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The Gender Biases...(18 Posts)
The Gender Biases that Shape Our Brains
Good long read on BBC Future today
All very true and why we did our best to raise our DCs gender neutral.
This is a really approachable and interesting article! Thanks for posting.
It reminds me of all the studies that were done in the 70s and 80s involving small children in particular that identified the 'gendering' of girls and boys, demonstrating that in the debate about nature and nurture that gendered behaviours were likely socialised rather than innate.
This is important work and it seems to have been forgotten or 'shouted down' in the Brave New World of genderism that we currently inhabit.
I really want to learn more about this. I run a pretty gender neutral home. I am the breadwinner, DP is SAHD. Colours are bight and bold rather than pink and sparkly. Yet as soon as they go to school the gender stereotypes kick in. Yr1 class friendships are totally sex divided. Very few girl boy friendships. We clearly need to do more the counteract this, but I don't know what.
It's a good overview of the subject, thanks.
That's an interesting article. Thanks for sharing. Lots of good points in there.
I do feel that these articles miss out on the underlying reasons for why stereotypes around the sexes arise or why human societies engage in the process of conditioning the sexes into specific 'gendered' roles. It's why I think concepts such as complete 'gender neutral' styles or 'abolishing gender' are not feasible.
I agree that harmful stereotypes and influences should be curbed and addressed. I'd rather not force an ideological outcome one way or another though.
It's completely normal and natural and healthy for children to recognise, be curious and playful about gender stereotypes, sex roles, sex differences, etc. They're built to absorb information, detail and nuance about the world around them and interpret it by playing and questioning and testing.
And there are stages and phases, too - I think most parents would notice their daughters, for example, going through a hyper 'girly' pink phase. It passes, usually.
I think 'gender' is probably a very useful part of our social discourse, in most cases. It can be fun, positive. The harm comes from how it is enforced or policed, not from the idea of gender itself, imo.
I do think the article is perhaps over emphasising the 'blank slate' idea. Experience and common sense would seem to suggest a balance between nature and nurture is most likely.
Thank you for taking a read of the article and the lovely comments.
I do agree there is both nature and nurture. Also too that gender abolishment is wishful thinking, although I do wish for it!
Of course some girls (and boys) will genuinely like stereotypical girly things and vice versa. I also don’t know what we can do to counter the pressures children are put under especially when they start school and are not only exposed to gender stereotypes but also the expectations that go along with them.
My elder DD is very girly. Even so, she loved to play football but it was ground out of her in primary school by boys teasing her, refusing to pass her the ball (except to kick it at her head). I was heartbroken and could only raise the issue with the school and stop the bullying continuing, but she never played football again and probably never will. I’m not saying she would have been a professional or anything, it was just sad to see something she genuinely enjoyed being taken from her like that.
If I'm honest I always really struggle with articles like this, maybe it is because DS is autistic so his play was never within a normal developmental framework. He also had developmental delay especially in regards to physical aspects so he wasn't climbing and jumping from a very young age because he simply couldn't. Perhaps I take these type of articles to heart too much, but it actually just highlights the difficulties he had / has.
For instance, when girls first enter pre-school – a gender gap in maths does not exist, but it later begins to widen as their teacher and self-expectations come into play.
How old/persistent is the stereotype that 'girls don't like maths' - where did that come from? Is it an American thing?
I am familiar with a lot of gender stereotypes but that one seems at odds with my experiences - if anything, growing up in the 80s/90s, girls were the goody-goody swotty ones who were good at any schoolwork, maths included. Or maybe that was just my peer groups (I went to several different schools as well). Me and a couple of girl buddies used to mess around with computer code as well, in the 80s/90s. It never really felt like a 'male' thing to do although I was aware that 'bigger boys' were the ones driving the games market.
How old/persistent is the stereotype that 'girls don't like maths' - where did that come from?
