Men think with their. . . duct tape?

Women have white matter, men have duct tape. Or so implies Louann Brizendine's latest book, the Male Brain, dissected in this post and comments at Language Log:


You may remember the controversy surrounding her previous book, the Female Brain, which (in the UK edition) depicted women's cerebrums as overstuffed, exploding purses. So for men, this is actually a step up. (Maybe men and women can cooperate and they can duct tape our brain shut? Wait. . . that doesn't sound good.)

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Clinician Dr. Louann Brizendine is quoted in the New York Times as saying that she doesn't do research because "I don't want to give patients a placebo. It's cruel." The interviewer pushes her on the issue, pointing out that in the long term, controlled studies are necessary in order to determine…
It's a shame that exaggerating the extent of brain differences between men and women can be such a boon for book sales. (Call it the Mars and Venus phenomenon.) This publishing truism has been most recently demonstrated by Louann Brizendine, a researcher at UCSF who wrote The Female Brain. But now…
Two science books cheap (Kindle version, two bucks): The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think Dr. Louann Brizendine, the founder of the first clinic in the country to study gender differences in brain, behavior, and hormones, turns her attention to the male brain,…
I often rant about bad coverage of the psychology of sex differences, so it is always satisfying to see an article that really has their facts straight. Amanda Schaffer and Emily Bazelon, writing in Slate, have an excellent article reviewing Louann Brizendine's The Female Brain and Susan Pinker's…

...and vice grips!

Might be an interesting read, thanks for the pointer!

By Mylasticus (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink


"Breakthrough" books about how (insert group here) thinks, make me rather nauseous. "Breakthrough" books about how (insert gender here) thinks, makes me throw up a little in my mouth. It also makes me want to swear...

While I have little doubt that there are indeed differences between female and male brains, they do not obviously = specific, coherent differences in the way that men and women think. And given the changes our brains go through based on many life factors, it is virtually impossible to determine that these differences aren't largely due to cultural input.

I suppose it would be fair were I to actually read Brizendine's books before passing judgment. It may even be rather rude/immature not to. But I have a large reading list and little time to bite into it and statistically speaking, it is exceedingly likely this is more meaningless drivel.

That said, you guys are missing a very important addition to the medicine cabinet of any "real" man - spray foam. Between duct tape, WD40 and spray foam, you can fix virtually anything. Throw in liquid solder for starting fir...Err, fixing things electric and you are ready to tackle anything that will require a handyperson to come take care of on Monday, when you go back to work - usually at a considerably higher cost than it would have been had you called in the first place.

When I ran a handywork/remodeling business, I truly loved the duct tape brigade.

I'm not going to be reading "the male brain" since I'm certain that her "methodology" can't have changed much. Though she was sexist and obnoxious, those were not my main problem with her. My biggest issue with her was that her approach to "science" was to draw from her personal experience (with a very small group of people), provide no real hard data, and draw wild conclusions from vague inference.
It's tempting, because who doesn't like a book about brains? But I can't bring myself to read it.

This is just for lolz- my review from goodreads:

"This crazy bitch makes Dr. Laura look like a raging feminist"
Another Goodreads reviewer

My problems with this book were plentiful.
It was, in general, pretty poorly written, but often scientists don't make the all time best writers. I find I can often forgive this shortcoming if their science is sound (and interesting), but sadly Louanne Brizendine seems to rely on her own personal experience from cases she has observed firsthand and vague, undocumented, anecdotal "evidence" almost exclusively.
Rather than giving us the real cognitive science studies, she turns again and again to a few of her patients (which represents a statistically insignificant population) to extract subjective observations which go from becoming theories, to broad sweeping generalizations, to "facts" as you advance through the chapters.
She uses repetitive, inaccurate, and irritatingly childish analogies that are poorly chosen- to illustrate unsound hypotheses.

As I first started into this book I was very put off by what I felt were extremely sexist overtones- not against women, but against men. Again and again she uses descriptions of testosterone "destroying" part of the male brain and the "default female" fetus growing unabated, etc etc etc. She seems to do this several times, but I finally began to understand *why* she was glorifying the emotional adaptability, facial processing, and conflict resolution skills of women. It was because it *was* sexist, not just against men, but against women as well.

Louanne Brizendine successfully made me end up feeling as though I had no real purpose beyond being a passive, estrogen filled receptacle, fated to mate, care for young, keep the cave clean, calm aggressive males, and give up the pursuits that actually interest me in favor of the biological inevitability of being a mommy.

Perhaps I will breed and perhaps I will not, but a part of me wants to refuse to make babies solely to thwart this obnoxious assumption. The author barely touches at all on women who can not or do not have children, and only mentions them to note that their brains are not as efficient. Wow.

She also maintains that women are not worse at math or science because they're DUMB, it's just that they "just prefer to be in more social environments than a lab"- and though I'm taking it out of context a little, that nearly made me holler with incredulity and rage. Stereotype much Mrs. B?

She also devotes a whole PAGE AND A HALF to sexual orientation (are you kidding me???), but for some reason felt the need to devote an ENTIRE chapter to the benefits of hormone replacement therapy after menopause, and goes on for so long about them I began to wonder if the drug companies that produce these medicines were paying her salary while she wrote this book.

There are good, interesting, legitimate, useful facts in this book- and I did find some wonderfully informative tidbits. Things about why I have trouble relating my emotional states to the opposite sex, and what chemicals cause what behaviors. It helped me understand why I feel compelled to do certain things and why I so often have trouble understanding my partners seeming obliviousness to my emotional states.

I had *fun* for the most part reading this book, and though I had to take almost everything with a grain of salt, I did feel as though I absorbed a great number of very helpful biological, neurological, neuro-chemical, and evolutionary facts from it.

However, I would have been even happier to learn from a book that didn't make me feel like a sperm depository.

I'll take this as an excuse to promote "Blue Brain Pink Brain" by Lise Eliot. I'm about 2/3 through it right now and it's an antidote to all this garbage. At least from my semi-professional perspective, a really solid look at gender science. (A cover blurb is written by Liberman)
It also has a classic psychology effect on the cover that I didn't notice until after reading it for a couple of weeks.