Sunday, 10 April 2016

The gender debate asks the wrong questions

It seems everyone wants to hear that boys and girls are really the same, and that the problem is adults enforcing society's gender roles on children.

What we never hear in this debate is that roles can be a force for good. Why do we assume that gender roles for women are negative and positive for boys? Mothers allow infant boys to climb steeper inclines than girls even though they're both physically capable of climbing. So the implication is that mum is being overprotective of the girl because most people are trained to interpret any difference in sex treatment as automatically disadvantaging girls. Logic suggests that a better result would be for mum to be as reckless with the girl as she is with the boy. But that's poor logic.

The question we should be asking is, given the maternal instinct to protect children, why are mothers more reckless with boys? Why do they encourage boys to take above-average risks compared to girls? Doesn't that disadvantage the boy?

Furthermore, people shouldn't be treated the same when all advantages - physical, social, intellectual - accrue to the specialist, not the individual. Humans need specialisation to survive. It is important to have some members of society trained to be more physical, some to be more social and others to be more empathetic. Rather than have every member being mediocre at many things.

The gender debate is annoying because the framing reinforces people's dumb preconceived notions. Boys are encourage to play sports in which players routinely break bones and suffer concussions but the game in which nothing of value is at stake continues. Somehow women are disadvantaged because they aren't treated as carelessly. That logic doesn't fly.

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