"How evolutionary psychology promotes gender profiling and fans the battle of the sexes"
This isn’t a particularly light read but it’s a compulsively readable one. Ruti has read a number of the “popular” books concerning evolutionary psychology (as opposed to scientific publications although she cites some of those too), and presents an analysis of four of them. Ruti doesn’t have a scientific background but she’s analyzing the arguments put forward by popular science books and not criticizing the research methodology.* Although she only analyzes four in detail, she’s distilled the “standard narrative” from the many other books she's read and spends her time discussing how the individual books deviate from that standard narrative. Towards the end of her discussion, she does put forward some of her own opinions on sexuality, desire, and marriage but I don’t think that this detracts from her main arguments.
[* Ok, she may make a few criticisms of how some of the surveys are conducted, but they're basically common sense observations.]
There are unquestionably some moments during the read that Ruti’s frustration with the field is palpable, but I can certainly relate. The books she references are a mix of ones I will definitely avoid and ones that I plan to seek out. I think I expected more of a rant but it really was a fairly straightforward discussion of the points and arguments that the books actually presented and where the conclusions sometimes didn’t match those from the author’s academic papers. It’s an overview of the topic that helps to save the reader from slogging through quite so many books as Ruti did to get at the same information.
Some of the highlights (listed as I recall them) are that humans appear to be more promiscuous than the “standard narrative” allows and serial monogamy is a much more reasonable expectation than lifelong monogamy in most cases if monogamy is achievable at all. The “coy” female is basically patriarchal BS and there’s a theory that efforts to repress women’s sexuality only started at the dawn of agriculture. Although biological differences certainly exist, a lot of the gender differences that are bandied about can be explained through socialization and it’s impossible to determine where the effects of biology end and those of socialization start or vice versa. Oh, and the ideal of monogamous pair-bonding creates more stable workers and our society seems to value that over everything else.
I quite enjoyed it, so I think I’ll guardedly recommend it, as long as anyone picking it up realizes that it’s not as light a read as Inferior and they’ll actually be wading through arguments presented in other books.
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