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

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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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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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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:

2

May 20, 2006

Why Gender Matters
I really liked this book when I started reading it. The author made a bold statement that he would back up his statements with evidence, and the early chapters are full of information with footnotes if one is inclined to research more about any facts (such as: the highschool dropout rate in the US is now close to 30%. That figure was startling to me, but he lists several places where I could do further reading on that topic.)

The problems start later in the book. Once the facts are presented, I found myself disagreeing with the conclusions he drew from those facts quite often. He believes that parents who "consult" with their children, "inform" them about available choices, and "make suggestions" are equivalent to "overly permissive" parenting. He cites an example of parents who allow their children to "choose" soda and chips to eat every day. No doubt, that's no way to allow your child to grow up, but he makes no mention of allowing your child a choice of acceptable options. What about allowing him to choose between broccoli or a spinach salad with dinner? There's lots of evidence to support that listening to your child and allowing him freedom within limits that you set is beneficial to self esteem.

There's a lot of grey area between the authoritarian style of parenting he advocates and being a pushover to your child due to fear of not being liked by him. He's dismissed the idea of working out a plan with a child due to some very poor compromises some parents have made. (A heavy 8 year-old girl is allowed to spend a month with grandparents who let her eat nonstop junk food. Then she's hard to deal with when she returns home. Girl doesn't want to go to a no-junk-food camp instead of Gramma's, so mom doesn't do anything different.) Because of examples like this where the mom didn't push the issue, he concludes that any consulting with a child is inadvisable. This is very unfortunate. Teaching a child the art of compromise and working to reach a solution that both parties can agree on is a great gift.

The fact that this book was written in 2005 means that it's full of recent information, and it may be worth reading just to see the compilation of the latest studies. He makes an interesting case about the benefits of singe-sex education, and for the benefits of single-gender, cross-generational activities for young people. It is his personal opinions on discipline which primarily tained this book in a negative way for me, and dragged the whole work down to two stars.
2

April 1, 2006

There is some strange advice in this book.
This book has some interesting data on sex differences in the brain and some good practical advice for dealing with these differences in the context of schooling and raising children. But toward the end of the book, the evidence supporting Sax's advice shifts to the anecdotal and the advice gets weird. For example, regarding discipline, Sax advocates limiting the amount a 4-month-old may nurse in order to teach it the valuable lesson of "who's boss." This advice shows a lack of understading the importance of nursing on demand to insure adequate milk supply for an infant. Also, Sax advocates spanking boys, but not girls -- try explaining that one to your kids.
2

February 15, 2005

Some Things To Watch Out For
Leonard Sax's new book has a lot of good science referenced in the early chapters, and he makes the case for hardwired gender differences between boys and girls--the same case that has been made by other authors over the past decade, including Michael Gurian in his books about boys and girls and learning, Steve Biddolph in his book on boys, and others. There are, however, some statements and positions in the book that troubled me. At the end of his chapter focused on sex, Sax says that we just really need to do a better job of teaching girls to say no. That's an archaic attitude and a case of blaming the victim. Looking at his own research he should be more focused on helping boys develop good moral character, along with helping girls learn to be more assertive in their relationships with boys. Sax also seems to be very OK with corporal punishment, claiming that research has never proven a link between violence done to children and their later violent or criminal behavior. I would like to see that research, because after working for a decade in juvenile and adult corrections, I would respectfully disagree. I also would challenge Sax to look carefully at the work of the Nurturing Program and their research that works hard to remove violence as a parental strategy. I got a real sense that Dr. Sax is pretty judgmental of parents in general--he points a lot of fingers at parents in his book, blaming them for problems their children are having. Parents may well have to assume a lot of responsibility for how their children turn out, but I don't think you convince people that you are on their team and want to help them do better by telling them what a poor job they've done. I agree with Sax that parents should worry more about being parents and less about being their children's friends--but I think being too harsh is a slippery slope. The biography info on Dr. Sax doesn't mention his family at all--I wonder how much direct experience he has at parenting? It usually tends to temper one's judgmental tendencies.
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

