Cordelia Fine, her awesomeness, and her relatives

Lots of us here are HUGE fans of Cordelia Fine, and have been trying desperately to keep ourselves from boring you with post after post about how awesome she is. (Our one post is here.) But today I’ve got an excuse for another post. The Guardian has an article by her (thrillingly, in the Family Section, usually home to much gender essentialism.) She tells a lovely anecdote about the sexism at her primary school and her parents’ efforts to fight it.

I can recall coming home one day with the news that we were being taught how to sew. “We” the girls, that is. The boys were doing woodwork. The next day, my father was carefully dressed in his best suit and sent to visit the head. The hastily purchased copy of the Daily Telegraph tucked under his arm was intended to make the point better than mere argument. My mother hoped the thought would strike that when even conservatively dressed male Telegraph readers find your school practices sexist and outdated, it’s time to embrace progress.

But then things started to dawn on me. Fine’s mother is Anne Fine, who I knew was an author. I didn’t know that she’d written Bill’s New Frock, however, which I’d heard about years ago and promptly forgotten. (I’ve ordered it now!) But then I remembered that she was at one time married to philosopher Kit Fine. So my assumption is that the man disguised as a Telegraph-reader complaining about gender indoctrination was Kit Fine. And good for him!

OK, I can’t help it. Back to Cordelia Fine’s awesomeness. She’s awesome, so awesome. And here’s another anecdote, involving a conversational strategy I may well try!

I’m pleased to say that the sheer extensiveness of the scientific terrain I covered enabled me to be tiresome in all sorts of different ways. Among friends, a well-timed sentence beginning with “Interestingly …” became my favourite way to spoil a perfectly pleasant conversation. “Interestingly, in humans there’s no clear causal relationship between testosterone and aggressive behaviour,” I would say casually to a parent describing a group of boys’ behaviour as “testosterone-fuelled”. A dear friend was gently rebuked with the same word when she mentioned having to stock up the present cupboard with more “girl toys”. I couldn’t help myself.

“Interestingly,” I remarked, “a recent laboratory study of children’s play behaviour found that girls spent twice as long playing with ‘boy toys’ as they did with ‘girl toys’.”

7 thoughts on “Cordelia Fine, her awesomeness, and her relatives

  1. In fact, FB has another post about her here:

    It was seeing that article that led me to invite her to contribute to Neurofeminism, which I am editing with Robyn Bluhm and Heidi Maibom. I am very happy to say that she accepted the invitation and that we have just been offered a contract by Palgrave Macmillan.
    Her paper for our volume is co-authored with Giordana Grossi.

  2. Count me in as a new Fine fan! I recall, way back in the dark ages (the 50’s) being highly incensed to learn that as a girl I was NOT permitted by the school to take “Shop” classes (carpentry, etc.), but was REQUiRED to take “Home Ec” and learn to cook and sew….. aarrggh!

  3. Yes, count me in too.

    *Sigh* at J – not so way back in the 90’s us gals (at my school) were required to do Home Ec and learn to cook and sew, but not permitted to do graphic design, and woodwork – those were the boys’ activities.

  4. me too. _love_ her book. _love_ her for taking the time to do so much research, and to think so carefully about the reasoning going on in the field.

    anne, your book sound great! looking forward to reading it!

  5. The information (that Cordelia is Kit’s daughter) has just been confirmed to me by Greg Restall, philosopher/logician in Melbourne. Kudos also for Kit for being an awesome philosopher/logician himself and for having produced such an awesome daughter :) (Jointly with Cordelia’s mom, of course.) Those visits to school with the Daily Telegraph under his arms seem to have paid off…

  6. Hello all,

    Just to reconfirm, she is Kit Fine’s daughter. I was at Oxford with Cordy and can confirm her awesomeness as well. Although, she’s not *all* that. If you study the Guardian picture of her carefully, you can see her garden fence needs mending. Best wishes,

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