This will be a short review, because I don’t have too much to say about Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier, other than it is a wonderful, amazing book and you should go read it now!
The book is, as the title suggests, an exploration of the physical female body. Angier takes all the different parts of the body that are specific to women and discusses each one in separate chapters. In addition to the obvious female body parts, she has several chapters on hormones, and discusses aggression, muscle, and the chemistry of love. In the second-to-last chapter she tears apart evolutionary psychology, which has often been used to uphold patriarchal ideals. Her approach is biological and evolutionary. I learned many things I did not know and gained a new appreciation of the complexity of human beings. Angier has an amazing talent for conveying complexity understandably. Evolution is an extremely complex process; we do not know why or how most things in our body evolved to be the way they are now, and we most likely never will. So much of pop science writing tries to simplify things and paint a black and white picture. Angier does the opposite and shows her readers why we cannot take those black and white pictures at face value. One example of this that struck me was her discussion of testosterone and aggression. The commonly held view in our culture is essentially that testosterone equals aggression, and therefore men are inherently more aggressive (and have a stronger libido) than women. In fact, the studies trying to show this have been inconclusive. Angier takes the reader deep into many different studies to point out that things are much more subtle and complex than the simple equation with testosterone allows.
Woman is a reminder that we are all animals, a part of nature rather than separate from nature, and that we are amazingly complex biological systems, but it is also a celebration of what a woman is and an embracing of what that means. It breaks women out of the small boxes into which society likes to put us and shows us that women can not be defined simplistically. I highly recommend it!