December 29, 2007

Read this book at your own RISK
I am amazed that for most of the women who reviewed this book, the biggest issue was Sax's stand on breast feeding. I could not believe the consistent slant of sexism in this book. Let's start with Sax's statement that women would receive pay equal to men, if they only had the guts to ask for it, like men do. He sights a study about how often recent males grads ask for raises as opposed to female grads who don't usually ask. What he never even considers is the response of the employer. Do women who ask for raises get them as often as men? Are men who ask viewed as "ballsy" by their employers while women are viewed as "needy and grasping"?

Sax concludes that women are biologically designed to take fewer risks than men and we need to be trained in "dare taking" as young girls, because being too cautious can be detrimental to our success in the business world. Women should be trained against our nature, so it will go better for us. Oddly enough, when later he makes a case that most "normal" men are biologically designed to associate aggression, violence and rape with arousal and sex there is no suggestion that perhaps men should be trained against this nature. Girls should be trained at an early age to jump off chairs onto mattresses but boys don't need to be taught that violence against women is not acceptable sex practice. That is the way men are made. Girls should be taught how to say "no" more firmly. And you are worried about breast feeding???

At another point in the risk-taking discussion, Sax points out that young men will risk extra-marital sex at the drop of a hat and it actually increases their popularity among their peers (fellow risk takers), while girls won't risk it as much (there they go again being cautious-didn't they learn anything in `dare training?') because it diminishes their status among peers. He uses this to show that males take more risks than females. What he never even considers is how much more risky it is for a girl to have sex outside of a financially supportive relationship than it is for a boy. The worst a boy risks from his sex encounter is a sexually transmitted disease while a girl risks that, a nine month pregnancy (or an abortion-which is no party), and possibly the responsibility for a dependant that will be with her for the next 18 years. Seems to me, any girl willing to risk that just blew the gauge off Sax's sexist risk-o-meter.

Any respect I had for Sax at the beginning of this book was lost by his lack of insight into his own gender bias. He repeatedly looks at research and studies at a surface level that serves his own agenda, never asking the deeper questions of a thinking man (OR woman). If this book and Sax represents the frontline in the emerging science of sex differences, we're in big trouble people. And if the most any woman can find to complain about is his archaic position on breast feeding, then we're in even bigger trouble than that.
2

March 2, 2010

Simplifying Gender Variation & Gender Construction
Why Gender Matters presents a popularly salient argument that supports the existence of gender dualism. Leonard Sax is a traditionalist. argues against the danger ignoring gender differences and suggests its implications for parenting and teaching. He tries to show how ignoring differences in gender hurts child development and hinders social interaction. Here, I will use the theoretical frames of "gender as a social construction" and "gender difference" to critique Sax's core argument that gender difference is biologically constructed and fundamentally dualistic. He tries to prove that clear-cut differences exist between the sexes; differences that are hardwired in human being; differences that must be supported in teacher-student and parent-child interactions for healthy social development. Research that promotes gender neutrality and defines gender difference as socially constructed complicates essential questions about the developmental impact of gender that this book suggests.

Sax's analysis of selected scientific research and anecdotal case study examples, perhaps, oversimplifies the complexity of the way that gender actually functions in society. For this author, gender roles serve as reliable tools for predicting behavior and thought patterns in males and females. For instance, boys are aggressive, poor listeners and have difficulty expressing emotion and enjoy competitive sports whereas girls tend to have trouble with map reading and spatial knowledge and learn best when engaging in emotional exchanges (Sax, 2005). Some generalities have been corroborated with research. Janet Hyde found that gender differences have been well established by some studies, but only in four areas: verbal ability, visual spatial ability, mathematical ability, and aggression (Hyde, 2005). What gives me pause, even with this research, is the kind of dogmatic certainty that Sax employs when making claims about the implications of gender difference. In order to interest boys in literature, engage them in an activity on map-making to tap into their natural proclivity for spatial challenges; to target girls connect them to the story emotionally. These generalizations play into stereotypes widely held about gender difference perpetuated by media popularization of those stereotypes.

