delusions-of-gender

Let me talk to you about books.

Specifically, one book. This book.

This book should be a best seller. This book should be required reading for graduating from high school. Before you get that diploma, you read this book.

This book deals with debunking “Neurosexism,” which is a very fancy term for all of that evolutionary psychology bullshit that people spill about those “brain differences” between boys and girls.

This book debunks such myths as:

  • Boys are better at math than girls
  • Women make crappy lawyers/business CEOs/etc, as their brains are not cut out for aggression.
  • Men make crappy counselors/primary school teachers/primary parents/etc, as their brains are not cut out for empathy.
  • MEN ARE BUILT FOR GOING OUT AND HUNTING WHILE WOMEN ARE BUILT FOR STAYING HOME AND BABYMAKING IT’S NOT SEXISM IT’S JUST BIOLOGY
  • And many other such myths.

Furthermore, this book covers topics such as: 

  • Neurosexism and gender perceptions in multiple races (as this is not a singularly white experience, just as the western world isn’t a singularly white experience)
  • Sex discrimination in the workplace, and how women are (or, more often, are not) allowed to behave
  • How science is used (badly) to support many of these claims
  • Experiences of trans* people, both through interviews and empirical studies.

AND FINALLY - It is all brilliantly researched, cited, compiled - and it’s easy to read! Cordelia Fine actually manages to be funny while writing this, which I think is important, because it makes all of this information infinitely accessible.

Delusions of Gender has reinforced what Oberlin taught me: The gender binary is stupid and arbitrary, and dangerous. And it is a self-perpetuating bias that needs to be addressed to be overcome.

Every person is a unique, multifaceted, sometimes even contradictory individual, and with such an astonishing range of personality traits within each sex, and across contexts, social class, age, experience, education level, sexuality, and ethnicity, it would be pointless and meaningless to attempt to pigeonhole such rich complexity and variability into two crude stereotypes.
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions Of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, And Neurosexism Create Difference

When a woman persists with a high-level math course or runs as a presidential candidate, or a father leaves work early to pick up the children from school, they are altering little by little, the implicit patterns of the minds around them. As society slowly changes, so too do the differences between male and female selves, abilities, emotions, values, interests, hormones, and brains- because each is inextricably intimate with the social context in which it developed and functions.

Where the convergence between female and male lives might end up is anybody’s guess. (A tip: the mistake is usually to undershoot.) But it is remarkable how similar the two sexes become, psychologically, when gender fades into the background. “Love, tenderness, nurturance; competition, ambition, assertion- these are human qualities, and all human beings- both women and men- should have equal access to them,“ argues Kimmel. Doesn’t that sound nice? But it is still the case today that gender inequalities, and the gender stereotypes they evoke, interact with our minds in ways that create inequality of access.

—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
Psychologists often find that parents treat baby girls and boys differently, despite an absence of any discernible differences in the babies’ behavior or abilities. One study, for example, found that mothers conversed and interacted more with girl babies and young toddlers, even when they were as young as six months old.

This was despite the fact that boys were no less responsive to their mother’s speech and were no more likely to leave their mother’s side. As the authors suggest, this may help girls learn the higher level of social interaction expected of them, and boys the greater independence. Mothers are also more sensitive to changes in facial expressions of happiness when an unfamiliar six-month-old baby is labeled as a girl rather than a boy, suggesting that their gendered expectations affect their perception of babies’ emotions.

As infants reach the toddler and preschool years, researchers find that mothers talk more to girls than to boys, and that they talk about emotions differently to the two sexes – and in a way that’s consistent with (and sometimes helps to create the truth of) the stereotyped belief that females are the emotion experts.
—  Cordelia Fine, Delusions Of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, And Neurosexism Create Difference

“What generally passes for nature in the bourgeois context of delusion is merely the scar tissue of mutilation.”

Theodor Adorno, Minimal Moralia

Of all difficulties which impede the progress of thought, and the formation of well-grounded opinions on life and social arrangements, the greatest is now the unspeakable ignorance and inattention of mankind in respect to the influences which form human character. Whatever any portion of human species now are, or seem to be, such, it is supposed, they have a natural tendency to be: even when the most elementary knowledge of the circumstances in which they have been placed, clearly points out the cause that made them what they are.

—  John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Woman, 1869

“The continual drip, drip, drip of gender stereotypes will, over time, really add up.”

