) and virtually no other comment on the differences between trans/gnc children and their cisgender counterparts (I am told this is addressed in the 2017 edition. we shall see). he also seems to think women are mostly bisexual, that this is because they're more open to new sexual experiences, and that relationships between women are just them being really good friends and thinking 'hey, we might as well bang too'. so there's that

after all of this comes his conclusion, saying we gotta remember the science and embrace sex differences so that society can be better for both girls and boys, women and men. the idea of single sex schooling is still one I find interesting and potentially viable given the evidence presented in the book but unfortunately Mr. Sax I don't rlly trust u anymore after those last four chapters. will keep it in mind tho. also I do appreciate that this man hates psychiatry as much as he loves sports. did I mention he loves sports

this review got way longer than I expected and it's a mess and I will probably edit it later but tl;Dr - it's a cool starting point to learn about this sort of thing and has provided me with some jumping off points to learn more. I would recommend the first five chapters and none of the rest of it

also if anyone reading this has any recommendations for books with similar topics pls comment! would love to hear similar or opposing viewpoints/research on gender differences, both biological and sociological explanations. I've already got Cordelia Fine's book on the shelves tho so don't rec that one thx ...more
1

Sep 10, 2013

Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters sets out to persuade that biology plays a significant role in how gender works, that we are not born androgynous blank slates that are molded by societal expectations and enculturation alone, and purports to back up his claims with data from scientific studies.

Now, going wherever the evidence leads you to, particularly if it works against your interest is one of the most admirable intellectual endeavors one can embark on - so my intuition was that if it would Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters sets out to persuade that biology plays a significant role in how gender works, that we are not born androgynous blank slates that are molded by societal expectations and enculturation alone, and purports to back up his claims with data from scientific studies.

Now, going wherever the evidence leads you to, particularly if it works against your interest is one of the most admirable intellectual endeavors one can embark on - so my intuition was that if it would turn out that the evidence uncomfortably pokes at our modern, ultimately noble, but potentially misguided egalitarianism (gender-blind being the term that crops up in the book), then so be it - and hope we end up all the better for knowing the truth. The author even voices his frustration with there seemingly being only two positions to be had - either the PC flavoured gender-equality-or-else stance and appealing to traditional roles for the sake of appealing to traditional roles. So far, so good.

The first few chapters of the book start with stories that have the air of verisimilitude, if not actual veracity on their side (I'll get to that soon enough).
1) One story is about how a lack of either awareness of mindfulness of the differences in hearing ability between boys and girls at young ages could also result in a difference in how the (mostly female, the author stresses to point out) teachers treat them - i.e. mistaking a boy simply not hearing the teacher's commands for being disobedient.2) Another, more flimsy, but still I-could-see-how-this-works story covers how boys think in verbs and girls - in nouns purporting to explain why children pick the toys they do and draw the things they draw in arts classes. For me, these comprise the book's strongest cases for its thesis in that at least the first one seems to rely on actual studies, and they both seem to be neutral enough at first glance to not have an agenda behind them. The devastating fact is that the second story can be detected to be a gross oversimplification even without all that much mental gymnastics (you don't need to fall back on biology to justify the author's chosen anecdotes even if you could go about it that way), and the first story is just plain wrong, if not even deliberately misleading.

The shortcomings of these chapters are significant, because they are the closest the author ever comes to the title's espoused rigorous scientific approach. As you read on, the tone uncomfortably shifts towards pandering the author's own various opinions and agendas (i.e. single-sex schooling) that all amounts to the all too tedious "I have many opinions, all of them correct, and here is how curious anecdotes and selectively chosen studies support them" that even the best among us invariably fall for time to time, but should be below par to anyone claiming to have thought deeply about the topic, and thus daring to go all prescriptive on his readership.

While I have my own issues with the book so far as I've read it (that I'll hopefully be able to address in a separate review in the best of all worlds) - Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender debunks the validity of most such research as is used here (even so far as specifically mentioning the fallacies of Sax's reasoning), in exposing how flawed most of the studies surrounding sex and gender differences are - from methodology, study sample sizes, and all the way up to interpretation of data and rather illogical jumps to conclusions about test results for rats somehow being significant to the inner workings of their human cousins.

As far as the anecdotes go - one of their purposes in popular science books is to breathe life into data and make it less of an abstraction to the reader. Sax uses the anecdotes presented here not to elucidate wildly esoteric data, but rather convince himself and the readers that his opinions represent an immutable reality.