The argument that gender difference matters, nonetheless, is intriguing and seductive especially in a culture bent on connecting gender neutrality to equality between the sexes. It's seductive because it validates a traditional, heteronormative gender system that favors dichotomous gender roles--a system that still holds as the lay description for how gender functions in society. Early on he notes, "the differences between what girls and boys can do are not large. But the differences in how they do it can be very large indeed" (32-33). This book is not an attempt to explicitly play down the abilities of either gender, but it does serve to accentuate the difference that naturally exists between the men and women. Which begs the answer to two central questions: How might one account for the variations (multiple masculinities/femininities) that exist within gender? And, how much of one's gender identity is constructed society? On these major points, Sax seems to suggest the primacy of neurological development. Gender constructionists would rightly judge this rendering of gender difference as an oversimplified description of developing one's gendered self.

Scientific research that Sax seems to omit from his discussion of gender complicates any clear-cut dichotomy between the sexes. For example, Thorne and Blackburn find a range of femininities and masculinities in their gender performance studies (Thorne, 2002, Blackburn, 2003). Gender consists of a multiplicity of potential identities so that individuals can define themselves on a spectrum of possible selves, not as deviations of a narrowly defined norm. For Sax, anything that falls outside of the traditional binary system exists as a deviation from the norm, with hope for intervention from parents and/or teachers. Such a strict definition of gender identity carries heavy potential consequences for the psychological health of children as they attempt to fit into these societal defined categories.
Three years after this book's release, Nayak & Kehily even propose an argument that gender is not only socially constructed, but also determined with a cultural context (2008). Brain science does not tell a complete story of how one becomes male or female. Why Gender Matters seems to suggest that human beings are (should be) either one or the other. His description of the difference of female gender even smacks male supremacy--women are only discussed in relation to how they differ from male behavioral norms and psychology.

Sax's discussion of homosexuality spoke volumes about his fundamental beliefs regarding gender identity and norms. He starts with a benign although still heteronormative argument: little difference exists between heterosexual and homosexual men. The majority are much like straight men in terms of brain structure and behavior norms. The tone of his description changes as he describes the more feminine. "anomalous male": This group's feminine tendencies derive from a brain organization that closely resembles that of a straight female. In his case studies, he describes this male as a loner, with an empty introverted social existence; however, parents and teachers can intervene to correctly socialize such children. He suggests encouraging competitive sports, minimizing overprotective parenting, avoid art/music/science camps, and participation in the Boy Scouts.

The popularity of Why Gender Matters coupled with the plethora of positive reviews that I found for the book disturbs me both as an educator and as a gay male. I agree with Sax that true differences in gender identity should be noted and used to create a fairer society. Gender neutrality does not automatically beget equality between the sexes. However, to suggest that gender can be defined in such narrow terms is harmful to the growth of an accepting, pluralistic society. The dogmatic tone and scientific underpinnings of Sax's work makes it useful fodder for the marginalization of children and adults that exist outside of the male/female binary system of gender. Progress cannot happen in a social environment that enables close-mindedness. For too many, Sax's book can be used as scientific basis to do just that.
1

January 21, 2018

Opinion based book with very little science
Horribly outdated book that takes scientific claims (most of which were ran with insufficicient data) and manipulates finding to fit his exaggerated and flat out sexist opinions on society. He also throws in obscure claims without any scientific data to back him up. For example, he states that parents should force boys -that are into books and classical music- to do more gender appropriate activities. Absolutely disgusting opinions he pretends has scientific backing.
1

