Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

13 August 2011

Book Review: The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD

I stopped reading this book on page 68.

It's amazing I made it that far. Part of me thinks I should finish the book because I should know what is inside. People not only like to come to me for gender advice, but also test my boundaries on "gender roles." A friend loaned me this book, I believe as a way to see what my expert opinion of it would be. I have no idea how she feels about it.

It frightens me to think this was a NY Times Best Seller. Oh, the masses who read this and loved it!

You know what made me finally put this book down?

  • It wasn't her pointing out that female and male brains work in different ways. 
  • It wasn't her stating on page 8 that a female engineer quit her work to be in a more people-oriented career, thus giving more credibility to the idea that engineers don't work with people or for people.
  • It wasn't even when she dug up the old "I gave my daughter a truck and she treated it like a baby" cliché.
  • It was almost when she says men look for visual clues (plump lips, smooth skin) to ensure fertility when looking for women to date.
It was her slut shaming. 
In the chapter about how the female brain works in the areas of love and trust, she states: (Warning, put that cup down and swallow that bite)
Social reputation is often a factor in male assessment, since the most reproductively successful males also need to pick women who will mate only with them. Men want to ensure their paternity but also to be able to count on a woman's mothers skills to make sure that their offspring thrive. If Melissa had immediately gone to bed with Rob or showed off to him about all the guys she has had, his Stone Age brain might have judged that she would be unfaithful or had a bad reputation. 
Go ahead, read that passage again. Yes, you read it correctly. Cave men don't want slutty women to hook up with.


There's a lot of research in here and a lot of medical terms that aren't clearly explained. But from all the things on gender that I have learned from reading outside and inside the classroom and the science background I have, I have to say that this person takes facts and uses a huge rubber band to tie it to normative behavior. 


Instead of this book, pick up Pink Brain, Blue Brain. Sure it's 2-3 times longer, but it doesn't traffic in stereotypes and certainly believes that we have evolved from the Stone Age.


2 comments:

Even better, Cordelia Fine tackles Brizendine head-on in a chapter of *Delusions of Gender.* Turns out Brizendine's citations are worth about as much as sewer sludge - including a reference to "personal correspondence" with a scientist who, when contacted by Fine, said she had never spoken with Brizendine!

If you haven't read Fine, you will love her book. Her take-down of Brizendine is merely the cherry on top.

Thank you for the suggestion!