Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs

By Rosalind Barnett & Caryl Rivers

Now this is a book about men, women, and their obligations–perceived and actual. Perhaps I’m coming off too enthusiastically from the Hirshman “Get to Work” book, but this is a book that tackles issues, cites studies, and makes you think. I am again skimming this title as opposed to performing a close reading, but I’m hitting all the good parts and I haven’t found a thing to complain about.

It’s definitely on the pop-psych end of the spectrum (versus the academic end) but it’s well-documented, straightforward, and not particularly gender-agenda driven. Maybe you’d consider a book that attempts to recast women in roles different from the “traditional” stereotypes about what they want, what they think, and how they act to be a book that has a gender agenda, but it’s hardly strident. The first chapter mentions Sarah Hrdy a lot, a scientist I’ve always enjoyed learning things from (when I encounter her stuff from a popular press source) but they really like her. The first section of the book, the section on relationships, is easily half, with the work and parenting sections shorter and shorter still. What I think is a key part of this work is its exploration of not just gender differences but generational ones.

Again, however, there’s a funny term. I could do without the phrase “Ultra Darwinist” because I think the word “Darwinist” has too many religious and cultural nasty connotations, and they are sort of using it as a vague pejorative for a group of people that might be more likely to class themselves as “Anti-Darwinist.” I am referring here to the adoption of the term by the creationist/intelligence design crowd, who call the “competition” “Darwinists.” You know, the people who accept evolution. In this book, however, “Ultra Darwinist” refers to people overly committed to the idea of gender differences as byproducts of evolution. The book is a few years old; perhaps the “Darwinist”/”Evolutionist” link hadn’t been made in some religious-political circles yet.

It amuses me a little that the subtitle places Children in a position of more importance than Jobs, although the text of the book does not. Oh, those wacky editors and marketing departments!

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