Monday, August 15, 2005

Boys vs. Girls

Sexism is genetic. That’s the only answer I can come up with for the gender-specific play of my two children.

‘Er indoors and I have always been very careful not to imprint male or female roles onto either of our children.

We’ve resisted as far as possible dressing Jack in blue for boys, Nancy in pink for girls (although the availability of interesting other colours in the shops doesn’t make it easy!) And we’ve always given them a range of toys to play with. Both have had access to cuddly toys, shakers, textured objects, blocks, books, dolls, puzzles… the works.

What’s totally bizarre to me is how differently they play.

From the minute he could crawl and he could choose what to play with, Jack went for anything with wheels. From about 10 months when visiting a play group, he’d generally head for the buggies and prams belonging to other children rather than the bright plastic toys on the floor. When he did play with toys with wheels, he'd turn them upside down and whizz them round for ages.

Once he discovered toy garages, Jack never looked back. There might be a hundred things to do in a room but he will always head for the garage to brrrm the cars and ideally crash them together.

Nancy, on the other hand, has always been into faces. She looks directly at people and smiles hugely if they look directly at her. She’s a cuddly girl and loves being held, whereas Jack will squirm out of a cuddle after a few seconds. And just recently, at 9 months old, she’s discovered dolls. She’ll smile at them with glee, grab them and thrust them under her chin, or dive for them, hold them in her arms and slobber their faces with wet kisses.

So before they’re even a year old, it’s cars for boys, dolls for girls. Is it the way their brains are wired up? Are their subtler influences at work to do with peer pressure, adult reactions to their play? Or is it some powerful behavioural programming in their DNA? Who knows. But it’s for real, and I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it happen with my own eyes.

Maybe Jack will discover a softer side later in life. Maybe he’ll go into fashion design or hairdressing. Maybe Nancy will develop a fascination for machinery. Maybe she’ll become a car mechanic or a physicist. I’d be delighted for this to happen. But I rather doubt that it will.


Anonymous Ana Perusquia said...

My son, 4 years old, is exactly the same! Now I have a 10 week old baby girl. My ! They are sooo different. My son loves wheels and rollercoaster movement, he can't keep still. But my daughter hates that kind of movement while in our arms, she loves being hugged. Who knows? Cars and dolls may certainly be in our genes.

4:02 am  

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