‘Gender Mosaic: Beyond the Myth of the Male and Female brain’ by Daphna Joel with Luba Vikhanski – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

With profound implications for our most foundational assumptions about gender, Gender Mosaic explains why there is no such thing as a male or female brain.

For generations, we’ve been taught that women and men differ in profound and important ways. Women are more sensitive and emotional, whereas men are more aggressive and sexual, because this or that region in the brains of women is smaller or larger than in men, or because they have more or less of this or that hormone. This story seems to provide us with a neat biological explanation for much of what we encounter in day-to-day life. But is it true?

According to neuroscientist Daphna Joel, it’s not. And in Gender Mosaic, she sets forth a bold and compelling argument that debunks the notion of female and male brains. Drawing on the latest scientific evidence, including the groundbreaking results of her own studies, Dr. Joel explains that every human brain is a unique mixture — or mosaic — of “male” and “female” features, and that these mosaics don’t map neatly into two categories.

With urgent practical implications for the way we understand ourselves and the world around us, Gender Mosaic is a fascinating look at the science of gender, sex and the brain, and at how freeing ourselves from the gender binary can help us all reach our full human potential.

My Review

Gender Mosaic is an extremely measured and accessibly written exploration into the myths that surround the concept of there being two separate types of brain, i.e. a male and a female brain.

The book aims to dispel the idea of binary gender indicating how it is purely a societal construct and using peer reviewed research explains why gender and sex should not be assumed to be implicitly linked.

“Sex refers to the biological features that go with having male or female genitals and gender to the social features.”

And what the book discusses is the ingrained societal implications there are when sex differences are used to justify inequalities of gender by illustrating how that in modern society we no longer use biological comparisons to justify racism but yet perceived sex differences between that of the mythological male brain and the mythological female brain are still used to invalidate the status of women.

It is already an accepted fact that sex is only one of many factors that can determine the morphology of the brain. Numerous other factors such as living conditions, nurturing, drug exposure and other types of stress interact with the effects of sex when it comes to shaping the brain. For example, stress is a key factor implicated in many brain pathologies.

To counter the argument that the brains of men and women are somehow wired differently based on current societal behaviours and practices, the book asks the question of how can we truly determine whether a behaviour or brain pattern is either learned or innate as from birth children are treated differently according to their genitalia…
Take these minor examples: boys don’t cry, girls must be ladylike, boys are encouraged to play more sport whereas girls engage in more handicrafts…
That’s not to say that there aren’t members of a particular sex who prefer to play sport over engaging in handicrafts. But when the options are removed and certain traits are more encouraged in one binary type gender over the other then it creates the illusion of a binary gender divide and becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain the degree to which the differences between male versus female brains, cognitive abilities etc. are affected by these external or epigenetic factors.

“By placing kids into emotional straitjackets of gender, we raise power-disabled girls and emotion-disabled boys.”

What the book proposes, with the backing of much peer reviewed research from numerous scientific studies, is that gender patterns in the brain should be thought of as a mosaic. The book does not claim that there are no sex differences in the brain but instead argues that…

“because of the interactions between sex and so many other factors, the effects of sex – that is, of being female or male – mix up in a unique way in the brain of each individual.”

There is a complex set of interactions between genes, hormones and the environment and these lead to unique brain morphologies for each individual and therefore do not differentiate based on a person’s genitalia alone. Thusly we are all different and each person is made up of a mosaic of differing features leading to endless personality mosaics.

This is an incredibly fascinating read and the book obviously goes into a lot more detail than I have in my review. What is incredibly refreshing is that this book reads without political agenda and is all based purely on scientific research and fact. But what is best about this book is that it is written in a most accessible style. Even those with little to no scientific background will easily be able to follow this wonderful book as the science and research behind the gender mosaic theory is distilled into easy to understand analogies and simplified examples.

Earlier this year I also read the book The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon which also explores (and explodes) the myth of the female brain and would definitely recommend this over that to anyone with no scientific background as this is a much easier to comprehend book with a more approachable reading style.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and concise yet immensely informative read into the science behind sex and gender.
Also a must read for anyone with an interest in gender politics as this book, though not political itself, would provide a fantastic introduction into the research that has gone into the science behind the political movement.

Gender is a system that assigns meaning to sex, but our gender is not a reflection of our sex. Gender is one of the prisons within which we live. Gender divides the world into things for males and things for females. And if we want things that are not on our side, we are punished by society. In the world I envision, there is no gender. There is only sex. Humans with female, male, or intersex genitals are free to choose from all that this world has to offer. Some will choose only dolls, others will choose only balls, many will choose both. Whatever you love and do, if it’s appropriate for humans, it is appropriate for you.”

five stars

I was invited to read an e-copy of this book by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, in exchange for an honest review. All quotations used are from my eARC copy and need to be finalised against the published copy.

Expected publication: September 17th 2019

For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog

Follow me on Twitter

Friend me on Goodreads

25 thoughts on “‘Gender Mosaic: Beyond the Myth of the Male and Female brain’ by Daphna Joel with Luba Vikhanski – eARC Book Review

  1. Emer, your reviews are always so amazing! I have so much to learn and a long way to go with mine but I feel like I’m too meandering to ever be as concise as you 😂 Haha
    I’m always interested when I read reviews of books like this, and when I read the blurbs too, but in reality I struggle so hard to get through them (if I ever pick them up). My attention span is just too short and I get too restless 🙈 This does sound like a great read though!

    Like

    1. Haha oh you’re too kind Dini!!! My reviews can be such a mixed bag. 😂😂😂 I always have to write them as soon as I finish the book otherwise I’d forget everything that happened lol! This is definitely an accessible science read but I get you, if you’re reading after a long day at work a non fiction can be esoecuskky draining :)))

      Like

      1. I’m trying to figure out that second to last word in your comment but can’t 😅 haha but honestly I really enjoy your reviews. Even the ones where you’re gushing over a book are thoughtful! I try to write most reviews after I read, and used to be much better at it, but these days I’m so lazy haha

        Liked by 1 person

  2. this sounds so compelling and interesting wow. you always do such a fantastic job with your reviews and although these usually aren’t my type of books because i feel that i’m too dumb i will definitely be checking this out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw Amanda you’re so sweet to me but so hard on yourself! I have an advantage with regard to science as a topic as I graduated with a degree in biochemistry but I can assure you I’m no smarter than the average. This is definitely a book that can be understood by all :))))

      Like

  3. This sounds like a fascinating (not to mention important) book! I am trying to read more non-fiction this year but can be put off by too much sciencey stuff, so something accessible will be right up my street. Thank you for sharing this recommendation! ❤️
    📕MP📚X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it’s great Lauren!! Like it irks the heck out of me how much people put down to what genitals you were born with and this book really tackles those problematic (and down right misogynistic) viewpoints all with peer reviewed research. It’s really interesting how the book explores the so-called non-biased research into brain sizes etc that happened in the past. Definitely worth a read because of how accessible it is.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s