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The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children Hardcover – September 27, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231151624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231151627
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


BRAVO! This is a much needed, informative, and engaging book. The authors, Rosalind C. Barnett (a highly respected research psychologist) and Caryl Rivers (a skilled journalist), take the reader on a critical and clarifying tour of claims about categorical, biologically-based sex differences used to justify the move towards more publicly funded single-sex schooling. This book is a significant contribution to an area of heated debate and policy struggle. Parents, teachers, and policy-makers can turn to it as a reliable guide through a thicket of hype and over-claiming. The authors do an excellent job of unpacking empirical assertions, exposing shabby "science," unfounded generalizations and jumps of logic.

(Barrie Thorne, Professor of Sociology, and Gender and Women's Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Author of Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School.)

The gloves are off. Rivers and Barnett provide a convincing case that much of what parents, teachers, and the general public know about differences between girls and boys is based on highly publicized accounts of shoddy and misleading science. They provide readers with an understanding of the ways girls and boys are similar and different and how we can use that knowledge to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.

(Diane F. Halpern, past-president, American Psychological Association, and author of Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities (fourth edition))

A bracing antidote to conventional wisdom. Like Malcolm Gladwell, Rivers and Barnett take readers into the world of research and emerge with surprising and unsettling conclusions. Teachers, educators, parents, journalists, and researchers would do well to read this book before hopping on the bandwagon about the 'differences' between girls and boys.

(Jonathan Kaufman, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter and education editor at Bloomberg News)

The Truth About Girls and Boys is exactly that--the real story behind over-hyped claims of sex difference and their harming of girls and boys. Rivers and Barnett expose the sloppy journalism that has allowed pseudoscientific ideas to percolate into our collective beliefs about gender development. Parents, teachers, and policymakers will do well to read this book, to rescue today's girls and boys from false claims of 'hardwired' differences limiting their learning and stunting their futures.

(Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It)

Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett's dissection of the ways tired stereotypes are being repackaged as 'science' is urgently important. It must be read immediately by parents, educators--anyone who believes children should develop their full intellectual and emotional potential.

(Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture)

The Truth About Girls and Boys is a must read for anyone vouchsafed with the upbringing, care, teaching, or social policy that impacts our most precious legacy: our children--girls and boys. We must read this 'game changing' book, ponder its meaning, and not put it down until we move from our present position of empty-minded acceptance to open-minded and critical thinking. Rivers and Barnett throw out a sturdy life preserver to bring us back from the harm of mangled pseudoscience to the shores of thoughtful, gender equitable understanding.

(William S. Pollack, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys from the Myths of Boyhood)

Rivers and Barnett provide insightful examples to show how sex stereotypes ranging from aggression to sexualized body images are based on inaccurate and often harmful generalizations. They make a powerful case against a key rationale for sex-segregated education - that girls and boys learn differently, and therefore should be taught differently and in sex segregated classes. Instead, they conclude that heterogeneous groups and attention to individuals will do more to maximize opportunities and improve society.

(Sue Klein, Ed.D, Education Equity DirectorFeminist Majority Foundation)

This is an excellent and important book, clearly written yet also packed with documentation.

(Lis Carey's Blog)

Buy It RIGHT NOW. Run to the bookstore. Knock over children and old ladies if you have to. Just get your hands on this book!

(Bookshelf Bombshells)

...simple, direct, and accessible prose.

(Things Mean a Lot Blog)

Should be given to new parents, educations, coaches, and anyone with the ability to influence the path of young lives. It's packed with excellent advice.

(Sheila Gibbons Media Report to Women)



Because of the topic and accessibility of the writing, parents and teachers should be encouraged to read this book.

(Emily Keener Psychology of Women Quarterly 1900-01-00)

About the Author

Caryl Rivers is professor of journalism at the College of Communication at Boston University. A nationally known author and journalist, she was awarded the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award for distinguished work in journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. Her articles have appeared in the The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Saturday Review, Ms., Mother Jones, McCall's, Glamour, Redbook, Rolling Stone, and Ladies' Home Journal. She writes for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune and is the author of Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women, among other works of fiction and nonfiction.

