Raison d’Être

Cover of "The Female Brain"
Cover of The Female Brain

Are you one of those people who thinks a lot?  The kind who will be standing in line for a coffee, thinking, what does it all mean?  Well, let me tell you, everything means something if you want it to — and — most of time if you are thinking about it, there’s a biological impulse behind it, just like that caffeine craving… at least that’s what this book I read would have you believe.

In my book club, BrookLit, we focus on fiction and non-fiction works by women writers.  Last month we read The Female Brain, by neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine, who analyzed a decade of medical, social and psychological research and then tried to make it interesting for the female brain to read.

Now, since I’m obsessed with all things related to women’s issues and how women function in a world run by men, I thought this book would fuel my feminist thoughts about the concept of gender and nurture over nature.  However, that was not the case after I read this book.

In fact, it was just the opposite. This book provides every excuse for nature over nurture. While it explains the differences between the ways men and women’s brains function, it actually made women seem more ruled by their biology than common sense, logic or maturity.

Suffice it to say, I was disappointed.  Not only did it make women these communication needy beings who need to be liked, it made men out to be these grunting ogres who think about sex and their next fight.  I thought this book would reveal some great insight into the mind and maybe even my own thoughts about what it means to be human.  What I found was something else entirely — mind-numbing brain cramps.

The book breaks down the development of the brain and its hormonal influences from the moment of sexual differentiation in utero to menopause.  However, my age group (you know that age in between puberty and before the child-bearing years) was completely absent, though it was noted in the chart at the beginning of the book as a phase of life in between the teen and prospective mother phases.

And, surprise, surprise, in almost every phase of life covered in the book, women are shown to be driven by their menstrual cycle. While this may contribute to a woman’s mood, attitude or thoughts, there is no way this could be the sole determining factor for our happiness, as she would have us believe.

In fact, since some women:  take birth control, which regulates the bodies fluctuation of hormones; eat differently; have different stress levels; experience varied sleep patterns; take medications; exercise in different amounts; and live in entirely different living situations,  it’s not a fair assessment of who many women are at all.

In addition to the oversimplification of the women’s psyche as a chatty, hormonal mess, it did not include women of different financial status, race or sexuality.  In the section about sexual exploration, there was nothing regarding homosexuality or bisexuality.  So, basically, this book was about heterosexual, white, upper to middle class women.

Wow, that’s not limiting at all to women — oops, I must be letting my hormones get the better of me now.  Maybe in the future I shouldn’t read books that prey on my gentle sensibilities and my under-aggressive brain.  I wonder what Dr. Brizendine would say about sarcasm? Is that my over-developed ability to communicate, or is this why we are here, to refute concepts about who we are time and again?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]