Back in the mists of time that thankfully cast a haze over my dating career, I became entangled with a man who drove a Maserati.
–Cordelia Fine - Testosterone Rec - c.2017
Rec’d back in Feb by Aarti on Twitter.
Testosterone Rex brings together evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience and social history to move beyond old ‘nature versus nurture’ debates, and to explain why it’s time to unmake the tyrannical myth of Testosterone Rex. (Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds on Goodreads)
I read Fine’s Delusions of Gender a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so when I saw she had another one coming out I knew I had to order it. It is just as good as Delusions, and I would recommend it to anyone to read.
In this book Fine takes a look at testosterone and asks is it really the reason behind financial crisis, risk taking, and the differences between the sexes.
the short answer is no. The slightly longer, but still short version is that it has an important role to play but it is equally as important as all other hormones in the human body. For more go read the book, it is fascinating, interesting, funny and very readable. Fine has a great style. She weaves personal anecdotes in with scientific studies as well as her own speculation. She counters arguments with facts and figures, but never in a dry and boring way.
It is also a most quotable book, if you follow me on tumblr you may have noticed, if not click here for a selection and if that doesn’t prompt you to think about trying this book I don’t know what will.
One of my very favourite lines is
Social events regulate gonadal events. I think it should be my new motto.
But apart from the writing style what she says in the book is important. She never says that there aren’t differences between men and women, but she emphasizes that we cannot accurately tell what is causing those differences. From the moment we are born we are influenced by both genes and environment, and sometimes environment has a greater influence. Never mind the fact that when you average everything out there are more differences between men (or women) than between the sexes. Also, sex is a spectrum, not an either or. Stereotypes and hardline “men are like this” views do nobody any good.
People are people, and people are different to people in many many ways. And society and experience do a lot to shape people. If you think about the idea behind “privilege” for example you can see that influences how people of differing backgrounds see and act. It isn’t what you were born with, it is how society around you that shapes what you were born with.
I’ve skimmed a few of the negative reviews on Goodreads and many of them seem to say “I don’t agree with this so it is wrong” and some say that Fine wants to proclaim that there are no differences between men and women. Well, I’ve read the book and she makes it perfectly clear that there are differences, both in humans and in other species, what she is looking at is how innate those differences are and can they be altered? Also across the whole species are the differences really there. And in some cases she argues that, yes, they are. In others no, the variables even out across a large sample. Fine also points to numerous studies that show that just because X has been the way for so long, it doesn’t mean it can’t ever be altered.
Of course I came to the book on her side, so maybe I’m just agreeing with her because it supports my view of the world. I’m not a scientist and am not about to go through hundreds of studies in an attempt to prove myself wrong. However I have skimmed through some of those “men are from mars” type books, you know the sort that try to argue that all relationship differences exist because men are like this while women are like that, and in most cases I don’t identify with the version of womanhood that they portray. So maybe I’m just an outlier, or maybe there is more to being a person than what is between your legs.