A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Ray asked Ruth to look up the address in the street directory. She opened it at the appropriate page and then turned the directory upside down. She rotated it the right way up and then turned it upside down again. Then she sat silently and stared at it. She understood what a map meant but, when it came to applying it to where they were going, it seemed strangely irrelevant. It was like studying geography in school. All those pink and green shapes bore little resemblance to the real world in which she lived. (p.52)
As a woman, I am apparently a highly emotive creature with limited vocabulary and little regard for the meaning of words (p.44), let alone any developed capacity for logic or simple deductive reasoning (see example above). So I’m going to get straight to the point before I forget what it is and decide to go shopping instead.
This nasty little book, wrapped in a presumably woman/idiot-friendly pink and purple cover with NICE BIG TYPE, is possibly the most revoltingly patronising piece of solipsistic, sexist tripe that this reviewer has ever read.
Now, before you get to thinking that I’m just being an uptight bluestocking who can’t face the reality of her own biologically determined destiny as a clinging, emoting, intuiting, baby-making machine and is now in violent denial about the essential truth currently being peddled by Allan and Barbara Pease, I should point out that this book isn’t just insulting to women. It’s also deeply insulting to men. Yes, comrades, we are all in this together.
Because for every “funny” little aside like this:
Q: What’s the difference between PMT and BSE?
A: One is Mad Cow Disease. The other is an agricultural problem. (p.84)
you can find one like this:
Why does a man’s penis have a hole in it? So he can get oxygen to his brain. (p.85)
But wait, I hear you cry. Perhaps the authors are just co-opting some sexist old jokes to illustrate their analysis in a fun and wacky way? What’s wrong with a little light stereotyping? What are you, McCluskey, the PC brigade?
Well, that argument might hold water if the analysis at the heart of this book weren’t so fatuous. It seems that Allan and Barbara Pease really do want to tell us that women are spatially incompetent, verbally incontinent and frigid, while men are little more than simple-minded shagging machines who cannot, literally cannot, see whether there is butter in the fridge or not (p.15).
All this is founded, apparently, in Science. The authors illustrate their statements with a sprinkling of vague, unattributed references to research in neuroscience (“new research suggests”, “tests show”, that kind of thing), which presumably serve as the scientific basis for their analysis. Now, in addition to being a girl, I also have the disadvantage of being in a humanities field; but even I can see the gaping holes in this scheme. I could write at length on the things that are omitted in this book: social, political, cultural, historical, geographical, educational and economic factors, gender (as opposed to biological sex), sexuality (as opposed to sex drive), and any respect for the intelligence of the reader. I could also, despite my limited female vocabulary, run for some time on the fact that this book is actually part of a large and profitable franchise, which is making scadloads of money by selling this stuff as a cure-all solution to your relationship problems; if that isn’t yet another face of the neo-liberal capitalist lifestyle industry, I don’t know what it is. For now, though, I’ll just ask any evolutionary biologists reading us today to speak up in the comments section, because I don’t think evolutionary biology is being very well served here either. We will listen with interest.
Anyway, this alleged scientific premise is invoked to explain everything from sex drive to conversation style to what happens when the restaurant bill comes. And that’s the other thing about the Peasian paradigm: it is all so terribly precise. Where do you fit if you’re a woman who can read a map (see above), or tells jokes (p.50), or is a bit of a workaholic (p.71) or actually enjoys sex for more than the first three to six months of a relationship (p.90) or for that matter enjoys sex for its own sake (p.94)? Or what about a man who calls his friend Ray “Ray” instead of “Dickhead” (p.79), or wants love more than he wants power (p.119), or gets annoyed by channel flicking (p.77), or isn’t “excellent at identifying and imitating animal sounds” (p.19)? Do you have to hand in your genitals with a note of apology? I do hope not.
This book declares itself a “light-hearted look at the differences between men and women”, a handy descriptor that means any quibbles about the content or methodology could quite legitimately be dismissed as just that: quibbles. But you won’t find Allan and Barbara Pease shelved under “Humour”. Books like this are intended to help you fix your relationships, learn to communicate, understand the opposite sex; and WMCODOTAATAWNST (handy acronym, no?) is marketed accordingly. To which I can only say: caveat emptor.
If you feel you must: Orion, 128 pp., ISBN 978-0752856292