Tag: Eugenia Cheng

Review – X+Y

Posted October 4, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengX+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender, Eugenia Cheng

X+Y is a pretty accessible book, despite being written by a mathematician and professing to be a mathematical approach to the problem. It doesn’t involve much mathematics in the sense of numbers: instead, it uses “category theory”, Cheng’s particular specialism, to try to look anew at the problem of gender inequality. She writes well and makes the concepts very clear, sometimes with the judicious use of diagrams and examples. Not being a numbers person, I expected to be thrown by all of it, but actually I found it quite an enjoyable read.

In the end, what it does is take gender out of the question, and view the problem of inequality as being to do with traits that are associated fairly strongly with feminity and masculinity, but which don’t need to be. In the end, she calls the two extremes “ingressive” (competitive, self-focused) and “congressive” (cooperative), and her suggestions revolve around both individuals and society becoming more congressive.

It’s not that I disagree, because the situations she describes sound wonderful — I’d kind of like to see if she could teach me mathematics, or rather if an approach like this could teach me and get through my aversion. And she mentions disliking the feeling that she had become “ingressive” in order to succeed, and changing that, and I agreed with some of those points too. I think it could indeed be transformative to promote congressive behaviours in your everyday dealings and in the things you have responsibility over.

I’m not sure if it’s an answer to gender inequality per se; I think it is a bit overly optimistic in stripping away factors to claim that congressive behaviour is all we need. At best, what she suggests will be a slow climb.

So an interesting read, and I agree with her in principle — and I’m certainly happy to make the experiment in my own life. I think for many mired in the consequences of binary and gendered thinking, though, it’s a hard sell that it’s all about these simplified behaviours and that we can just promote better ones.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 30, 2020 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengWhat are you currently reading?

Non-fiction: X+Y, by Eugenia Cheng, which is — well, the subtitle is “A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender”, which is a pretty good summary. Cheng works with a field of mathematics called “category theory”, and is applying that technique to unpick a lot of gender inequality and offer solutions. My thoughts are so far are mostly that I’d love to see if she could teach me maths, based on her discussions of how she tries to apply her understanding when it comes to teaching! Seems like an environment that might suit me better.

Fiction: I’m struggling through Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird, and I couldn’t honestly put my finger on why. I’ve enjoyed her other books and on the surface, I can’t see why this one isn’t working for me. I guess I’m just not connecting so well with the characters?

I’m also reading Kushiel’s Dart, still, and it’s coming up to time for another big heartbreak. Gah!

Cover of The Story of Wales by Jon GowerWhat have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing I finished must’ve been Jon Gower’s The Story of Wales. I was surprised by how much I knew already, through having studied Welsh fiction (in English) and cultivated an interest since. I still had some serious gaps and surprises, though. Overall, it made me really annoyed with how little I was taught about that part of British history, attending a school in England. You’d think they could at least mentioned that David Lloyd George was Welsh, for instance, while teaching me about the part he played in WWI.

Cover of Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasWhat will you be reading next?

As ever, I don’t really know. I’d like to pick up Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys, and I’m still working my way through the Shelf of Abandoned Books. Then there’s a bunch of other new books I got recently…

I have found that I have a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” problem with books sometimes. I want them and want them and want them and then when they get here and I shelve them, I forget to go grab them off the shelves! So I’m keeping my options open to wander along my shelves and choose at random, as ever.

How about you folks?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 23, 2020 by Nicky in General / 10 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of The Firebird by Susanna KearsleyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: I’ve gone back to Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird after a long time away. It’s not capturing me (or in this case recapturing me) as her other books usually do. I’d hoped it was just my mood, and coming back to it now would let me slip back into it… but apparently not. It might still be my mood, but it’s a bit disappointing.

Non-fiction: I’m back to The Story of Wales, by Jon Gower. I think that was a mood problem, because I’m digging into it more now… and getting angry about the historical treatment of the Welsh, of course. People forget, or never knew, that before English rule suppressed native languages on other contents, they started in Wales.

I’m also a good chunk of the way into How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. So far it’s talked a lot about the promise of psychedelics for treating depression, anxiety, stress in people with terminal illnesses, etc… but it hasn’t gone into the science much. It’s been more of a history, so far, along with an exploration of the user’s personal feelings and experience,

Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. SayersWhat have you recently finished reading?

I finally finished my reread of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. It’s not one of my favourite Wimsey novels, though there are definitely fun bits, so I bogged down in it a while ago. Which means Strong Poison is next! Yay!

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengWhat will you be reading next?

I’m slowly working through my “shelf of abandoned books”, so the next up on that shelf look to Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind, by Colin Renfrew, Feed by Mira Grant, and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman. I’ll probably read a new-to-me book in tandem with trying to finish those; maybe Eugenia Cheng’s X+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender.

What are you reading? What’s got you enthusiastic at the moment? Let me know!

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