Book Recommendation : Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

My interest in social issues has been growing gradually throughout the years.  Taking courses like sociology, social psychology, and being a part of AAUW’s Celebrating Women’s Voices in Politics and Art this year have particularly made me interested in gender (in)equality.

Recently, I finally got around to reading Delusions of Gender.  Cordelia Fine’s book provides much-necessary corrections to the belief that male and female brains are intrinsically different.  I find the book to be extremely insightful and accessible.  Reading it would certainly benefit us, both women and men, to better understand the existing cultural assumptions about gender.

Suppose a researcher were to tap you on the shoulder and ask you to write down what, according to cultural lore, males and females are like. Would you stare at the researcher blankly and exclaim, “But what can you mean? Every person is a unique, multifaceted, sometimes even contradictory individual, and with such an astonishing range of personality traits within each each sex, and across contexts, social class, age, experience, educational level, sexuality, and ethnicity, it would be pointless and meaningless to attempt to pigeonhole such rich complexity and variability into two crude stereotypes”?

No. You’d pick up your pencil and start writing.

—  “We Think, Therefore You Are” chapter of Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
Proof that Terfs are full of shit about the delusions of gender book

there are two passages that briefly reference the experiences of trans people (warning there is some outdated and cissexist language)

fairly early on in the book is a quote from a trans woman which is situated in the context of many similar experiences of cis women who internalize gendered norms and preform worse at certain tasks due to these norms:

The more I was treated as a woman, the more woman I became. I adapted willy-nilly. If I was assumed to be incompetent at reversing cars, or opening bottles, oddly incompetent I found myself becoming. If a case was thought too heavy for me, inexplicably I found it so myself.

-Jan Morris, a male-to-female transsexual [sic] describing her posttransition experiences in her autobiography, Conundrum (1987).

the trans woman’s experience is presented as a woman’s experience (and it’s in a trans woman’s own words from her autobiography), among cis women’s experiences. Note that this chapter is called We Think, Therefore You Are and presents many studies where cis women internalize beliefs about their capabilities as women and preform poorly on tasks assumed to be male in society. The author is not implying this trans woman’s gender is any more constructed than that of the cis women’s. Her point is that our ideas about gender are constructed by society and internalized by cis and trans women alike.

Don’t believe me? Her passage on trans men’s experiences makes it more obvious:

Ben Barres is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University, and a female-to-male transsexual [sic]. In an article in Nature he recalls that “[s]hortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say ‘Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.” Similar stories cropped up in a recent interview study of twenty-nine female-to-male transsexuals [sic]. Kritsen Schilt, a Research Fellow at Houstin’s Rice University, interviewed the men about their work experiences both before and after their transition… Her study reveals that many immediately enjoyed greater recognition and respect. Thomas, an attorney, related how a college praised the boss for getting rid of Susan, whom he regarded as incompetent. He then added that the “new guy,” Thomas, was “just delightful”–not realizing, of course, that Thomas and Susan were one and the same. Roger, in retain found that now that he is a man [sic] people bypass his female boss and beeline straight to him with their questions. Paul, continuing his work in secondary education, suddenly found himself being continually called upon in meetings to offer his newly valuable opinions. And several blue-collar workers reported that work is a great deal easier since the transitions.

As Barres rightly acknowledges, anecdotes are not data. But these insights form the experiences of people who have lived on both sides of the gender divide [sic] offer an intriguing glimpse into the possibility that a person’s talents in the workplace are easier to recognize when that person is male [emphasis mine]. Empirical research points to that same conclusion.“

The author states, explicitly, that the point of this section on trans men’s experiences is to illustrate that men’s talents are more recognized. The author is using the experiences of trans men as male experiences. The examples are useful to the author because she sees the transitions as highlighting the disparity between how trans men were treated when their coworkers saw them as women and when they saw them as men.

The book’s treatment of trans people is of course far from perfect. The language about becoming a man and formerly being a woman (or even the trans woman’s own words about becoming a woman) is obviously problematic and wrong, as many of us can recognize, as it false in like cis normative idea that you only become another gender if you transition (and this is of course harmful to trans women who are seen as having male privilege before transition). Further there was a statement earlier about how women would do better in the work place if they disguised themselves as men and then it says some people have had that experience (i.e. trans men), which is obviously problematic. And there’s the language about trans men "living on both sides of the divide.”

