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The mad social scientist of biological reductionism is up to his old tricks again. Tiger, the anthropologist who 30 years ago brought us the notion of “male bonding” (in Men in Groups, 1969) returns once again to a biological argument to explain the “declining” influence of men in modern society. Tiger’s theoretical premise is egregiously essentialist to those with a background in cultural theory (he likens these social scientists to Christian Scientists in relation to medicine)—we must “understand basic human nature” before we can talk about economic, political, psychiatric, or feminist theories. In this particular instance, he wishes to relate the declining role of men in society to the advent of birth control, which puts reproductive power in the hands of women. His argument is stringently antifeminist—he calls feminism “female-ism” and implies that we are caught up in the midst of a shift from male production to female reproduction. The basic implication is that if women stayed home and had babies, they would maintain the support and comfort of their husbands, they would continue to vote in the same manner as their husbands, and men and women would be less at polar extremes in the productive marketplace. Men are seen as cut out of the reproductive agreement due to the rise of hidden contraception, and thus they are rendered redundant and out of control. Tiger actually praises “welfare queens,” whom he sees as rising up and revolting by staying home and out of the economy—to raise their children (conveniently ignoring the messy social, historical, and economic ramifications involved). One of the more annoying aspects of Tiger’s style is that he constantly employs cultural examples in an attempt to support his biological arguments—he goes as far as employing the religious story of Jesus” birth to explain the biological “foundations of human emotionality.” If you didn’t buy the notion that male patterns of behavior are imprinted on a genetic level, then you probably won’t buy this one either.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-58238-014-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Golden Books/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999