Podcast with Eugenia Cheng, author of “x + y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender”

Eugenia Cheng (Photo: RoundTurnerPhotography.com) Eugenia Cheng (Photo: RoundTurnerPhotography.com)

From its more mainstream, business-focused and business-friendly “Lean In” variants, to more radical, critical and intersectional understandings of feminism, the past decade has seen a flourishing of discussion from those proposing and critiquing different schools of thought for the way we think about gender in society.

 

 

x+y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender, Eugenia Cheng (Basic Books August 2020, Profile Books, July 2020)
x+y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender, Eugenia Cheng (Basic Books August 2020, Profile Books, July 2020)

Dr Eugenia Cheng’s addition to this conversation is x+y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender. She applies insights gained from her mathematical background to propose a new way to talk about gender and to propose an alternative: the terms “ingressive” and “congressive” behavior.

In this interview, Dr Cheng and I talk about what we gain from bringing a mathematical understanding to questions of social relations and structures. We talk about how she rethinks “gender”, and the new terms she proposes in her book. We end with a short discussion of whether these insights are applicable to conversations about other demographic and social identifiers.

Dr Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician and concert pianist. She is Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and holds a PhD in pure mathematics from the University of Cambridge. Alongside her research in Category Theory and undergraduate teaching her aim is to rid the world of “math-phobia”. She was an early pioneer of math on YouTube and her videos have been viewed over 15 million times to date. Her other books are How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics (2016), which was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics (2017) which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize in 2017 and The Art of Logic in an Illogical World (2018).


Nicholas Gordon has an MPhil from Oxford in International Relations and a BA from Harvard. He works at a think tank in Hong Kong. His writing has also appeared in The South China Morning Post, The Diplomat, China Daily and Caixin.