The first part of this review can be found here. It deals with STEM subjects at school and as careers, and neuroscience and how it can, or more likely can not, be applied to explain gender differences.
The third section of the book deals with parenting. Relevant because I’m the mother two young children. A boy and a girl, aged 4 and 2. Their obsession with gender roles and stereotypes is, frankly, terrifying.
My little girl seems to be descending into the frightening world of pink with it’s associated limited aspirations. I am not what people would call a girly girl (thank god). I wasn’t as a child. I never had dolls and many colours were part of my world. Treasured toys included a red car, domino rally, a cuddly panther and lego (normal colourful lego of old). I’m aware I may be bringing some of my own issues to my girl’s love of dolls and dresses. 🙂
I have been told I’m over thinking it, not to be concerned and it’s okay and normal. I do just let her get on with it (to a certain extent). I buy her dolls (blue clothed, boy ones) and dresses (and try buy them in many colours, pink included). I want my daughter to have choices and to know that there are other ways. I seek out books and films with strong female characters to balance the too common female stereotype of the princess needing to be rescued. I do this for her and for my son.
My son is a superhero and minecraft loving almost 5 year old. He regularly catagorises toys as girls or boys toys and gets reminded that there are no such thing, just toys for children. I’m reminded of this (click for source of image):
I have tried to mix up their toys and interests as much as I can. They have both received playmobil pirate ships for birthday presents. My son got a pink Happyland Windmill for his second birthday. He chose a pink princess potty when he was potty training. I could go on.
I don’t worry as much about my son though. He won’t be as underestimated as my daughter will. Though I detest the ‘boys don’t cry’ attitude to males and, of course, try my best to challenge this. Those words were said to my little boy, when he was two. FFS.
Reading Delusions of Gender I realise the strength of what I’m battling against. Even before reading this book I was aware that it’s hard to try and go against these strong stereotypes, even when you are highly aware of them and want to steer clear of them. It’s depressing to read that no matter what the home set up is like, children will take most of their ideas about gender from wider society. I’ll keep going though. I hope that every action I take to challenge a gender stereotype will have some small effect. There’s some hope at the end of the book that this is really the case.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Delusions of Gender. It’s a great read for anyone interested in gender and society, neuroscience or education. I think our children would be better off if their teachers would read it. I think society would be better off if everyone read it 🙂
For excellent campaigning against limiting boys and girls interests to certain toys see Let Toys Be Toys
For great ideas for books and films etc that promote strong female role models see A Mighty Girl. I recommend buying these for your boys too!
The plastic ceiling – An article about the link between toys and aspirations can be found here.