I have two children. Our four-year-old is a girl; her two-year-old brother is a boy.
I know these things because I have a functioning inferior temporal cortex.
Apparently, the editors at the BBC do not. There, recognition of sex is a mark of stereotypical discrimination. In a video hashtagged #NoMoreBoysAndGirls, the BBC swapped the clothing of two children who appear to be about a year old; in their words, “Marnie becomes Oliver; Edward becomes Sophie.” Then they place these children on a play rug, where adults come in and proceed to give them toys they believe are appropriate to their gender — so a woman comes in and gives “Sophie” a doll, for example. The BBC explains, “Men hugely dominate careers prizing maths, spatial awareness, and physical confidence. Are boys ‘better’ at these? Is it nature or nurture? . . . When children play spatial-awareness games frequently, their brains change physically within just three months.”
When informed that they have given stereotypical toys to these clothing-swapped children, the women are aghast at their own behavior. “I thought that I was somebody who had a really open mind,” one woman lamented.
So, is toy stereotyping truly a reflection of our patriarchal system?
No. No it isn’t.
Robust studies demonstrate different toy preferences among boys and girls. A 2016 study from City, University of London, found that “children as young as 9 months-old prefer to play with toys specific to their own gender.” A 2017 research review from the same university found that “despite methodological variation in the choice and number of toys offered, context of testing, and age of child, the consistency in finding sex differences in children’s preferences for toys typed to their own gender indicates the strength of this phenomenon and the likelihood that it has a biological origin.” This shouldn’t be shocking: Even rhesus monkeys differentiate toy preference by sex. And the patriarchy among rhesus monkeys is difficult to chalk up to gender stereotyping.
Reinforcing gender confusion will be far more damaging to little boys than simply telling your son to put down his sister’s tiara. (He’s likely picking it up only to annoy his sister anyway.)
So, are boys succeeding in STEM fields because they’re handed trucks? Or are they succeeding because they prefer trucks? A solid way of finding out is by looking at countries with the weakest patriarchies — what’s the job distribution there among men and women? Unsurprisingly, it turns out that countries with greater “gender equality” show fewer women seeking STEM degrees. Per capita, more women in countries such as Albania and Algeria are seeking STEM degrees than are women in much-ballyhooed Norway. Why? Because women in rich countries choose not to pursue STEM fields as often.
Yet we’re supposed to believe that we have the ability to change natural differences between boys and girls by swapping their clothing.
This is not only idiotic, it’s counterproductive. What’s wrong with little girls liking little-girl things? What’s wrong with little boys liking little-boy things? Nothing. Differences between boys and girls are one of the great joys of life.
But, say the critics, we’re neglecting the little boys who want to dress in tiaras. What of them? Isn’t our reinforcement of gender stereotyping damaging to those boys? For the vast majority of boys, the answer is no: Reinforcing gender confusion will be far more damaging to little boys than simply telling your son to put down his sister’s tiara. (He’s likely picking it up only to annoy his sister anyway.) And encouraging gender confusion among otherwise unconfused kids simply to “fight stereotypes” ensures that more children are confused.
Yet the same people who spend their days fretting over small white girls wearing Moana costumes will say that their brothers ought to wear Little Mermaid outfits; the same people who claim that brain plasticity is so great that we can train little girls to become engineers by handing them robot toys suggest that gender itself is biologically set in stone.
None of this makes any sense — and none of it is about actually protecting children. At no point do advocates of gender confusion actually explain why additional gender confusion is better — or even show the statistical evidence that pushing boys to wear dresses will somehow create more female engineers, or show why we should push girls to become engineers if they don’t want to do so anyway. This is social engineering by people hell-bent on remolding society without regard to the health of children.
Instead, why don’t we simply assume that parents should raise boys and girls differently? My little girl isn’t going to grow up thinking she can’t perform in science — her mother is a doctor. My little boy isn’t going to grow up thinking boys don’t take care of kids — I’m home more than Mom is at this point. But I’m not going to reinforce gender-bending behavior that tends toward higher rates of depression and suicide over time, when I can simply reinforce the beauty of the differences between boys and girls, and make my kids feel safe and secure in their own biology.