Thursday, August 21, 2008

Because Boys will be Boys and Girls, Girls, Too

Over at Jezebel, those girls have their panties all up in a bunch about an article in Parenting magazine (which I haven't read) in which the author apparently argues that gender preferences in toys are hard-wired. The young women at Jezebel think playing with trucks is a learned behavior. Here's what one writes:

"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?"

You know what? I give NO credit to that idea. I have boy-girl twins. I know, I know that I treat them differently because one's a boy and one's a girl. But when it comes to trucks and dolls? No. It's hard wired. Sometimes my son plays with dolls and sometimes my daughter plays with trucks. But in general? They divide along gender lines.

A story. My children are 13 months old. We go to my brother's house for Thanksgiving. My brother has three girls and one boy. In his basement, there are tubs of toys divided by category: Trucks. Dolls. Blocks. Balls. Up until that day, we did have some trucks in the house, but my daughter had never seen a baby doll. This wasn't a political decision on our part. It was simply that no one had yet to give us a baby doll and that year, the only toys we had were those that had been given to us. (And because my parents have 7,000 friends, we had a lot of toys. But no dolls.)

So, my kids do the arms-out-I'm-1-year-old walk into the basement playroom. They take one look at the toy tubs, and my son goes straight for the trucks and my daughter makes a bee-line for the dolls. Elliot's going vroom-vroom and Helen's rocking a baby to sleep. She'd never seen anyone do that with a doll before. She just did it. As for TV? They hadn't seen any. Again, not quite a political decision. More like the TV wasn't in a room they went into and even if it had been, they didn't yet have the attention span to sit and watch anyway.

So, I hate to break it to those fierce childless women over at Jezebel and Shakesville, but on the one hand, sure there are a lot of cultural influence that affect parenting. On the other, though, there are things that are just hardwired. The Parenting article may be poorly argued, but every parent I know would say the same thing: Trucks, balls, dolls and fancy things? Hardwired. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, totally hardwired. Sorry to say, Jezebel women, but sometimes, biology is toy destiny.

Update: See, there are exceptions. I finished this post and went into the living room and my son had stopped saving the new Playmobil princess in his new rescue helicopter and was focued on arranging her bedroom furniture. So, it's all flow in the hardwiring.

1 comment:

roni said...

[sigh] Why is *biology* so difficult to accept, and why do we have these knee-jerk reactions to gender implications? I am friends with a former colleague whose highly educated wife is adamantly against letting her daughters play with Barbies because she's afraid they will grow up to be cheerleaders (honest to Jeebus, I am not making this up). Because my mom taught me manners, I bit my tongue and didn't ask her what other old wives tales she believed in.

I am childless by choice, and whenever I click over to Jezebel to check out the cultural battle du jour, I look at them like, are we on the same team? 'cuz I don't think we're on the same planet!

(Work has been nuts the past month, so I am working my way through your blog!)