Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini



I LOVE this book. I’ve had a bit of a thing for science and research books about women since I read Delusions of Gender back in 2015.  It’s interesting but I know enough to take it with a grain of salt too, like the news. Everything has an angle and I know that’s true for these books too, but these two have been fun.

Inferior doesn’t just accept either argument but takes a long look at all the research and admits that we have so much further to go. There are a few studies that were discussed that I felt like even I could see the flaws with my untrained eye. I don’t say that out of some superior bs but if we’re studying women and not consulting women in the make up of the study, we’re going to do it wrong. A study that involves soliciting people for dates or sex but doesn’t account for social pressure to appear one way or another or basic girl safety is doomed to not be an accurate account of the sexual drive of women. That said, I’m sure it would work the other way around as well. We definitely need studies of the differences between the sexes to include both men and women in it’s planning in order to come even close to studying what it’s studying.

My two favorite areas of study were about the idea of neuroplasticity’s influence in the differences between the “male” and “female” brain and the differences of strength. I’d been looking for a while for a better way to make the point that the ability to pick up more heavy things is not the only measure of strength and that men aren’t stronger when we account for more than that. I can work with using the term “robust” instead. It plays into an old quote I remember from a book about women and our tendency to persevere, even when we’ve done something wrong.

Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t throw my faith into any of these studies because of how much people find what they’re looking for or how different industries have found and distorted scientific finds, not to mention how wrongly things get reported sometimes. At the same time, I also get that this is something important to pursue. Science is ever-evolving, as we learn in diet books all the time. One day we’ll settle upon the “true” difference and everyone will agree again and then I’m sure someone will come along and mess it all up. Sorry if that sounds negative.

I’ll have a fun time reading books like this regardless of that, though. I love to hear about and think about all the ways that things have been researched and the different findings through different eras. We laugh now at the theories of times gone by but one day, people will be laughing at us for these things too. I can only hope that 300 years from now men and women are collectively laughing that anyone ever thought it was anything but neuroplasticity causing men and women to seem to have such different brain functions. For more on that topic, also check out The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.

This was a great book that every feminist should read as well as anyone looking into the differences between men and women at the opposing ends of their spectrum. This book and I both recognize the existence of intersex people, though it doesn’t get much into talking them or research done about them. There’s a mention that much of the old research completely ignores  them and a note here or there about why they aren’t included in some modern studies, if I recall correctly. If you’re interested in books about intersex people, or want to know more about them, check out Between XX and XY which gets deep into the science and biology of people who don’t quite fit into the dichotomy of man and woman.

1 Comment

  1. This sounds super interesting, as do the other books you mention! I’ve also had to counter the idea that men’s general greater ability to lift heavy objects makes them stronger than women. If growing a human and pushing it out a tiny hole isn’t a marker of strength, I don’t know what is.

    Liked by 1 person

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