Cover Image: Bitch

Bitch

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this book and have been having a lot of discussions with friends and others on it. There are a lot of talking points. 

Thank you for the arc.
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Thank you to the author, Basic Books and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Just to get this out of the way: I loved, loved, loved this book! The title and the cover convinced me to apply for a foray into non-fiction. And this was so worth it that I went out and bought the published book and am hoping it will be translated into German so I can buy it for my husband, whose English was taxed with all the bits I kept wanting to read to him. 

The author writes engagingly and with great wit about the the myopic and misogynist lense of western culture that has always applied in scientific history. At the same time, she introduces us to the trailblazers that have and are presenting the truth of life on this planet. What a fantastic book, that shows life, sex and gender in all its myriad iterations. Read it!!
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A very interesing book in which shows us aspects of animal life that were completely disregarded by Darwin. It is informative with a touch of humour.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book and the audiobook!

I enjoyed Bitch: On the Female of the Species so much. I learnt a lot about biology. Lucy Cooke discusses how the Victorian view on zoology is outdated. The chapters discuss mate choice, monogamy myth, eating your lover, good and bad mothers, aggressive female animals, matriarchs and menopause, homosexual animal couples and animals that exist beyond the gender binary. Cooke does this with humour and great expertise. She discusses a great variety of species, many of which she has met before or while doing research for this book.

I loved learning all these things and I would love to reread and annotate a physical book. I would recommend Bitch if you are into feminism and love to learn about animals.
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This book is one that speaks to my science-loving soul. I really enjoyed Cooke's deep dive on females and their mating/breeding behaviors. A variety of species were mentioned and as a reader I was able to learn a lot, even about some animals that I was familiar with. I thought that the author did a great job making some of the more technical subjects easy to understand and interesting, while not "dumbing-down" the book. I also liked that Cooke specifically cited scientists and their studies throughout the book but that the mentions did not seem like brags about connections as some authors can tend to fall into. Overall, I thought this was a creative, well-researched book and I would highly recommend it..
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Somewhere along the way—likely from Inferior, but I can’t remember—I learned that women are excluded from most clinical trials for medication because our hormonal cycles are considered “too complicated” and they might throw off the trial results. Consequently, most of the medicines that make it to market have only truly been tested on men. Then there are inevitably—you guessed it—complications in some women who take these drugs, except doctors are just as likely to blame the issue on—you guessed it—hormones. Or it’s all in our head.

Gosh, sexism sucks.

Lucy Cooke examines exactly this kind of bias in science and medicine, but she does so with a particular eye on evolutionary biology. Bitch: On the Female of the Species is a tour through some of the weirder corners of the animal kingdom and species that defy our stereotypical understanding of the differences between the “two” sexes. It is also a polemic against bias in evolutionary biology and science as a whole, a bias against studying the female sex, which has resulted in gaps in vital knowledge. Cooke rightly points out that when we allow our human biases to influence our methodology, we short-circuit the scientific method—and all of humanity loses out.

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher Basic Books for the review eARC!

I read a lot of popular science books, and often—especially when written by a scientist—they can be ponderous and dull, at least in parts. Not so with Bitch, which is a riotous romp from the beginning. The first chapter, “The Anarchy of Sex,” lists off examples of ways in which females of various species break our idea of sex stereotypes and the binary. In particular, I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor as I read about the female spotted hyena’s testerone levels and her eight-inch clitoris and fused-together labia! By the time I got to the third chapter, “The Monogamy Myth,” I was calling my friend to read her a passage about the libidinous activities of female Barbary macaques—“once every seventeen minutes”??—and laugh in astonishment—the things they don’t teach you in high-school biology, hmm?