The author's stories somehow manage to simultaneously support all the traditionally accepted notions, like the system-thinking vs. empathy aptitude discrepancies among the sexes, to some rather modern ones - i.e. that homosexual men are actually hyper-masculine and so on. I guess one has to be grateful the gay section of the book wasn't as overtly homophobic as it could've been - but, while admitting that the more effeminate men are in all likelihood not quite as representative of the gay community as most non-queer people might think, Sax still can't explain them away and have his opinions hold. Sure, he addresses the existence of what he calls anomalous males and females - but all his reassurances are invalidated by a whole rant on how parents should deal with these gender-atypical children (spoiler alert: Sax's method of choice - forcing them into conformity, usually via team sports).

For all his purported facade of even-handedness, his actual beliefs about masculinity and femininity plummet fast to the traditional end of the spectrum as you go deeper into the heart of darkness that are the later chapters of the book. You have to look no further than the rather ridiculous masculinity and femininity tests he provides, and it should be abundantly clear how context-specific and subjectively flavoured his ideas of those concepts are. Worse still than being merely traditional is how terribly confused they are - as he insists upon projecting the masculine-feminine dichotomy to domains which have nothing to do with gender in particular so far as I can muster.

As mentioned, he continuously prescribes team sports as a solution to a number of gender-atypical cases in the book - but to me, all of these came across as blatant attacks on introvert kids (they were described as bookish and shy to engage in social situations) under the excuse to cure them of their gender-nonconformity. When reading these sections, you'd think he was completely ignorant of the entire existence of an introversion vs. extroversion dimension of personalities, which is kind of perplexing for a psychologist, but I suppose illustrates how blind-sighted he is with seeing gender and sex everywhere he looks.

The author holds unfavourable opinions towards video games and other (in his mind) male-typical hobbies, but - again - this more than anything illustrates a profound ignorance on his part about the fiction (fantasy) vs. reality issue and (at this point) unsurprisingly has him equate it with gender issues. To use one of his own more disturbing examples to this effect - he mentions the following about men and rape fantasies:
“Highly intelligent men are no less likely to fantasize about raping a woman than are men of below-average intelligence. The most common sexual fantasy in sex magazines is rape and/or bondage of a young woman.”Aside the fact of how reliable a source a sex magazine is, it is astounding that Sax can bulldozer over the whole issue and fail to see the difference between someone having a kinky fantasy and a desire to deliberately inflict harm to another human being. Given this, it may not be that surprising that he also fallaciously draws the conclusion that playing violent video-games results in violent players, watching films and TV shows about serial killers somehow unleashes your inner Hannibal Lecter, and indulging in sexual fantasies somehow makes you a pervert and a rapist (or worse still - maybe he was implying that the desire to rape is somehow natural to men?).

One could go on about the myriad of ways this book fails to deliver on the promise of a scientific backing for significant biological differences in the sexes, but whatever science is there is faulty at worst, skewed to the author's fancy at best - and the rest of the book is a parade of the author's pet biases packaged to mislead you in believing it actually is part of some larger corpus of research the author has spared you of reading by distilling it into his advice.

To paraphrase Hanlon's razor - I won't assume malice and insincerity where ignorance would suffice in regards to the author's opinions, but the way he presents the data, and some of the perplexing misunderstandings of human nature on his part do cast shadows on considering him a worthwhile expert in the field. His intentions may have been good, but we all ought to know, that without the rigour to test one's beliefs on the strength of their own merits rather than on its holder's desire for them to be true, they are but only passable pavement material. ...more
1

Apr 07, 2019

I could not finish this book. The science is sketchy, and twisted to favor the authors very biased, sexist views. His views on gender non-comforming children, and lgbtqa+ kids were frankly, appalling. Homosexuality, Bisexuality and gender non-conforming behaviors are not diseases, or mental ailments that need to be "cured".

Avoiding this book would be an unparalleled act of self-compassion. If you tried to read it but couldn't, treat yourself to icecream, you did good. I spent roughly twenty I could not finish this book. The science is sketchy, and twisted to favor the authors very biased, sexist views. His views on gender non-comforming children, and lgbtqa+ kids were frankly, appalling. Homosexuality, Bisexuality and gender non-conforming behaviors are not diseases, or mental ailments that need to be "cured".

