Eve's Rib: Searching for the Biological Roots of Sex Differences

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Why are the sexes different? Is it because men and women are taught by society to think and behave in sex-typical ways? Or are the sexes different by nature? For a quarter of a century, the dominant view has been that if males and females were treated the same from the time they were born, most sex differences would disappear. In Eve's Rib, Robert Pool describes a new understanding of the sexes that has been emerging over the past decade. When little boys play with trucks and little girls with dolls, or when ...
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New York 1994 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0517592983. Unmarked book, no remainder marks; 1.3 x 9 x 6.3 Inches; 308 pages.

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Overview

Why are the sexes different? Is it because men and women are taught by society to think and behave in sex-typical ways? Or are the sexes different by nature? For a quarter of a century, the dominant view has been that if males and females were treated the same from the time they were born, most sex differences would disappear. In Eve's Rib, Robert Pool describes a new understanding of the sexes that has been emerging over the past decade. When little boys play with trucks and little girls with dolls, or when females talk of feelings and males of facts and rules, the reasons are deeper than the sexes being taught to behave differently by society. The roots of these differences lie in the womb. Scientists know that a person's physical sex is determined in the womb by sex hormones. But unlike the Biblical story of creation, in which God created Eve from Adam's rib, the female body plan is actually the "standard" human plan - a fetus will automatically become female unless it is exposed to male hormones. And, as Eve's Rib describes, bodies are not the only things shaped by these hormones in the womb. From before birth, the brains of males and females are different in distinct, predictable ways, and these differences underlie much of the mental, emotional and psychological variation between the sexes. Eve's Rib explores its subject by talking to the scientists doing the research, many of whom are women who find themselves facing a dilemma: They themselves have had to overcome many of the stereotypes about women, and they believe strongly in equality between the sexes, yet their research indicates that in some ways the sexes will never be the same. Their resolutions of this quandary demonstrate how sex differences can be accepted without accepting sexual inequality. The research described in Eve's Rib ranges from rats confused about their sex to humans taking tests of math and verbal ability, and from women exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb to men wh
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Few would dispute that behavioral differences distinguish the sexes; the question remains whether nature or nurture causes the differences. Are women more ``nurturing'' than men because of their hormones, or are they responding to what they have been taught? Is aggression in men due mainly to testosterone? Pool takes pains to emphasize that the ``differences do not imply that one sex or the other is superior--instead the scientists see men and women as inherently equal.'' This book--Pool's first--explores the subject by seeking out the scientists--most of whom are women--now doing the research. He refutes the idea that either nature or nurture is solely responsible: ``None of the sex differences is completely fixed by biology . . . the most it can do is establish predispositions that interact with the environment to create a person. . . . Hormones may push males and females in different directions, but society can either exaggerate or dampen these differences, depending on how we teach our children and what we expect of ourselves.'' Pool's foray into the complex scientific world of sex differences is not a dry treatise. His book is an entertaining narration of current research into the mental, emotional and psychological differences between men and women. It may not end verbal sparring between the sexes, but it will provide each side with some intriguing ammunition. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Pool is a journalist/editor who has published in several prestigious scientific journals. Here, he chronicles controversial and complex research into gender differences, examining chromosomal and hormonal influences on anatomical and psychological sexual development, pre-and postnatal environmental influences, distinctions in brain anatomy, behavioral differences, and the emotional debate surrounding the research. His explanations are clear, well referenced, and replete with examples. His philosophical arguments are weakest when addressing human society, suggesting that self-selection may be the primary reason for disparities in human occupational choices. In this regard, Pool might have benefited from examining Sue V. Rosser's Biology and Feminism (Twayne, 1993), which discusses the implications of women penetrating a science of male-crafted theories. Pool's meanderings into personal accounts of researchers and his family are occasionally insightful but often distracting. Still, this thorough and generally balanced account should convince readers that a biological foundation for sex differences exists, with positive ramifications. Highly recommended.-Constance Rinaldo, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, N.H.
Booknews
Not socialization, says science journalist Pool, but the amount of testosterone in the womb determines the predictable mental, emotional, and psychological as well as the biological variations between boys and girls. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brenda Grazis
Few people would oppose equal opportunity for men and women, but "Eve's Rib" offers compelling evidence that it may be unrealistic to expect an equal outcome. Results of multidiscipline experiments as well as serendipitous findings lead Pool to conclude that the hormonal environment (principally, testosterone level) in the womb launches fetal brain development down either a distinctively male or female path, which is expressed in gender-specific preferences for childhood activities. Other studies indicate that at critical stages of maturation, hormones continue to communicate with the cerebral cortex to further develop gender-biased thought processing, resulting in a hierarchy of cognitive aptitudes and social strategies that propels the child along the road to adeptness in either traditionally masculine or feminine pursuits. Pool suggests, however, that although hormones configure predispositions, society may amplify or moderate these tendencies, and that it is the interaction with the environment that creates a person.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517592984
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/26/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 308

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hormones and Heroines 1
1 Different but Equal 13
2 A Tale of Two Sexes 36
3 Beyond the Birds and the Bees 65
4 Echoes of the Womb 82
5 My Brain's Bigger Than Your Brain 109
6 Not Quite the Opposite Sex 132
7 Variations on a Theme 150
8 Raging Hormones 173
9 Nature/Nurture 194
10 Echoes of the Past 224
11 Where Do We Go from Here? 237
Notes 261
Acknowledgments 299
Index 301
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