I think it is very old, and has subtle variations. Here in France it was more “girls are not as good as boys at maths, boys are better at advanced maths that involve spatial relations and engineering”. So it was very much, you can try but will always be second class mireso than “girls don’t like”
I know it was around in my great grandmother’s time, so 1850s? But back then it was even a big debate as to whether all girls even needed to go to school at all or even need to be able to read (upper class girls of course were educated a bit, it was more whether working class not needing to read because that was when they started talking about free state education for all children and the debate was should it just be for boys or should we include girls (at great expense) too?
I’d have to do some researching to find out. But it must at least date from when society was thinking education harmed women/ was inappropriate for girls.
It was prevalent in the 1970s.
I think 'gender' is probably a very useful part of our social discourse, in most cases. It can be fun, positive. The harm comes from how it is enforced or policed, not from the idea of gender itself, imo
I disagree here. I think that 'gender' (different expected and encouraged behaviours based on bodily sex) is a patriarchal social construct designed to keep women subjugated. The behaviours (dressing in pink frilly crap, being kind, liking ball games and mud and so on) are themselves good or bad, but their designation by gender to male and female babies is.
I liked that part of the article where it was emphasised that it is important to encourage boys (at an early age) to be kind and nurturing.
I can remember being gendered. Girls don't like red, girls are not allowed to do x,y,z and 'boys are better than girls' (said by many boys I grew up around). I do think it is a 'thing' and I do think it is primarily about nurture and not nature.
We used to accept that black people had certain behavioural traits based on their skin colour and bone structure. This is now mostly de-bunked. It's time for gender to be debunked also in my view.
I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but we moved our DSs to a single sex school in Year 2. They were at a mixed school for R and Year 1 and the gender stereotyping was horrendous. The day DS1 came home and said he hadn't been "allowed" to play in the home corner and that the other boys made fun of him wanting to join the lunchtime choir because "all the boys play football", I switched them to a single sex environment where by definition everything is for boys because there are only boys. My sons' school offers colouring, craft clubs, choirs and music groups where every instrument is available for boys and not just brass and percussion. And loads of sports that are NOT football! What is also noticeable also at the boys' primary is how many dads do the school run and/or are SAHDs as well. They of course have plenty of contact with girls, through friends, family, drama and other mixed activities outside school as well.
I myself switched from mixed to single sex mid-secondary school and I know, hand on heart, that I wouldn't have continued on to do applied mathematics at uni had I not switched. I went from being the only girl in extended maths and physics GCSE classes and feeling huge pressure to do "girly" subjects at A level that I was "good at", to being in a school where all the students in those subjects were girls because there WERE only girls. It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, also the pressure of the "male gaze" as I had big boobs pretty much from the age of 11 or 12. No one ever made any explicit comments that I can recall but I was cripplingly self-conscious having boys in every class including PE and swimming, and in fact being the only girl in many of my classes.
(Oh and on the kind and nurturing side - they have had a pets club at the DSs school for decades now, and on the flyer sent home it explicitly said that the aim was to encourage the boys to consider themselves as nurturing the pets, feeding them, researching how to take care of them etc.)
@Xiaoxiong that is really interesting. I had never thought of that as one of the benefits of single sex education.
Also agree that gender as a concept serves no useful purpose. We have biological sex, preferences and personality. I just don't get what gender brings to the party other than the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. This is one of the reasons that the current vogue gender identity politics is so baffling to me. It just further binds people to labels and gender expectations rather than free people from gender stereotypes. I just don't get it.
I think that 'gender' (different expected and encouraged behaviours based on bodily sex) is a patriarchal social construct designed to keep women subjugated.
My own personal view is that "different expected and encouraged behaviours based on bodily sex" is an extremely old phenomenon and is in many ways inevitable due to the sex roles and sexual dimorphism of humans. It is deep within the human psyche, part of our evolution and has nothing to do with patriarchy, although males have abused the phenomenon to dominate females via mechanisms like patriarchy.