Rosalind C. 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, and she is often invited to lecture at major venues in the United States and abroad. Dr. Barnett has a private clinical practice and is the author of scholarly and popular books and articles appearing in Self, Working Woman, McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Working Woman. She is the recipient of the Radcliffe College Graduate Society's Distinguished Achievement Medal, the Life Time Legacy Award from the Families and Work Institute, and the Anne Roe Award from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education for her contribution to women's professional growth and the field of education. Both Barnett and Rivers received an honorable mention in the 2011 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism for their work in this field.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cara on November 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A good book for the critical reader interested in gender stereotypes present from birth to high school in the areas of math/language skills, toy preferences, aggression, nurturance, and single-sex education. With a feminist twist, this book is sure to strike up some controversy amongst students, book club members, or simply to further your thinking on societal and media influences about gender stereotypes. Be careful not to take all research findings at face value - some evidence seems to be small findings from single studies that are blown out of proportion to agree with the author's viewpoint. Nonetheless, interesting read about current topics related to gender stereotypes amongst infants, toddlers, preschool, elementary school, and high school.
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I originally read this book for a Developmental Class and I found it very interesting. I do not think that it was necessarily relevant for those looking to understand the "differences" or after reading the similarities between boys and girls in the early developmental stage. The book looks at various topics from toy selection, word choices, math skills, and parents to debunk many presumed truths about the differences between boys and girls. While there are multiple research studies present the authors are very general in what they say and have a feminist bias in their work. They do however make valid points that much of the research presented to the public may be skewed or bias itself and presented to show it as truth when in reality there is far more research behind it that was not mentioned. There are many important applications for parents and teachers presented in the book, especially about how parental perception affects children and how much of an impact parents have on what their children think and act. Overall this was a good book to read despite it's own gender bias and general statements.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book challenges popular stereotypes about boys and girls -- stereotypes that make it difficult for both boys and girls to realize their full potential. Authors take this position apart in great detail, analyzing and explaining the flaws and the limited scope of the studies claimed to support it, as well as presenting the substantial body of well-constructed studies that collectively present a much different picture, of girls and boys substantially equal in abilities and potential.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a quite good book. It talks about the gender difference between boys and girls. Some chapters in this book are contradict to what we believed before and I am glad that the author points them out. First thing I want to share after I read this book is the boys and girls are not that different as we thought before. In the first six weeks pregnancy, there is no difference between boys and girls as a embryo. Besides, based on the neuroscience technology, we know that the structure and function of the brain is similar between boys and girls. The second thing I'd like to share is we should never push too much expectation to our children. The external expectation from teachers and parents are so strong that the children would regard those expectations as their self-cognition. If a teacher say "Well, the math I gonna teach today is difficult for girls, but boys may think it is easy", the girls will have a self-implication that they cannot do as good as boys on math. Generally speaking, the girls have the physical ability to do as good as boys on math. However, the outer expectation to them limit their performance on many aspect. Things are same goes for boys. If parent say "you will never sing as our neighbor girl" to their son, then the boy would probably never dare to sing even though he might own the potential to be a singer. This book also mentions other aspect of boys and girls such as single-gender class and aggressive behavior and choice toys etc. All in all, it is worth to read, even though some of the research findings are old and not that sound.
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Format: Hardcover
The book was very good! I chose to read the book for a child development class and I really enjoyed it. The book was very engaging and easy to read. There were many things that I knew prior to reading the book, however, I learned a lot that I had not already known. Although the book seemed to be biased, it opened up my mind to learning more about relationship development and gender roles and differences. There are many stereotypes between girls and boys and the book allowed for me to think about the different stereotypes that children internalize and how adults play a major role. I would recommend the book for anyone to read, especially those who interact with children and play an important role in child development (parents, teacher, caregivers, etc.) The book is not age specific and it could relate to all stages of development for both girls and boys.
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