Avoiding this book would be an unparalleled act of self-compassion. If you tried to read it but couldn't, treat yourself to icecream, you did good. I spent roughly twenty minutes on this conservative wet dream, and am highly annoyed I won't be getting those twenty minutes back. ...more
4

May 20, 2019

What a fabulous read! Logical and scientific. Citations for those that need it. What a thought: boys and girls are different. I especially appreciated this book giving me a head start on what to expect in my family of both genders.
3

Dec 12, 2008

The Good

Why Gender Matters does an excellent job of presenting taboo subject mater with well laid out arguments backed by evidence. The premise of the book is summed up well in this passage from one of the appendages: "A central argument for this book is that for the past three decades, the influence of social and cognitive factors on gender traits has been systematically overestimated while the innate factors have been neglected."

This is a difficult subject to tackle without coming across as a The Good

Why Gender Matters does an excellent job of presenting taboo subject mater with well laid out arguments backed by evidence. The premise of the book is summed up well in this passage from one of the appendages: "A central argument for this book is that for the past three decades, the influence of social and cognitive factors on gender traits has been systematically overestimated while the innate factors have been neglected."

This is a difficult subject to tackle without coming across as a sexist and a bigot. But I was consistently impressed with Sax's ability to approach these topics delicately but unambiguously. His careful phrasing effectively disarmed the knee-jerk defensive reaction, and unapologetically delivered his points in the most reasonable tone.

The writing was pleasant to read, and the content thought-provoking, enlightening and challenging.

The Bad

Sax mixes in a lot of his personal views on morality and proper child rearing. There are whole pages which hardly reference gender at all, which instead serve as a soapbox for Sax to rant about the need for discipline or rail against mushy liberal parenting approaches.

I have little basis on which to judge his parenting advice, being a topic I have little knowledge of or interest in. Even so, it came off as prudish and overbearing, and I think the book suffered for it.

The Unforgivable

In the chapter six, titled "Sex", a sensationalist and thoroughly debunked myth, "Rainbow Parties" is cited as evidence for the moral decline of our society and the outrageous activities that kids these days engage in. This glaring factual error lends serious doubt to the credibility of the author as an unbiased man of evidence.

In Summary

The book begins with the claim that this book is the only one of its kind. The very idea of innate gender differences is too taboo to be discussed by any except those promoting antiquated and inaccurate gender stereotypes. Why Gender Matters is valuable to the extent that this is true. This is a subject that desperately needs the attention of rigorous study, but instead receives only politically fueled proclamations on both sides.

If you are a creature of modern sensibilities, reading this book will most likely make you extremely uncomfortable. For some of us, that special kind of discomfort a clue that there's some truth to be found, and moreover a truth that demands seeking out with the aid of brutal self-analysis.

I hope that this does not remain the only book of its kind. ...more
2

Sep 27, 2009

I really wanted this book to be good. The first few chapters were extremely good and i had high hopes. It already had me thinking this would be one of the more influential books for me on understanding children and such, and already had me insisting that Kate read it and talking about it with other people.

Then the rest of the book happened.

The author broaches the taboo subject that males and females might be intrinsically different, not just different by cultural training, choice, etc., in basic I really wanted this book to be good. The first few chapters were extremely good and i had high hopes. It already had me thinking this would be one of the more influential books for me on understanding children and such, and already had me insisting that Kate read it and talking about it with other people.

Then the rest of the book happened.

The author broaches the taboo subject that males and females might be intrinsically different, not just different by cultural training, choice, etc., in basic and fundamental ways. What's more, he attempts to show that this difference is more basic and pervasive than I had suspected.

In the first few chapters, he talks about differences in the brain, eyes, ears and extends those to learning styles and behavior. The expressed differences are credible and even actionable. This material promises to help you understand people of both sexes better and do a better job in raising kids through such awareness.

It is like a switch is flipped around the time that the author starts talking about sexuality. He starts with a rather bizarre and prudish outlook and interprets sex differences through that lens. Such a blind spot, while upsetting, isn't totally shocking. It happens. But it then gets much worse when he starts writing about controlling the sexuality of children. That part would be far too bad to even get through except with an author who had established such extreme credibility earlier in the book. It then gets crazy worse yet in talking about general discipline in children. Not only do his conclusions crumble throughout this part of the book, but even his facts are clearly wrong in some cases. Things are so bad that I find myself doubting the stuff I had previously liked in the first part of the book. While I was willing to give the M.D. / PhD the benefit of the doubt talking about types of cells in the retina, so much goes wrong later that I start to doubt nearly everything.

The book isn't a total loss. It did convince to think more carefully about intrinsic sex differences. There were some conclusions in the book that really resonated with me that I can focus on even if my overall faith in these conclusions isn't high because they're in the book. That's really quite a lot to get from a book. I'm just extremely disappointed that I didn't get more from a book that initially looked so promising.
...more

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