August 16, 2017

a bad book of bad science
This is a bad book of bad science.
The same content, if presented honestly as the author’s opinions and hypotheses, would make a thought-provoking exploration of the benefits of single-sex education, amongst other issues.
Unfortunately rather than well-established scientific facts, the author is presenting contentious hypotheses based on a minority interpretation of raw data (see, for example, Lise Eliot in The Trouble with Sex Differences, Neuron , Volume 72, Issue 6). Overall, this critique damns the book as pseudo-science. The reader has to remain on guard throughout to this all-pervasive defect, if not to be drawn in to a potentially erroneous way of thinking.
The structure of the main argument of the book is as follows:
- in chapter 2, Dr Sax presents various research results from the literature which demonstrate: “Today we know that innate differences between girls and boys are profound”. These results, if true, are fascinating ideas and act as the foundation for the whole book. Mark Liberman, goes through much of Sax’s claims in detail (see, for example, Liberman on Sax on Liberman on Sax on hearing). It appears clear that Sax significantly overstates the strength of his claims.
- in the remainder studies of gender differences, in bigger children, are assumed to be based on innate factors not developmental influences, and Dr Sax’s prescriptions have their foundation in this assumption. It is hard work to always remember that he is stating his opinion, masquerading as fact, and sometimes that opinion is worth hearing, and sometimes his suggestions for how to treat boys and girls differently may help; but the utility of this book is totally undermined by the weakness of the scientific foundations and I recommend avoiding it.
2

March 14, 2007

Be Aware--not a scientific article
Though this book might be a good read and might give you interesting ideas for parenting strategies, please be aware that it is not grounded in good science. The author only cites from those studies that support his purposes, and even then, tends to make far reaching claims about the data--many of his claims on "male" and "female" learning are actually derived from studies involving animals other than humans.

While it is true that brain structures differ between boys and girls, the implications of this are not yet conclusively known. In reality, this is a new area of research and a compilation of all the studies reveal, well, that we just don't know yet and to claim otherwise might be dangerous. A public school system in Louisiana, after an administrator read Sax's book, decided to institute same-sex education (without consulting other sources). This was met by a laundry list of complaints from the ACLU, many of which attacked the poor science behind Sax's book, and the decision was ultimately overturned.

Go ahead and buy the book, but please, take it for what it is--someone's opinion on the matter. Sax does not do research and he has no training in education, so to take his word as truth might be a mistake. If you are interested in the actual science behind learning differences between the genders, I suggest you read Ceci and Williams' "Why Aren't More Women in Science: Top Researchers Debate the Evidence"
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
1

December 8, 2016

Insulting- Our children are so much more than this
I had to read this book for a developmental theory class. I thought it was insulting and triggering, as if our children cannot learn to be better people, as if our children are limited by their birth. I do believe that there are innate differences between boys and girls, but Sax is unable to look beyond the gender binary or to see the ways that nurture can influence brain development. In this book he excuses rape culture, calls a certain type of boy "sissy," to which he also assigns a specific phenotype, and looks back on the 1950s as a period of greater simplicity and happiness for children. Sax again and again shows that he is incapable of delving into the incredible complexities of our modern society and what gender is, erases and whitewashes history, showing an extremely limited diversity of both research and case studies. It is so clear that this man has only ever worked in segregated private schools with upper class children.
1