Where does this so-called wisdom come from anyway? That’s another question Cooke sets out to answer. She not only debunks sex myths but actively draws a line through research, from the writings of Darwin all the way up to the modern day—1990s and early 2000s—when some female scientists were still having their papers turned away from journals for being too “political.” This is, of course, the cardinal sin of the dominant group: conflating one’s own perspective (in this case, that of the cis, white, male scientist) with objectivity and neutrality. When a scientist announces findings that confirm our biases about males being stronger, more active, more promiscuous, then the world rejoices. When a scientist announces findings that confirm the same facts for females, then it’s “political” because it goes against the received wisdom. This confirmation bias, along with measurement, selection, and sampling biases, results in a lot of holes in our science. Cooke stresses the importance of reproducibility of results and long-term studies that, instead of anthropomorphizing the subjects or looking for certain expected traits, observe what the subjects do and record those observations without leaning on established stereotypes. If we look at a female animal and expect to see maternal behaviour, we will likely find it, and discount any behaviour that might not contribute to that narrative. Instead, we should just look at the behaviour, record it, and then we can sift through the data to see what we have found.

Bitch and books like it are important for laypeople to read because we are taught, growing up, that science is objective, impartial, unassailable. This is the hill that transphobic people are often willing to die on. Whether it’s the inclusion of trans women in sport or the very existence of trans people, transphobes (TERFs or GCs or whatever they want to be called these days) are quick to cry “but biology!” as if this is the ultimate argument against my existence when I am … you know … here. Existing. Lol.

When we make this mistake, when we assume that just because something is written in a book, published in a peer-reviewed study, repeated at conferences and in sound bites on the news, that it is the unassailable truth, we do ourselves a disservice as critical thinkers. This is particularly the case when the narrative being presented is simplistic and binary. As Cooke works so hard to elucidate here, nature is seldom either of those things—so when someone announces that it is so, we should be skeptical. Note that this is different from science deniers, who also profess skepticism—for theirs is, similar to the scientists whose bias is taken apart in this book, a form of confirmation bias rooted in conspiracy theories that ultimately advocate the abandonment of the scientific method. Cooke is not doing that here. She is not saying we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater—but it is probably time to change out that bathwater, and maybe get a bigger tub. The baby might be all grown up now.

Incidentally, as a trans woman, I certainly went into this book with a small amount of trepidation. Any scientific book that discusses the sexes can be, even inadvertently, trans-exclusionary. So I was reassured when, even before the introduction, Cooke includes an “Author’s Note on Language” that asserts, “This book intends to demonstrate that sex is wildly variable and that gendered ideas based on assumptions of binary sex are nonsense.” Fuck yeah. As I already commented above, the first chapter then being about “The Anarchy of Sex” cemented my sense that I was going to be safe reading this book. If that were not enough, Chapter 11 is called “Beyond the Binary” and features the work of trans ecologist Dr. Joan Roughgarden! This is important—there is also a common trend among people who want to be allies to shrug and say, “Hey, trans women are women and valid and whatnot, but eh, the data is just for cis men and women. So we know you exist, we know non-binary people are out there, but for our purposes we’ll just have to ignore you for the next two-hundred pages. So sorry.” That’s not acceptable. Trans people are here. We are in the fields being spoken about. So Cooke not only professes her allyship but actively includes trans people in her writing and actively makes sure that her approach to analysis is trans-inclusive rather than agnostic. That is true allyship. (I’m applauding right now.)

