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75 of 95 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but bad use of data and horribly flawed, March 21, 2011
This review is from: Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else (Hardcover)
First, let me say this: This is going to be a long review as I have a lot to say about this book. Second, I am a woman who studies anthropology and loves to read books about gender relations and sex differences, so I thought this would be fun to read. And third, I understand that this book is supposed to be humorous. However, I must say that it didn't really amuse me and I didn't think it was really that funny. Now, before you get upset with me for "missing the point," I completely understand that the book is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and that the title is hyperbole and intentionally provocative. Abrams himself has admitted as much. It is known that men and women are good at different things, but from an objective standpoint it really can't be said that one is generally "better" or "worse." I think Abrams understands this principle, and I'm convinced by hearing him discuss this book that he probably feels the same way and believes all of this tripe to be in good fun -- particularly because about half the book is filled with some rather innocuous differences like speed eating and hammering nails. Despite this, I have serious problems with how he's promoted this book.

Abrams admits outright that he is not totally serious and the book is light-hearted fun. Nevertheless, he does claim that the book is "good, solid, rigorous research" and not his opinions (see his TV interviews, etc). Unfortunately, the book contains mostly his subjective interpretations and selective newspaper articles. I can honestly say that this book was very poorly researched, and he gives no references or citations for his information. Some of the studies are also likely true and were interesting, but those that are legitimate often lend themselves to more scientific and accurate interpretations. For example, Abrams claims that women make better hedge fund managers because a study found that the 3 percent of women who are hedge fund managers had, on average, higher annual returns. Anyone who's taken a statistics or research methods course can tell you what's wrong with comparing 97% of men to 3% of women. There is going to be more variance the larger the sample of a group, skewing the average up or down. Of course men take more risks in general (likely for evolutionary reasons), and that could explain the statistical difference (which is only about 1% from what I've read), but it also means when you look at those with the highest returns, they will be men! But, for example, if one assumes men and women make equally good hedge fund managers, then of course the 3 percent of women will have a higher average. This misinterpretation of data is characteristic of Dan's approach and litters the whole book.

Again, to point out another example: Dan's claim that women are "better" drivers. It is true, of course, that women get into fewer accidents and have fewer speeding tickets than men, and this is reflected in insurance rates. Abrams uses this to argue that men are less careful drivers. Okay maybe, but this is another example of a study that compares a large sample of men with a smaller sample of women, because what is not taken into consideration is that women simply drive less. Indeed, a study done at Johns Hopkins actually found that, per mile driven, women were actually in MORE accidents than men: "Although men are three times more likely than women to be killed in car crashes, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health have found that, when the total numbers of crashes are considered, female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men. Overall, men were involved in 5.1 crashes per million miles driven compared to 5.7 crashes for women, despite the fact that on average they drove 74 percent more miles per year than did women," and "The results indicate that, despite having lower fatal crash involvement rates, female drivers do not seem to be safer than their male counterparts when exposure is considered." (See: ScienceDaily's "Women Not Neccessarily Better Drivers Than Men." Johns Hopkins School Of Public Health, June 18, and G. Li, et al. "Are female drivers safer? An application of the decomposition method." Epidemiology. July; 9(4): 379-384.) Why are these studies never mentioned? I'm not necessarily saying that men or women are safer drivers, just that Dan's approach fails to convince if one actually does their research.

And again, Abrams claims that women tolerate pain better than men, despite the fact that researchers in this field have consistently found the opposite to be true! His source for this information is Mythbusters. Really? A simple JSTOR or internet search will reveal the actual data on this. "Jeffrey Mogil, Ph.D., is professor of pain studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, 'Females are more sensitive to pain, less tolerant and more able to discriminate different levels of pain than males," he says. This is true in studies of both humans and animals." Again: "Studies Suggest Men Handle Pain Better" - ABC News. "Women are bigger wimps when it comes to pain" - BBC News. Also, see Daniel Lowery, Roger B. Fillingim, and Rex A. Wright, D; Fillingim, RB; Wright, RA (March/April 2003). "Sex Differences and Incentive Effects on Perceptual and Cardiovascular Responses to Cold Pressor Pain". Psychosomatic Medicine 65:284-291 (2003) 65 (2): 284-91. Once again, Jennifer Graham, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State says, "Human studies more reliably show that men have higher pain thresholds than women, and some show that men have a higher pain tolerance as well." Dr. Roger B. Fillingim at the University of Florida (whose study is above), "Sex differences in pain perception have been noted in multiple studies, with women typically displaying lower pain tolerance than men". These are all separate studies. Do men bitch more about pain? Not according to the data: "Women report more pain than men." -From University of Bath, Keogh, E., McCracken, L. M. and Eccleston, C., 2005. Do men and women differ in their response to interdisciplinary chronic pain management? Pain, 114 (1-2), pp. 37-46. These studies seem to indicate that women are being misdiagnosed when it comes to pain medications. The myth that women have higher tolerances is actually hurting them medically.

These are just some more obvious examples, and I will not go through debunking every interpretation or study in this book, but I hope I have made the point clear. It is also interesting how he defines "better" in such a particular way that he comes to the conclusion he prefers.

