AM I A WOMAN? A Skeptic's Guide to Gender

Cynthia Eller, Author . Beacon $24 (146p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7508-1

After 121 pages of Eller mining her life for examples of how she is or isn't a "real" woman, she finally concludes, "It doesn't matter. Because whether gender is biological or socially constructed, absolutely determinative or a barely self-consistent fiction, it's reasonable to both want and expect social change where sex inequality is concerned." What begins as a self-focused, slightly academic look at the truth about gender eventually evolves into one more book by a feminist scholar trying to prove that we still have work to do. Boiled down, Eller argues that human sexual dimorphism (the belief that anatomy defines women and men) is law, but that all the nasty little rules that go along with the labels "man" and "woman" are limiting. Women may have the right to cast a vote and grow old and disgruntled in a boardroom, but they still suffer disproportionately from sexual abuse, violent attack and unrealistic social expectations, says Eller. Although the message isn't particularly fresh, it is told, as are Eller's other books, including The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, in a bright, conversational way. Eller is a self-described "veritable stereotype of normative femaleness," with a husband, a suburban home and even a carpool. So hearing her go on about the daily manifestations of gender construction—e.g., her zealous sex drive and constant fashion failures—feels a little less stale than the overexposed transgender perspective. Agent, Nancy Ellis. (Aug.)

Forecast:While books like Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein fill shelves in women's studies offices across the nation, Eller's gender investigation could comfortably fit next to the edgier selections in women's book clubs.

Reviewed on: 05/19/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
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Paperback - 146 pages - 978-0-8070-7509-8
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