Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine, is a book that concerns itself with the central question of gender: are there really inherent behavioral differences between men and women, or are those differences all culturally constructed? As an anti-genderist, I am definitely on the “all differences are culturally constructed” side, and Fine takes that side also.
The book is divided in three main parts. Part 1 concerns itself with measured behavioral differences and studies which seek to explain them. Her central concept is that of associative memory, which creates implicit associations in our brain between concepts, such as associating a gender with stereotypical concepts such as empathy or mathematics. Fine discusses a wide variety of studies which show that, whether we are aware of them or not, our implicit associations have a profound impact on what we think about ourselves and how well we perform tasks.
Part 2 discusses the attempts to point to neuroscientific data that supposedly proves a neurological basis for gender. Fine exposes this “research” as being little more than a fallacy of insufficient sample. Finally, part 3 explores the issue of how our implicit associations form in early childhood and why attempts at “gender-neutral parenting” and other individualistic solutions must necessarily fail.
I have not so far read a lot of the anti-genderist literature so I can’t really compare this book to others on the subject, but this is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Cordelia Fine combines startling insights into the construction of gender with a keen observational mind. I heavily recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in anti-genderism.