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AIBU to think we cannot possibly know natural gender differences.

(72 Posts)
goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 09:02:34

Yesterday I overheard this;

A little boy who was approximately 2 years old was in a toy shop and was desperate for his parents to buy him a baby doll. Father responded to his pleas repeatedly with "they're for girls, put it back" He used a derogative tone each time he said the word "girls". He then said "what are you, gay?"

Co-incidentally the BBC news this morning had an article about how few girls go into science and those that do tend to go into to caring roles etc. The normal gender/work issues.

Taking aside the fact that the gay comment was totally appauling, AIBU to think that we cannot possible truly understand natural gender differences when parents raise children in this way.

Mrsjayy Mon 10-Nov-14 09:11:36

Did you really hear that in a toyshop hmm

brainfidget Mon 10-Nov-14 09:12:23

Good point. The 'nurture' obscures the nature.

goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 09:19:58

Yes Mrsjayy I heard that in a toy shop. Sadly so did my DS's sad

Catzeyess Mon 10-Nov-14 09:21:03

Everyone I work with (in science) is female...

JeanneDeMontbaston Mon 10-Nov-14 09:27:13

I doubt we can understand natural gender differences anyway. Why would you want to?

Mrsjayy Mon 10-Nov-14 09:27:44

My eldest dd is an audio engineer who works with a few women so it is changing I work with toddlers and the mums say nothing about their wee boys wandering about with the prams and tiaras on grin I have only had 1 run in with a mum of boys about fairy wings I went into a subtle rant about him not catching gay because he had them on,

Myearhurts Mon 10-Nov-14 09:41:22

I disagree with your premise to an extent.

I think that most of us parent in a responsive way. By that I mean that there are clear gender differences between the majority of males and females and that parents for the most part respond accordingly.

I have a DS. Before he was born I didn't think that there were differences between boys and girls. Yet as he grew up I noticed that he displayed a lot of typical 'boy' traits and that his behaviour was markedly different from his female relatives of the same age.

As a result I'm not the parent I thought I would be. I make allowances for his boisterousness for example. I've tried to introduce my son to non typically boy toys, such as soft toys, dolls etc but they sit neglected on the shelf. It's cars cars cars all the way here at the moment. I've tried to nurture him to have wider interests but at the moment his stereotypically boy nature is winning.

However I do agree that this gets carried too far, particularly when it comes to toys. It's ridiculous to suggest that boys can't pay with dolls or visa versa with so called boys toys for girls. Children should be allowed to choose their own toys (with reason as regards price of course!).

I think a big part of the problem is not that we are too aware of gender roles, it's that we insist that there are only two ways of viewing gender.

Personally I think that gender is much like sexuality, that it's deeply entrenched and that there isn't much that nurture can do about it. I think we'd be much happier and better off as society if we accepted that some people identify strongly as male, some as female, but that there is a whole rainbow of people in between who identify differently.

fromparistoberlin73 Mon 10-Nov-14 09:45:16

its got fuck all to do with gender- lets not even GO there

you just happended to overhear an ignorant twattish dick wad!

BTW for the gender nature n nurture debate- this is sad little tale

Hazchem Mon 10-Nov-14 09:45:50

Firslty I think there is no innate gender but rather gender is created, taught and policed by society. We do have biological difference related to our sex male/female but gender and sex aren't the same thing

Catzeyess Mon 10-Nov-14 09:49:07

So you don't believe transgender people are real then Hazchem?

goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 09:50:21


Thank you for your post, very enlightening.

mupperoon Mon 10-Nov-14 09:52:06

I heard a mum in Mothercare the other day telling her little boy to come away from the toy kitchen because "it's for girls".

I try not to criticise others' parenting but was sorely tempted to ask her in a friendly way whether she was aware of Gordon Ramsey et al.

Hazchem Mon 10-Nov-14 09:53:58

I'm not even sure what to make of that statement catzeyess I support peoples right to live how they choose. At the same time I do not think being a women and being feminine are the same thing. For what it's worth the WHO uses sex and gender in the way I have WHO on sex and gender

goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 10:01:14

Parents are to blame though.

My Ds's play football on a Saturday morning, there is one girl there and around 80 boys aged 5-8.

Quite often the boys have sisters there watching, bored on the sidelines, why? Do none of these girls want to play? Maybe some genuinely don't want to play but all of them?

The gender roles are reversed at ballet.

I am sure someone will come on here telling me about their local girls football team being oversubscribed. But it's not what I see.

goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 10:04:41


That is such a perfect example. Like you, I wanted to politely question the father but really didn't know how to go about it.

