Taking Sex Differences by Steven E. Rhoads
Steven E. Rhoads Encounter Books
ISBN: 1-893554-93-7 240 pages $25.95
On very very rare occasion we come across a book such extraordinary contemporary social significance that we feel it must be read by virtually everyone we know. One such book was Beyond Fear, by Bruce Schneier, where we noted that, “If you could only read one book about security, the book you should read is Beyond Fear.”
Taking Sex Differences Seriously falls into this same category, and we believe it should be read by every policy maker.
Sex permeates all human existence, affecting social structure, religion, civil life, criminology, and the world of business. It is, for most, an area of much fascination and little knowledge.
As chance would have it, this editor’s area of study, when getting his Masters, was sex, and therefore some of the researchers – and some of the research – discussed in the book are known personally.
Rhoad’s book “argues that sex differences are large, deeply rooted and consequential. Men and women still have different natures, and, generally speaking, different preferences, talents and interests. The book presents evidence that these differences can be explained in part by hormones and other physiological and chemical distinctions between men and women. Thus they won’t disappear unless we tinker with our fundamental biological natures.”
Now, the idea that men and women are inherently different may not seem too outlandish to anyone who has seen a member of the opposite sex close up. Until you remember that much feminist theory, and much social policy, is based on the assumption that the differences between men and women are largely caused by socialization rather than biology. The author makes a compelling contrary case to for this former worker in the field.
Assuming you accept his premise, the next question you ask should reasonably be “so what?”
The “so what” comes when you consider any interaction whatsoever between men and women.
• If you have a daughter, and would like her to grow up to be as happy and contributive as possible, this book will give you some insights that will help you guide her through the contemporary world.
• If you have a son, and would like him to grow up to be as happy and contributive as possible, this book will give you some insights that will help you guide him through the contemporary world.
• If you were a coach, and trying to produce a set of competitive Title IX teams for your school, this book will help you understand the different playing styles and approaches to sports with which you will have to deal.
• If you are a principal trying to put together a zero-tolerance policy against violence, this book will help you understand the problems you will encounter.
• If you are considering divorce, this book will help you understand some of the foreseeable implications for your children if you do, and your future level of happiness if you don’t.
• If you are interested in crime, this book will give you the most reliable demographic predictor for youth violence.
• If you are concerned with inner city pregnancy, this book will give you an insight into some of the problems that are faced.
• If you run a company, and want to develop the most appropriate child- care policies, this book will give you an idea of the complexities of the issues, which are still not clear in the research.
• If you run a company, and want to provide gender-neutral advancement, this book will help you see the landmines ahead.
• If you run a police department or an army, and want to have equal representation by women, you will gain insights from this book.
• If you are a boy and want to maximize your dating success – or your ultimate happiness in life – this book will help you achieve your goal.
• If you are a girl, overwhelmed by predatory sexual pressures, this book will give you social strategies and goals.
• If you are trying to understand the role of women in other cultures, this book will give you cross-cultural insights.
• If you don’t understand how members of the opposite sex think, this book will help a little.
• If you want to have a long and happy marriage, this book may well give you some clues.
The bottom line is that men and women appear to have some fundamental differences. While these differences range along a spectrum (due more, we suspect, to in utero testosterone levels than to socialization), rather than being sharply defined, they are nonetheless there. Behaving as if women are merely men who can give birth and lactate, and men are merely women who can’t, may create a good gender feminist (as opposed to equity feminist) but a bad social policy maker and planner.
Because of its wide range of application, as well as its break from the more- commonly held approach to the role of socialization in gender differences, we consider this book to be critically important, and a must-read for any policy maker.