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Different: Book summary and reviews of Different by Frans de Waal

Different

Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist

by Frans de Waal

Different by Frans de Waal X
Different by Frans de Waal
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Book Summary

In Different, world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal draws on decades of observation and studies of both human and animal behavior to argue that despite the linkage between gender and biological sex, biology does not automatically support the traditional gender roles in human societies. While humans and other primates do share some behavioral differences, biology offers no justification for existing gender inequalities.

Using chimpanzees and bonobos to illustrate this point―two ape relatives that are genetically equally close to humans―de Waal challenges widely held beliefs about masculinity and femininity, and common assumptions about authority, leadership, cooperation, competition, filial bonds, and sexual behavior. Chimpanzees are male-dominated and violent, while bonobos are female-dominated and peaceful. In both species, political power needs to be distinguished from physical dominance. Power is not limited to the males, and both sexes show true leadership capacities.

Different is a fresh and thought-provoking approach to the long-running debate about the balance between nature and nurture, and where sex and gender roles fit in. De Waal peppers his discussion with details from his own life―a Dutch childhood in a family of six boys, his marriage to a French woman with a different orientation toward gender, and decades of academic turf wars over outdated scientific theories that have proven hard to dislodge from public discourse. He discusses sexual orientation, gender identity, and the limitations of the gender binary, exceptions to which are also found in other primates.

With humor, clarity, and compassion, Different seeks to broaden the conversation about human gender dynamics by promoting an inclusive model that embraces differences, rather than negating them.

12 pages of illustrations; 24 drawings

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"World-renowned primatologist de Waal draws on a long career of investigating chimpanzees and bonobos—both equally close to humans genetically—to argue with wit and clarity against assumptions about sex and gender that generate inequality...Engaging, enlightening, and deeply informative." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[F]ascinating...De Waal shines in his empathetic, Tolstoyan portrait of animal life...This surprising look at the nature of primates has a lot to say about what it means to be human." - Publishers Weekly

"A biological view of human sex differences that could have more explicitly engaged sociology and gender studies but opens much room for discussion." - Library Journal

"A brilliant and fascinating book that brings a scientific, compassionate and balanced approach to some of the hottest controversies about sex and gender." - Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times best-selling author of Sapiens

"This book is superb! Frans de Waal is not only one of the world's most respected primatologists―he's also a ballsy feminist who, in these riveting pages, ventures into territory where most writers in academia and letters fear to tread...These pages are packed with great stories, fascinating data, and thought-provoking ideas. They are sure to spark the important conversations we all―male and female, queer and straight, trans and nonbinary―need to have to create a more just and equitable human society." - Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus

"Moving with fluidity and grace between animal and human models, Frans de Waal demonstrates how many common social prejudices that we deem 'natural' are in fact anything but. His crisp writing, his skillful deployment of anecdote, and his deep knowledge of animal science inform this nuanced and profound consideration not only of difference but also of sameness." - Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon

This information about Different was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Frans de Waal Author Biography

Photo: Catherine Marin

Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a Dutch/American biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982) compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books — translated into twenty languages — have made him one of the world's most visible primatologists. His latest books include The Age of Empathy (2009), The Bonobo and the Atheist ...

... Full Biography

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