Saturday, July 9, 2011

Erasing Gender

It's a girl!

No wait, it's a boy!

No, wait, um, what is it exactly?

I guess we'll never know. Because the parents aren't telling.

Time to add another couple to the list of misguided moms and dads who think gender is some kind of Choose Your Own Adventure story. I wrote about a set of such parents a few years ago, so I won't bother rehashing the same blog post; suffice it to say that these people, however well-intentioned, are completely and totally nuts.

But it appears that gender-related nuttiness is a disease that is spreading rapidly, particularly in Sweden. Now it's not just a random set of parents here and there, but an entire school that is devoted to the cause of gender neutrality.

At the Egalia preschool in Stockholm everyone is a referred to as "friend". Sentences that would normally require a "him" or a "her" instead use the more ambiguous "hen". As in, "A doctor is coming to our class this afternoon. 'Hen' is going to speak to us about hen's experience in the hospital," which supposedly doesn't cement stereotypes the way it would to say "He". You know, because you'd hate to say that a male doctor was coming (even if he actually is a man) because that might give kids the idea that all doctors are males. Or something like that.

Story time is equally ridiculous. You won't find a story of a traditional family, but you will find a story about two male giraffes who form a family when they adopt a crocodile egg. Approved literature is about homosexual couples, single parents, and adoption. Who needs fairy tales of Mr. and Mrs. when there are stories to be told of Mr. and Mr. Longneck raising a baby reptile?

Director of the preschool, Lotta Rajalin, says that (obvious) biological differences "don't mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities."

Um, I hate to break it to you, lady (excuse me, um, "friend"), but of course boys and girls have different interests and abilities. I'm just not sure why this is a problem. Yes, there are boys who like traditionally girly things, and girls who like traditionally male things (hence the term "tomboy"), but the way to erase real issues of gender inequality (like those in the middle east, for example) is not to close our eyes to the very normal differences between the sexes. To promote equality we don't need to go around calling everyone "hen"; we need to help children see that their different interests and abilities are equally valued, regardless of their gender.

Besides, trying to insist that there is no difference between the sexes by calling everyone "friend" and incorporating inane policies like putting legos next to the play kitchen so that children "draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction" is stupid beyond belief.

These people are severely over-thinking things. Boys and girls will like what they like. As long as you have a variety of toys available, children will gravitate to the things they prefer, regardless of the ridiculous mind games administrators are trying to play with their impressionable psyches.

Go ahead and set out legos. And a play kitchen. And baby dolls and doctor gear and dress-ups and fairy wands. And then just let the children play with whatever they want to play with. If a girl wants to play with the toy bulldozer, let her. If a boy wants to play with the fairy wand, let him.

But don't gasp in horror if he decides to use the fairy wand as a sword, or worse, a gun.

I agree with University of California, Davis, child psychologist, Jay Belsky, who says, "Gender equality at its worst is emasculating maleness." It's true. Feminine traits are celebrated while masculine traits are stamped out using ritalin and adderall and brainwashing about the evilness of little boys running around the playground playing cops and robbers.

True gender equality is not about erasing or suppressing differences. It's about placing equal value on those differences and acknowledging and appreciating them for what they are.

And we can't do that when we're busy obsessing over where to put the tinker toys.