Excerpt from Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Why Gender Matters

What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences

by Leonard Sax

Why Gender Matters
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2005, 320 pages
    Feb 2006, 336 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

In another seminar my fellow graduate students and I learned about the extraordinary work of Professor John Money at Johns Hopkins. Professor Money had been consulted by the parents of an unfortunate little boy whose penis had literally been sizzled off during a botched circumcision. At Dr. Money's recommendation, the boy had been raised as a girl, with excellent results (according to Dr. Money). The child loved to play dress-up, enjoyed helping Mom in the kitchen, and disdained "boy toys" such as guns or trucks. "Dr. Money's work provides further evidence that most of the differences we observe between girls and boys are socially constructed," professor Henry Gleitman told us. "We reward children who follow the sex roles we create for them while we penalize or at least fail to reward children who don't conform. Parents create and reinforce the differences we observe between girls and boys."

We nodded sagely. In clinical rotations we often encountered parents who still clung to the quaint notion that girls and boys were different from birth. But we knew better.

Or so we thought.

When I left Philadelphia to begin my residency in family practice, I threw out most of the papers I had accumulated during my six years at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacks of photocopied scientific papers had to go out in the trash. But there was one manila folder I didn't throw out, a folder containing a series of studies done by Professor John Corso at Penn State during the 1950s and 1960s, demonstrating that females hear better than males.

Four years later, after I finished my residency, my wife and I established a family practice in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. Years passed. I wasn't thinking much about gender differences. Then in the mid-1990s, I began to notice a parade of second- and third-grade boys marching into my office, their parents clutching a note from the school. The notes read: "We're concerned that Justin [or Juan or Michael or Tyrone] may have attention deficit disorder. Please evaluate."

In some of these cases I found that what these boys needed wasn't drugs for ADD, but rather a teacher who understood the hardwired differences in how girls and boys learn. Upon further inquiry, I found that nobody at the school was aware of gender differences in the ability to hear. I reread Professor Corso's papers, which documented that boys don't hear as well as girls. In the next chapter we'll look more closely at evidence for gender differences in hearing.

Think about the typical second-grade classroom. Imagine Justin, six years old, sitting at the back of the class. The teacher, a woman, is speaking in a tone of voice that seems about right to her. Justin barely hears her. Instead, he's staring out the window, or watching a fly crawl across the ceiling. The teacher notices that Justin isn't paying attention. Justin is demonstrating a deficit of attention. The teacher may reasonably wonder whether Justin perhaps has attention deficit disorder.

The teacher is absolutely right about Justin showing a deficit of attention. But his attention deficit isn't due to "attention deficit disorder," it's due to the fact that Justin can barely hear the soft-spoken teacher. The teacher is talking in a tone of voice that is comfortable to her and to the girls in the class, but some of the boys are practically falling asleep. In some cases we might be able to fix the problem simply by putting the boy in the front row.

Once, after I had done such an evaluation and made my recommendations, the parents told me that the school had advised them to seek a second opinion. "It's not that we don't trust you, Dr. Sax," Mom said. "It's just that the school really thinks we should get an opinion from an expert."

I soon learned that the only doctors that this particular school considered to be "experts" were doctors who always prescribed medication. Curious to know whether my experience was unique, I obtained funding from the American Academy of Family Physicians to survey all the doctors in the Washington area. Our survey basically asked one simple question: Who first suggests the diagnosis of ADD? The results: in the majority of cases the diagnosis of ADD is made by the teacher. Not by the parents, nor the neighbors, nor the doctor.

Excerpted from Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. Copyright © 2005 by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.