Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a girl thing

One of my buttons, which gets pressed frequently, is the idea that a large percentage of a particular child's behaviors can be explained just by looking in his/her diaper and checking out the genitalia. I would never deny that there are general differences between men and women, particulary in relation to physical size. Clearly, the brains of adult men and women are different, as well -- but it's impossible to know if the changes are due to socialization or if they actually cause emotional and intellectual differences in men and women. This point seems to get missed consistently.

DT and I always vowed to raise our children in such a way that they could become whoever and whatever was comfortable for them. I think we've done a fairly good job so far. WonderGirl definitely loves pink and spends a large percentage of her time modeling dress-up clothes and performing in imaginary ballets. She also loves bugs, plays with boys and, like Hammie, would jump from the fridge to the dishwasher if we didn't have a strict "no jumping from furniture to furniture" rule in our house. I hope and expect that Rocco will also feel comfortable exhibiting a blend of his masculine and feminine energies.

It's tired territory, so I'll just say briefly that I don't know why we, as a society, have so much invested in teaching boys to be boys and girls to be girls. My gut feeling is that there's an element of truth in it all -- girls are probably more likely (on average) to enjoy ballerina endeavors, for some biological reason, but who can say that for sure? The socialization starts early and is aggressive. Even my mother-in-law told me recently that buying presents for her granddaughters is much easier than for her grandsons because "girls like everything." One of her grandsons loves cooking and all things kitchen-related, but she's never indulged that interest with a relevant gift because... well, who knows? When I asked, she just looked at me with a bemused expression and repeated several times that it would be "weird." When we were shopping together for Rocco's recent birthday, she found a wonderful, soft pillow-type stuffed animal. It met most of her criteria for purchase: happy eyes (don't ask), fur that didn't come out when you pulled, and conservative political leanings. The only problem? It was purple. She danced around the issue for a good three minutes, assuming that I wouldn't want him to have it because, you know, it was purple. We ended up taking a different toy home for him - a nice, masculine puppy.

My real pet peeve, though, are parents who have two children, a girl and a boy, and ascribe all differences in their children to sex. As a statistician, I'm completely offended by this: if you have a sample size of 1 in each category, you simply can't draw conclusions. When I see differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, I assume that they're differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, not girls and boys. The next parent that tells me that their children were different from the beginning because they were boys or girls damn well better have at least three of each.

(Technical issue: I can't get the cartoon any larger, but if you click on it, you can read it.)

1 comment:

DT said...

Why 3? And how does a plush toy have political leanings?

My brother-in-law at least jokingly went to the other extreme once, hoping for a lesbian, transgender son who would grow up to be a professional ballerina.

I think it's most interesting how these cultural constructions of gender persist despite technological innovations that make the original reason for the construction obsolete. Just as in a biological model, an alarming amount of potentially hazardous information, structure, and functions persist well beyond the organism's use for it.