the thing that stuck with me most was her argument that if gender differences are the result of social influences, where else would they manifest themselves but the brain? the idea that because something is observable in the brain it must be "hard-wired" definitely needs challenging.
I absolutely agree with this. It was one of my main takeaways; the brain literally acts differently based on social input, and so when people assume that different-acting brains are the result of genetic differences, they're so obviously just perpetuating a stereotype. I was constantly reminded of one of my favorite quotes ever, by Sir John Lubbock: what we see depends mainly on what we look for. The plasticity and social identity aspects were sort of "duh" moments for me. I also was really surprised at how easy it is to get people to think in gender-stereotypical ways just by literally having them check a box marked "male" or "female." Also, I think I'd heard something about these studies before, but the resume-based experiments were really eye-opening, about how if you have people review identical resumes of a "Michael" or a "Michelle," they'll overwhelmingly assume that Michael is more competent and that "his" qualifications are more relevant.
As Fine says, she doesn't try and blow the doors off of anything, or stand on the shoulders of giants; she just very calmly explores the breadth of the current research, and convincingly documents the comical hubris of human beings as they attempt to understand things they cannot reasonably claim to come close to grasping. She exposes a lot of conventions as pathetic or nonsensical. I'm always trying to live an objective life, and this gives one so much to think about. We so over-inflate the role of gender in everything we do. Why? It's crazy.
Without prompting, my fiancee asked me the other day if I'd want to know the gender of our potential future baby prior to it being born. I said I'd never given it much thought, but that I'd rather not. She looked surprised and expressed the idea that to her, it's "really important" to know the sex of the baby, so that you can "plan" things ahead of time, before the child is born. Those deep-seated biases really struck me. I gave her a quizzical look; she explained that it was important, amongst other things, to have a properly-outfitted nursery to bring the child home to (read: boy decorations or girl decorations), and that furthermore, "your whole life is affected, why wouldn't you want to know?" (I don't really know exactly what she was implying, but it could be any number of ideas about how boys and girls are really different, so your life will be really different depending on the gender of your child).
I said that a male baby and a female baby need the exact same things, and so the idea that it was really important to know didn't make much sense to me. The conversation didn't evolve much further than that ("We're not having a baby, so I don't really even want to talk about this right now!").
Anyway, so happy you recommended it. It was great.
(Everything I read now, I think of that thing davo said about intellectual junk food. One of the best points anyone's ever made to me. This book is good stuff.)