Cordelia Fine On Unlearning Gender

Join psychologist Cordelia Fine and comedian Meshel Laurie as we unlearn a very powerful gender myth: Testosterone Rex.

Thankfully, the principle of sex equality – that no one should be denied an opportunity simply on the basis of the genitalia they happen to have stowed in their undies – is reasonably well entrenched in Western, contemporary societies. Yet we still struggle to break free from binary thinking around gender. Cordelia Fine argues that a pervasive and powerful myth harms all of us by telling us that men and women have evolved different natures: Testosterone Rex.

We all know Testosterone Rex. It’s that familiar and compelling set of interconnected beliefs that tells us that risk-taking, competitive, status-seeking masculinity has evolved more strongly in males because it enhances their reproductive success, and is therefore wired into the male brain, and fuelled by testosterone. Not so, says psychologist Cordelia Fine, whose latest book Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of our Gendered Minds (Icon, 2017) shows that sex doesn't create male and female natures. Instead, sex, hormones, culture and evolution work together in ways that make past and present gender dynamics only a serving suggestion for the future - not a recipe. 

In this unique conversation event Cordelia Fine draws on evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience and social history to move beyond old 'nature versus nurture' debates. Fine will be joined on stage by comedian, broadcaster and writer Meshel Laurie, as we explore how this new scientific view can transform how we think about our prospects for social change. With wit and a touch of humour, we will leave with a new understanding of gender and the knowledge to challenge the age-old cliché ‘boys will be boys’.


18.45     Doors Open
19.00     Welcome & Introduction
19.10     On Unlearning Gender
19.30     In Conversation with Meshel Laurie 
20.10     Audience Q&A 
20.30     Event Concludes & Book Signing

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'But in addition to being angry, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of humans to make and remake themselves for the better.'
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Cordelia Fine is a Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne and a Women’s Leadership Institute Australia Fellow. She is the author of much-acclaimed A Mind of Its Own (Icon, 2006) and Delusions of Gender (Icon, 2010), described as 'a truly startling book' by the Independent, 'droll yet deeply serious' by New Scientist and ‘an important book; as enjoyable as it is timely and interesting'; by the West Australian. Her latest book, Testosterone Rex (Icon 2017) is described by the Financial Times as a ‘spirited book…[that combines] academic rigour and readability… The expression “essential reading for everyone” is usually untrue as well as a cliché, but if there were a book deserving of that description this might just be it’.


Meshel Laurie is a radio and television broadcaster, writer and corporate speaker. She currently co-hosts the KIIS breakfast show in Melbourne with Matt Tilley, weekdays on KIIS 101.1 from 6-9am.
Meshel is a regular panelist on TEN’s The Project on Friday nights. She regularly writes columns and articles for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and presents the Nitty Gritty Committee and Australian True Crime podcasts.
In 2013 Meshel released her first book, a memoir titled “The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny”. Meshel released her second book, Buddhism For Breakups, in February 2017. It follows Meshel's personal story and how Buddhism can be a roadmap for navigating the fear, loneliness and grief of a broken heart. Later this year, Meshel will release her third book, Buddhism For The Unbelievably Busy.
Meshel is proudly an official ambassador for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Australia, and for Reconciliation Australia.


Leading writers, economists, historians, philosophers, psychologists, artists and other thinkers offer provocation, inspiration and consolation in the form of advice for living better. Speakers for this strand have been invited by The School of Life to present their own material. Session formats will vary depending on the subject.

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Cordelia Fine On Unlearning Gender


Special Event
When and where:
  • Tuesday 29 August 2017 7 – 8.30pm,
    Clemenger Auditorium (Entry via North Court) National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne VIC 3000


Full price: $35.00
Concession: $25.00
(+ $2 booking fee and 1.5% CC fee) 

Please note there is no allocated seating for this event. 

Valid concession cards include a Health Care Card, Seniors Card, Pensioner Concession Card and current student cards.

Please note that we are unable to offer refunds or transfers with less than 7 days cancellation notice before the original class date.

For ticketing and box office enquiries please call 0434 492 669 or email

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Clemenger Auditorium
(Entry via North Court)
National Gallery of Victoria 
180 St Kilda Rd
Melbourne VIC 3000

This venue is wheelchair accessible.

Auslan interpretation can be provided for this event. If you require this service please book tickets and email

Please note that this event will be photographed and audio recorded.