Pink. The edition is a pleasant pink. This was the first thought that ran in my head when I saw this book show up on my Twitter feed. My mother calls it baby pink. As soon as the pleasant response registered itself, the stereotype followed, reminding me how pink was ‘girly’. I felt my guard strengthen slightly but I went on and read about the book. I ordered it right away. That is how my devour session of Inferior – How science got women wrong and the new research that is re-writing the story began.
I was 7 years old. I had a frock that had three frills on the sleeves and three frills on the cloth below the waist. The second best part about this was that it was made of cotton, thus brushed and consoled my skin that never saw the light of Vaseline. I wore it to school every Wednesday. After puberty hit like a bullet train, my teen wardrobe rarely had pink. It had every other mismatched colour that never looked good enough on me, but not pink. Because I believed that pink was too girly for me. Which cool and hip-happening girl in her right mind would wear pink? I would scoff at pink shirts and tops in stores. This resulted in some sort of strangled wardrobe that was filled with junk clothes because I never felt like wearing any of them. I was never happy in them.
Girly and pink were among the many words that I hid under the folds of my kurti. I was ashamed of the fact that my eyes went straight to barbies in a toy store, various shades and hues of pink that I could discern when my mother could not decide which pink a particular clothing was.
It’s only in the recent past that I have been able to fish out the pieces of the self I had lost and began remaking myself, one piece at a time. I let myself like and dislike something after giving it enough thought, as much as it requires. But it is my own thoughts and ideas and I feel better with every single such decision I take. What surprises me is how deeply ingrained the kind of person I once was, poking its nose into giving me easier and comfortable options. Inferior explains this concept better than my ancient pink frock.
I flipped through the sources and references of the book and I was shocked to see the insane amount of research Angela had done to write this book. All this research is presented in a chronological order of events and many of the sources are cross-referenced. This might seem to confuse the reader but Angela’s writing makes sure that that does not happen. She manages to keep the book as much objective as possible. Her bias, the direction in which the book goes, can be seen as a thin sheet of plastic that wraps up a new writing pad, without letting any part of the book be completely influenced by it.
In the chapter, “The missing five ounces of the female brain”, she talks about Helen Hamilton Gardner who had to fight to explain how women and men were equal when a man’s brain was five ounces heavier than a woman’s. Their theory which said, bigger brain, brighter man, was accepted by many people. Gardener had to fight, not only to prove that she was right, but also to prove that she was eligible to be right. She left her own brain for research after she died. It was then that the missing five ounces were accounted for, as Angela writes. This makes me think as to how narrow-minded one can be to not even want to examine something a woman wants to say, just because she is a woman. Two male scientists have not even read the papers published by female scientists countering their theories.
Instead of making this book having all resolved and all sorted conclusions, her bias makes sure that she provides enough evidence to her findings, including the debates going about the particular issue. She does this when she is talking about the grandmother hypothesis, where she lets the reader know that the idea of a grandmother existing even after evolution has no use of her was because a grandmother helps in nurturing the next generation of young ones was not completely proved even when a handful of proofs pointed that way. This she does by giving counter-arguments which disprove this hypothesis by making a rational and valid point.
The piece is intricate yet smooth. Angela constructs the book by becoming the invisible observer, almost fading into the wall of the scenario that surrounds her. She juggles through different research material and makes sure they all fall into place as the reader goes on with the book. There is a certain uniformity that Angela maintains not only in her method of writing, but also in how she builds the first part of the evidence, lego brick by lego brick, she produces the building and in the same way, piece by piece, she demolishes the incorrect findings.
When Angela warned me in the beginning of the book that not all of this is pleasant, I did not expect to read what I read in the section, “Why men dominate”. Here, you learn about female genital mutation, stunting the growth of women’s feet in China, breast ironing in Africa – to name a few. This is where I felt my temper rise. I closed the book for a while and I tried to think the last time an injustice against women made me this angry. It hit me that a huge chunk of such blatantly unjust and cruel practices were passed off as being something that happened every day and people decided that their morning coffee and breakfast was not worthy enough to be ruined by this. People’s apathy, at times my own, shocked me. How was I remaining silent despite everything? One voice should make a difference, right? Then I remembered that behind the lectures in school that one voice can make all the difference, we always heard the ‘realist’ view that one voice can make no difference. So we stuck to it and stayed silent. The world went on with its day.
This book makes you think. It makes you go on with your life and wonder about every myth you were told as a little girl/boy. It makes you think, it makes you question. It shows the danger of blindly following anything without sufficient research, just because ‘science says so’. She highlights the importance of looking at all facets of a situation instead of just picking something just because it satisfies your theory. She shows the dangers of picking the easy way out.
Thank you, Angela, for giving my voice the strength it lacked. Thank you for giving me back pink. And many other shades of violet and blue and all the other colours which are slowly filling my being.