August 14, 2016

Outdated book that teaches ineffective, dangerous parenting methods
As a Parent Educator and Child Development Specialist who focuses on behavior and discipline I do not recommend this book. It emphasizes punishment, and teaches methods that are now considered outdated and ineffective for teaching positive, appropriate behavior (such as spanking and punitive time outs). It teaches to neglect babies cues in order to establish that the parent is in charge (an outdated concept which attachment theorists agree can be damaging and ineffective). It supports stereotypes and gender roles and its advice doesn't consider children's individual personalities and temperaments. Behavior is a form of communication and behind every behavior is a feeling. Behaviors can't be addressed properly if parents don't know the feelings behind the child's behaviors, and the need of the child. It's not enough to just read about how to best control and punish boys and girls. To see long term changes In a child's behavior, we need to know what that individual child is feeling and why they are acting out. Children of all genders and ages succeed when they feel loved and accepted, when expectations and rules are clear and developmentally appropriate, when they feel safe, when they are empowered and listened to, when praise and fun are incorporated into teaching, and when caregivers patiently support them in learning how to solve problems and fix mistakes. Punishment does not help children learn to be kind, learn to be patient, understand why certain behavior isn't right, or learn what to do differently next time. It teaches a child to fear a parent, results in power struggle, teaches the child to hurt or punish others, and teaches kids that someone who loves them can hurt them or intentionally make them suffer. When punishment is the motivator, children have no incentive to behave when a parent is not present. For parents who want to learn tools and tricks they can immediately begin using to help them parent effectively, I highly recommend "How to Talk so Kids Listen, and Listen so Kids Talk" by Faber and Mazlish, "Parent Effectiveness Training" by Don Gordon, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr Harvey Karp, and "The Whole-Brain Child" by Daniel Siegel. The techniques taught in these books are effective, positive, and based on research. I've used them in my own preschool and first grade classrooms with students and have taught them to many moms and dads in my parenting classes who found them easy to use, and saw major positive changes in their children and themselves.
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
3

December 29, 2017

Interesting, if intellectually dishonest and lacking rigor
I read this book after reading Sax's BOYS ADRIFT so I was already familiar with his general approach to writing about gender. I enjoyed BOYS ADRIFT. However, I felt that WHY GENDER MATTERS was not nearly as well researched or nuanced as his previous titles, which is especially disappointing as this is the updated edition. As many other 3 and 2 star reviews note, WHY GENDER MATTERS begins with well researched premises and presents interesting and convincing information about differences in gender regarding seeing, smelling, and hearing. The latter chapters are where Sax loses his credibility as a researcher. The latter chapters feature scant reference to peer reviewed research and the arguments he advances are largely based on the author's personal opinions and experiences.

The chapter entitled Sex (chapter 6) has almost no citations to scientific research, and when Sax does provide quotes from others, its usually an opinion, such as the lengthy quote from Peter Woods on page 128. There is no explanation as to who Woods is within the larger intellectual community or why he is a source to be trusted on such matters as female sexuality or teen culture. Here is a excerpt from the long Woods inclusion: "the cost [of casual sex] is real. The woman who treats her sexuality as something detachable from strong mutual attraction to a single partner sooner or later discovers that men regard her as expendable." This quote exemplifies Sax's limiting views of female sexuality - largely that the best, most satisfying sex for women will occur within long term committed relationships and nowhere else. Sax is attempting to bolster his point that hook up culture and casual sex is damaging and degrading to women by citing a quote by Woods; yet the Woods quote is opinion and not based in empirical research. Sax provides few peer reviewed studies to back up this claim. Sax never once touches upon the fact that most young men and women lack basic education about how female sexuality works, such as the fact that most women (including teens) need direct, prolonged clitoral stimulation to orgasm. If one want to read an illuminating, well-researched book on female teen sexuality, I would recommend Peggy Orenstein's GIRLS & SEX.

Sax views on transgender and intersex individuals are especially disturbing. Here is a quote that illuminates Sax's basic approach to writing about transgender individuals: "Transgender can mean many things. But if we're going to have a serious conversation about transgender, we must recognize that some psychiatric disorders-such as bipolar and schizophrenia- can involve a delusion that one is another sex." One would expect there to be multiple citations after such a loaded statement; however, the only examples Sax gives are personal and anecdotal. Its intellectually dishonest to dress up ones opinions as scientific fact.

