Gender in Children: Performative or Inherent?
Professional Bro Adam Carolla was on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast a few weeks ago. Savage, who I almost always agree with, had asked him on weigh in on whether a boyfriend should be willing to have a threesome with another guy, if he asks his girlfriend to have one with another girl. Carolla was clearly far too uncomfortable to answer the question, but in attempting to, he rattled off a lot of heternormative nonsense about the “inherent” differences between males and females. As he stammered through a wildly closed-minded explanation of why the genders behave differently when it comes to sex, he insisted that idea that “socialization” informs gendered behavior is a “load of shit.” Little boys like guns, little girls like dolls, “inherently,” says the man whose expertise comes primarily from watching women jump up and down in slow motion.
Carolla’s explanation was that he has twins, and the boy likes boy things and the girl likes girl things. Savage actually agreed, saying that his own kid isn’t anything like him or his boyfriend in terms of what he’s interested in. But to conclude that the different ways girls and boys are socialized has nothing to do with the development of their gender identity seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Kids are born with their own personalities– parents know this, becase if they try to make their kid into what they want instead of what the kid wants, it’s not going to work. But when it comes to gender expectations, the individual kid is going up against some pretty powerful forces.
Author Peggy Orenstein is about to release a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Jezebel wrote up an event yesterday where the author spoke to promote the book, discussing such things as girlie toys, the color pink, and the learned performance of sexuality.
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