Not What Sandberg Had In Mind – This One May Need to “Lean Out”


A new book about gender has created controversy, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.  How would you like to know that women are the superior gender, and that we actually don’t need men at all?

I don’t think that’s what Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she wrote Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead  (Knopf, 2013).  That’s a best-seller by the Facebook COO that I am familiar with, having read and presented a synopsis of that book at a Creative Communication Network (CCN) client site.  Note:  I can no longer do that under contractual agreement with Randy Mayeux, who presented it at the First Friday Book Synopsis and other CCN sites. and who has exclusive presentation privileges for the book.  Regardless, there’s no way that Sandberg wanted women to eliminate men – but rather, to figure out how to co-exist with them, and how to get their “fair share.”

Women After All CoverThat’s not what Women After All:  Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy (Norton, 2015) by Dr. Melvin Konner says.  His book provides evidence that men are more likely to commit crimes, die in accidents, and incite violence.  To your great surprise, he also points out that men cannot reproduce without women.  But, did you know that there is evidence that females can reproduce without males?  You’ll have to get the book to learn how.  (Hint:  it’s not by humans.)

And the critics on Amazon.com are not happy.  One consumer review, after giving it one star out of a possible five, remarks:  “Konner practically salivates when considering a future without men.”  That is in spite of a glowing quoted editorial review which says, “Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga: the decline of men’s political dominance, and with it many deplorable practices and belief systems. Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition.” (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of The Better Angels of Our Nature.)”

Dr. Konner is a professor of anthropology at Emory University.  He is actually one of the rare “Doctor-Doctor’s,” holding both an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard.  He has written many books, perhaps the most famous of which was published in 2011, entitled The Evolution of Childhood:  Relationships, Emotion, Mind (Belknap Press).   You can see a list of the titles and publication dates by clicking here.

From his own website, he describes why and what he does:  “I apply science to human nature and experience, exploring the links between biology and behavior, medicine and society, nature and culture. Why do we do what we do, think what we think, feel what we feel? I find answers in anthropology, biology, medicine, evolution, the brain, childhood, history, and culture. I’ve often commented on medical ethics, health care reform, child care, and other issues, and I do that here too.”  You can read some of his blogs on the site by clicking here.  MelvinKonnerPicture

This book contains great outrage at the historical indignities suffered by women.  Sandberg may appreciate his call that treating women better will help men as well.  But, it appears that there is not a great place at the table for men.  And, the thesis that society will be better off without them may be difficult to swallow.

By the way, this is no best-seller.  It is nowhere close to that on Amazon.com, and it does not appear on any list that I can find.

You can’t say the book is biased.  It’s full of scientific data, trends analyses, and logical interpretations.  It’s just that a book which exposes problems without giving much in terms of solutions is not going to appeal to very many readers.

You can expect to see more about this author and book very soon.  It is an obvious choice for the “Good Morning America“s of the world, the Huffington Post, radio talk shows, and even some of the tabloids.  If nothing else, Konner will make a lot of money and get famous.

 

3 thoughts on “Not What Sandberg Had In Mind – This One May Need to “Lean Out”

  1. “You can’t say that the book is biased” – you actually can, quite easily in fact. There’s a big difference between backing up your views with data and offering an accurate rendition of the data. For example, he claims that women are the ” more rational and less emotional” – despite a fair bit of evidence to the contrary such as this meta study which suggest men show higher levels of emotional stability with only 10 percent overlap http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0029265.

    Similarly, he says that Larry Summers claimed that inequalities of outcome between men and women are a function of women being ” not as smart as men”, before dubbing him a sexist ( a hilarious claim in light of everything he says in the book). This is not only a flat out lie ( summers talked about differences in variability – I.e the number of men and wome at the extremes of intellect, not general intelligence) , but also ignores the fact that summers was defended by a number of scholars, not least of all Steven pinker who knower hypocritically accepted a favourable review from. Ironically, though, there are quite a few studies that do back up the ” women are just not as intelligent view”- for example this one from R.Lynn and Paul Irwing which looked at the intellect of college age students across several countries and concluded that “at the level of an iqof 120+ the number of men is twice the number of women” http://www.uam.es/personal_pdi/psicologia/pei/download/Lynn2004.pdf.

    Similarly, his assertion that women’s advancement benefits society as a whole ignores studies that argue that women’s advancement is a symptom not a cause- given that societies that allow women rights are liberal and liberal societies prosper in general. One such article is affixed here https://www.jstor.org/stable/3598207

    I could go on, but I think the point is clear. Given that each individual sex difference constitutes an academic debate in and of itself , it is very easy to cherry pick the data that backs your thesis that men are inferior while ignoring ( or denigrating as sexists) those who argue that men’s dominance in most fields of human achievement is every bit as biologically determined as their predilection to violence- and that while women’s advancement is a good in and of itself it is not some sort of panacea. This, of course, is exactly what Konner does. There is a big difference between a sizeable bibliography and erudition, and while konners argument superficially resembles the latter , it is little more than hyperbole.

    As a counterpoint, I would recommend joe Herbert’s testosterone: sex power and the will to win, which explains how the same tendencies that explain why men are, for example, more violent, also explain why they are responsible for the lions share of human innovation ( for example 98 percent of Nobel laureates are male- a figure that has stayed constant across both halves of the 20th century). By contrast, konners book is little more than a bigoted rant dressed up as science.

  2. “You can’t say that the book is biased” – you actually can, quite easily in fact. There’s a big difference between backing up your views with data and offering an accurate rendition of the data. For example, he claims that women are the ” more rational and less emotional” – despite a fair bit of evidence to
    the contrary such as this meta study which suggest men show higher levels of emotional stability with only 10 percent overlap http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0029265.

    Similarly, he says that Larry Summers claimed that inequalities of outcome between men and women are a function of women being ” not as smart as men”, before dubbing him a sexist ( a hilarious claim in light of everything he says in the book). This is not only a flat out lie ( summers talked about differences in variability – I.e the number of men and wome at the extremes of intellect, not general intelligence) , but also ignores the fact that summers was defended by a number of scholars, not least of all Steven pinker who konner hypocritically accepted a favourable review from. Ironically, though, there are quite a few studies that do back up the ” women are just not as intelligent view”- for example this one from R.Lynn and Paul Irwing which looked at the intellect of college age students across several countries and concluded that “at the level of an iqof 120+ the number of men is twice the number of women” http://www.uam.es/personal_pdi/psicologia/pei/download/Lynn2004.pdf.

    Similarly, his assertion that women’s advancement benefits society as a whole ignores studies that argue that women’s advancement is a symptom not a cause- given that societies that allow women rights are liberal and liberal societies prosper in general. One such article is affixed here https://www.jstor.org/stable/3598207

    I could go on, but I think the point is clear. Given that each individual sex difference constitutes an academic debate in and of itself , it is very easy to cherry pick the data that backs your thesis that men are inferior while ignoring ( or denigrating as sexists) those who argue that men’s dominance in most fields of human achievement is every bit as biologically determined as their predilection to violence- and that while women’s advancement is a good in and of itself it is not some sort of panacea. This, of course, is exactly what Konner does. There is a big difference between a sizeable bibliography and erudition, and while konners argument superficially resembles the latter , it is little more than hyperbole.

    As a counterpoint, I would recommend joe Herbert’s testosterone: sex power and the will to win, which explains how the same tendencies that explain why men are, for example, more violent, also explain why they are responsible for the lions share of human innovation ( for example 98 percent of Nobel laureates are male- a figure that has stayed constant across both halves of the 20th century). By contrast, konners book is little more than a bigoted rant dressed up as science.

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