We all moan about the marketing of toys by gender but really it starts with the parents.

ImTheOneThatKnocks Mon 10-Nov-14 10:09:11

Did he actually use those words to a 2 year old in a shop?

EverythingsRunningAway Mon 10-Nov-14 10:11:36

The thing is, myearhurts, unlike you most parents are products of their own upbringing and their interactions with their children are gendered, even when they think they are being completely neutral.

Also, unlike your child, most children are part of a society that enforces quite rigid gender roles from a very early (baby) age, and they are affected by this.

For most human, being social animals in a social context, it isn't possible to determine what traits are biologically specific to one sex or the other.

The vast, vast majority of "responsive" parents (unlike you) are not responding from a place of gender neutrality.

It is very interesting though that your little boy fits into so many lazy stereotypes about boys despite being raised in isolation from society.

Mitchy1nge Mon 10-Nov-14 10:15:47

find it baffling, have three brothers and three sisters and we all pooled our bikes and toys and did same stuff, but was the 70s, you can't even tell the girls from the boys we all look equally awful

even now there is not really a clear difference between us in terms of our interests

poolomoomon Mon 10-Nov-14 10:18:45

I've tried to actively raise my DC as gender neutral as much as possible but not in a pushy way, just giving them a mixture of toys and letting them choose what they like. Same with clothes, I don't do pink AT ALL and never done the whole prince/princess shite <boak>.

However my four and a half year old DS is currently in a "Pink is YUCKY! No I don't want that, it's for girls!" Phase. I have NO idea where it's come from, I've never said anything is for girls/boys, neither had anyone we mix with and they're home educated. I correct him every time he says it but he's not having any of it. He's interested in all the stereotypical 'boy' things- cars, trains, planes, dinosaurs and space. That's just come from his own head, no pushing from anyone. So I can imagine in a toy shop he would be running away from the dolls saying "no they're for girls!" And I would look like a terrible mum that's told him he can't play with dolls sad.

So from my own experience I would say perhaps it can be ingrained within children to like certain things and it's nothing to do with gender? I don't know... I can't think of any other explanation.

campingfilth Mon 10-Nov-14 10:19:59

I've heard many fathers say similar stuff to children so I'm sure why people are so shocked and disbelieving.

I have one friend whose boys are not allowed to have anything pink at all, I bought them a cow stool and it had a pink tongue but I had to change it something else. Its not that uncommon.

I hear plenty of 'he'll turn out gay' or 'what are you gay?' statements and live in Brighton! I challenge every single comment but peoples attitudes are very entrenched.

goodnessgracious Mon 10-Nov-14 10:23:26


Did he actually use those words to a 2 year old in a shop?

Yes, he used those exact words.

EverythingsRunningAway Mon 10-Nov-14 10:25:02

You can't think of any other explanation why a child who has spent four years growing up in a culture that emphasises gender differences picked up the idea that pink is a girl's colour?!

You are not the only influence on him.

Do you actually think that the colour pink is innately, biologically linked to being female.

What biological advantage might pertain to female humans from a preference for the colour pink?

What about sparkliness?

Myearhurts Mon 10-Nov-14 10:27:56


I understand that you are being sarcastic, however I never claimed that I was some sort of super special snowflake parent who is miraculously able to insulate my child from the forces of the world.

I'm merely speaking about my observations. My son, from birth, was given a wide range of toys to play with. At about six months when he started showing an interest in toys he nearly always favoured the traditional male toys, such as cars and planes while traditionally female ones were ignored. His two female cousins in contrast at a similar age, preferred the traditionally female toys, despite being given similar options. I find it hard to believe that I, or anyone else in society was able to have such a strong influence on a six month old baby.

I just don't buy the idea that gender is solely enforced by society. Someone brought up the example of transgendered people and this is what blows the idea out of the water for me.

There are many men and women who insist that their gender does not match their biological presentation. Even people from highly conservative families where gender roles are very strictly enforced. They, very bravely, ignore the very strong pressure from society to live as their biological presentation suggests, despite the very real risk of ostracisation from their families and friends, economic inequality and the daily risk of violence. All because something deep inside of them tells them they are not the gender that society has tried to tell them they are.

If it were true that societal pressure was the biggest and most overwhelming influence on a persons gender - why do transgendered people exist?

I reiterate that the real problem lies not with the fact that their are innate differences between men and women but with the fact that we choose, broadly speaking, to be so hostile to those people who don't fit comfortably within this binary.

TestingTestingWonTooFree Mon 10-Nov-14 10:29:37

I'd be pleased if DS grew up to be a father who could cook - dolls and toy kitchens it is!

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