8. Best Books on Gender-Personality

Copyright © 2010 by James Leonard Park

About 20 books selected and reviewed by James Park,
organized by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions and evaluations of this reviewer.

1. Holly Devor
Gender Blending:
Confronting the Limits of Duality

(Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1989)       178 pages

    This book explores childhood enculturation to have either
conventional 'masculine' traits (such as being active and assertive,
and being competent to cope with the world of work)
or conventional 'feminine' traits (such as being sensitive,
compassionate, and better prepared to deal with relationships).
Parents create these characteristics in their children
by subtle reinforcement and disapproval, even while they assume
they are just observing these personality attributes emerging.
And sometimes a large girl is reinforced to be a "tomboy".
Or a frail and delicate boy is raised as a "sissy".
Some girls are raised more like boys
to replace a missing or absent boy in the family.
And some boys are raised like girls
to replace a missing or absent girl in the family.
Parents reinforce the traits they want in their children
—even sometimes when these personality characteristics
are not the conventional traits expected for a boy or a girl.

2. Susan Golombok & Robyn Fivush 
Gender Development

(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1994)      275 pages

    A good summary of what is known about the development
of differences between girls and boys up to the date of publication.
Nature has some part,
but most sex-roles and gender-personality-traits are given by nurture.

3. Sandra Lipsitz Bem
The Lens of Gender:

Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality

(New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1993)      244 pages

    A feminist psychologist shows how different sex-roles
emerge from three basic beliefs:
(1) biological essentialism
—that men are naturally better than women in almost every way;
and therefore men naturally must be in charge of everything.
(2) androcentrism—that men are the center and criterion of everything,
women being defined as secondary and supportive creatures.
(3) gender polarization—that the sexes are fundamentally opposite,
which puts them at odds with each other.
As these beliefs disappear, androgyny—the best of both genders—
can emerge. This book seeks to improve the status of women thru
social and cultural change rather than inward, psychological change.
Since the culture causes the inequality, Bem believes,
cultural changes will bring the solutions.

4. Myriam Miedzian
Boys Will Be Boys:

Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence

(New York: Doubleday, 1991)      337 pages

    A comprehensive attempt to understand and correct
the enculturation of boys to be: macho, tough, dominant,
callous toward women, eager to seek danger and to fight.
Boys are not naturally hard, violent, insensitive,
ruthless, militaristic, competitive, & power-hungry.
We train these personality characteristics into our boys
thru team sports and the glorification of war.
The absence of sensitive, empathetic fathers
—from the home and from the media—
leaves boys without such role-models.
Television super-heroes succeed thru violence.
Heroes who mediate rather than heroes who fight
would help our boys to grow into better men.

5. Marc Feigen Fasteau 
The Male Machine

(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974)      225 pages

    A very good book on the masculine mystique
—especially on business, sports, & war as theaters of 'masculinity'.

6. Susan Brownmiller 

(New York: Linden Press/Simon & Schuster, 1984)      270 pages

    Perhaps the best book yet on femininity.
It could have been called a critique of femininity.
Brownmiller traces the history of being feminine in Western culture.
Then she discusses how women are suppose to look, act, & feel
in the following areas: body, hair, clothes,
voice, skin, movement, emotion, & ambition.
She does not directly criticize these practices,
but stating them explicitly enables women to examine these traditions.
Highly recommended, especially for women who notice the pressures
to conform to the culture's definition of 'femininity'.

7. John Money

Social Constructionism, Femininism, and Sexosophical History

(New York: Continuum, 1995)     165 pages
(ISBN: 0-8264-0854-4; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ23.M588 1995)

     John Money's suggested new word "gendermap"
includes two separable phenomena:
(1) sex-roles—the observable behavior of men and women
assigned by each culture or sub-culture on the basis of sex,
(2) gender-personality—the internal personality traits
considered either 'masculine' or 'feminine'
within a given culture or sub-culture.
Both of these human phenomena arise from socialization
rather than from 'human nature'
or some other claim of genetic transmission.

     A third phenomenon
that sometimes lies in the background of "gendermap"
is what this reviewer calls male/female self-designation
—the usually-unchangeable sense that
I am a boy/man or I am a girl/woman.
Once our sex has been settled,
sex-roles and gender-personalities can then begin to be constructed.
John Money uses the expression "gender identity/role"
for what this reviewer calls "male/female self-designation".
Asking about the sex of an individual (whether male or female)
is a better word than gender to use in this context
because of the multiple meanings and ambiguities of the word "gender".

     It is important to use our words very carefully in this context
because of the confusion that arises when "gender"
is just used as a polite substitute for the word "sex".
Our biological sexes are given by our genes.
But our sex-roles, our gender-personalities,
and even our male/female self-designations
result from events that happen to us after birth.
But Money wisely warns against
too neat a separation of the biological and the cultural
—of nature and nurture.
For example, hormonal abnormalities (which are biological in origin)
might have an impact on a child's developing brain.

     The nature side of the debates swirling around 'gender'
is called "essentialism".
The nurture side of the debates is called "social constructionism".
For a time, social constructionism became very popular
in anti-establishment academic circles.
These young academics attacked the "medical model" of everything,
claiming (in its most extreme form)
that words can mean whatever we say they mean.
There is no truth, only beliefs.
"Post-modernism" was its name.
And Michel Foucault was its high priest.
The establishment that social constructionism attacked
was variously identified as:
the patriarchal system, Judeo-Christian morality,
gender bias, racial prejudice, & endemic homophobia.

