If, like me, memories of math tests make you want to cry, know that this book will interest even the most math-adverse, humanities- oriented of brains. Cheng uses principles from her studies of high-level theoretical math to imagine a new, ungendered world, based on character rather than on arbitrary feminine or masculine traits. A must-read for STEM majors and feminists looking for perspectives outside of the humanities.
One of NPR's Best Books of 2020 One of the Most Fascinating Books WIRED Read in 2020
A brilliant mathematician examines the complexity of gender and society and forges a path out of inequality.
Why are men in charge? After years in the male-dominated field of mathematics and in the female-dominated field of art, Eugenia Cheng has heard the question many times. In x + y, Cheng argues that her mathematical specialty -- category theory -- reveals why. Category theory deals more with context, relationships, and nuanced versions of equality than with intrinsic characteristics. Category theory also emphasizes dimensionality: much as a cube can cast a square or diamond shadow, depending on your perspective, so too do gender politics appear to change with how we examine them. Because society often rewards traits that it associates with males, such as competitiveness, we treat the problems those traits can create as male. But putting competitive women in charge will leave many unjust relationships in place. If we want real change, we need to transform the contexts in which we all exist, and not simply who we think we are.
Praise for Eugenia Cheng
"[Eugenia Cheng's] tone is clear, clever and friendly . . . she is rigorous and insightful. . . . [She is] a lucid and nimble expositor."
--- Alex Bellos, New York Times Book Review
"Dr. Cheng . . . has a knack for brushing aside conventions and edicts, like so many pie crumbs from a cutting board."
--- Natalie Angier, New York Times
About the Author
Eugenia Cheng is the scientist in residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an honorary fellow at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of How to Bake Pi, Beyond Infinity, and The Art of Logic in an Illogical World. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.
"This book changed my life in the most beautiful way. Eugenia Cheng doesn't just explain why the way our society conceptualizes gender is all wrong -- she proposes a new way of thinking about -- and beyond -- gender....Stunning."
—Rebecca Ramirez, National Public Radio
"On yet another adventure in using the logic of math to address social and emotional issues, author Cheng takes on gender equality...She frames her thinking with relatable examples and anecdotes....Her arguments are both passionate and logical."
—Booklist (starred review)
"This is an important topic and an important time to
find better ways to have conversations."
—New York Times
"A bold and optimistic theory of gender and cooperation, based on the insights of math"
—Katy Guest, The Guardian
"Eugenia Cheng is on a mission to change the world for the better, using math.... It's another bold and optimistic thought...if we were ever going to imagine a whole new theory of people, now is as good a time as any to start."
"x + y is a book very much designed to change the world."—Times Higher Education
"A carefully developed argument that urges us to discuss character traits without reference to gender."