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The Mismeasure of Woman, by Carol Tavris
A review by Karen Millard

"The Mismeasure of Woman" is a book that could change your life. Read it and you will never see the world in quite the same way again. Carol Tavris presents an insightful, sobering and witty look at the ways in which society often leaves a woman feeling guilty and deficient in her roles as wife, mother, lover, worker and human being.

Citing numerous poorly-conducted, badly-interpreted scientific studies, Tavris demonstrates how science has been used for years to preserve a status quo in which women can never hope to measure up. Ask yourself why, as Tavris does, women buy so many self-help books every year to improve their sex-lives, moods, relationships and mental health. Then take the next logical step and ask yourself why men dont buy an equal number. The answer, as Tavris goes on to show, is because men are the standard by which women are measured. Measured and often found wanting. Male behaviour, the male physiology and psyche, even a mans career-path, are all considered the norm. Anything which differs from the male pattern is considered to be deficient and in need of correction. Thus, we hear of women who are too emotional, rather than men who are too distant. Or women whose career-paths are too erratic (to allow for the raising of children), rather than men whose career-paths are too narrow; women who suffer from low self-esteem, rather than men who suffer from inflated self-esteem. By shedding much-needed light on the theories on which are based our legal systems, medical practices and social policies, Carol Tavris reveals with often startling clarity how prejudices and biases have undermined women and their families for centuries.

So is this a male-bashing, radical feminist diatribe? Quite the contrary. (Though scientists and law-makers may squirm a little!) Tavris sees no gain to women or society in replacing women-as-problem theories with those claiming men and their ways are the problem. Stereotypes and suppositions serve neither sex. Instead, she prefers to force us to imagine new ways for women and men to work together, dovetailing their individual talents and traits to forge a stronger, more caring society.

"The Mismeasure of Woman" is a must-read for any woman struggling to make it in a mans world; to justify her decisions and choices; to understand the difficulties she faces in her daily life. In short, to feel comfortable finally, in her own skin.

Karen Millard is a freelance writer and author living in Saskatchewan, Canada with her husband and three children. She is currently working on a book of pre-technology, home-birth stories with co-author, Maryanne Zuzak.

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