Tuesday, April 20, 2010


"The Male Brain," by Dr. Leeann Brizendine, is in the news, more than likely, because of what she said about men's need for "other" women.

It's a favorite topic, since the day after Thanksgiving when Tiger Woods crashed his car. And hotter, since Sandra Bullock's husband's infidelities burst into the news. Girls whom Tiger or Mr. Sandra Bullock may have played around with become headline grabbers, by telling their stories.

One of the reviews about "The Male Brain" that caught my eye was from Vaginadentata, com. (The not-charming Website name means "vagina with teeth.")

The review said: "So, men eh? Always thinking about sex, leer at women, lie, can’t communicate, fall asleep after sex – you’re all the same and it’s hardwired into your brain ... This book looks like the perfect example of how lazy, boring, gender-stereotyping harms men as well as women ... Brizendine already targeted women in ‘The Female Brain‘ back in 2006, where she wrongly claimed that women use an average of 20,000 words a day, compared with only 7,000 for men ... and had to remove this fact from the paperback version of the books."

The reviewer said she hasn't read either book and doesn't intend to, and I feel the same way.

Male versus female brain reminds me of the days when I thought about inventing a male pseudonym for myself as a writer. I felt that "female author" suggested subjective, emotional, romantic prose and plot. "Male " implied abstract, objective, intellectual.

For instance, "Music composer" -- Beethoven, Bach, Bartok instantly came to mind, but "female composer" -- I couldn't name one. (Actually, I can't even think of one as I write this sentence.)

And painters ... plenty of men's names were on the tip of my tongue. The only woman I'd heard of was Georgia O'Keeffe. Novelists were easy, but my first venture as a writer was as a playwright.

There was Loraine Hansberry, Lillian Hellman, Wendy Wasserstein and Enid Bagnold, but they weren't as well-known as Shakespeare, or Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller.

Yes, I definitely had "gender" prejudice -- fewer women then men made it as artists, so I invented a man's name, and typed it on the title page of my first play.

From various reviews and excerpts that quote Dr. Leeann Brizendine, I've gleaned she has gender prejudice -- words she uses, some of her observations seem to belong to my mother's generation -- what I think of as "the old-fashioned days," before Women's Lib.

(Now that I'm older and wiser, I know that much of my adolescent rebellion was my rejecting what Mom thought I ought to be, and my mother's words were an echo of what she learned from her mother, back in the old, old-fashioned days.)

So I became a Woman's Libber (before the seventies), before there actually was a woman' s liberation movement. (I danced, wrote plays and novels, had lovers and husbands, even supported my husband before he got famous, had a baby and kept performing, touring the world.) I did what I wanted to do, ignoring guilt and parental advice. And anything that told me "no, you can't do it," I tried to do, and mostly did it.

I think that is what's going on now -- the younger generation, males and females, are throwing out "Women's liberation" stuff -- it's OLD, old, old-fashioned to them.

Brizendine's ideas about the male brain versus the female brain, her observations and evaluation of fidelity, infidelity, the pursuit of sex, the need for other partners, the need for commitment -- women of my generation, and the next, the reviewers, (vagenadentas, and literary guys) will be interested to read, and pooh-pooh, or praise Brizendine's theories.

But I think the up-and-coming younger generation is much too busy. Hot sex, infidelity, abstinence, sexual addition -- all of it is in the air. And it's interesting, fascinating, dangerous and new -- trying it, taking it on -- part of their rebellion, while they're finding out what they want to be and do in the world, and they're not sure -- nobody's sure where the world is heading.

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