Sex and gender never used to be controversial. There were two sexes — men were male, and women were female — whilst gender was used to classify foreign nouns. In recent years the furious dispute over once settled questions, for example the meaning of the word “woman”, has divided society and flummoxed leading politicians. Anyone can have an opinion, but the truth is still out there. Sex and Gender: a Contemporary Reader, a new book edited by Professors Alice Sullivan and Selina Todd, provides answers that are rooted in evidence.
The editors have amassed an impressive slate of academics, each speaking from positions of expertise in their own disciplines. Biologists Emma Hilton and Colin Wright conclude that “the most prevalent mechanism of reproduction in complex species has stabilised on a binary system of differential gamete types and the subsequent evolution of body types around this binary system”.