Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More On Gender Roles

The other day, FLG was in the doctor's office and picked up a copy of Parenting magazine during the wait. It contained several articles on the issues surrounding girls, pink, and princesses and boys, blue, and trucks. Today, FLG came across this article on gender roles in The Times.

In her book, [Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps – and What We Can Do About It,] Eliot says that Brizendine’s statement that baby boys do not bond as easily as baby girls with their parents “is not only wrong, it’s downright subversive”. If parents think that boys are less social, they are likely to interact less with them, thus making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. She is equally derisive about the idea that females are alone in their ability to read faces, defuse conflict and form deep friendships whereas boys are hard-wired for aggression and are less empathetic.

Not that Eliot is claiming that boys’ and girls’ brains are identical. Only that we as a culture exaggerate minor differences until they become major ones. “Our philosophy about these things actually shapes our parenting and our culture: if you believe that boys and girls are fundamentally different, it can’t help but alter the way we act and the expectations we have. Of course, genes and hormones play a role in creating boy/girl differences, but they are only the beginning. Social factors are proving to be far more powerful than we previously realised.”

Again, I think most of us realize that we are the product of both Nature and Nurture. The extent to which we are of each is open to debate, and will probably never truly be known or proven. However, there is a tendency for those that want thing to be different to believe that Nurture plays more of a role than Nature and those who want things to stay the same to believe the converse.

Both have their problems. Believing things are Nurture can lead people to thinking that they can change things, when in fact they are forcing something contrary to Nature. Perhaps in immoral and painful ways. On the other hand, we tend to assume that things that common and pre-existing things are Natural when they might not be. Also, even if something is natural, it doesn't make it right or good.

My point? In the absence of definitive proof, we tend to see what we want to see. As a relatively conservative person, I lean toward the Nature side. People who want change lean toward the Nurture side. It's definitely both, but your own personal bias must be taken into account. All of this is less Nature than I probably believe it to be. It's also probably not as much Nurture as Dance or the neuroscientist quoted in the article believe it to be.

1 comment:

John Burgess said...

Allow me to commend Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.

Pinker makes your argument, noting that a misunderstanding and underappreciation of the role of 'nature' leads to necessarily bad public policy.

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