Gender on Planet Earth

Gender on Planet Earth

by Ann Oakley

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A provocative analysis of gender inequality's destructive effects on our society and our planet.

In this wide-ranging and powerful new book, the influential author and social scientist Ann Oakley mounts a devastating argument about the state of our humanity. Drawing on examples such as the simple experience of riding a bicycle through London, the way we

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A provocative analysis of gender inequality's destructive effects on our society and our planet.

In this wide-ranging and powerful new book, the influential author and social scientist Ann Oakley mounts a devastating argument about the state of our humanity. Drawing on examples such as the simple experience of riding a bicycle through London, the way we've become ‘sick to death of women', and the environmental abuse of our planet, she shows how every aspect of our lives is dominated by male/female power structures, and forces us to take a step back and see how and why gender inequality has thrown our society out of balance.

In Gender on Planet Earth, Oakley argues that the persistence of traditional gender values prevents us from leading more ethical and humane lives. Governed by “delusional systems” such as psychoanalysis and sociobiology, we assume that the imbalance of the sexes is the inevitable consequence of our genes, psyches and unchangeable economic motives. Drawing from a broad array of literature, Oakley combines personal narrative with social commentary and eye-opening statistics to provide a provocative account of the state we're really in.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British sociologist Oakley admits her book will satisfy only some of the people some of the time. Yet there are bound to be some who it will not satisfy at all, as her passionate commitment to make the future "a better time for both the planet and for us" is undermined by this scattershot compendium. A pioneer theorist of gender studies, particularly women's work, Oakley wants readers to see "the relationships between many of the world's current social problems, on the one hand, and ideas and practices relating to femininity and masculinity, on the other." What she offers, though, is a catchall mixture of expert and nonexpert opinions, personal narrative, statistical recitation and historical diversions, entertaining and informative but ultimately out of control. The link between personal narrative (e.g., a bicycle ride, an encounter with a flasher, a day at the park with her grandchildren) and Oakley's grand theme is strained, while the statistics and historical references seem random. All is grist for Oakley's theme-violence, vegetarianism, postmodernism, housework, crime, women's liberation, children's books, transportation, cross dressing, the backlash to the women's liberation movement, grandparenthood, in vitro fertilization, cocaine, shopping, psychoanalysis, agriculture, science fiction-indeed, wherever her eye falls, she sees the link between what's wrong with the world and socially constructed gender. In her attempt to "think laterally, rather than compartmentally," Oakley fails to make her case for a unified theory of gender. (Feb. 13) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
One of the primary reasons for the world's ills, according to Oakley (sociology & social policy, Univ. of London; Experiments in Knowing), is that men and women continue to perpetuate a system of institutionalized gender differences that have a malevolent effect on them, on power structures, and on the planet as a whole. Men function as alienated beasts, while women become scared outsiders. Oakley has pulled together a wide variety of expert and nonexpert opinion, case studies, news articles from earlier centuries, advertisements, and medical findings to substantiate her case. Each chapter is devoted to a specific area in which gender roles have gone awry, e.g., the promulgation of violence, the disintegration of the stereotypical family, and the rape of the planet and its resources. This is not a diatribe against men, per se but against an entire ages-old system. The solution? Awareness of the ways men and women collude in the system is key, followed by the development of a new world order in which all human beings and other living things are valued. Most of this is not new. Of interest primarily to women's studies programs and hence recommended for academic libraries.-Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From British feminist/novelist Oakley (The Men's Room, 1989, etc.), a tightly argued thesis that the continuing imbalance of power between the sexes is a symptom, not a cause, of "a violent, aggressive, competitive, commodified, selfish way of life" damaging to the health and well-being of the planet. That way of life is still propelled by men and acquiesced to by women, in spite of the feminist movement, and its ramifications are evident across society from forthright issues of inadequate childcare to obscure intellectualizations in postmodernist salons, asserts Oakley (Sociology/Univ. of London). She breaks down her arguments into smaller pieces in chapters that address both anecdotally and statistically the problems, for instance, of women and bicycles. (Both are marginalized, bicycles in the interests of automobiles, women in the interests of a power structure still characterized as "patriarchy.") Although individual women are now included in the power base, it is the male mode that dominates, declares the author. Bolstering her contentions, she moves on to explorations of violence against women and environmental exploitation as motivated by both power and profit in a chapter that curiously links destructive agricultural practices with reproductive technologies. Oakley really gets rolling when she goes after what she calls "delusional systems," among them psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, modern economics, evolutionary psychology/sociobiology (which lets the genes take the blame for "messy moral, political and economic issues"), and postmodernism, which eschews objective reality. After a questionable side trip into science fiction and fantasy writings to reimagine gender roles andnonviolent societies, Oakley returns to a potent discussion of the damaging patriarchal society as it functions today, including what it would take to begin to eliminate violence, poverty, and neglect in the world. She's not optimistic. Tough going for the lay reader, but crowded with provocative ideas and inspired by a worthy vision.
From the Publisher
"This is an intriguing and challenging collection of disparate essays, written with commitment." Ken Worpole, Times Higher Education Supplement

"On many levels this is a timely and convincing gazetteer of contemporary human and political folly, and Oakley freqently turns a very neat phrase, as when she notes that "cars dominate public space in much the same way that men dominate public life"....This is an intriguing and challenging collection of disparate essays". Ken Worpole, Books

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Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.05(w) x 8.93(h) x 0.91(d)

Meet the Author

Ann Oakley is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of London and Director of the Social Science Research Unit at the University of London’s Institute of Education. She has been writing and researching in the area for over 30 years. Her previous books include Experiments in Knowing, Man and Wife, The Men’s Room, The Captured Womb, Subject Women, Becoming a Mother, Housewife, The Sociology of Housework, and Sex, Gender and Society

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