Sax seems to consider himself an expert on what's "normal" in regards to biology and sexuality.The unsupported, opinions continue throughout the entire chapter on transgender individuals. Here is another excerpt where he presents himself as an expert and arbiter of what's normal: "Transgender is not a normal variation. People with normal variations do not need require professional intervention. But a transgender individual will require treatment with sex hormones and perhaps even sex reassignment surgery.." First, not all transgender individuals seek medical intervention at all; they do not all take sex hormones. What Sax is really arguing here is that being transgender is NOT natural. He is perfectly entitled to this opinion, but it is an opinion. Again, Sax is being intellectually dishonest by presenting opinions as facts and using his authority as a "doctor" to lend credibility to his statements where real research is needed and desired.

There is also a large body of work already written about transgender individuals that Sax seems willfully ignorant of. For example, Julia Sereno's books, which are extremely relevant to Sax overall view that gender matters. Sereno also argues that gender matters, and that many aspects of gender are rooted in biology. Her book provides a wealth of cited research about how certain aspects of gender are not merely constructed but are biologically rooted.

There are many other questionable sections throughout the book, including the chapter where Sax talks about boys who he claims are "anomalous males." In this section, he argues against the use of the term "gender nonconforming" to describe these males. These males he defines as those who are not sporty, aggressive, and outgoing - all behaviors that are stereotypes of male behavior. Sax actually argues that we should refer to boys who display (in his opinion) more "feminine traits" as "anomalous males." Again- Sax presents himself as an expert on what's normal in regards to gender and behavior and what is "anomalous." He even goes so far as to say these men were called "sissies" in the past,but he doesn't like that term and so argues for the "anomalous male" term. What's at stake here isn't an argument about whether certain behaviors are rooted in biology, but rather, that Sax already accepts these behaviors as a natural given of the male gender. He bring so little research, or even intellectual skepticism to his arguments, its hard to trust his narrative voice or his rigor as a researcher.
1

August 24, 2016

My poor female brain couldn't comprehend what I was reading..and other harmful ideas pushed in this book
I cannot even begin to comprehend the five star reviews for this book. Aside from clear and dated gender baiases and suggested enforcement of gender expectations, the book , like his others, just tends to drag on and on . It is dated. It is authoritarian and psychologically harmful. It is also incredibly poorly written.
5

May 5, 2017

One of a kind
There is nothing like this book: evidence in abundance - but you're not overwhelmed by citations, for he puts the references in as needed and in a way that's easy on the eyes.
His conclusions are based on or with the support of the studies which he adduces.
His writing style is sober but very entertaining.
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

June 2, 2017

A PhD does not make one bias-proof
Despite his insistence of the contrary, this book is sexist trash. This book was published over ten years ago, so I'm a little late to the party, but I wasn't going to let this piece of garbage slide by without another 1-star review. I will save further commentary for the 2nd edition, which comes out later this year, and which, I suspect, will also be trash.
5

October 18, 2017

Great read!
Why Gender Matters was a very interesting read. I would highly recommend this book to other teachers and parents. In fact, it would have been beneficial for me to read this book when I was finishing up my undergrad about to go into my career. In the classroom, we are so quick to become frustrated and angry. With the help of this book, I am able to understand my students better, and know the difference between boys and girls. I believe as an educator, that it opened my eyes to so many things. It is detrimental for us to be able to meet the needs of our students exactly where they are. This book gave many real-life experiences and stories that were eye opening. I always wondered how I could be accepting of children that were transgender or identified themselves in the LGBT community even when it went against my personal beliefs. Not only can we help them grow and succeed, but we can also help them feel understood, cared for, and loved.
5

January 23, 2017

Very well-sourced and interesting look at gender differences
This book offered so many interesting and thought-provoking facts about the differences in boys and girls that it should be read by everyone. You don't have to agree with every point in order to appreciate the argument that modern culture treats gender inappropriately and inadequately.

The biological differences between males and females discussed in the book alone make it worth reading.
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
1

December 27, 2017

Baseless and egotistical
This was one of the worst books I have ever read.
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

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