The logistical and ethical problems with trying to make toys gender-neutralTop-Toy
Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys”R”Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its “outdated” advertisements and has pressured it to mend its “narrow-minded” ways. After receiving “training and guidance” from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, “For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust.”
Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden’s Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman,proposed a “man tax”—a special tariff to be levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex. In April 2012, following the celebration of International Women’s Day, the Swedes formally introduced the genderless pronoun “hen” to be used in place of he and she (han and hon).
Egalia, a new state-sponsored pre-school in Stockholm, is dedicated to the total obliteration of the male and female distinction. There are no boys and girls at Egalia—just “friends” and “buddies.” Classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White have been replaced by tales of two male giraffes who parent abandoned crocodile eggs. The Swedish Green Party would like Egalia to be the norm: It has suggested placing gender watchdogs in all of the nation’s preschools. “Egalia gives [children] a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be,” says one excited teacher. (It is probably necessary to add that this is not an Orwellian satire or a right-wing fantasy: This school actually exists.)
The problem with Egalia and gender-neutral toy catalogs is that boys and girls, on average, do not have identical interests, propensities, or needs. Twenty years ago, Hasbro, a major American toy manufacturing company, tested a playhouse it hoped to market to both boys and girls. It soon emerged that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house. The boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro manager came up with a novel explanation: “Boys and girls are different.”
They are different, and nothing short of radical and sustained behavior modification could significantly change their elemental play preferences. Children, with few exceptions, are powerfully drawn to sex-stereotyped play. David Geary, a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, told me in an email this week, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes are children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species (with a few exceptions—female spotted hyenas seem to be at least as aggressive as males). Among our close relatives such as vervet and rhesus monkeys, researchers have found that females play with dolls far more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. It seems unlikely that the monkeys were indoctrinated by stereotypes in a Top-Toy catalog. Something else is going on.
Biology appears to play a role. Several animal studies have shown that hormonal manipulation can reverse sex-typed behavior. When researchers exposed female rhesus monkeys to male hormones prenatally, these females later displayed male-like levels of rough-and-tumble play. Similar results are found in human beings. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic condition that results when the female fetus is subjected to unusually large quantities of male hormones—adrenal androgens. Girls with CAH tend to prefer trucks, cars, and construction sets over dolls and play tea sets. As psychologist Doreen Kimura reported in Scientific American, “These findings suggest that these preferences were actually altered in some way by the early hormonal environment.” They also cast doubt on the view that gender-specific play is primarily shaped by socialization.
Professor Geary does not have much hope for the new gender-blind toy catalogue: “The catalog will almost certainly disappear in a few years, once parents who buy from it realize their kids don’t want these toys.” Most little girls don’t want to play with dump trucks, as almost any parent can attest. Including me: When my granddaughter Eliza was given a toy train, she placed it in a baby carriage and covered it with a blanket so it could get some sleep.
Androgyny advocates like our Swedish friends have heard such stories many times, and they have an answer. They acknowledge that sex differences have at least some foundation in biology, but they insist that culture can intensify or diminish their power and effect. Even if Eliza is prompted by nature to interact with a train in a stereotypical female way, that is no reason for her parents not to energetically correct her. Hunter College psychologist Virginia Valian, a strong proponent of Swedish-style re-genderization, wrote in the book Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women, “We do not accept biology as destiny … We vaccinate, we inoculate, we medicate… I propose we adopt the same attitude toward biological sex differences.”
Valian is absolutely right that we do not have to accept biology as destiny. But the analogy is ludicrous: We vaccinate, inoculate, and medicate children against disease. Is being a gender-typical little boy or girl a pathology in need of a cure? Failure to protect children from small pox, diphtheria, or measles places them in harm’s way. I don’t believe there is any such harm in allowing male/female differences to flourish in early childhood. As one Swedish mother, Tanja Bergkvist, told the Associated Press, “Different gender roles aren’t problematic as long as they are equally valued.” Gender neutrality is not a necessary condition for equality. Men and women can be different—but equal. And for most human beings, the differences are a vital source for meaning and happiness. Since when is uniformity a democratic ideal?
