I’m not yet very much in the habit of reading sociology books, so I definitely can’t claim to be anything near an expert on them. But I know what I like. And I like this Cordelia Fine person. She’s witty and intellectual, and she knows how to write in an extremely intuitive way. She makes you ask yourself the right questions, and immediately sets about trying to answer them. The book has flow, and turns what could easily have been extremely dry into a fascinating pleasure. This is a woman I want to have a discussion with at a party, and a woman I would not want to debate. This book never shies away from picking apart the competition in biting personal style.
When I began this book, I’m really not sure what I expected. I suppose maybe an explanation of why men/women is an arbitrary distinction between human beings. But this was my own uncertain hypothesis. What I feel Cordelia Fine is doing in this book is taking various arguments that others have presented about behavior, psychology, and biology, and then either prove or debunk them, while making us wonder how certain sociologists are even still working. There’s no lack of philosophy thrown into the mix. In fact I wasn’t even aware until now that “philosopher” is still an actual job description, and I want to know where to sign up.
I did ask myself if this was going to quickly get boring, as I’m really not a very scientifically minded person, but no matter my doubts, whatever I was reading at the time did make me want to hear more of what Cordelia had to say. “Just one more chapter, then I’ll decide…now let me just finish this next one…” Part of her appeal may be that she is no doubt a feminist, and a spirited one. While other books of this type may either make you fall asleep or make you angry (as certain Victorian sociologists she quoted), this one has you cheering her on. One particularly striking point for me was that the phrases “I think therefor I am” and “fake it till you make it” are actually backed up by scientific evidence. When a group of people were told before a math test, “We want to find out why men do better than women,” the men performed better. If on the other hand they were told simply “we’re measuring your aptitude in math,” the results came out balanced. Likewise, if the people in a group were primed to think about their gender on a test where their gender is stereotypically thought to do worse, through something as simple as checking a box, as opposed to being primed to think about their high level of education, there is also a negative effect on the results. As a person with dealing with depression and anxiety, this came as sort of a breakthrough for me. I don’t necessarily have to think exclusively positive thoughts, but simply priming myself to think of my accomplishments is much more meaningful than being just something people tell you to be nice. Info you can use on the job, for sure!
Cordelia Fine’s incredibly modern view of the world is one I want to see explored in more depth, and her style is bound to get her ideas the attention they deserve. So we have only to sit back and watch it happen. I can’t wait to see what develops.