Monday, December 10, 2012

Of snips, snails and/or sugar and spice.

Epic, Liz Lemon eyeroll, right here, for this ridiculousness straight out of Sweden. From The Atlantic:

Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys"R"Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its "outdated" advertisements and has pressured it to mend its "narrow-minded" ways. After receiving "training and guidance" from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, "For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust."
Egalia, a new state-sponsored pre-school in Stockholm, is dedicated to the total obliteration of the male and female distinction. There are no boys and girls at Egalia—just "friends" and "buddies." Classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White have been replaced by tales of two male giraffes who parent abandoned crocodile eggs. The Swedish Green Party would like Egalia to be the norm: It has suggested placing gender watchdogs in all of the nation's preschools. "Egalia gives [children] a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be," says one excited teacher. (It is probably necessary to add that this is not an Orwellian satire or a right-wing fantasy: This school actually exists.)

The problem with Egalia and gender-neutral toy catalogs is that boys and girls, on average, do not have identical interests, propensities, or needs. Twenty years ago, Hasbro, a major American toy manufacturing company, tested a playhouse it hoped to market to both boys and girls. It soon emerged that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house. The boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro manager came up with a novel explanation: "Boys and girls are different."
Let me stop here to comment... DUH! I spent a couple years working as a Teacher's Aide at a daycare center and saw this first hand on a daily basis. It's not to say that the girls never played with trucks, or the boys never played house with the girls, but it's just the way they played those games were still very different. Back to the article:

They are different, and nothing short of radical and sustained behavior modification could significantly change their elemental play preferences. Children, with few exceptions, are powerfully drawn to sex-stereotyped play. David Geary, a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, told me in an email this week, "One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes are children's play preferences." The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species (with a few exceptions—female spotted hyenas seem to be at least as aggressive as males). Among our close relatives such as vervet and rhesus monkeys, researchers have found that females play with dolls far more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. It seems unlikely that the monkeys were indoctrinated by stereotypes in a Top-Toy catalog. Something else is going on.

Biology appears to play a role. Several animal studies have shown that hormonal manipulation can reverse sex-typed behavior. When researchers exposed female rhesus monkeys to male hormones prenatally, these females later displayed male-like levels of rough-and-tumble play. Similar results are found in human beings. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic condition that results when the female fetus is subjected to unusually large quantities of male hormones—adrenal androgens. Girls with CAH tend to prefer trucks, cars, and construction sets over dolls and play tea sets. As psychologist Doreen Kimura reported in Scientific American, "These findings suggest that these preferences were actually altered in some way by the early hormonal environment." They also cast doubt on the view that gender-specific play is primarily shaped by socialization.

Androgyny advocates like our Swedish friends have heard such stories many times, and they have an answer. They acknowledge that sex differences have at least some foundation in biology, but they insist that culture can intensify or diminish their power and effect. Even if Eliza is prompted by nature to interact with a train in a stereotypical female way, that is no reason for her parents not to energetically correct her. Hunter College psychologist Virginia Valian, a strong proponent of Swedish-style re-genderization, wrote in the book Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women, "We do not accept biology as destiny ... We vaccinate, we inoculate, we medicate... I propose we adopt the same attitude toward biological sex differences."

Valian is absolutely right that we do not have to accept biology as destiny. But the analogy is ludicrous: We vaccinate, inoculate, and medicate children against disease. Is being a gender-typical little boy or girl a pathology in need of a cure? Failure to protect children from small pox, diphtheria, or measles places them in harm's way. I don't believe there is any such harm in allowing male/female differences to flourish in early childhood. As one Swedish mother, Tanja Bergkvist, told the Associated Press, "Different gender roles aren't problematic as long as they are equally valued." Gender neutrality is not a necessary condition for equality. Men and women can be different—but equal. And for most human beings, the differences are a vital source for meaning and happiness. Since when is uniformity a democratic ideal?

DING DING DING! Thank you, Christina Hoff Sommers. Read the whole thing here


Jesus-in-the-city said...

This is so crazy ridiculous, but also crazy understandable and expectable given the direction our society is going in today. I know this is Sweden, but I wouldn't be surprised if places in the US started going this direction eventually. I've already read various articles about parents not teaching their child or telling anyone else what sex they are and how they think it's so stunningly harmful and oppressive to their kids to actually BE whom they were created to be... But I guess when you don't believe in a Creator, who's to say what ANYONE was created to be? Only themselves or their parents...

The analogy that often comes to mind for me is, what if the parents of an Asian child taught the child from birth, "you're black. You're a black child and everyone else is wrong for trying to teach you that you're not." Wouldn't that eventually be damaging to the child as they go through life and gradually find, "I'm not black, I'm Asian". It makes the child into a liar and it inadvertently makes the people the child encounters who tell him, "hey, I'm pretty sure you're not black," into liars too. Other people are automatically turned into "the enemy who doesn't understand me and is just trying to make me into something I'm not"... I don't know. Is that a bad analogy? Maybe I'm just making a big deal out of nothing, but I think purposefully rearing a child to believe they are something other than they are is selfish, manipulative and harmful. It's a child, not a doll.. Get real people, for goodness sakes!!!

OK, that is the end of my rant! This issue just really makes me angry and it makes my heart hurt for all of these children. This also reminds me of a story I watched a few months ago on Christian news about parents in, either Sweden or Finland, who are told by the government that they don't have the right to homeschool their children. The parents were actually leaving the country they were born and raised in because this, supposedly, free, modern, utopia-haven of a country was insisting that mothers return to work by the time their child was 1 and put the child into state sponsored daycare and then school... It didn't only affect Christians, who just happen to be the main proponents of homeschooling, but ANY parent who chose to take their child's education into their own hands. The government was adamant that they wanted ALL children to be educated in the SAME way and on the SAME level, never,mind the fact that homeschooled children usually perform better and in this particular country, the quality of state sponsored education was on a steady decline and the dropout rate on a steady rise. Anyway, this article makes me wonder if this kind of weird gender manipulation was one of the reasons the government insisted the children only go to their schools.

Anyway, sorry for the crazy mom-rant! Haha! And the part about the woman using vaccination as an example also made me SMH. Unlike the writer, I actually do believe that the government insisting that babies be injected with medicines containing viruses, mercury, formaldehyde, MSG, stem cell tissue from aborted fetuses and substances that cross the blood-brain barrier (among various other things) falls much along the same lines, and I think it's just as ridiculous... Not for a parent to make the decision but for a parent to be pressured or forced to make the decision by a governing authority, which also already happens in the US. My opinion is that if you choose to let the government and "society" parent your children without taking a stand or putting your foot down when necessary, things can end up, eventually, going down this very ugly road.

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