The author is a practicing pediatrician and psychologist who founded the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education. Why Gender Matters samples a
diverse array of animal, brain, and childhood research the author believes support
the premise that important differences in males and females affect and confuse our understanding and approach to gender. He believes that in the last thirty years, different biological attributes have not been addressed sufficiently by parents, teachers, and
public school personnel who work daily with a false “neutral-sex” curriculum.
Dr. Sax reports research that girls hear low, soft tones better than boys from birth on. Girls attend and respond to facial expressions of female speakers better than boys do. According to Sax, this research supports girls’ rapid verbal and fine motor skill development six years earlier than boys. Girls, on average, achieve two to three grade levels better than boys in public school where most teachers are female. Girls perform better than boys, on average, in communication, role-playing, reading, writing, and languages at all levels of public school. They are more empathetic and in touch with their feelings than boys of comparable age. Girls have smaller P cells and cones in the fovea of their eyes and a smaller retina with identified pathways to the brain. This research suggests girls have a predisposition to red, orange, green, beige (e.g, warm) colors, textures, and a greater interest in the subjective qualities of objects.
Boys have larger, thicker retinas than girls with more M cells and rods which predispose them to black, gray, silver, blue (e.g. cold) colors and lines. This physical difference enables boys to display more visual acuity in locating objects and estimating the direction and speed of objects in space. Boys targeting, spatial memory, and cognitive map-making appears to develop up to four years earlier than girls.
Boys enjoy (e.g., get a “tingle”) facing more physical challenges, potential dangers, and adventures than girls. Boys often over-estimate their physical abilities and express less sensitivity to pain which may make them more likely to take risks than girls. Girls often tend to underestimate their abilities and appear to be more self-critical than boys, which make them more fearful and cautious in thrill-seeking scenarios.
The book suggests boys could do better outside in objective, educational experiences with male teachers in math, geometry, navigation, engineering, exploration, and large-muscle activities. The alluded reasons turn on brain and emotional differences in males (e.g., aggressive arousal in the primitive amygdala and hippocampus) compared to the greater variety and distribution of cerebral cortex activity in female brains. Dr. Sax adds that boys want to run, shout and play with blocks, trucks, and toys, and they often ignore co-educational public school authority from female teachers. Girls are more likely to sit, listen, focus, interact, and cooperate patiently with female teachers and peers. They seem more willing to accept cultural stereotypes and gender roles popularized and prescribed for them in public school.
The book includes chapters on school, sex, drugs, and discipline. It details by age,
gender orientation, and development effective parental methods and options for managing children’s behavior. The author asserts that parents and caretakers must
take back decision-making authority and consistent control over children’s behavior, especially when helping youngsters acquire compatible, gender-appropriate behavior.
He discusses parent and child cases to illustrate disciplinary guidelines parents of
teenage girls can use. The parent must make clear to the child what behavior is forbidden and what will be enforced. Parents need to be sensitive to teens’ status concerns, but be
more willingly to suggest practical alternatives for achieving recognition in the family and community, rather than allow a teen to acquiesce to peer agendas for sexual behavior and substance abuse (e.g., “hooking up” for oral sex, tobacco, pot, alcohol, drug use).
A set of disciplinary rules and responsibilities for teens in include:
Why Gender Matters punctures myths and provides a biological rationale for identifying and accepting gender differences. Physical attributes are not self-willed or willed away by others. Gender differences need to be taken into account within our supposedly gender-neutral perspective in public education. Timely approaches and
case examples for exceptional gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, “sissy” and “tomboy” behavior are described. The book stresses parents’ and caretakers’ needs and roles to know, inquire, and learn about what children do, and not do, in today’s complex world. Excellent source notes by chapter are in the back of the book.
- Know where your teenager is after school and on the weekends.
- Know whom your teen is with and where their parents are.
- Get the details regarding teen “parties” and continue to communicate with your teen during parties and social activities including the suggestion you might drop by.
- If your teen is a girl, make sure no boy at the party is three years or older than your child.
- If the child violates a rule, restrict the teen’s privileges, and if necessary, help her get into a healthier peer group, new activities, and/or school setting.
Whether you take a biological, psychological, religious, or social learning approach to questions about sex and gender development, Why Gender Matters provides new insights, case experiences, and helpful applications for understanding, raising, and educating children today. Highly recommended.