Monday, 29 January 2018

Review: 'Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong' by Angela Saini

I was a feminist before I knew it. The tenets of feminism were so integral to my life as a young woman it never came to me to truly question it. That is, until my first conversation with someone with other opinions, presenting me with "scientific facts" that undermined everything I thought was true. And so started a journey of reading and researching, digging through decades of misogynistic writing to get as close to the truth as I could. Angela Saini's Inferior came at just the right time and I'm incredibly glad to have read it. Thanks to Fourth Estate and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 30/05/2017
Publisher: Harper Collins; Fourth Estate

From intelligence to emotion, for centuries science has told us that men and women are fundamentally different. But this is not the whole story. 
Shedding light on controversial research and investigating the ferocious gender wars in biology, psychology and anthropology, Angela Saini takes readers on an eye-opening journey to uncover how women are being rediscovered. She explores what these revelations mean for us as individuals and as a society, revealing an alternative view of science in which women are included, rather than excluded.
As I said, feminism is quite integral to my being. I also come from quite an academic background, which I always thoughts would be a boon. But there is no single truth when it comes to science and academia. Feminism and science are similar in that sense. They are an ongoing conversation, consistently working on improving themselves, adjusting to new discoveries and full of contention. Those who think scientific discourse is straitlaced and calm is completely wrong. Academics can get vicious, in their own way, and careers are destroyed in the process. Science is a fluid thing, a fact which, to some, disqualifies its findings. However, science has an enormous impact on society. Sometimes research even has more impact on society than on its own field! Freud is no longer an authority in psychology, yet almost every piece of literature and cinema is still deeply affected by it. The same happens with other research, especially now that the Internet easily disseminates it with clickbait-y headlines. I loved the way Saini addressed all of these issues in Inferior and it has definitely opened my eyes to my own response to new research on gender.

In Inferior Saini takes an honest and interested look at how science has discussed women, and especially the difference between women and men. She does so without forcing her own opinions onto the research or judging academics in advance. As such, this book is full of honest discoveries and realisations. I was stunned to find out that despite all of his forward-thinking, Darwin believed women were biologically less evolved than men, biologically made to stay at home, far away from books. I was amazed by how deftly Saini discusses opposing sides. The aim of Inferior is to do away with the idea that women are biologically inferior, but she does so not by outrightly claiming so and then finding theories that support her opinions. Rather she looks at both sides, lays out different arguments, and shows the potential weaknesses in both. Although Inferior doesn't cover everything I found it to be a very interesting read. It is impossible to really answer the question definitely, whether there is a difference between men and women, because the question itself is loaded. But books like Inferior make a good headstart in continuing the conversation.

Angela Saini does a brilliant job in Inferior. I have two family members who are physicists and whenever they talk I can feel my brain start hurting from the lingo. Yes, I am one of those Literature students and although Literary Theory terms are nothing to me, I am a complete novice in most scientific terms. But Saini manages to make the studies she explores gripping and accessible, whether it is the intricacies of the brain or the habits of nomadic tribes. Not once did I get distracted or bored while reading Inferior. Rather I found myself wanting more! I was also immensely impressed by how objective Saini remains throughout the entire book. Although she has her own opinions she doesn't allow those to prejudice her. It becomes really clear from the book that Saini herself is incredibly interested in this topic and that researching and writing it was also a journey for her. It makes reading Inferior a joyous experience and once I finished it I was ravenous for more. I will definitely be browsing through the bibliography to continue my research. Thank you Angela Saini for entertaining me, enlightening me and educating me!

I give this book...

5 Universes!

I enormously enjoyed reading Inferior. Despite its content, Saini manages to make this an entertaining and gripping read, easy to understand and challenging to grapple with. I'd recommend this to anyone interested both in science and in the history of women.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a honestly fascinating read. I'm very much a feminist, so hearing the science behind it sounds so interesting as I've never heard of that being done before? Please do correct me if I'm wrong! I love your writing style and this was honestly a stunning review, keep doing what you're doing! <3