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

2.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.
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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: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Honeck on April 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I think the majority of these reviewers are reading the book with the intent to be offended. Fisher never argues that one sex is better than the other, simply that we are different and that for thousands of years we were equally important to society and we're finally getting back to that. She also states that we are all mixes of masculine and feminine rather than pure one or the other, that gender is a continuum rather than dichotimus. Everything she refers to is "on the average" meaning not true for all women or all men.
Don't bother with this book if you aren't going to be open to what she has to say.
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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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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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Format: Paperback
Reading this self-congratulatory feminist manifesto, one gets the impression the author would have us believe women of the species have just parachuted into our midst rather than being our long-time companions down here on the planet of the (male) apes. Given their complicity in all the wonders & woes through recorded time, it's only logical to attribute at least half-credit (and blame) for what humankind is and is becoming as due to their persisting and enduring influence over the eons. Yet here we find no such admissions of female culpability in the sorry state of the species. Instead, it seems to be exclusively males who have royally mucked things up so far. Yet, in the world according to Ms. Fisher, one must not despair, for all that will be changed as soon as women (the super sex) begin to come into their own. The reader is left with an uneasy impression this is all another thinly veiled sexist and virulently anti-male argument parading as social science a la Susan Faludi ("Backlash" and "Stiffed").
In all this heady prose of feminist celebration one can almost hear the faint echoes of Helen Reddy's feminist paean "I Am Woman' (Hear her roar!). Yet there is only anecdotal proof that any of what she purports is accurate or true of women in general, never mind that it will somehow ineluctably come to pass. For example, she boasts that women have "natural" talents males do not, and therefore are "better suited" biologically to excel at a whole range of complex social tasks than are males. This isn't a carefully couched scientific argument framed in terms of recognizing much wider individual variations within the female population itself than between males and females generally. Rather, it is argued as if it were a general sex-linked intellectual trait.
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Format: Paperback
The title basically says what this book is all about. That men are biologically inferior to women at least in the world to come. Now believe it or not, being an "inferior male" like I am, I actually approached this book with an open mind and thougt that if worse comes to worse, it would just humble me a bit more. However as I began to read the book all I saw was a chauvinistic attitude in regard to the research that was really out there. She talks about how the female mind is more creative then the male mind by saying things like how she first noticed this by examining her boyfriends behavior and then goes ahead and presents very biased evidence (of female superiority) without mentioning the loads of evidence that go against her conclusions. There are many books out there such as "Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link Between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability" which give lots of proof that the extreme male brain often found in autism that many creative geniuses such as the physicist Newton and the poet Yeat's had may surprisingly actually be of great "great creative worth," and not just of secondary status as this author seems to imply. She goes onto say almost undoubtedly that women's "superior creativity" is going to change society. Then why haven't things like this happened yet. For instance Jews have been denied rights almost since the beginning. It was only in the late 1800's to early 1900's that they started to get equal rights under the law in america. Since then almost immediately they began making a huge impact on societal culture. They have been found in the top ranks in the arts and science at a ratio to their actual population size of about 8:1.Read more ›
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