It's like trying to eliminate religious or spiritual beliefs from a human population. You really can't because many people still find themselves drawn to forms of it, and even if you succeed in banning or downplaying one type of religion or superstition, for example Christianity, you will find some people gravitating towards other forms of spirituality like new age meditation, healing stones, social justice movements etc.
Banning pink and blue as colours for the sexes might work in the short term but it doesn't eliminate or address the underlying reasons why humans feel a need to distinguish between women and men, and you may find, in time, a new set of colours emerging, say orange and green to signify this desire to differentiate.
There are layers to this phenomenon of course - it's not so much the assigning of colours, but also the sexist connotations that may accompany it and the rigidity with which various human societies police and enforce and condition such traditions and cultural practices.
I just think it's standard human behaviour to condition each of the sexes to prepare the offspring for their role as adults in a sexually dimorphic and predominantly heterosexual population. We condition offspring to speak the language of our tribe/nation, we explicitly and implicitly teach them various cultural and traditional behaviours and nuances, and we also teach them how to 'behave' as a man or a woman. No doubt there are many negative or harmful ideas that have accumulated over the years on what it means to be a man or a woman, but I don't think the phenomenon itself can be eliminated. Otherwise you would have to ignore why humans are sexually dimorphic in the first place. And as we've seen in recent years with the gender madness, that's a bad place to be.
This issues has always been worth unpicking; arguably now more than ever before.
The subtle and not-so-subtle expectations of women's and girls' behaviour vs men's and boys' are oppressive, for both sexes.
For instance, studies have shown that boys don't report CSA/CSE in nearly as high numbers as girls, but nobody actually knows why that is - is it because they don't get targeted as often? Is it because of homophobia? Is it because these boys who are showing signs of being abused aren't being picked up/investigated, and instead are labelled as trouble-makers? We don't actually know - and that's a problem.
Girls from as young as 7 are self-objectifying, and absorbing the messages of hyper-femininity and hyper-sexualisation society imposes on girls and women.
In our local primary school, the 'summer' uniform is polos and shorts for boys and summer dresses for girls. The parents don't just send their girls in simple gingham dresses, they also doll them up with frilly socks, massive bows in hair, curls and plaits. These girls are being taught that what they look like when they go to school is a high priority.
I send my girls to school in polos and trousers/shorts, for practical reasons, mainly. They are sporty and have told me it's ridiculous trying to play football in a dress.
we explicitly and implicitly teach them various cultural and traditional behaviours and nuances, and we also teach them how to 'behave' as a man or a woman
I agree - I just think that there are some that fall away very quickly, as you can see when you look at boys and girls in single sex environments. I was talking to a woman the other day whose husband does most of the cleaning at home, sewed on all the nametapes into uniform and made the most amazing pirate costume for their son for WBD - he learned to clean properly and sew in the Navy. Why is it that my son plays the flute in his single sex school orchestra, while in his old mixed school the flute was considered a "girly" instrument? Why do boys feel pressure to play football in the UK, but it's a girl's game in the USA, lacrosse is the reverse, and hockey is played by both men and women in the UK but just girls in the USA? and then more seriously, why is it that girls are consistently turned off going down the path of STEM careers, why does the UK train so few female engineers when it's 50/50 in most EU countries. In the 1970s and 80s most computer programmers were women, in Russia there are more women scientists and engineers than men? Why are the majority of primary school teachers female, but their headmasters are mostly male?
I don't want to eliminate all differences. Just the silly ones
I would be interested to see a study where the order of birth is taken into account to see if the gender bias is 'less'. I have a DD and DS. I have tried to be neutral however had the normal pram, baby Annabelle, Hannah Montana stuff etc first. DS played with all of this, use to love to push baby Annabelle to pre-school etc and dress up in tutus. I actually feel it's been an advantage, I'm not sure why, but perhaps because the reality is that he probably wouldn't have had all that stuff otherwise and it would have been 'forced' into trucks and lego.
Interestingly he also has always had lots of girl friends, he's very comfortable around girls but maybe that's his personality.