Children and Gender – Part One

May 2nd, 2009 by Pelle Billing

Raising children is no easy task, and it just got even more complicated.

In traditional societies there never was much controversy around gender. Boys were boys, girls were girls, and the gendered behaviors that children displayed were both expected and accepted. The downside was that any boy or girl who behaved in an atypical way was likely told by his or her parents to change and be more gender typical, while also being ostracized by other kids (which is still the case – children can be cruel).

Post-traditional Approaches

In postmodern circumstances that are heavily influenced by feminism, gender is often believed to be mostly or fully a product of social and cultural programming. This can lead to theories (and in some places actual practices) on how it would be desirable to raise kids differently, and try to eradicate the social constructs that create femininity and masculinity.

Using kids as guinea pigs in a gender experiment might be tempting for those who strongly believe that gender is a social construct, however, I believe that it is deeply unethical. If a subset of adults believe that gender roles are 100 percent socially constructed, and that this is a problem, then their task is to try to change the adult population, not the children.

If the core belief is that girls and boys become the way they are by modeling adults, then the adults are the ones who are responsible for implementing change, not the kids. Raising kids in a way that is incongruent with the societal expectations that they will meet as a adults, can hardly be something that is conducive for happiness and good mental health.

Besides, what moral authority will you have if you are incapable of doing something yourself, while expecting your child to do it? If you yourself are a thief, then you are modeling criminality for your child, regardless of what you tell them about stealing.

Children and Play

The preferred way to surgically engineer change in children’s gendered behavior seems to be controlling what toys they can play with. This approach can be used by parents, or gender “experts” in preschool.

I’m not talking about parents giving their kids a wide range of toys to choose from, which I think is great, but parents or teachers actively enforcing certain styles of playing. Ways of doing this include breaking up same-sex peer groups and only allowing mixed groups, or forcing children to play with toys that are usually preferred by the opposite sex.

A Sane Way Forward

Actively breaking up same-sex peer groups doesn’t make any sense, since children spontaneously organize themselves into these groups. Claiming that children model their parents or other adults in this area might seem like a tempting explanation, but when you actually think about it adults are not nearly as rigid as children. Most parents hang out with a partner of the opposite sex, and when parents have a party or get-together there’s usually a mixture of men and women.

For those of us who believe that gender roles are neither the fixed entities described by traditional societies, nor the 100 percent fluid entities postulated by postmodern feminism, the rules of engagement remain the same: if we want our children to be freer in their gender roles, then we need to model that kind of behavior in ourselves first, before they can follow suit.

Children are not guinea pigs, they’re an integrated and vulnerable part of society.

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9 Responses to “Children and Gender – Part One”

  1. Just a metalhead Says:

    On that subject, I used to be of the opinion that people were “blank pages” and that what they become was due almost only to nurture… when I was young. With more information, I think that my previous position was naive at best, I still like to hear how nurture can influence someone’s life, meaning our actions have clear consequences on our and other people’s development, but I can’t deny the strong influences our nature has.

    I don’t know if you are aware, but there was a case in which a kid was a guinea pig by proponents of the idea that gender roles are only social inventions and have no biological basis. It happened in Canada, identical twin boys were born to a family and they had them circumcised (*shudder*) at two months of age for medical reasons. Unfortunately, one of the boy suffered the loss of his penis during the operation. A child psychologist then came to the parents and offered to transition the boy to a girl so that he (now she) could live her life fully. So they raised her as a girl.

    It didn’t end well, to say the least. She refused to put on dresses, she refused to play with girls’ toys, she was very masculine in her attitude and actions. So much that her parents finally relented near her adolescence and admitted what had happened, thus she became a he again. But neither he nor his twin brother would live to see their 40s, he committed suicide, two years after his brother died in what may possibly be a suicide too.

    See http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/reimer/

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Very interesting story metalhead. I’ve read about similar cases.

    I guess we can learn two things from that story:
    1) It’s nature+nurture, you cannot get rid of nature no matter how much you try
    2) Circumcision is an outdated practice that should be abolished (except when medically unavoidable, such as in this case)

  3. Children and Gender - Part 2 Says:

    [...] Pelle Billing . com Gender Liberation Beyond Feminism « Children and Gender – Part One [...]

