Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville rightly takes issue with psychologist Anita Sethi's Parenting article in which she states: "it took having kids to make me realize that sex differences aren't just the stuff of Brady Bunch reruns." I mean, that would be fine if she was talking about the fact that boys have penises and girls, naturally, don't, but, no, of course she's talking about liking boy toys (and not in the awesome Madonna sort of way) and girl toys.Anita contends that gender differences — like freaking toy preferences — might be hard wired into our brains because by 18 months old, girls tend to choose "girl" toys over "boy" ones. Well, gosh, you'd think a shrink would give just a smidge more credit to the idea that, by 18 months, a child's seen enough television and the behaviors of the other children and adults around them to have picked up on the practically-universal subliminal messages about which toys they are supposed to like? The only things that Anita cites are things like infant boys preference for groups of faces over individual ones, the fact that newborn girls seemingly imitate better than boys and respond more to voices (which, ahem, more than explains them learning to talk earlier than boys on the average — though I was personally late in this regard), and the fact that by 6 month of age, boys' stress levels were higher than girls' even if their external responses were the same. Actually, that last one seems to indicate that the whole stereotype that men are taught to keep their emotions inside is learned somewhat earlier, not that it's genetic, but whatever. Anyway, Michelle McEwan thinks the whole thing is obnoxious, poorly sourced and pretty sexist. I tend to agree. I really have to go look into that "nurture over nature" tattoo for my forehead one of these days. Actual Headline [Shakesville] Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Girls From Birth [CNN] Photo via Agilmente
I nannied for 3 boys who each, individually as children, went through a "phase" where they played with toys that are marketed for girls. Barbies, pink castle things, etc. The parents had no problem with it and didn't do the whole "this is for boys, this is for girls" thing. Each of boys eventually went for more traditional boy toys because A. they watched TV and were effected by the things marketed to them and B. once they started socializing with other kids (or their older brothers) were shamed into putting those away.
While I think individual people are drawn to certain kinds of things that may or may not be something we've decided is appropriate for their gender..it's always problematic when anything is broken down into binaries like this. ALL girls like x, ALL boys like x, ALL the time. It's just ludicrous. Children will play with toys that appeal to them until they're told they shouldn't (and even after, sometimes)...but considering how young people start with almost compulsive gender association it's not too surprising someone would write a book with such bad info. The first question most people ask about a baby is whether it's a boy or girl if they aren't clearly able to tell via style or color of dress...and they become distressed if the person doesn't tell them. As though what gender an infant is determines how you'll treat them. Which may be true. There was some study on this awhile back with infants who were deliberately dressed in non-gender specific styles or colors/names that either gender can have, to see how people reacted to them and not being told if the child was a boy or girl. Apparently some folks got really irate.