In the US, the nature versus nurture debate seems almost closed to me – I read post after post about what boys are like, how boys play, how men parent versus women. It all seems so scientific, like its a done deal, even before you get to the pop culture John Gray crap. How do you argue with it? It’s not even slanted pro-male anymore. There are just inherent differences between the sexes. Deal with it.
But it is not a done deal. Here in Sweden there are big newspaper and magazine articles on how boys and girls are treated differently from birth, how even specially trained preschool teachers are more active with boys and talk more to girls. It calls into question all these predetermined ideas on active boys with guns and social girls with dolls. These “pro-nurture” articles are taken seriously here too, getting good play in the newspaper and then posted on open preschool walls. And then parents show up at daycare parent meetings insistent that their boy be able to wear his pink backpack without teasing.
And now that I have a boy and a girl, I lean further and further towards nurture. Sure, my girl likes pink and to dance. But she also destroys anything I build in the sandbox and has a tendency to jump from high places and to tackle her little brother. And, yes, the boy is obsessed with buses, boats and trains. But he is also obsessed with dolls and dresses and likes nothing more than to sit quietly and draw flowers.
So that is Sweden. And now, finally, in the U.S. , there is some pro-nurture buzz about a book by Cordelia Fine called Delusions of Gender, a volley in the nature versus nuture wars firmly on the nurture side. Fine argues that we are way more alike than different. All those supposedly entrenched gender differences, the ones we read about in popular literature and scientific journals alike? Just a product of oppressive “neurosexism,” she says.
From Newsweek (linked above) on Fine’s book:
Our brains are like plastic—they adapt. So, sure, there may be slight variations between male and female wiring, but for the most part, the things that hold women back at work are culturally ingrained.
It may not be socially acceptable to discriminate anymore, but evidence suggests that if a woman were to disguise herself as a man, she’d probably fare better. As Fine puts it, those who’ve transformed themselves in this way—namely, female-to-male transexuals—report “decidedly beneficial consequences at work.” Zing!