Few would deny that parents and teachers should expose children to a wide range of toys and play activities. But what the Swedes are now doing in some of their classrooms goes far beyond encouraging children to experiment with different toys and play styles—they are requiring it. And toy companies who resist the gender neutrality mandate face official censure. Is this kind of social engineering worth it? Is it even ethical?
To succeed, the Swedish parents, teachers and authorities are going to have to police—incessantly—boys’ powerful attraction to large-group rough-and-tumble play and girls’ affinity for intimate theatrical play. As Geary says, “You can change some of these behaviors with reinforcement and monitoring, but they bounce back once this stops.” But this constant monitoring can also undermine children’s healthy development.
Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Minnesota, defines the kind of rough-and-tumble play that boys favor as a behavior that includes “laughing, running, smiling, jumping, open-hand beating, wrestling, play fighting, chasing and fleeing.” This kind of play is often mistakenly regarded as aggression, but according to Pellegrini, it is the very opposite. In cases of schoolyard aggression, the participants are unhappy, they part as enemies, and there are often tears and injuries. Rough-and-tumble play brings boys together, makes them happy, and is a critical party of their social development.
Researchers Mary Ellin Logue (University of Maine) and Hattie Harvey (University of Denver ) agree, and they have documented the benefits of boys’ “bad guy” superhero action narratives. Teachers tend not to like such play, say Logue and Harvey, but it improves boys’ conversation, creative writing skills, and moral imagination. Swedish boys, like American boys, are languishing far behind girls in school. In a 2009 study Logue and Harvey ask an important question the Swedes should consider: “If boys, due to their choices of dramatic play themes, are discouraged from dramatic play, how will this affect their early language and literacy development and their engagement in school?”
What about the girls? Nearly 30 years ago, Vivian Gussin Paley, a beloved kindergarten teacher at the Chicago Laboratory Schools and winner of a MacArthur “genius” award, published a classic book on children’s play entitled Boys & Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner. Paley wondered if girls are missing out by not partaking in boys’ superhero play, but her observations of the “doll corner” allayed her doubts. Girls, she learned, are interested in their own kind of domination. Boys’ imaginative play involves a lot of conflict and imaginary violence; girls’ play, on the other hand, seems to be much gentler and more peaceful. But as Paley looked more carefully, she noticed that the girls’ fantasies were just as exciting and intense as the boys—though different. There were full of conflict, pesky characters and imaginary power struggles. “Mothers and princesses are as powerful as any superheroes the boys can devise.” Paley appreciated the benefits of gendered play for both sexes, and she had no illusions about the prospects for its elimination: “Kindergarten is a triumph of sexual self-stereotyping. No amount of adult subterfuge or propaganda deflects the five-year-old’s passion for segregation by sex.”
But subterfuge and propaganda appear to be the order of the day in Sweden. In their efforts to free children from the constraints of gender, the Swedish reformers are imposing their own set of inviolate rules, standards, and taboos. Here is how Slate author Nathalie Rothchild describes a gender-neutral classroom:
One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys “gender-coded” them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed “free playtime” from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely ‘stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.’ And so every detail of children’s interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children’s lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.
The Swedes are treating gender-conforming children the way we once treated gender-variant children. Formerly called “tomboy girls” and “sissy boys” in the medical literature, these kids are persistently attracted to the toys of the opposite sex. They will often remain fixated on the “wrong” toys despite relentless, often cruel pressure from parents, doctors, and peers. Their total immersion in sex-stereotyped culture—a non-stop Toys”R”Us indoctrination—seems to have little effect on their passion for the toys of the opposite sex. There was a time when a boy who displayed a persistent aversion to trucks and rough play and a fixation on frilly dolls or princess paraphernalia would have been considered a candidate for behavior modification therapy. Today, most experts encourage tolerance, understanding, and acceptance: just leave him alone and let him play as he wants. The Swedes should extend the same tolerant understanding to the gender identity and preferences of the vast majority of children.
(Fox) The battle of the sexes is alive and well. According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.
Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
The so-called dearth of good men (read: marriageable men) has been a hot subject in the media as of late. Much of the coverage has been in response to the fact that for the first time in history, women have become the majority of the U.S. workforce. They’re also getting most of the college degrees. The problem? This new phenomenon has changed the dance between men and women.
