June/July Book Review: The Male Brain and The Female Brain
If you are a frequent visitor to the Genderversity blog, you may have noticed that we skipped our monthly book review in June. We assure you, it’s not a mistake! For June and July we are doing a special two-book review on “The Male Brain” and “The Female Brain”, both by Louann Brizendine, M.D.
When I first purchased the books I had intended for the reviews to be separate. Why shouldn’t they be? Modern medicine has taught us that the brain chemistry of males and females are inherently different (please see our May Book Review for a great source on this), so it would stand to reason that these particular books on the matter would be different too. I finished “The Female Brain” first, and enjoyed the style in which the information was presented. The author used short, relatable anecdotes that outline experiences that all of us have faced, and explains the brain chemistry behind them (like how being dumped by a partner is chemically comparable to symptoms of drug-withdrawals for both men and women, or how teenagers can seem to go from agreeable to aggressive seemingly out of nowhere just because their brains are still in the process of developing). Each chapter presents a different stage of brain-development chronologically from utero to full maturity, even addressing the changes that happen during pregnancy and after menopause.
Before I sat down to write the review I was looking through my notes and noticed that in addition to all the information the book had given me about the state of the female brain, I had ended up with a lot of information on the male brain as well. I mean a lot. Out of curiosity I skipped writing the review and read “The Male Brain” right away, and was floored (and frankly a little disappointed) to find that the books were basically the same.
“The Female Brain” had covered so much information about both sexes that I truly didn’t have enough information to separate the reviews. After reading “The Female Brain”, “The Male Brain” felt like a disappointing attempt to resell the same content in a package geared towards men (a marketing ploy we see every day in things like disposable razors, shampoos, soap, etc.)
These two books have also been exceptionally controversial, despite having been on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Many professionals in the medical field consider these books to be “pop-psychology”, and take issue with many theories that are presented as fact in the book despite not having been proven to be 100% true (though there are no outright “lies” as far as my fact-checking has found). However, this could be due to the book being geared towards the layman. The average person’s knowledge of neuroscience is likely not equal to that of the vast majority of the medical community, so it’s very possible (and likely) that Dr. Brizendine simplified some things in order to better explain them.
Overall, I will give these two books a combination score of 3/5, having removed points for “The Male Brain” being virtually identical to its female counterpart, and apparent simplification of facts.
Join us in August for our review of “Dear Ijeawele” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!