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2014-10-03 Toy preferences

posted 3 Oct 2014, 07:59 by Cake Kidd   [ updated 3 Oct 2014, 07:59 ]

Heya, I just added 14 new articles to the reference pages. Many are authored or co-authored by Gerianne M. Alexander and are about how perinatal hormones can influence gender expression. This was prompted by a nice article in the “Huffington Post”, which doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being scientifically accurate, but nevertheless provides good information at times. This article is about toy preferences in monkeys, which resemble the toy preferences of human babies.

I’m always suprised when I see the old nature-versus-nurture debate come up, I would have thought it has been long laid to rest through scientific evidence. If significant differences in behaviour by gender can be measured in baby animals growing up in controlled environments, and if this behaviour can be tracked back to hormone exposure, than it should be crystal clear that biological factors do play a part in gender roles, gender behaviour and gender expression.

One extreme end of the nature-versus-nurture debate is the “blank slate theory”, the idea that women and men are psychologically absolutely identical at birth – all differences are created socially, by society raising and treating the genders differently. As an example, for how this very outdated viewpoint is still being held and used to support certain political, sociological and feminist views, have a look at a discussion in the comments of a Guardian article about a transsexual boxing promoter. The discussion I’m talking about is started by commenter “ChloeBlack” on 2014-08-12.

In this thread, commenter “floydrose2811r” says “Having said that the idea of there being a ‘female brain’ is something I have been raging against most of my adult life. And as a staunch feminist I do wonder if there is any way to reconcile feminist and trans theories. Let's be honest, the idea of there being a female brain/essence has been used to justify some pretty crappy stuff.” I fear this commenter ignores reality or is trying to construct her own reality, because she doesn’t like the implications as she sees them. She also equates feminist and trans theories (I wonder what is meant by “trans theories”?) as if both are social constructs that can not possibly be tied to reality or supported by evidence. Have a look at my reference pages about early brain development, hormones and gender expression and gender roles and you’ll find tons of studies providing evidence that there is a biologically-caused significant psychological difference between the genders. And this evidence is objective, it is what we see when we look at nature – that’s quite a different level of truth than sociological discussions and implications. Even if I repeat myself: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

And anyway, the fact that measurable, significant differences exist between the averages of the genders doesn’t say anything about individual people, and equally importantly, it does not include an inherent value attached to these differences. Whether you find typically masculine or typically feminine traits “better” or “worse” is entirely up to yourself... and probably says a lot more about yourself than it does about the “worth” of male and female behaviour. If you are “raging” against the existence of biologically-caused psychological differences, doesn’t that mean that you’ve swallowed the patriarchal mindset hook, line and sinker? Isn’t this line of thinking caused by the belief that women have to be identical to men, otherwise they have less value?

Women are different to men... but why should this be a problem? Differences do not automatically imply something is better or worse.