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The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World Paperback – February 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449912604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449912607
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher isn't afraid of immodest proposals. The woman who demystified four million years' worth of romance in Anatomy of Love now suggests in The First Sex that evolution favors women. Citing recent research in biology, sociology, sociobiology, and anthropology, Fisher makes a strong case for a near future in which the natural talents of women as thinkers, communicators, and healers, adapted to the age of information, create a new kind of global leadership in business, medicine, and education, skewing the power dynamics of sex and relationships towards the feminine. Women, she says, are contextual thinkers to a far greater degree than men; this "web thinking," as Fisher dubs it, is an asset in a global marketplace. Women are far more talented than men at achieving win-win outcomes in negotiations. On an organizational level, women are less interested in rank and more interested in relationships and networking, an essential attribute in a world without borders. In the arena of education, women have a natural talent for language and self-expression; as healers, they enjoy an emotional empathy with their charges that can and will redefine doctor-patient relationships. And, she predicts, in the next century women will reinvent love by asserting feminine sexuality and creating peer marriages, true partnerships. While Fisher's future may seem idealized, her science and her sociology make for a well-reasoned case that the people Simone de Beauvior once defined as "the second sex" are about to move to the head of the class. --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

No tears spilt over the limited effects of wrinkle cream here! Fisher (The Anatomy of Love), an anthropologist at Rutgers University, synthesizes the insights of her own discipline and those of psychology, sociology, ethnology and biology into good news for women: their biological advantagesAcontextual thinking, interpersonal intuition and long-range planningAmake them better suited to innovate and thrive in the emerging "knowledge economy." In Fisher's scenario, risk-taking males attack with words and play win-lose games, endlessly arguing unbending rules from the playground to the boardroom, while verbal, apologetic females roam in leaderless packs playing win-win games. She believes paternalistic, pyramidal mega-corporations are becoming obsolete as those girls morph into Net-minded women executives who manage virtual corporations with "flat" organizational structures. The playhouse blurs with the office in the decentralized "hyborgs" of the future: "officeless" business webs and virtual classrooms. With breezy optimism, Fisher takes a conservative stance in the nature/nurture debate, cheerfully reducing all of patriarchal history to the result of sex hormone surges with nary a nod to the "social" in "social science." Overly optimistic though her argument may be, it offers a provocative overview of the latest bio-anthropological studies on gender and communication, menopause and romantic love. Agent, Amanda Urban at ICM; 9-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., is one of this country's most prominent anthropologists. Prior to becoming a research professor at Rutgers University, she was a research associate at Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History. Fisher has conducted extensive research on the evolution, expression, and science of love, and her two most recent books, The First Sex and The Anatomy of Love, were New York Times Notable Books. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Yet here we find no such admissions of female culpability in the sorry state of the species.
Barron Laycock
You can say the number to me but it sometimes just doesn't register until I see in down on paper and have it visually in my head.
Moreover she is not part of the graduate faculty; rather she only holds a researcher's post at Rutgers.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I expected more from Helen Fisher. This book was poorly written, and is biased. I think it's fine to acknowledge the differences between men and women,in fact I'd like to see more discussion about this, especially the biological aspects. But why not show how both sexes have strengths and weaknesses, and how they compliment each other? Instead Fisher fills page after page claiming that women are superior at almost every task, and in most cases provides supporting arguments that are weak. Talents of males are mentioned as an afterthought. And of course in the 21st century the supposedly limited skill set of males will no longer be needed. I suppose many female readers will eat this up, but discrimination is discrimination, no matter where it's directed. The prose is quite choppy, kind of surprising, given the innately superior language abilities of women. She must have had a male editor.
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47 of 62 people found the following review helpful By "Bobby" on May 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
In reference to the reviewer below who states that men are more "right-brained" thinkers, it is interesting to note that modern science is now demonstrating this is true. The May, 2005 issue of Scientific American discusses how men have a more active right-amgydala compared to women, in which men tend to be more central or integrative thinkers. Women in contrast tend to be more left-amgydala dominant, which is more concerned with finer-detailed aspects of cognitive processes. Experiments using the drug Propranolol have shown this striking differences between the sexes. This fits well with experience, where in conversation women tend to focus much more on details that seem superfluous to men who want it put into a context. For men, the "gist" is what is most important. Thus, in direct contradiction to Fisher's claim, it is men that are more the contextual, holistic thinkers.

Another interesting find is that women have a markedly higher orbitofrontal-to-amygdala ratio compared to men. The finding suggest that women on average might be able to then reign in their emotions better than men. This might very well be true, particularly when it comes to violent impulses. For other everyday encounters, however, it would seem judging at the rate of faux pas and other social effronteries committed by both sexes that neither gender seems particularly suited in reigning in less-than-desirable emotions. Given how some companies have had to actually have their human resource departments develop so-called "bully broad" programs, or anger-management for women managers, it would seem women do not have as an advantage the ability to control themselves emotionally.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The notion that genders posess competitive advantages is well known to anyone who understands cumulative evolution by selection. The premise that selection favours one gender over the other, or that it provides future advantages is at best speculative, at worst utter nonsense. Evolution does not, cannot act with future consequences in mind. Gender differences are present because they were selected. Males competiveness relates to mating but can be carried to many other spheres. Woman's advantage is less dynamic, more static, due to diminished requirement for mate competition . Most all else stems from these basic premises. The author tends to believe that the female strength will appreciate in the global economy. There is no reason to believe that competition for female mates will diminish in the future. Male's will continue to expand their inherent strengths in a future where fertility will surely decline. The authors conclusions are arrived at through ideology rather than vision.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amy Alkon on March 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've not only read Helen Fisher's book, I've read many of the studies behind what she writes, and I read the same journals and attend the same conferences as ev psychs in the field, as I use data, not just speculation, in my newspaper column.

She does have an "optimistic" tone about what's possible for women, and takes a positive look at some of the unique features in a woman's brain. That said, she doesn't distort data to do it.

Contrary to the speculation of a layperson above, that it could be socialization at work, not biology -- take a look at some of the fMRI work by people like Julian Paul Keenan and you'll understand how wrong that is. Our genes work in response to the environment. They aren't just there to work in a vacuum.

Furthermore, men's and women's brains ARE different, and it's not as a result of socialization. I say this as somebody who just read seven studies this morning, including Silverman and Eals' "Sex Differences In Spatial Abilities" from the collection of studies edited by Cosmides and Tooby, entitled "The Adapted Brain." Many, many studies show this -- but social scientists, many of whom aren't as rigorous about data as those in other disciplines (or who use little data at all) -- keep promoting a different view...a view based largely on speculation and wishful thinking. FYI, for all you anti-feminists out there -- the idea that it's society that's the culprit serves the victim-feminist cause.

It's just as silly to demonize Helen Fisher for pointing out the results of the research as it is to demonize men for being highly visual and being interested in pornography when women aren't. Male sexuality isn't WRONG, it's just different.
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