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Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs Paperback – November 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Rivers, a professor of journalism at Boston College, and Barnett, a senior scientist at Brandeis, there is no innate difference between the sexes; there are only varying behaviors that are determined by the degree of power males and females hold in a given situation. The authors earlier collaborated on She Works/He Works, which took issue with the idea that two working parents in a home was harmful to children. In this provocative study, they take on gender theorists ranging from Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice) to David Buss (The Evolution of Desire) and pop writer John Gray (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus), picking on their arguments and their scholarship. The authors believe that gender difference theory rationalizes the discrimination still prevalent in society and is comforting in a time of great social change. Drawing on current scholarly research, Barnett and Rivers take on one "myth" per chapter; they found little statistical support, for example, for Buss’s conclusion that women choose mates on the basis of financial security and men prefer to marry younger, very attractive women. Although Barnett and Rivers make a cogent case, their conclusions will be subject to the same scrutiny as they give their targets.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"[Same Difference] is a lesson in critical thinking and a warning to look more deeply into data before believing the latest hot story about the battle of the sexes." Boston Globe "Stereotypes about the differences between women and men may be based on flimsy evidence, but taking them seriously can do real damage to our relationships and careers. Both men and women pay a steep price. Blending case histories, new research and thoughtful analysis, the writers describe the divide between the sexes as a crevice, not a chasm. The good news: We're all a lot more flexible than the gender cliches let on." Psychology Today"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465006132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465006137
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rosalind Chait Barnett is a senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Her pioneering research on workplace issues and family life in America has been sponsored by major federal grants from The National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation. The hallmark of her research has been challenging harmful gender stereotypes using social science research. Her 2013 book, with Caryl Rivers, The New Soft War on Women (Tarcher/Penguin), is her most recent effort to advance this goal.

The New Soft War on Women, has been called "myth-shattering, disturbing, persuasive, and hopeful all at once" by Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School.

Barnett holds the Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is cited in Who's Who in American Women, and she received the Radcliffe College Graduate Society Distinguished Achievement Medal. She was awarded the Anne Roe Award from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in recognition of her important research on women. She is a 2013 recipient of the Families and Work Institute's Work Life Legacy Award.

Her articles have appeared in many national publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Huffington Post, Forbes.Com, Self, Working Woman, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Working Woman, Dissent, Redbook, Ms.,, Education Week, the Nation, Mother Jones and others.

Alone and with others, she has published more than 110 journal articles, 36 chapters, and nine books.

She is often invited to lecture at major venues in the U.S. and abroad. For example, she has been a keynote speaker at conferences in such countries as Canada, Portugal, U.K., Grand Canary Islands, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, and in various cities throughout the U.S.

She is the author of many critically acclaimed books with Boston University's Caryl Rivers.

* In 2011, they won both the Casey Medal for distinguished journalism and a special citation from the National Education Writers Association for opinion columns.

* The Editorial Board of the Boston Globe voted their book "Same Difference" one of the best books of the year in 2004.

* The New York Times called their book She Works, He Works a bold new framing of the story of the American family, and praised its lucid prose.

*The Sloan Foundation designated their book "Lifeprints" as a "classic book" from the work-family canon that has made "a significant contribution and stood the test of time." (The book was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.)

* She Works, He Works (Harper Collins, 1996) won the first annual "Books For A Better Life" competition sponsored by major publishers. It was based on a major grant from NIMH. The New York Review of Books, in a page-one essay, said the book could help to shape public policy "with less superstition and sentimentality than is currently the case."

*Beyond Sugar and Spice: How Women, Grow, Learn and Thrive. Putnam (l979) was a Book of the Month Club selection, and was serialized by McCalls.

* The pair's books have been selections of Book of the Month, Literary Guild, and Doubleday Book Club. The Daily Beast recently featured their article "The Looming Male Backlash."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Monica J. Kern VINE VOICE on January 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a social psychologist, I read this book with some eagerness, thinking of it as a potential text for my classes. However, I ended up feeling rather disappointed and concluding that--while it makes some good points--it suffers from many of the same criticisms it points out in the work of feminist scholars.

As an example, the book devotes an inordinate amount of space to criticizing the work of Carol Gilligan. I was actually glad to see this, because the authors correctly point out that Gilligan's work has had a disproportionate and scary amount of influence on cultural thought despite severe methodological flaws (e.g., small sample, reliance on unrepresentative anecdotal accounts, refusal to allow other researchers access to data, etc.). However--and without any apparent sense of irony--Barnett and Rivers rely heavily on anecdotes from their own clinical practices throughout the book to make THEIR points. And if it's not okay for Gilligan to do so, why is it okay for them?

A second feature I found disappointing in this book is that the authors misinterpret "small differences" to mean trivial or meaningless. For example, a frequent refrain throughout the book is that studies comparing genders find more variability within genders than between genders. This is undoubtedly true, but it does not mean that the obtained mean differences are unimportant. As an illustration, take the height difference in men and women. Few people would argue that men, on average, are taller than women. Of course, there is greater variability within genders than between; in other words, the difference between the tallest ten percent of men and shortest ten percent is greater than the difference between the average man and woman.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By LindaT VINE VOICE on February 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book was a breath of fresh air for me, as I will bet it has been for many others - both male and female.

I must respectfully disagree with those who would say that the authors of this book are trying to minimize the differences between men and women. They agree that there are, indeed, differences. But the point they make - and I feel eloquently - is that the differences are not as sharply drawn as we think and they do not need to hamper communication between the genders and/or limit what life choices either gender "must" make.

Before I go on, let me state that I am a feminine acting woman. I have a lot of interests that fit the image people have of women "should" be like. I'm a certified bilingual elementary school teacher, I teach piano lessons, I love children and pets. I even knit teddy bears. However, as I now look over this list, I realize that my interests are not just limited to the female of the species. Perhaps more men will choose certain careers and more women will choose others; it could very well be. Perhaps we will always have more female kindergarten teachers than male and more male engineers than female. Maybe more women than men will knit and crochet and more men will tinker with engines and motors in general and automobiles in particular. But steering either men or women away from certain careers because of gender can be damaging to an individual. Somewhere we need to understand that each person is an individual and that trying to stuff people into arbitrary categories hurts individuals and the possible contribution they can make to society.

Perhaps the difference in physical size and strength (a very real one) could account for more men going into certain professions and more women going into others.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mari Boning on October 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Essentially a critical overview of gender ideas in current Western culture, the authors provide a comprehensive argument that the differences between genders are largely cultural constructions.
A variety of sources are cited, from scientific research to influential popular media.

Having just read the entire book, I am surprised that reviewers are criticising the authors so harshly for providing an occasional anecdote along with all the other viewpoints represented in the book. The vast majority of this work is citation, critique and synthesis.

The book could have done without it's sparse anecdotal content, and would be MORE scholarly for the lack of it, but omission of all such contect would have perhaps left the book ten pages (a generous estimate) shorter than it's current length of two hundred fifty four pages (discounting the 23 pages of source notes in the rear of the book).

The vast majority of this work consists of cited research and solid logical criticism of that research. This is essentially analytical, not at all written in an anecdotal style. Nonetheless the style is engaging: entertaining and easily understandable.

It is a very informative book, and the basic point and conclusion of this book is well-supported by the arguments made and by the variety and quality of sources that inform these arguments.

Comparison of this work to other work on gender is very favorable in terms of the variety of information adressed, and the soundness of it's critiques. I would recommend this work to anyone I know as an informative and interesting read that may lead to a greater understanding of gender and the social elements of it's construction.
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