As the author of three books on the American family and its intersection with pop culture, I’ve spent thirteen years examining social agendas as they pertain to sex, parenting, and gender roles. During this time, I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women. And in doing so, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who’ve told me, in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married. When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.
Women aren’t women anymore.
To say gender relations have changed dramatically is an understatement. Ever since the sexual revolution, there has been a profound overhaul in the way men and women interact. Men haven’t changed much – they had no revolution that demanded it – but women have changed dramatically.
In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly. That’s because they’ve been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.
Now the men have nowhere to go.
It is precisely this dynamic – women good/men bad – that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes. Yet somehow, men are still to blame when love goes awry. Heck, men have been to blame since feminists first took to the streets in the 1970s.
But what if the dearth of good men, and ongoing battle of the sexes, is – hold on to your seats – women’s fault?
You’ll never hear that in the media. All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.
Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.
It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.
It’s the women who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life. The fact is, women need men’s linear career goals – they need men to pick up the slack at the office – in order to live the balanced life they seek.
So if men today are slackers, and if they’re retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they’ve played to bring about this transformation.
Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.
If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
A new study shows a large gender gap on economic policy among the nation’s professional economists, a divide similar — and in some cases bigger — than the gender divide found in the general public.
(A new study shows a large gender gap on attitudes among economists.(Photo: Thinkstock))
- Male and female economists have opinion differences
- Male economists tend to favor free market solutions
- Female economists tend to support more government
9:10PM EST September 30. 2012 – What does an economist think of that?
A lot depends on whether the economist is a man or a woman. A new study shows a large gender gap on economic policy among the nation’s professional economists, a divide similar — and in some cases bigger — than the gender divide found in the general public.
Differences extend to core professional beliefs — such as the effect of minimum wage laws — not just matters of political opinion.
Female economists tend to favor a bigger role for government while male economists have greater faith in business and the marketplace. Is the U.S. economy excessively regulated? Sixty-five percent of female economists said “no” — 24 percentage points higher than male economists.
“As a group, we are pro-market,” says Ann Mari May, co-author of the study and a University of Nebraska economist. “But women are more likely to accept government regulation and involvement in economic activity than our male colleagues.”
Opinion differences between men and women are well-documented in the general public. President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points among women. Romney leads Obama by 3 percentage points among men, according to the latest Gallup Poll.
The survey of 400 economists is one of the first to examine whether gender differences matter within a profession. The answer for economists: Yes.
How economists think:
- Health insurance. Female economists thought employers should be required to provide health insurance for full-time workers: 40% in favor to 37% against, with the rest offering no opinion. By contrast, men were strongly against the idea: 21% in favor and 52% against.
- Education. Females narrowly opposed taxpayer-funded vouchers that parents could use for tuition at a public or private school of their choice. Male economists love the idea: 61% to 14%.
- Labor standards. Females believe 48% to 33% that trade policy should be linked to labor standards in foreign counties. Males disagreed: 60% to 23%.
“It’s very puzzling,” says free-market economist Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself why there are so few women economists on the free-market side.”
“Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself why there are so few women economists on the free market side.”
— Veronique de Rugy
A native of France, de Rugy supported government intervention early in her life but changed her mind after studying economics. “We want many of the same things as liberals — less poverty, more health care — but have radically different ideas on how to achieve it.”
Liberal economist Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says male economists have been on the inside of the profession, confirming each other’s anti-regulation views. Women, as outsiders, “are more likely to think independently or at least see people outside of the economics profession as forming their peer group,” he says.
The gender balance in economics is changing. One-third of economics doctorates now go to women. The chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers has been a woman three of 27 times since 1946 — one advising Obama and two advising Bill Clinton. The Federal Reserve Board of Governors has three women, bringing the total to eight of 90 members since 1914.
“More diversity is needed at the table when public policy is discussed,” May says.
Economists do agree on some things. Female economists agree with men that Europe has too much regulation and that Walmart is good for society. Male economists agree with their female colleagues that military spending is too high.
The genders are most divorced from each other on the question of equality for women. Male economists overwhelmingly think the wage gap between men and women is largely the result of individuals’ skills, experience and voluntary choices. Female economists overwhelmingly disagree by a margin of 4-to-1.
The biggest disagreement: 76% of women say faculty opportunities in economics favor men. Male economists point the opposite way: 80% say women are favored or the process is neutral.
