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Reviews of Bitch by Lucy Cooke

Bitch

On the Female of the Species

by Lucy Cooke

Bitch by Lucy Cooke X
Bitch by Lucy Cooke
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 2023, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rose Rankin
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About this Book

Book Summary

A fierce, funny, and revolutionary look at the queens of the animal kingdom.

Studying zoology made Lucy Cooke feel like a sad freak. Not because she loved spiders or would root around in animal feces: all her friends shared the same curious kinks. The problem was her sex. Being female meant she was, by nature, a loser.

Since Charles Darwin, evolutionary biologists have been convinced that the males of the animal kingdom are the interesting ones—dominating and promiscuous, while females are dull, passive, and devoted.

In Bitch, Cooke tells a new story. Whether investigating same-sex female albatross couples that raise chicks, murderous mother meerkats, or the titanic battle of the sexes waged by ducks, Cooke shows us a new evolutionary biology, one where females can be as dynamic as any male. This isn't your grandfather's evolutionary biology. It's more inclusive, truer to life, and, simply, more fun.

AUTHOR'S NOTE ON LANGUAGE

Language evolves rapidly, and there is currently much conversation about the conflation of sex and gender terms. It is critical to use these terms appropriately and not to confuse them. Most scientists agree that non-human animals do not have gender. In this book, the terms female and male refer to an animal's biological sex. I do engage in anthropomorphizing, to an extent. Sometimes this is because these were the historical terms used. For example, I may refer to an animal's genitalia as being 'masculinized' or a brain being 'feminized' as this was the original scientific description. Such gendered terms needn't and shouldn't be used to describe animals' sex characteristics and behaviours in scholarly realms today. I also use gendered terms such as 'mother' and 'father' to describe animals, because these are the terms used by the scientists in question and most of my audience will understand what or who I refer to with these terms – for instance, '...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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Not only is Bitch enlightening, but it's also entertaining. Told with verve, humor and plain-language explanations of scientific processes, Cooke's book reads like a travelogue through the still-wild places of the Earth, revealing the complexity of animal life that most of us will never glimpse, and narrated with the tone of a good friend confiding her adventures to the reader. She never hesitates to call out the persistent sexism in academic science, and her rollicking pace and vibrant descriptions ensure the reader is eager for the next exploration and the next stereotype to be taken down...continued

Full Review (833 words)

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(Reviewed by Rose Rankin).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Cooke dives into sex and gender across the animal kingdom, dispelling all the misogynist notions of females being the weaker sex…This book elevates not just the science itself but the scientists that have been marginalized for too long.

Nature
By analysing numerous animals, this sparkling attack on scientific sexism draws on many scientists — of multiple genders — to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female.

Science News
Cooke demolishes much of what you probably learned about the sexes in biology class. This may be disconcerting, even confronting for those who feel comfortable in the warm embrace of Darwinian order. But it's also exciting, and fascinating, and very well might change the way you see the world.

Shelf Awareness
[Bitch] upends received wisdom about female passivity and monogamy in the animal kingdom...Cooke's sprightly style features puns and cheeky turns of phrase.

The Atlantic
Cooke charts the rising influence of feminism on the 'phallocracy' of evolutionary biology over the past several decades, arguing for the power of more recent female-led science to, for example, reframe core beliefs about sexual selection, maternal instinct and self-sacrifice, and proclivities for monogamy or nymphomania.

The Observer (UK)
A dazzling, funny and elegantly angry demolition of our preconceptions about female behaviour and sex in the animal kingdom… Bitch is a blast. I read it, my jaw sagging in astonishment, jotting down favourite parts to send to friends and reading out snippets gleefully.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)
Brilliant…readers will never see the world the same way again…[Bitch inspires] awe in the breathtaking diversity of nature and the evolutionary roots of our behaviour.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A cheerful and knowledgeable popular science review of female animals...fascinating...A top-notch book of natural science that busts myths as it entertains.

Library Journal
Cooke expertly explains current scientific research with engaging humor, interspersed with first person accounts and an impressive number of interviews with scientists who are rewriting the binary narrative.

Publishers Weekly
The author has a charmingly irreverent style that, among other things, pokes holes in the sexist scientific research of old that used cherry-picked data to conclude females weren't worth studying. This hits the right balance between informative and entertaining; popular science fans will want to check it out.

Author Blurb Alice Roberts, author of Evolution
Lucy Cooke blows two centuries of sexist myths right out of biology. Prepare to learn a lot—and laugh out loud. A beautifully written, very funny and deeply important book.

Reader Reviews

alaska

Amazing, 10 stars if I could
I can’t recommend this book enough. Debunks gender sterotypes in human beings through exploring the ignored nature of female animals. Exposes and explains how current misogynistic sterotypes that have seeped so deeply into society originated in now ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man

Descent of Man book cover featuring man and two model skeletonsIn his seminal work, On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin elucidated the theory of evolution by natural selection, explaining how organisms better adapted to their environment are more likely to survive and pass on their genes. What he didn't explain, however, was human evolution — that was addressed in his second but much less famous book, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).

The Descent of Man sought to answer a question that plagued his initial theory of natural selection: Why do traits like a peacock's tail or stag's horns exist when they have no obvious benefit and may even be a hindrance to avoiding predators? Darwin theorized that these characteristics helped in landing a mate — that...

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Read-Alikes

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If you liked Bitch, try these:

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    Perfect for fans of The Soul of an Octopus and The Genius of Birds, this remarkable book explores how we process the world around us by analyzing the incredible sensory capabilities of thirteen animals and reveals that we are not limited to merely five senses.

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