Ultimately, Bitch is, as the introduction says, about “a sexist mythology [that] has been baked into biology” and how “it distorts the way we perceive female animals.” Cooke comes with proof to back up this thesis, and most importantly (from my perspective as a curious reader), she presents this proof in an engaging, often hilarious way. Honestly, this book was the next best thing to watching a nature documentary, and probably slightly more informative given that it isn’t limited by time slots. It is worth your time and energy: not only will it entertain, but it is going to help you on your way to breaking down the gender and sex binary we are immersed in, along with the stereotypes that, for too long, too many people have propped up with faulty science.
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An illuminating, educational and at times laugh out loud funny read. Loved the authors writing style, which was equal parts smart and sharp.
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A highly informative and entertaining read. Ms Cooke's style of writing brings the history of behavioral ecology to life. Follow the female of several species across the animal kingdom to learn just how varied and complicated courtship, social relationships, and sexual relationships are. Some stereotypical examples are used to prime readers before going into all the sordid details on other lesser-known specimens. I've already shared excerpts with my students and plan to tie examples from this text into my lessons where feasible.
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Interesting and educational pop science book.  Not terribly scholarly - I would have liked to see more cites - but an enjoyable light read. 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC copy for my review.
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Any book that has a hyena on the cover, one of the most badass female-dominant species in the animal kingdom, immediately grabs my attention. Lucy Cooke provides an interesting look at animals that don't fit neatly into the gender roles that have been held since Darwin.  Bitch doesn't just focus on female animals who control their social groupings or their mate selection but spends a lot of time exploring all animals who vary from how we have traditionally viewed sexes.  The whole concept of gender can be fluid, as some animals can even change from male to female (or vice versa), or even clone themselves through parthenogenesis when a suitable mate can't be found.

I enjoyed the personal anecdotes and bits of humor peppered throughout the book.  The selection of animals was varied and fascinating.  I also appreciated the spotlight placed on so many female researchers who have contributed to science in ways that have been overlooked by a large majority of the field.  As a biology student and animal keeper in the field, there was research that I feel I should have been taught and yet had never heard of before this book. 

The book is well written, the scientific details were easy to understand and I didn't think it was dumbed down for the reader.  My only complaint was an anticaptivity comment from the author in a section about pandas resorbing their fetuses.  I enjoyed this book and would read more from the author.  I received this as an ARC from NetGalley for my opinion.

4.5 stars
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I appreciate the author shares her love of zoology and highlights the female aspect of many species and relating them to the female human. Some of these insights were hilarious and spot on, but some of them were cringe-worthy and in poor taste. This was still an enjoyable, well researched book of female animal fun.

Recommended but not to be taken seriously.

Thanks to Netgalley, Lucy Cooke, and Basic Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 6/14/22
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Thank you to NetGalley and Transworld Digital for this ARC!

Lucy Cooke's "Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal" is a brilliant (and very, very refreshing) book that rips down some infuriatingly pernicious stereotypes of female behavior in a fascinating and entertaining way. (Stereotypes,  i.e. what happens when biologists take the speculations of Victorian-era male scientists as gospel.)

From killer mole queens to self-cloning geckos to primates that completely overturn traditional patriarchal views of human behavior, Cooke's work is a very entertaining smashing of old, unsubstantiated claims of how female animals behave in the wild. The writing is witty and often wonderfully biting, and I learned a tremendous amount. 

Five stars!
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Bitch 
by Lucy Cooke
Pub Date: June 14, 2022
Basic 
Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.  Being a female should not mean you are a loser. 
In Bitch, Cooke tells a new story. Whether investigating same-sex female albatross couples that raise chicks, murderous mother meerkats, or the titanic battle of the sexes waged by ducks, Cooke shows us new evolutionary biology, one where females can be as dynamic as any male. This isn‘t your grandfather’s evolutionary biology. It’s more inclusive, truer to life, and, simply, more fun. 
Good Book! 
4 stars
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It feels weird to say that I’ve been cackling out loud while reading a nonfiction zoology book, but nature and sex and biology are apparently hilarious (and fascinating) when Lucy Cooke writes about them. 

In just the first half of the book she’s already covered how the sexist nonsense of Darwin and his fellow Victorian Era bros led to the assertion that females are nothing but passive receptors for male reproductive drives (spoiler: incorrect, gents), unconfusingly explained the bazillion ways sex hormones and gene expression work (spoiler: it’s not all about testosterone and the Y chromosome), AND: outed some seemingly monogamous birds who sneak out of their nests in the wee hours to bone the neighbors, introduced us to a janky lady Sage Grouse robot held together with Spanx (spoiler: the male grouses were still into her), and described the more-often-than-not suicidal courting dances of male Peacock Spiders (look this up on YouTube, it’s insane), PLUS: there are terrifying ostrich penises (I googled this and can’t unsee it and would like to offer my sincere condolences to all the lady ostriches out there just trying to make it through the damn day), creepy AF horny dolphins, labyrinthine vaginas… and there’s still half a book left (!!), which is full of menopausal orcas taking care of their grown adult sons who can’t survive without them (nightmare), murdery meerkats, albatrosses who form same-sex parenting partnerships, and more. 

