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The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality Paperback – August 31, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A stimulating and tightly argued treatise on how American and Western culture defines gender and uses that definition to make the ``equality of women'' an oxymoron. Bem (Psychology and Women's Studies/Cornell) suggests that there are three ways--three lenses--through which society views gender. The first is ``androcentrism,'' the assumption that men's experience is the norm. Tracing androcentrism from Eve to the most recent ruling on disability insurance, Bem finds that the view of woman as ``the other'' is still firmly embedded in Western thought. The second lens is ``gender polarization,'' placing men and women on opposite ends of a spectrum that is rigidly defined, not so much by biology as by acculturation. Children, says Bem, learn to distinguish males from females by cultural clues (hair, dress) before they learn about anatomical differences, and quickly begin to assume the behavior that puts them on one end or another of the gender spectrum. The third lens is ``biological essentialism,'' the shifting theories that share the belief that biology is destiny. Bem argues convincingly that all three lenses both distort and shape reality. For instance, the arguments presently raging about whether women are or aren't different from men miss the point-- women clearly are different in some ways, and these differences should be considered but not devalued. Most controversial are Bem's arguments that children should be allowed to find their own spot on the spectrum of gender. She looks at homosexuals and transsexuals (``gender subversives''), and also at girls called ``tomboys'' and boys called ``sissies,'' while arguing that there are many more variations of masculinity and femininity than our society has permitted itself to explore. A concluding chapter offers suggestions for revaluing the male ``standard,'' for increasing social support of the bearing and raising of children, and for dismantling gender polarization. A thought-provoking study, bringing together many social, biological, and political theories into a well-reasoned volume. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reissue edition (August 31, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300061633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300061635
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan J. Casey on September 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I focused on gender and sexuality in college and I have to say that of all the books I own on this subject, this is the book I'm most likely to lend someone. "The Lenses of Gender" is an excellent work for academics and newcomers to the field alike. It is alos a good read for those of us who are deeply mired in gender studies already. Sandra Lipsitz Bem does a great job of stepping back to provide a nice overview, leaving us some useful concepts and tools along the way. I must also thank her for not writing bisexuality out of the picture...one of the many topics still controversial among otherwise open-minded people, the author manages to be inclusive and positive. She doesn't resort to the kind of blustery didactic arguments that mar the writing of so many cultural critics. This is something that I can't praise highly enough. Perhaps that's the most groundbreaking aspect of this book. Take a look at it. "The Lenses of Gender" is good for a wide audience and offers a lot to think about.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Darla Sedlacek on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a great book that details the dynamics that may propagate gender inequality. The three main "lenses" include gender polarization, androcentrism, and biological essentialism. Don't be scared off, it is well written and concisely links the concepts to provide a good look at how gender is constructed.
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By SS on September 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book; it made sense to me. It is written in plainer English so that most people can understand it, not just psychology students.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James L. Park on September 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sandra Lipsitz Bem
The Lens of Gender:
Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality

(New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1993) 244 pages

A feminist psychologist shows how different sex-roles
emerge from three basic beliefs:
(1) BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM
--that men are naturally better than women in almost every way;
and therefore men naturally must be in charge of everything.
(2) ANDROCENTRISM--that men are the center and criterion of everything,
women being defined as secondary and supportive creatures.
(3) GENDER POLARIZATION--that the sexes are fundamentally opposite,
which puts them at odds with each other.
As these beliefs disappear,
androgyny--the best of both genders--can emerge.
This book seeks to improve the status of women thru
social and cultural change rather than inward, psychological change.
Since the culture causes the inequality, Bem believes,
cultural changes will bring the solutions.

See other books here on the Internet:
"SEX ROLE---Bibliography of books".

If you are interested in how we become 'masculine' or 'feminine',
search the Internet for this bibliography:
"Best Books on Gender-Personality".

James Leonard Park, creator of the Gender-Pattern Chart.
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