Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gender And Strollers

All kids love strollers. They're one of the most sought after toys at the daycare. Boys and girls both love them. There is a difference, however, in how they're used. The girls put babies in them and stroll them around. The boys dump the babies out and fill the space with toys. I'm not sure what this says about innate gender differences, but it says something. I call it my PRC study. (Well, I didn't. I do now.)

Before I had kids, I would have never believed there is a natural inclination towards certain behavior in boys and girls. But watching kids over the years at the daycare I believe there is something to it. The PRC actually makes a good sample, since we have single moms, lesbian moms, stay at home dads, and all kinds of in between. Some of the dads are boisterous football players, some are silent and gentle. It's part of what makes the job great. We have a diverse group, from different countries and different backgrounds. But every boy dumps out the stroller, and every girl puts a baby in it and pushes it around.

There is probably a case to be made for different explanations. Maybe the kids copy who they see looks like them. But that doesn't work perfectly: why does the stocky dark skinned girl identify with the tiny blonde above a stocky dark skinned boy? Gender means something to the little ones. I don't know why, or how. But they know, or at least are acting upon, something within themselves. It's interesting.

One of the most bizarre and pervasive divides I have seen since returning to the U.S. is the pathologically individualist side, where the ego reigns and everything is about individual expression, and the monotonous, "everyone is special" politically correct engine. It's fascinating, and both sides take the argument very seriously. Most individualists, ironically, would argue that boys are boys and girls are girls. Most of the p.c. crowd argues against any innate gender differences, that boys and girls are blank slates that we impose a political will upon. It's a cross-over, a revolt against the party line in a funny and weird way. I wonder if it could signal a positive approach; a possibility of dialogue.

I think the country is in real trouble. It's bigger than if we are naturally inclined to push babies or machines. But the inability to discuss gender and politics and health care all lead to the death of a nation if we are so convinced we know everything that we can't communicate. I think it starts with watching, and listening. It begins when I can clearly explain that I see the boys pushing toys, and the girls strolling babies. And get an audience instead of a lecture.

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