  4. Martin Says:

    Hats off to you Pelle. Very well written arguments on the topic. I have been butting heads with gender “scientists”, feminists, communists and other sect members for many years and have felt alone for the most part. It is liberating to find your and other blogs that try to make things right again. I hope that we are seeing the end of the gender fascism that the feminist scum have tried to implement in our society. Hopefully the next step will be to see things for what they are instead of through extremist glasses.

    I must add one critical comment though, regarding the sentence in your part 2: “do what you want, but hurt no one” (not correctly cited). This sentence actually covers most of our moral codes and criminal laws while preserving the individual liberty. It might not be enough when teaching social codes to smaller children or similar, but for an intelligent adult, it is enough. On a side note, it is also the law that Aleister Crowley coined, with the important addition that you should not hurt other people.

  5. Pelle Billing Says:

    Martin,

    I’m glad you agree with me on most accounts.

    I understand that you are more than fed up with feminists, but please don’t call them “scum”, they are still human beings, fighting for what they believe to be true.

    Regarding the phrase “you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else”, I’m not saying that it’s wrong. In fact, I think it’s a great starting point for a moral code. However, I think we need to go further than that statement. It is quite possible to make moral distinctions even among the things that don’t hurt another person.

    Thanks for the comment.

  6. Jim Says:

    This business of dragging one’s children along on social experiments is nothing new, and feminsts didn’t start it, at least here in the US. The Religious Right comes out of a tradition of social separatism. They are the core constituency for the home schooling movement. And on the other side, the side that call itself progressive, the public schools have been the instrument of choice. The social engineering purpose there was to transform immigrant children in the North into little Americans. It worked for lots of people, and the parents supported it whole-heartedly, so no harm done. ah, well, thee was onme little problem – these public schools back in the late 1800′s used the King James Bible as a schol text (weird, I know, but it’s a gem of the language and it was considered a basic text). Anyway, that posed a probelme for Catholic parents, who went and built an entire separate parochial school system form the ground up.

    Child rearing is the main theater of operations in any culture war. Come to think of it, that was the big issue in the Kulturkampf in Germany.

  7. Pelle Billing Says:

    Child rearing is the main theater of operations in any culture war.

    Very interesting observation Jim.
    And thank you for the historical exposé.

  8. Martin Says:

    Ok, the “scum” addition is perhaps a bit harsh. I too believe that they try to do what they think is good, but then again so do nazis, communists and other extreme political groups. Can we agree on the term “extremists” instead? To me, extremists are always scum, but it sounds a bit less judgemental.

    As for the moral code part, it would be interesting to hear your view on what things that hurt no other people you still think should be educated away. I for one believe in courtesy and good manners, but maybe those too fit the general law because not being courteous and polite might hurt other people.

    Love the list you borrowed from the parody feminist site btw. It’s going straight to my office door (on the inside that is, feminsts roam here from time to time…)

  9. Pelle Billing Says:

    @Martin
    Can we agree on the term “extremists” instead?

    I agree that some feminists are extremists, while others are more moderate. So yes, we can agree :)

    As for the moral code part, it would be interesting to hear your view on what things that hurt no other people you still think should be educated away.

    It’s not necessarily that certain things should be done away with, but I do believe that we can make qualitative distinctions even among behaviors that hurt nobody else. For example sleeping at night, and spending some time each day working towards fulfilling your goals and being kind to your close ones, will likely lead to a happier life than if you stay up all night playing computer games, and then sleep during the day and never meet the people you are close to.

    So if we believe that it’s better to be happy than depressed, and that it’s better to serve the continued evolution of human culture instead of only indulging in bad habits, then we can make the qualitative distinctions I made above.

    As long as we are not nihilists, then we can have a moral code that goes beyond “do what you want as long as you hurt no one else” (though nihilists wouldn’t even have that statement as a moral code…)

    Love the list you borrowed from the parody feminist site btw. It’s going straight to my office door (on the inside that is, feminsts roam here from time to time…)

    I’m glad you liked it. Humor is needed from time to time, even when discussing serious issues…


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