“A sparkling, thought-provoking account of sexual differences. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’ll find his conclusions gripping.”—Jared Diamond
There is a human genetic fluke that is surprisingly common, due to a change in a key pair of chromosomes. In the normal condition the two look the same, but in this disorder one is malformed and shrunken beyond recognition. The result is a shortened life span, higher mortality at all ages, an inability to reproduce, premature hair loss, and brain defects variously resulting in attention deficit, hyperactivity, conduct disorder, hypersexuality, and an enormous excess of both outward and self-directed aggression.
It is called maleness.
Melvin Konner traces the arc of evolution to explain the relationships between women and men. With patience and wit he explores the knotty question of whether men are necessary in the biological destiny of the human race. He draws on multiple, colorful examples from the natural world—such as the mating habits of the octopus, black widow, angler fish, and jacana—and argues that maleness in humans is hardly necessary to the survival of the species.
In characteristically humorous and engaging prose, Konner sheds light on our biologically different identities, while noting the poignant exceptions that challenge the male/female divide. We meet hunter-gatherers such as those in Botswana, whose culture gave women a prominent place, invented the working mother, and respected women’s voices around the fire. Recent human history has upset this balance, as a dense world of war fostered extreme male dominance. But our species has been recovering over the past two centuries, and an unstoppable move toward equality is afoot. It will not be the end of men, but it will be the end of male supremacy and a better, wiser world for women and men alike.
About the Author
Melvin Konner, MD, is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. He is the author of Believers, Women After All, Becoming a Doctor, and The Tangled Wing, among other books.
Engagingly written and persuasively argued…shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition. — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of The Better Angels of Our Nature.
A fluent, provocative, well-argued engagement with a lively mind. — Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Astonishingly insightful…A richly informed, up-to-the-minute and sensible exploration of a highly charged topic. It is the best available examination of how and why men and women differ and how twenty-first-century humans can use this knowledge to forge a better world. — Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding.
Mines evolution and anthropology to probe gender identities in the light of biology, sexual conflict across species and more. — Barbara Kiser - Nature
Sweeping, ambitious and eminently readable…A compelling and thought-provoking read for men and women alike. — Lisa Sanders, M.D., Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine
Konner makes a powerful case for a provocative thesis…he ranges from evolutionary biology through ethology, neurobiology, embryology, anthropology and history, with digressions into economics and politics. Not many people could pull this off—but Dr. Konner does. — David Barash - Wall Street Journal
[Konner's] conclusions give me, well, hope. — Louise Erdrich - The Millions