Why Gender Matters

38.  Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences
by Leonard Sax
Non-fiction for adults or mature teens
Read for my colloquia group
(Confession - I only read about three-quarters of this book)
My Library

I have been wanting to read this book for quite awhile, and I'm glad my colloquia gave me a good excuse to tackle it.  I was unable to make to the book discussion, so my comments lack the depth that they would have gained from my fabulous friends at colloquia!

This book discusses physiologically differences in males and females.  From vision, to hearing, to actual brain tissue; understanding these differences can help us to more effectively love, relate, and teach those around us.  I have not done exhaustive study on the topic, and Sax's perspective is the only one I'm familiar with on the subject of gender science.  But I do appreciate the invitation to reconsider the assumption that my own perspective is the same one through which others around me see the world.

A note on content:  The section on sex, and possibly some of the sections I didn't read, is very blunt, to the point that it is upsetting and may be objectionable to some readers.

Also, for a fun summary of this book as it relates to education, listen to Andrew Pudewa's lecture on the topic, "Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day."


Boys and girls show gender-typical toy preferences long before they understand gender.

In boys, as in men, the part of the brain where emotions happen is not well connected to the part of brain whee verbal processing and speech happens - unlike the situation in teenage girls and in women.

So: one reason many boys engage in physically dangerous activities may be that the danger itself gives the activity a pleasant tingle.  That's a tough concept for some women to grasp.  A mother who warns her son, "Don't ride your bike off the boardwalk.  You might get hurt," has missed the point.  Her son knows it's dangerous.  He's riding his bike off the boardwalk because it's dangerous.

Boys systematically over-estimate their own ability, while girls are more likely to under-estimate their abilities.

According to psychologist and criminologist Edwin McGargee, three-quarters of all murders are committed not by overtly aggressive people, but by quiet, seemingly well-behaved men who have never found a safe or appropriate outlet for their aggression.

"You can't turn a bully into a flower child.  But you can turn a bully into a knight."

The same jolt of electricity, the same blast of heat, will be experienced differently by girls and boys.  The girl will experience more pain.  This fundamental sex difference in sensory perception, mediated at the cellular level, amy conceivably play some role in boys' greater willingness to risk pain.

Many young boys are energized by confrontation and by time-constrained tasks.  Few young girls will flourish in high-pressure, do-it-in-five-seconds-or-you-lose formats.

Moderate stress improves boys' performance on tests...the same stress degrades young girls' performance on tests.

The areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills mature about six years earlier in girls than in boys, the areas of the brain involved in targeting and spatial memory mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls.

Sex differences in childhood are larger and more important than se differences in adulthood.

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