An actual review of an actual book.

Just stumbled across a website for The Alphabet vs The Goddess, which is a book that I read recently on the topic of Matriarchy vs. Patriarchy, and whether the shift from Goddess centered fertility cults to male Warrior God based religions had to do with the shift from pictorial and iconic forms of “writing” and expression to the use of a phonetic alphabet. Which is kind of an odd possibility, considering women tend to be more verbal and are generally found to be more capable of mastering the subtleites of literacy, whereas men respond more easily to visual stimuli and videographic type images. But what do I know, I’m no brain surgeon. And the author of this book is. Literally. A brain surgeon. Dr. Leonard Shlain. He in fact developed his theory partly based on his knowledge of the differences in function between the two hemispheres of the brain.

In any case, this is a very interesting book, rife with interesting minutiae in the realms of cultural history and sociology, et al. One learns such things as that while our nearest primate cousins are still somewhat polygamous, human societies became prone to pair off as a sort of “sex for meat” exchange. The point is made that the current trend toward greater status and independence for women has coincided with the refinement of the photographic image. This is a varied and interesting little tour through several centuries of progress in the arts and humanities. But ultimately I feel he fails to adequately prove his point. I failed to encounter any evidence that was non anecdotal in format. I realize this was hardly an academic treatise or anything, but still, aren’t doctors supposed to be scientists? I expect scientists to support their proposals with factual evidence and not interesting coincidences. But it was an entertaining read nonetheless.

For something in a similar vein, but better researched, I’d suggest Mother Nature : A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, by anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, which explores the biological motivations of human parenting and sexual behaviors in the contexts of both history and evolution. Hrdy being one of those rare individuals who has mastered their field of expertise (in this case anthropology) and is able to write about it as if she were a writer first and foremost. Much in the tradition of Carl Sagan.

Another little gem, not so meticulously researched, and with a a bit of an unapologetic femisit bias, but well argued and most enlightening is The Myths Of Motherhood by Shari L. Thurer. It examines attitudes throughout the centuries in regards to what makes “a good mother.” I read it while pregnant, as a counterpoint to the guilt inducing condescension of many of my pregnancy manuals, many of which instantly doomed your offspring if you failed do such things as eat only whole wheat baked goods and read to your unborn fetus.

So, what we’ve established here so far is that:

a) I’m a bit of a feminist (shocking!)
b) I like books that use the excuse of a “serious premise” to explore interesting historical trivia.

Still, I’m sort of proud of myself just for publishing an actual critique on my opinion site, which is supposedly what it’s here for.
This was beginning to turn into the “what I had for breakfast blog,” which is just sort of a sad commentary on the state of my life as a whole.


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