Why is it that women across the world are still faced with the task of shattering various glass ceilings? According to Henrietta Leyser FRHistS, Emeritus Fellow of St Peter’s College, the University of Oxford, UK, a popular explanation (or excuse) for the phenomenon is because “…allegedly, their brains are smaller than men's, so that strive as they might they will never gain true equality with the other sex. [But] In this short but wide-ranging book Professor Pasternak exposes once and for all the fallacies of this myth.”
Since time immemorial, men have assumed superior innate qualities which have justified them in exerting power over the other sex right up to the twentieth century. The last few years have seen the emergence of a new literary genre to show that despite this, women have managed to become outstanding writers, artists, scientists, explorers, rulers and politicians. Of such books, none discuss a fundamental question: is the supposed male superiority biological, or has it arisen for some other reason over the course of time?
In Androcentrism: The Ascendancy of Man, Charles Pasternak argues that it was the emergence of hierarchies, like chiefdom, that largely sparked androcentrism. It became established as villages grew into towns, with the ownership of property as an important ingredient, during the Bronze Age. “We visit the Neolithic Age, the Bronze Age, the Age of Enlightenment – and everywhere women are seen to display fortitude and independence of action, often showing themselves to be more intellectually and morally capable than the menfolk, who busy themselves acquiring property, thinking up misogynistic laws and being belligerent,” remarks Roger Lewis, journalist for The Sunday Telegraph. While the Mediaeval Period was a time of slight respite for women, the Age of Enlightenment in Europe did not bolster this trend; it reversed it, the book contends. Not until the latter half of the nineteenth century was androcentrism beginning to be seriously questioned, but significant change happened only after World War I.
While written for the general reader, the book is well-researched with a bibliography of over 100 items and 300 citations in text. "With this meticulously researched volume, Dr Pasternak courageously tackles a central question that has challenged many of us involved in the history of gender studies: How and why have many societies tended toward male domination?” says Diane Lebow, Professor Emerita of Women Studies at Cañada College, USA. “Although there is no single explanation, with such a comprehensive and timely review, this study helps us gain a better understanding of the issues and steers us away from mistaken conclusions. Bravo for an important contribution to this central and complex issue."
With a conclusion that is sure to invite a backlash from gender activists, the author argues that today, androcentrism has virtually disappeared from most parts of the world. “He introduces us to societies across the world where there has been true equality between the sexes and even shows us times when matriarchy has flourished," Leyser points out. Androcentrism was just a cultural blip, Pasternak asserts, albeit one that lasted over 5,000 years. “Kingsley Amis once said that if men knew what women were really thinking and doing behind their tone and expressions, 'you could destroy the world',” Lewis adds. “Charles Pasternak takes us closer to this apocalypse.”
Androcentrism: The Ascendancy of Man retails for US$28 / £25 (paperback) and US$58 / £50 (hardcover) and is also available in electronic formats. To order or know more about the book, visit http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/12384.
About the Author
Professor Charles Pasternak is a British biochemist and founding Director of the Oxford International Biomedical Centre, of which he is currently President. He has published over 250 original papers and reviews, and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Bioscience Reports, helming the journal for 28 years. He is also the editor of Biosciences 2000 (World Scientific, 1999), and author of seven other books.
Educated at Oxford University, Charles Pasternak spent 15 years on the staff of the Oxford Biochemistry Department, during which time he also held a teaching Fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford. He spent two years as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Pharmacology Department of Yale University Medical School, and subsequently held an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship of the International Union Against Cancer in the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego Medical School in La Jolla. In 1976 he was invited to move to St. George's Hospital Medical School, University of London, in order to set up a new Department of Biochemistry, which he subsequently expanded into a larger Department of Cellular and Molecular Sciences as founder-Chairman. He is currently President of the Oxford International Biomedical Centre which he founded in 1992.
Charles Pasternak is a tireless promoter of international scientific collaboration. He has been a member of the Executive Committee for a UNESCO initiative on Molecular and Cellular Biology, a member of the Education Committee of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB), a member of the International Advisory Board for the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok and a member of the Scientific Board of Antenna Technologie, Geneva. In 1979 he founded the Cell Surface Research Fund in order to foster international research links and scientific meetings on various aspects of fundamental and clinical research on the cell surface. In 1993 he received the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa and Palade medal from the University of Bucharest, in 1995 the honour of Amigo de Venezuela from the Fundacion Venezuela Positiva, and in 2002 was elected Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Science
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