But the book refers to the trans men as men and uses them as an example for how men are treated better than women in society it literally explicitly states this: “[trans men] offer an intriguing glimpse into the possibility that a person’s talents in the workplace are easier to recognize when that person is male. THAT PERSON IS MALE.  Terfs cannot deny that. That’s what the text says. Not seen as male, not pretending to be male. MALE. And the author refers to these men as men. Although it slips into cissexist language and conception of transition every once in a while, it in no way implies trans identities are invalid. In fact, these experiences are presented to support the author’s argument that gender is socially constructed and that a trans woman has the experiences of a woman and a trans man the experiences of a man despite "biology” which the book seeks to debunk

idk how terfs turned that into the book lampooning or invalidating trans identites

these are the only two mention of trans people in the entire book

aflyingcontradiction asked:

Hey love! First of all, happy new year, I hope you have an amazing one. I have a favour to ask of you: You have a PDF for that Delusions of Gender book, right? Would you mind sending me the link, please?

I hope you have a good new year too, sweetie! :)

Publishing this so other people can find it, and so I can just search the tag for the next person who asks:

Delusions of Gender: ~ Mobi ~ ePub ~ PDF ~

I’d also recommend “Myths of Gender” by Anne Fausto-Sterling for anyone who hasn’t already read it!  It’s what first really really got me into feminism.  I read it in a day, I couldn’t put it down. 

Myths of Gender: ~ PDF ~

Writers who argue that there are hardwired differences between the sexes that account for the gender status quo often like to position themselves as courageous knights of truth, who brave the stifling ideology of political correctness. Yet claims of ‘essential differences’ between the two sexes simply reflect – and give scientific authority to – what I suspect is really a majority opinion.
—  Delusions of Gender 

 Cordelia Fine
When we follow the trail of contemporary science we discover a surprising number of gaps, assumptions, inconsistencies, poor methodologies, and leaps of faith – as well as more than one echo of the insalubrious past. As Brown University professor of biology and gender studies Anne Fausto-Sterling has pointed out, ‘despite the many recent insights of brain research, this organ remains a
vast unknown, a perfect medium on which to project, even unwittingly, assumptions about gender.’ The sheer complexity of the brain lends itself beautifully to overinterpretation and
precipitous conclusions.
—  Delusions of Gender - Cordelia Fine
When I was a student, women in the generation above
me told horror stories about discrimination, and added “But everything has changed.
That will never happen to you.” I’m told that this was said even by the generations
before that, and now my generation is saying similar things to the next one. Of
course, a decade or so later we always say “How could we have thought that was
equality?” Are we serving the next generation well if we tell them that everything
is equal and fair when it’s not?
— 

Alice Silverberg, matemathician

I’ve been told that! And it has only made it more difficult for me to realize that there is still sexism in the world I live. And the first step to fix something, is to realize that something is wrong.

I’m reading Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine, and is is amazing! Thanks Tumblr for bringing this book to my attention, and thanks Internet for allowing me to buy a book that a few years ago would be impossible for me to get access to.

Cross-gender behaviour is seen as less acceptable in boys than it is in girls: unlike the term “tomboy” there is nothing positive implied by its male counterpart, the sissy.
—  Delusions of gender by Cordelia Fine

In real life, every time I bring the topic up I am called ‘insane’, 'irrational’, 'ridiculous’ for daring to suggest that the gender roles we forcably place upon children are dangerous and shouldn’t occur. I’m called 'stupid’ for thinking that parents ought to think twice about forcing their children into a particular gender role dictated by their genitalia.

Sometimes I then think, “wait, is what I’m saying really that absurd?”

And then I find an article like this and a book like 'Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine and it assures me that no, I’m not insane or stupid: the world is.

‘Yet even today, the evidence suggests that it would be a shrewd career move for a woman to disguise herself as a man. People who have transformed their identity in this way - namely, female to male transsexuals - report decidedly beneficial consequences in the workplace. Ben Barres is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University and a female-to-male transsexual. In an article in Nature he recalls that ’[s]hortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.” Similar stories cropped up in a recent interview study of twenty-nine female-to-male transsexuals. Kirsten Schilt, a Research Fellow at Houston’s Rice University, interviewed the men about their work experiences both before and after their transition from women to men. Her study reveals that many immediately enjoyed greater recognition and respect. Thomas, an attorney, related how a colleague praised the boss for getting rid of Susan, whom he regarded as incompetent. He then added that the 'new guy’, Thomas, was 'just delightful’ - not realising, of course, that Thomas and Susan were one and the same.' 

- Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, Chapter 5: The Glass Workplace