Saturday 31 December 2022

X + Y

Finished December 31
X + Y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender by Eugenia Cheng

I was looking for a book to help meet a reading challenge and came across this book which got me thinking about many things in different ways. The author is a mathematician and an artist. She teaches mathematics at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. In her career, and in other aspects of her life, she has encountered sexism and racism. She has thought a lot about this and how often gender issues are substituted for behaviour issues. She outlines how our society favours more aggressive, competitive, individualistic behaviour, and about how that behaviour has come to be seen as masculine. 
She has come up with new descriptors for this issue around behaviour that take the gender out of the discussion, eliminating one red herring to change. She describes two behaviour types as ingressive and congressive, where ingressive is the current valued type of behaviour that values competition, winners, contests, and individual success. The other type of behaviour, congressive, values understanding, sharing, working together, collaboration, and societal success. She makes a great argument for this new set of descriptors and how using them and thinking of them more in the behavioural sense and not tying them to gender norms can overcome not only gender bias, but also other biases in our society that favour the status quo. 
I found myself easily understanding her descriptions of category theory mathematics (I was a math major in my first year of university) and seeing how it applies to this idea of behavioural categories. She advocates gradual change, using congressive approaches and responses to replace ingressive or passive ones, and finding a way forward that will benefit not only society as a whole, but individuals more broadly as well. 
This is a fascinating book that needs to be read by more people and have them seriously consider her suggestions. 

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