Testosterone Rex

Testosterone Rex

Myths of Sex, Science, and Society

Book - 2017
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Challenges conventional beliefs about evolutionary factors that are used to justify gender politics, outlining arguments against cultural stereotypes, in a call for a more equal society that recognizes the potential of both sexes.
"Many people believe that, at its core, biological sex is a fundamental, diverging force in human development. According to this overly familiar story, differences between the sexes are shaped by past evolutionary pressures--women are more cautious and parenting-focused, while men seek status to attract more mates. In each succeeding generation, sex hormones and male and female brains are thought to continue to reinforce these unbreachable distinctions, making for entrenched inequalities in modern society. In Testosterone Rex, psychologist Cordelia Fine wittily explains why past and present sex roles are only serving suggestions for the future, revealing a much more dynamic situation through an entertaining and well-documented exploration of the latest research that draws on evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology, and philosophy. She uses stories from daily life, scientific research, and common sense to break through the din of cultural assumptions. Testosterone, for instance, is not the potent hormonal essence of masculinity; the presumed, built-in preferences of each sex, from toys to financial risk taking, are turned on their heads. Moving beyond the old "nature versus nurture" debates, Testosterone Rex disproves ingrained myths and calls for a more equal society based on both sexes' full, human potential."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. :, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393082081
0393082083
Characteristics: 266 pages ; 25 cm

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dnk
Feb 02, 2018

Fine's Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference traced the history of the neurosexism that informs casually accepted gender norms ("boys will be boys") and masquerades as science. In Testorone Rex, she gets to the chemical heart of that phenomenon: testosterone. Everyone knows men have more, and that therefore must explain why men and women are so different from each other.

Fine refutes those differences on two grounds. First, the world is made up of more than those who identify as men or women. Aside from women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), some have identified three other gender identities rooted in biological differences. Second. while men and women have different reproductive roles, human existence encompasses a far greater range of activities than simply mating and rearing children. The differences in those activities don't split along gender lines but more on cultural or social lines.

It is true that men tend to have far higher levels of testosterone than women--so much so that if testosterone is the primary factor in behavior, we should see far more dramatic differences than we do. (Fine furnishes study after study to show that men and women have similar risk tolerances, for example.) The science does not in fact point to testosterone (or "T") as being the primary determinant in behavior, but more one of many actors that makes certain behaviors possible.

In animal experiments (ranging from fish to primates), increased testosterone *does* tend to lead to more aggressive behavior among males--but only against other males that have a lower status. Further, testosterone levels are observed to be higher in someone who has just won a competition, but that is a reflection of a victory, not the cause. Finally, this is also observable in women as well as men.

Fine is not arguing that men and women's brains are the same. She seems, in fact, to believe that neuroscience may uncover legitimate differences and that those are worthy of study. Her complaint is that the differences that have been proposed are not rooted in science but in sexism. To those who would point to a study that was done that shows that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Fine points to the results of studies of gender differences being checked for bias using the "funnel plot". Not surprisingly, a number of those studies failed. When corrected, the studies with a larger sample size support the conclusion that men and women are far more alike than they are different.

It is important to note that what Fine is referencing are peer-reviewed studies that have been conducted across multiple disciplines. In other words, these are not the ramblings of a disgruntled feminist with an axe to grind, but legitimate science unified into a logical theory. Highly recommended.

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