     As usual, John Money's observations on the themes of
sex, gender, 'masculine' or 'feminine' personalities,
& the roles we are assigned in relationships and in society
are wise and insightful.
Even tho Money does not break any new ground in this book,
it is worth one reading by people who have appreciated his other books.

8. John Money & Anke A. Ehrhardt 
Man & Woman, Boy & Girl

(Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1972)      311 pages

    A strong argument that the differences we observe
between men and women are cultural rather than biological.
Rather technical, but very thought-provoking.

8. John Money & Patricia Tucker
Sexual Signatures: 
On Being a Man or a Woman

(Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1975)      250 pages

    Sexual differentiation begins before birth
and extends thru puberty, when the sexual hormones become active.
Case histories of children born with sexual anomalies
becoming satisfactorily 'masculine' or 'feminine'.
This shows how strongly culture shapes gender-personalities.

9. John Money
Venuses Penuses:

Sexology, Sexosophy, and Exegency Theory

(Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986)      659 pages

    Collected papers on a variety of subjects,
some of which deal with the formation of gender-personalities.
For readers who have already appreciated Money's more popular works.

10. Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Growing Up Free:
Raising Your Child in the 80's

(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980)      641 pages

    The regrettable gender-personalities begin in childhood:
Boys are enculturated to be interested in sports.
Girls are enculturated to be concerned about their appearance.
These pressures come first from parents and later from peers.
Once we realize what we are doing to our children,
we can choose a different path, attempting to help them become
more Authentic rather than more popular with their peers.

11. John Stoltenberg
The End of Manhood:

A Book for Men of Conscience

(New York: Dutton, 1993)      311 pages

    Stoltenberg criticizes the regrettable aspects of the conventional
'masculine' personality, such as being macho, violent, tough, insensitive.
He believes that these are false images put upon men.
And if they will tune-in to their 'true selves',
something wonderful will emerge.
The book is repetitious, abstract, & superficial,
but it might be a place for some men to begin.

12. Anne Fausto-Sterling 
Myths of Gender:

Biological Theories about Men and Women

(New York: Basic Books, 1985)      258 pages

    An examination of several biological theories
that try to explain the observed differences between men and women.
None of the theories was successful.
A feminist critique of flawed science.
The causes of these differences will have to be sought
in psychology and sociology.

13. Rachel T. Hare-Mustin & Jeanne Marecek, eds.
Making a Difference:
Psychology and the Construction of Gender

(New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1990)      212 pages

    Five feminist psychologists examine the history and results
of research into differences between the sexes
and the continuing controversies about 'gender'.
This book is more an examination of the methods and language of research
than application of the results to the everyday lives of women and men.
Social constructionism and postmodernism
are two schools of thought explored.
Essential reading for anyone deeply involved in the gender debate.

14. Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette
The King Within:
Assessing the King in the Male Psyche

(New York: Morrow, 1992)      336 pages

    An attempt to derive the admirable 'masculine' personality traits
from Carl Jung's archetype of the king.
Of interest mainly to committed Jungians.

15. David D. Gilmore
Manhood in the Making:
Cultural Concepts of Masculinity

(New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1990)      258 pages

    Conventional manhood as found in several primitive tribes:
warrior, food-gatherer, big-talker, etc.
Each culture has definite ideas and means for creating 'masculinity'.

16. Madonna Kolbenschlag
Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye:

Breaking the Spell of Feminine Myths and Models

(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979)      244 pages

    Thru the use of traditional fairy tales,
the author explores how women have been enculturated to be passive
in all their relationships, especially with men.
But women can wake up from their passive gender-personalities
and take charge of their own lives.

17. Sherry B. Ortner & Harriet Whitehead, eds.
Sexual Meanings:
The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality

(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1981)      435 pages

    A standard work on anthropology,
looking into the sexual customs and patterns of simple tribes.
Each culture begins with the biological differences between the sexes
and builds elaborate marriage and kinship systems from those facts.

[last]. James Park  "Masculinity/Femininity:
Loving Beyond Our Gender Personalities"

Chapter 8 of New Ways of Loving:
How Authenticity Transforms Relationships.
Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—6th edition.

An earlier edition is also available:
Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 1996—3rd edition,
published as half of a 2-chapter chapbook called
Sex & Gender,
which is part of a 6-volume series called Love Among Authentic Persons.

    This chapter argues that our gender-personalities
were originally formed by socialization.
But once we realize what has shaped our personalities,
we can take charge of our future personal growth,
becoming more fully the persons we choose to be.
And as we move beyond conventional 'femininity' or 'masculinity',
our loving relationships can become more individual and less stereotyped.
Also, once we realize the power of enculturation—for good or ill—
we can create different ways of raising children—so they will be
as free as possible from the most regrettable gender-personality-traits.

    One of the most useful parts of this chapter is the Gender-Pattern Chart,
which allows the reader to create a profile of his or her personality,
using about 300 personality-traits.

    The first two page of this chapter—which includes the chapter outline—
will appear on your screen if you click these blue words:
"Masculinity/Femininity: Loving Beyond Our Gender-Personalities" .

    If you would like to see the complete table of contents of
New Ways of Loving , <—click those blue words.

    Please send additional suggestions for this bibliography to
James Park: e-mail: PARKx032@TC.UMN.EDU

Gender Bibliography updated January 2005; 2008

Return to the beginning of the LOVE page.

If you would like to read other book reviews by James Park,
go to the Book Review Index ,
which will lead you to about 400 book reviews,
organized in about 40 different bibliographies.

Return to the opening page for this website:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum .

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.