An explanation of gender differences through the combined lenses of psychology and traditional mythology.
Using a coherent writing style ranging from formal to familiar, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Coan encourages the reader to “examine the guiding myths…in your life” to determine “whether they are really serving your needs.” He begins with a well-referenced, thorough and easy-reading overview of theological, biological, sociological and psychological theories regarding the differences between men and women. He then moves from research summary to self-assessment, encouraging the “[d]ear reader” to pull out paper and pen and rate how accurately the words and phrases on a list—“bossy,” “feelings easily hurt,” “precise,” etc.—describe him or her. The total scores of the rating exercise add up to ten different “factors” and the text then examines these factors through familiar models, ultimately exploring the factors’ representation in traditional mythologies from a new perspective: “For each quality considered…feminine [or masculine], we find a preponderance of female [or male] figures…Yet in each case, it is possible to find both male and female figures who display the given quality.” Coan supplies extensive examples, both historic and contemporary, to support his theory. Recurring mythological themes and archetypes emerge across time and cultures and the author explores these in the heart of his careful analysis. Concerned that popular psychology encourages a simplistic and linear approach to gender, with male at one end and female at the other, Coan suggests that “many of us enter adulthood as rather lopsided individuals.” Discouraging the adoption of a simple androgynous model as a goal, he proposes and outlines a multidimensional, “broader consideration of flexibility and balance” in order to reach personal fulfillment.
Solidly positioned between textbook and self-help manual, Coan’s cogent text will suit any reader seeking a nuanced understanding of his or her self.