Ed. Note: Chris Seaton challenged me to a debate, following the Boy Scouts of America allowing girls to join and changing its name to Scouts BSA. Was this the end of gender distinction? Were they truly just a social construct? Chris will argue the affirmative and I argue the negative:
My wife and I tried. We bought our first child, our daughter, neutral color clothing, non-gendered toys, a doctor outfit rather than a nurse’s. But when she saw grandma’s high-heeled shoes, she swooned. Her first word was “shoes,” and the die was cast.
No, this proves nothing about boys and girls, but just my daughter. But if she prefers pink (she does) and loves shoes (she really does) and chooses to spend her time in the company of her girlfriends rather than male friends, who am I to deny her agency?
When I took my second child, my son, camping, I invited my daughter as well. She declined. It wasn’t polite. And my son breathed a sigh of relief, as he didn’t want her intruding on the things he wanted to do. Man stuff. Build fires. Go fishing. Whittle sticks and such. Was it wrong of him to like what he liked? And the two of us would sit around the campfire in the evening and ponder guy questions.
I’ve been told more times than I can count about my toxic masculinity, my misogyny, for liking cars, bacon and football. It’s not that women can’t like cars, bacon and football, but apparently when I do it’s cliche masculinity. I just don’t care for rom coms or the Real Housewives of Anywhere. And you can’t make me want to eat kale.
The point isn’t that you can’t be you, but that you can’t dictate to boys, or girls, who they are or what they should want to be. If they want to be vegan and wear frilly dresses, they should be allowed to do so. And if they want to spend their time hanging around with members of their own sex, they should be allowed to do that as well.
We’ve grown fond of empiricism to explain these outcomes, usually under the guise of proving that gender (note, not sex, but gender) is a social construct. We all start out life neutral, and then society, mostly in the form of parents, imposes its ideals on us and we embrace them, masculine, feminine or something else, because we can’t resist its inexorable crush. Is it nature? Is it nurture? What do the studies say?
The problem is that the studies tend to prove what they set out to prove. The agenda of the person conducting the study tends to dictate its outcome, and we remember the outcome but pay no attention to how it was obtained. Regardless, even if you’re inclined to accept the studies, will that change what your child wants? Will that make your boy want to wear dresses or your girl want to play little league? Not if they don’t want to. Well, maybe if what they want is to please their parent, even if that means sublimating their own desires for yours. Of course, some would call that child abuse, forcing a child to submit to your social agenda.
The effort to “explain” the problem suggests that there is a problem in need of explaining. There isn’t. If boys choose to form clubs for the purpose of doing things they want to do, to the exclusion of girls, it reflects a choice of association for entirely organic reasons. There have long been organizations separated by sex, from the Boy Scouts to fraternities and sororities. Oddly, the organization most angered by the new Scouts is the Girl Scouts, who fear there will be no purpose to their continued existence. Apparently, there has been no aching desire for boys to join the Girl Scouts. Weird, right?
There was no Bilateral Commission years ago dictating to the children of America that they must separate themselves by sex. The separation arose organically, because boys and girls tended to enjoy different things. Granted, girls got the lousy end of the deal, pushed to learn the skills that would make them better wives and mothers, but our recognition now that girls’ interests are broader than cooking and sewing opens them to any adventures they choose. If they want to go camping, go camping. Make fires. Hunt buffalo, if you can find one.
But does this newfound realization compel boys be denied the opportunity to be boys, to do and enjoy the things they prefer? Not at all. Nor girls. Nor anyone, and that includes the opportunity to spend their time with members of their own sex doing the things they like to do.
A running quasi-joke is that to a feminist, a good man is a woman. Men should be more in touch with their feminine side, with their feelings. And some men agree, which is absolutely fine as far as how they choose to conduct themselves. The problem is that this isn’t about how they choose to live, or about how other men tolerate their choice to be more feminine. It’s that they want company, to dictate to other males that it’s wrong, toxic, to be who they are, what they want to be. Their hope is to socially engineer boys to meet their expectations rather than the way the boys choose to be. Girls are generally left out of this conversation, since they’re already made of sugar and spice, etc.
This shouldn’t happen. More importantly, it won’t happen, not for lack of trying, even indoctrination and manipulation, despite the malleability of young minds. Your child is going to like the things he or she does, and short of beating them into submission, you are not going to be able to change it. So cook up some bacon for the tailgate party at the football game and enjoy. Really, it’s a lot of fun for anybody who likes that sort of thing.