Brute Reason

A collection of thoughts about psychology, social justice, and anything else I give a shit about.

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So I keep hearing these stories about Silly Liberal Parents who want to raise their kids gender-neutral, so they buy them toys for both boys and girls or they don’t let them have dolls or toy guns or whatever, but then inevitably the children start playing only with the toys for “their” gender, or turning the “other” gender’s toys into “their” gender’s toys (i.e. using a doll as a gun), or demanding that their parents buy them the “right” toys.

This is all supposed to be “evidence” that, SEE, it really IS all biology! Stupid liberals! Trying to mess with nature by making your kids play with the wrong toys!

Nope. I’m not sure why this is still news to people, but parents and homes are not the only influence on children’s development. They may not even be the biggest influence. What kids see on TV and read in books, what advertisements they’re exposed to every time they leave their house, what messages their teachers give them (both explicitly and implicitly), and, perhaps most importantly, what other children are saying and doing can be just as influential. 

You can’t raise a child in a bubble. You can give your daughter all the trucks and Legos in the world, but if she goes to daycare or preschool and all the girls there are playing only with the dolls, she will notice. If the only commercials on TV that show girls are the ones advertising Easy Bake ovens and playhouses that let you literally practice doing laundry, SHE WILL NOTICE. If you subconsciously act just a little more praiseworthy and attentive when she plays with her “girl” toys than when she plays with her “boy” toys, she will notice. 

That doesn’t mean that raising gender-neutral children is impossible, but it does mean that it’ll take a little more effort than just plopping your kid down in a room with both Legos and Barbies. It also means that there are MANY variables besides biology that might be explaining the frequent failure (if you would call it that) of gender-neutral parenting.

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