Illinois Congressional Candidate Tammy Duckworth, Sporting Hijab, Denounced "Racism" at Chicago Jihad Bomb Plotter’s School the Day After His ArrestSeptember 18, 2012
Was anyone watching the DNC and this Duckworth character as she pownced out on her mechanical legs to skewer for the guilt complex to any insight into why it might not be a good idea to have females in combat units. Surely a veteran who lost her legs no one would question… except me. It was an obvious emotional ploy. Just because we have victims does not justify changing the military to make more victims. We men just think women are better with legs because men are better at fighting… and guess what. Not only is this argument reasonable… it is also right. Women in combat units do not help our situation in Iraq. I could tell by the hidden pauses for a smirk on Duckworth’s face that she wasn’t done. She was going to use her token injury as a reason to hurt politically those who are conservative enough to of kept her out of the battle, hence would of denied her martyrdom. Now she’s on to shill for Islam. How predictable
This might shock you considering my opinions on Gay Marriage, but if this were the United States I would say Ms. Talackova has a right to compete because there is no legitimate state interest in gender discrimination. That is how the SCOTUS has found things… and that is probably how I would see things as well. Of course I don’t know Canadian laws, but my guess is that they are more liberal then ours. She did lie about if she was born a woman or not, but she might very well see herself as always being a woman. Most certainly there are some people that are born without any gender at all and chose to go a certain direction… it all depends on how we declare gender. Even in the Torah there is no criteria of deciding what makes a man or woman. I suppose the Orthodox will remind us that the tradition is to not alter the human body, but she is not a Jew. So on what grounds… legal or moral do we have to throw her out of pageant?
(National Post)On Monday, amid mounting public backlash, the organization reversed the decision, but added the caveat that Ms. Talackova must meet “the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada.” During Tuesday’s press conference, Ms. Talackova produced her Canadian passport, which identifies her as a woman, and called on Mr. Trump to say, “in plain words whether or not I will be allowed to compete.”
“I have never asked for any special consideration, I only wanted to compete,” she said.
The Miss Universe Organization has also asked that Ms. Talackova meet the “standards established by other international competitions.” As a result, Ms. Talackova’s bid for Miss Universe inclusion could go global, Ms. Page said. “Maybe that’s what Trump and company have in mind,” she said.
Ms. Allred is known for representing high-profile clients, such as: English actress Charlotte Lewis, who alleged that director Roman Polanski had sexually abused her as a teen; Nicole Brown Simpson’s family during the O.J. Simpson murder trial; and a number of Tiger Woods’ ex-lovers.
“[Donald] Trump has caved in a bit already. He has to go the rest of the way and say it loudly, and say it clearly, that not only will Jenna be allowed to compete, but that the rule is gone — no ifs, ands, buts or ors. No conditions and no excuses,” Ms. Allred told reporters.
“Otherwise, we are considering all of Jenna’s legal options.”
As international competitions go, the Olympics have typically been the staging ground for transgendered issues, with women who were born male being accused of having an unfair advantage. In 2004, just before the Athens Olympics, the International Olympic Committee ruled that transexuals could compete, as long as they had completed sex reassignment surgery — and had undergone hormone therapy for at least two years.
In the case of a beauty pageant, it is “hard to claim that Ms. Talackova has an unfair advantage over other women competing for the crown,” reads a March 29 blog post by Mercedes Allen, operator of the Alberta transgendered website AlbertaTrans.org.
Ms. Talackova says she has known she was a female since she was four years old. She began hormone therapy at 14 and had sex reassignment surgery in 2010. “Since I was conscious I always felt this way,” she wrote in an email to Postmedia News two weeks ago.
Ms. Talackova “understandably realizes that her case could be a significant landmark for the dignity and liberty of LGBTQ citizens everywhere,” reads a weekend statement by Talackova spokesman Rory Richards. The 61st annual Miss Universe Canada pageant will begin May 11 in Toronto.(MORE)
(Volokh.com) 2012-02-08 The Ninth Circuit decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage is unpersuasive because it claims that the law fails to meet even minimal “rational basis” scrutiny. Eugene Volokh does a good job of explaining why. But there is an alternative constitutional rationale for striking down same-sex marriage bans that avoids this problem. Proposition 8 is an example of sex discrimination, and must be evaluated under the higher standards of scrutiny applied to gender discrimination by the Supreme Court.
