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x y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for…

x y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender (original 2020; edición 2020)

por Eugenia Cheng (Autor)

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482434,017 (3.3)3
Título:x y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender
Autores:Eugenia Cheng (Autor)
Info:Profile Books (2020), Edition: Main, 320 pages
Colecciones:Tu biblioteca

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x + y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender por Eugenia Cheng (2020)


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I've thought a lot about this book and how to review it. I'm not sure I can give it the review it deserves and I'm not sure I have given it the star rating it deserves, but I can always edit both later.

For now, here are my fragments:

The info in the book was great. Cheng has some fantastic historical tidbits. For example, I had no idea Florence Nightingale was a mathematician whose use of statistics was instrumental in the changes she enacted as a nurse, and Cheng's illuminating discussion on a female coder who created a company that specifically to employ young women with children and paid them on a job done basis, not a per hour basis, to allow them flexibility and encourage job efficiency. It worked, her business boomed.

I also think Cheng's discussion on how unsupportive environments favour confident people, while supportive environments favour less confident people (I'm oversimplifying her arguments) was absolutely fascinating. It paints a picture of men creating a society in which everyone struggles needlessly, solely because a difficult environment elevates a handful of such men who--under better circumstnaces--would be *over* confident and overly aggressive. I have thoughts on that which aren't suitable for a review but suffice to say, it's interesting to think about. It would also explain the situation above (re jobs and women.)

She offers a general analysis that there is no point forcing 50/50 m/f participation unless we ALSO set up the environment to support women, because women will continue to underperform even when appropriately represented. That's fair and probably true, and feeds into the insidious myth that women haven't "earnt" the equality men so reluctantly give them.

But fundamentally, I do not think gender can be discussed in a mathematical way, and that's where the book falls down for me.

The problem of gender as a construct (and it is a problem, there is little that is uniformly positive about gender) is one which is linguistic and philosophical in nature.

Cheung says she set out to essentially define and create what "genderfree" feminism looks like. There is no such thing. And in any case, feminism is not about destroying gender or supporting gender; it is not about equality and it is not about finding solutions which "don't upset" the men (one of her goals.)

Feminism is about centering women in a world and society which centers men, however that centering may look, however you define men or women. It is about rejecting the context and structures and frameworks that give patriarchy an unfair, unethical, and illogical dominance in society, and which harm the vast majority of humans (regardless of gender or sex or background or whatever.) Most people will benefit from feminism, but feminism does not fight for most people primarily; it fights for women. If others benefit, fine, but that wasn't the goal.

This is an unpopular view, because people are stuck in patriarchal mindsets which make anything outside that seem threatening and evil. There is actually nothing wrong with a cause being focused. No one approaches cancer charities and screams at them for not collecting money to end Alzheimer's, and in a similar vein to the example above, if a cancer charity stumbles on research which benefits other sicknesses, cool! But that wasn't its goal. Get your pitchforks ready for cancer research, eh?

Likewise there is zero reason to scream at feminism because it doesn't carry a torch for every civil rights cause. (The concept of rights itself is patriarchal, but that's a whole other bag of shite.)

In summary, for me this interesting and earnest and lovely little book carries a fundamental flaw: mathematics is, I feel, a science of idealism, a world of imaginary numbers and abstract theories. Real life doesn't stop for such idealism, though, and the depth and complexity of this discussion cannot be carried by maths alone, as has been attempted here.

I'm going to regret this review later I'm sure. ( )
  Sunyidean | Sep 7, 2021 |
parts of this were really interesting, but i wanted to like this more than i did. i think, for example, that i wanted this to be more about gender than gender equality; i also wasn't totally convinced about the way she presented some of her arguments. and i'm someone completely primed to dismiss gender and gender differences, but the way she framed some of her statements still left me wondering if her arguments made sense. she definitely mentions the societal pressure put on gendered behavior, but i wanted a stronger emphasis on how that can affect outcomes on gender studies - does a person behave in this way in this situation because it's innate or because they've been trained/conditioned to behave this way?

her point - to reframe the way we think of gender: "focusing on relative character traits instead of gender" - is a good one and is appreciated. i guess i'm just not totally sold on the way she makes her argument, or on what she leaves us with; her final statement that small, tiny congressive (her word for a more collaborative, supportive way of interacting) acts slowly shift the world and there is no risk to trying to change things this way just doesn't feel good to me right now. i do believe in the congressive way of being, but i don't think that those small steps compare to the bigger steps the ingressive (her way of describing the individualistic, more aggressive and less cooperative way of being) people are already taking in a world that is already set up for them. i do think we should be more congressive in general, i just don't think that's the only thing that will change things. and if she didn't convince me of that, then her entire point is a bit softened.

there is some interesting stuff of good value here, though, even as i didn't like all of her presentation.

"Historically, brains were weighed as a supposed way of studying the relative intelligence of men and women. This measure is certainly unambiguous and objective, but using it to indicate intelligence presupposes a link between brain weight and intelligence. In fact, historically, scientists assumed that men were more intelligent than women, found that men's brains weighed more on average, concluded that brain weight must determine intelligence, and then used the fact that men's brains weigh more to conclude that men are more intelligent than women. It's a breathtakingly circular argument."

"I would prefer to see skepticism directed at the status quo rather than employed in its service." - Alfie Kohn ( )
2 vota overlycriticalelisa | Jan 14, 2021 |
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