Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

Oh dear. Drain out the money-banks, you are going to need a lot of copies of this!

Stop me if you've heard this one before. You're chatting to a friend with kids and you mention being a feminist. They give you sage look that says "Hey I once had unprotected sex and now I'm an expert on humanity" and explain how despite the entirely gender-neutral upbringing their kids have had little Marlon Rambo and Rosie-Boobookins-Princess are just "hard-wired" to adopt traditional gender roles. Well great news, starting now you can respond by simply pushing this book into their hands, muttering "hang on in there" to the kids and walking away.

And while she's on the subject Fine also neatly does away with the raft of Men - Mars, Women - Snickers and Why Women Should Try Shutting Up And Following Orders-type books that seem to have become so utterly commonplace recently. Admittedly in debunking this nonscience she does have to go into a fair amount of heavy-going methodology but she does a careful job and keeps it humourous and interesting throughout.

And to top it off she also takes care of indirect unintentional discrimination. The manner in which people make subconscious sexist decisions and then justify them to themselves in non-sexist ways. "I'd hire him because he's more _________* than her" *insert any old rubbish here.

One side effect of the book has to be looking back through my own life at times when I've missed out on promotion or work I wanted and was well qualified for. Only a few weeks ago I was talking with someone who runs a high profile comedy show which I would be ideal for. I emailed my CV and demo reel over in advance and then in person suggested he should consider auditioning me for the show. He laughed like a drain. Like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. And that's exactly it. If you asked him if he was sexist he'd be horrified and insist he wasn't but he doesn't regard me as a serious performer despite the fact that I'm undoubtedly better at it than most of the people (men) he does use. If I had a penis he might tell me he wasn't hiring right now but he wouldn't find it quite so hilarious.

So you should read this book as an eye-opener on your own life. You should also keep a couple of spare copies about your person for throwing at idiot parents and anyone who thinks the shortage of female Nobel prize winners is something to do with rotating three dimensional objects rather than raging sexism. Delusions of Gender is really important, much-needed and should be compulsory reading for parents, educators, employers and politicians. Well written and convincing. Just great.

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