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Freud, S. (1990). Deceptive Distinctions Sex, Gender, and the Social Order by Cynthia Fuchs Epstein New Haven: Yale University Press, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1988, xv + 300 pp., $25.00. Psa. Books, 1(2):259-263.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(2):259-263

Deceptive Distinctions Sex, Gender, and the Social Order by Cynthia Fuchs Epstein New Haven: Yale University Press, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1988, xv + 300 pp., $25.00

Review by:
Sophie Freud, ACSW, Ph.D.

The often formidable task of integrating a large body of research is among the insufficiently acknowledged important social science endeavors. Such an overview is particularly imperative in such study areas as race and gender, where research enterprises intersect with political passions, entangling the interested public in a web of contradictory findings that result in highly diverse theories, each with its own sociopolitical implications. We thus applaud Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, who undertakes in Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order to draw together and appraise what appears to be the entire postwar literature on gender distinctions.

Epstein is well equipped for such an undertaking, since her books and numerous articles over the last 20 years have been distinguished contributions to this field. A professor of sociology, she includes a wide network of disciplines—anthropology, sociobiology, psychology, social policy, economics, law, education, history—in her overview, demonstrating an impressive breadth of vision and knowledge.

The author not only has set herself the task of reviewing and integrating the research on gender distinctions, but seeks above all to evaluate its scientific validity. While she does this as objectively as possible, using the accepted criteria of the scientific method, she does not appear to be, nor does she present herself as, an unbiased commentator. The very title of her book suggests her opinion that distinctions between men and women have been grossly exaggerated.

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