Of course, Abrams gives hints that many of these areas in which women are "better" are simply the result of social pressures. For example, women likely make "better" politicians and/or corporate leaders because, as an underrepresented group, only the most exceptional women make it to the top, but the same is not true with men. This has been shown in other studies in which women feel they have to try a lot harder and hone their skills, etc to compete with men. Thus, there is simply more variance among men, as the majority (and they are the best and the worst in many areas). It's really naive to maintain that women are inherently better politicians, world leaders or intrinsically immune from corruption or some other nonsense. It is simply that only exceptional, highly competent women make it to the top corporate and political ranks. There are so many more mediocre men in the same positions that, of course as one would expect, as a mere statistical average, the women will be more effective! It's not hard to understand. As parity in numbers is achieved you will see effectiveness in men rise, and the female advantage wane, precisely because gender has nothing to do with leadership talent at all!

On another note, it would have been just as easy for anyone to gather carefully selected "research and studies" to make a case that men were "better" than women, but I seriously doubt it would have been received well by the media like this book was. This is another thing that seriously "bugs" me. The media really did love this book, as can be seen by Abrams' various appearances on The View, on Fox, on CNN, etc. Indeed, the only one I can remember to challenge Abrams on any of the programs was (surprise) Elliot Spitzer of CNN. To be honest, a book written in the reverse likely would have been ripped to shreds by every single one of these programs. Double standard much?

Despite this book's obvious flaws (which are many), it was somewhat interesting. Women, of course, are better than men at some things just like men are better than women at others. However, I'm not really sure why anyone would write a book like this or think that this helps gender relations. Abrams claimed he wrote the book to start discussion and dialogue, but do we really need to encourage this ridiculous, nonsensical banter? If one really wants to read about actual documented differences between men and women and their relative pros and cons, there are plenty of interesting (and straight up hilarious) books written on the subject. If you're wanting to seriously argue that one sex is "better," well, good luck with that, as this book's shortcomings will probably hurt your cause, not help it.
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Comments

Tracked by 9 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 54 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 22, 2011 7:19:27 PM PDT
aphra b says:
Well, if women's vs men's sense of humor were based solely on this review we women would come off as inferior for sure. Lighten up! Besides, I like to see a book written by a man who finally understands what we women have known for centuries and he's not afraid to admit it. Good for him! And just in case you don't "get it" I am being facetious here. Cheers!!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2011 10:33:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 21, 2012 12:14:54 AM PDT
Oh come now! :P I was making a point that the book's "research" is foggy and in many instances the conclusions drawn are, quite frankly, downright wrong. That's fine if you enjoyed the book, I just... didn't. So, I wrote about it. I apologize to those who liked it, but I just didn't find it funny! Sorry?

Posted on Mar 25, 2011 6:09:56 AM PDT
God, this review is beautiful. Women are better literary critics than men....

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2011 9:22:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 25, 2011 9:24:04 PM PDT
"God, this review is beautiful."

Umm.. thanks?

"Women are better literary critics than men...."

Perhaps.

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 8:28:53 AM PDT
R. Bennet says:
In all seriousness (which I feel compelled to add because there's so much tongue in cheek about this book), thank you for being alive.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2011 1:12:06 PM PDT
Now that's just funny. Love the sense of humor. :)

Posted on Apr 7, 2011 12:56:22 AM PDT
It is with great pleasure that I read your review, because I found myself agreeing with everything you said, especialy and particularly about how the media lapped up this book! You are quite right in your observation if Abrams had written a book titled "Men are better" then it would have been discredited immediately, which suggests to me that the media is not about pursuing the objective truth, but is more interested in propogating an ideological agenda! Thank you for your knowledgable insight!

Posted on May 26, 2011 8:31:09 AM PDT
LanceSmith says:
Extremely well thought out review. What bothers me about the pop-sci stuff (as a scientist) is that this stuff actually does become a part of mainstream "conventional wisdom" and isn't science at all. We already have evidence that children are starting to buy the nonsense that "girls are better then boys" as early as 9 years old! And this belief continues into adulthood where parents are choosing girls over boys in sex selection. So while people here will lambaste you for "missing the point" or "lacking a sense of humor", you actually hit the nail right on the head in your final paragraphs (paraphrasing): there is a serious double standard in our society when a book like this one is celebrated and thought of as tongue-and-cheek, but a book discussing the idea that men are superior to women would be universally panned. Chances are, many of the same people celebrating the former would label the latter as misogynistic!

Anyway, great review from a fellow scientist! I will indeed steer clear.

In reply to an earlier post on May 26, 2011 8:34:09 AM PDT
LanceSmith says:
No need to apologize for your opinion - especially when that opinion is supported by scientific research.

Posted on May 29, 2011 1:31:30 AM PDT
Paul Nery says:
Fantastic review. It's impossible to get anything vaguely interesting on the topic - especially when the media just wants t drive its own misandrous agenda. And this book certainly doesn't sound like it will be providing any real insight or knowledge.
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