I highly recommend reading Bitch if you want to be simultaneously entertained, educated, horrified, and amused. 

Also: male ducks are THE WORST.
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As an avid reader of books about animals, I already knew that females are not always the weaker sex in nature. I have a soft spot for the much-maligned spotted hyenas, and I’m fascinated with Frans de Waal’s work with bonobos. Still, I had no idea that there were so many powerful females in the animal world. From insects, rodents, birds, and even smaller organisms. Bitch brings to the forefront how natural history has perpetuated the male-dominated structure from the Victorian era! Yes, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey are famous, but their field is populated by male-dominated species. I loved all the anecdotes (which, I know, are not considered proper basis for scientific facts), and the author’s own experiences meeting many of her study subjects. The hard science is approachable, avoiding one of the pitfalls of these type of reads. The last chapter feels a little combative though. I was expecting feminism, obviously, but the author seems to be working too hard to make a point about non-binary and transgender issues, and mostly applied to humans, my least favorite animal. I still enjoyed the rest of the book, which is innovative, original and will really open readers’ eyes to the wonders of nature. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#Basic Books!
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"Bitch: On the Female of the Species" was a really interesting and entertaining read. 

I loved learning more about what role gender can play among various species. 

The writing was great and easy to follow and it was just a lot of fun to read.
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First off thank you to Basic Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this digital ARC of Bitch. 

I mean come on - the title was enough to excite me! I found this book to be an incredibly interesting book to read and found it to be very well written and thought out. Lucy Cooke uses a wide range of different animals from different areas and types to emphasize her point and truly drive it home with evidence to why things occur. Due to the amount of information it covered, it was a slower read and took a bit to get through so I read its with another book. Really great read.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I adore almost all scientific writing about animals, and this was a solid four stars for me! I learned so much about different species in the animal kingdom where the gender/sexual/behavioral binary we typically imagine is anything but "traditional." I also gained quite a few new favorite animals to add to my list- from hyenas, lions, naked mole rats, lemurs, bonobos, and other mammals, to termites and songbirds, the author really showcases how complex natural selection can be and how incredibly diverse sexual characteristics are actually represented in nature. It was also really lovely to read the author's descriptions of animals- she studied zoology and her love for them really shone through!

I also liked that this author presented some of the older, more traditional biological/behavioral theories about animals and their reproductive/social norms, while showcasing the groundbreaking work that (primarily) female scientists have done to either refute or expand on these theories, as they have been revealed to be anything but a simple binary division among male vs. female.

The title of this book kinda seems to be there for shock value, and I was also a bit worried from the description that focusing on specifically female animals would lead to carelessness about applying such gender binaries to humans as well. However, I REALLY appreciated that the author made tremendous efforts not to do this, and the book even began with a disclaimer about the terminology used and how readers should be careful not to confuse the gender/sexuality terms of human interpretations with those describing the animal kingdom.

In fact, the entire purpose of this book was to showcase that there is no such thing as a definitive binary male/female system in place in nature-not in terms of sex for reproduction or pleasure, social hierarchies, motherhood, caretaking, power struggles, and so on. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that the sexual and social roles of animals fall under a spectrum and differ vastly between species, so we should examine our inherent biases toward this topic.

The only reason it wasn't a five-star book for me was that while the topic was interesting, the presentation of the material was slightly dry and so I couldn't find a good flow and had to read this in short bursts.
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I loved reading this book! I found the writing to be very insightful and interesting. I was intrigued by the premise and I enjoyed reading it from start to finish.
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I loved reading a book about the females in the regnum animalia, I mean finally they receive some spotlight as well. Everything is explained really well and there are even some anecdotes.
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