I looked up one of the "experts" behind the No Gender December campaign (she is an American academic) and her ideas are exactly what you might expect them to be - they are "reverse traditionalist". Dr Christia Spears Brown is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Psychology. In an interview about "gendered toys" she said this:
Some people think that boys and girls (and men and women) are so very different from each other that to ignore gender, we are ignoring a key part of who someone is. We think we can better understand someone if we factor in their gender. But the reality is quite different. Individual children naturally differ from one another...Knowing someone’s gender actually tells us very little about what that person is like and what they are good at.
So parents may think that raising kids without gender stereotypes limits their children, pushing them all into a beige world. Really though it is pushing unique, distinct individual children into a pink box or a blue box that is limiting. I don’t advocate gender-neutral kids. I think we should make gender irrelevant, because focusing too much on gender distracts us from focusing on our children’s individuality.
We really need to do away with the assumption that boys and girls are drastically different from one another...
This gets to the heart of the debate. She is right in one sense: traditionalists do believe that men and women are different and that to deny this, and to declare our biological sex irrelevant, is to ignore a key part of who someone is. We do not identify as "its" but as men and women.
Second, she is correct that the liberal view is that having our biological sex matter is limiting to the individual. Liberals often use terms like "prison" and "fetter" and "constraint" when talking about our biological sex.
She is also representative of the liberal view when she states that "we should make gender irrelevant". That is the liberal aim: to make our sex not matter.
Where she is wrong is in the idea that the existence of masculine and feminine essences (i.e. a quality or a principle within reality that men and women identify with and that connects us in our identity to larger, transcendent values) means that there cannot be overlap between men and women in some aspects of life.
Most people, I believe, have a sense at times of a deep gulf between the worlds inhabited by men and women (the men and women are from different planets experience). But we also have experiences of ways in which some men might have more in common with some women than with some other men. For instance, an artsy kind of man might share some attributes with artsy women that he does not share with a rougher kind of man. It is clear, too, that there are some men who "think emotionally" and some women who "think detached and analytically" - so it would not be a surprise to discover that there is some overlap when it comes to the scientific mapping of the male and female brain.
But the existence of this kind of overlap doesn't mean that our manhood or womanhood is not relevant to who we are, to our identity, to our social roles and life purposes, and to the virtues we strive to embody (and, for those of us with a religious view, to how we are made to glorify God).
Therefore, we cannot follow along with Dr Brown's liberal ideal of making our sex irrelevant, as when she declares that:
I would make gender no more important than height or hair color for guiding our assumptions about what children are like.
|So I went and bought my boy a barbie