Although the sex discrimination argument has been advanced by several academic advocates of gay marriage, nonacademics tend to be skeptical because the same-sex marriage bans seem to be targeted against gays, not men or women. Hostility towards gays is certainly part of the motivation for bans on same-sex marriage. But that does not prevent these laws from qualifying as sex discrimination. In terms of the way the law is actually structured, a same-sex marriage ban in fact discriminates on the basis of gender rather than orientation. And it is perfectly possible to discriminate on the basis of sex even if the motivation for doing so is something other than sexism.
Consider the hypothetical case of Anne, Bob, and Colin. If same-sex marriage is forbidden, Anne is allowed to marry Colin, but Bob cannot do so. This is so even if Anne and Bob are identical in every respect other than gender. Bob is denied the legal right to marry Colin (and all other men) solely because he is a man. Denial of a legal right solely on the basis of gender is the very essence of sex discrimination.
By contrast, sexual orientation actually has no effect on the way the law operates. Anne is still allowed to marry Colin, even if one of them happens to be gay or lesbian. Bob is denied that right regardless of his sexual orientation. There are actually lots of real world cases where gays or lesbians have entered into opposite-sex marriages, such as the famous example of former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, a closeted gay man who was married to a woman for many years. McGreevey’s marriage was not illegal, even if his actions were morally dubious.
All of this simply underscores the reality that a ban on same-sex marriage discriminates on the basis of gender rather than orientation – even if the motivation for the discrimination is hostility towards gays and lesbians. Under the Supreme Court’s approach to sex discrimination, any “statutory classifications that distinguish between males and females” are subject to heightened judicial scrutiny. A ban on same-sex marriage pretty obviously “distinguish[es] between males and females.”
Although a ban on same-sex marriage qualifies as sex discrimination, it is not automatically unconstitutional. Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has taken the view that laws that discriminate on the basis of sex do not violate the Constitution if they can pass “intermediate scrutiny,” which requires them to be “substantially related” to an “important state interest.” If opponents of same-sex marriage are right to claim that Western civilization will fall into deep decline if the practice is allowed, that would be enough to pass the test. Ditto if they can show that same-sex marriage somehow inflicts severe harm on children. But any such arguments would be subject to detailed judicial scrutiny. They would have to be backed by real evidence, and could not pass muster just by being minimally plausible, as under the “rational basis” test.
Some originalists might reject (Eugene Volokh)’s argument on the grounds that sex discrimination itself is not really banned by the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Eugene Volokh) criticized such arguments in this post. For a much more comprehensive rebuttal, see this important recent article by Steven Calabresi and Julia Rickert.
A more moderate originalist critique of my position might hinge on the idea that the framers of the Amendment would not have thought of a same-sex marriage ban as sex discrimination. But it is not hard to figure out that a law under which a legal right is dependent on gender discriminates on the basis of sex. The Framers surely thought that this was justifiable sex discrimination. But that does not mean that it isn’t sex discrimination at all. If asked whether marriage laws circa 1868 limited the right to marry on the basis of gender, most people at the time would surely have said yes. And, as in the case of occupational discrimination against women, the Framers’ view that this form of sex discrimination is constitutionally permissible hinged on dubious factual assumptions that we are not bound by today.
In sum, a ban on same-sex marriage easily qualifies as sex discrimination and is therefore subject to heightened judicial scrutiny. Whether it could withstand such scrutiny is a question I leave to others, though (Eugene Volokh) is skeptical about its chances.
UPDATE: Many commenters seem to be assuming that, in order for a law to qualify as sex discrimination, it has to be motivated by hostility to men or women. Not so. As the Supreme Court puts it, a law can qualify as unconstitutional sex discrimination so long as it is a”statutory classification… that distinguish between males and females.” Similarly, a racial classification counts as racial discrimination for constitutional purposes even if the motives behind it are benign.
It is also not true that a ban on same-sex marriage avoids qualifying as sex discrimination because it affects members of both genders. It still denies rights to both men and women solely on account of their sex.
The fact that Bob cannot marry Colin solely on account of gender is not somehow “balanced” by the fact that Anne is similarly forbidden to marry Carol.