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December 26, 2006

Comments

Why doesn't the author just glue a penis on her little girl and be done with it? It's obvious she wants her girl to be a boy.

I managed to get through the article up until the part where she bitched about the 23% drop-off in sports participation by girls entering high-school. (Sports being perceived as good, because they're what boys are interested in.) Then I just had to stop reading, as I couldn't stand it anymore.

At least her daughter will have it easy in high school. Instead of having to rebel by smoking, she can just start shaving her legs. That right there would be enough to drive mom nuts. Going out for cheerleading would put her in a coma.

I skimmed this article briefly. It hardly required six pages for the author to make her point, which is that nature is unjust for having created two sexes, each with certain characteristic tendencies.

I've got two girls, one four and the other two. They both love dressing up in princess dresses, which I don't think they were ever "indoctrinated" to do, unless you count hormones as a form of indoctrination. It's certainly not an idea I ever would've come up with for them.

Whenever my wife gets a package of clothing for them from ebay, they immediately start taking off what they're wearing and trying on the latest additions to their wardrobe. Granted, the younger one is copying the older one, but we're not encouraging them to do this, they just do because they're girls. They love make up, jewelry, fancy outfits; they are essentially mini-debutants.

The woman who wrote this article is going to have a lot of further causes for frustration as her daughter grows up, and the kid is going to have plenty of frustrations as well.

Foolish woman. Her puny whining skills are no match for Half Sigma's.

You forgot to mention that people pay more attention to female Warcraft characters, don't forget that all-important factor in the calculation of gender privilege.

Next you'll be complaining that no one ever stares at your chest during job interviews. "That is a double standard!"

Did you guys even read this article to see what she's complaining about? Half Sigma, you have snits over Juicy Couture and rose wine. I hope you end up with a daughter, because you'd go into toxic shock if she dragged you in here:

"I visit Club Libby Lu, the mall shop dedicated to the “Very Important Princess.” ... Unlike Disney, Drolet depended on focus groups to choose the logo (a crown-topped heart) and the colors (pink, pink, purple and more pink). ... The decals on the walls and dressing rooms — “I Love Your Hair,” “Hip Chick,” “Spoiled” — were written in “girlfriend language.” The young sales clerks at this “special secret club for superfabulous girls” are called “club counselors” ...
Inside, the store was divided into several glittery “shopping zones” called “experiences”: Libby’s Laboratory, now called Sparkle Spa, where girls concoct their own cosmetics and bath products; Libby’s Room; Ear Piercing; Pooch Parlor (where divas in training can pamper stuffed poodles, pugs and Chihuahuas); and the Style Studio, offering “Libby Du” makeover choices, including ’Tween Idol, Rock Star, Pop Star and, of course, Priceless Princess. Each look includes hairstyle, makeup, nail polish and sparkly tattoos.

As I browsed, I noticed a mother standing in the center of the store holding a price list for makeover birthday parties — $22.50 to $35 per child."

Yet you complain about women being superficial and materialistic. Good luck convincing these girls that diamonds are a ripoff. Or that they should give nerdy IT guys a second look.

I saw that Libby Lu store once, and some girls were having what must have been one of those makeover bday parties. They had them dressed up like whores. I'm not kidding. It's so creepy to see a bunch of 9 year olds in bra tops, spandex and makeup running around.

I actually thought this article on the difficulties of upper middle class blacks finding nannies was much more interesting. It barely scratches on the surface of some tension between Black Americans and Caribbean Americans, but overall, it's a pretty decent article and filled in some empty time this morning on the Brian Lehrer show.

The fact that boys are more likely to end up in prison, dead in Iraq, or a non-college graduate who dies from a heart attack at an early age, doesn't seem to enter into the discussion.

That's only true if you're a black, Hispanic, or poor white trash, and they don't count.

unless you count hormones as a form of indoctrination

That's why we should ban hormones.

Did you guys even read this article to see what she's complaining about?

This is Half Sigma. It's like Slashdot where nobody reads the article in question and instead decides to shoot from the hip their established viewpoints and attempts to spin it without being blatantly racist or sexist.

I hope you end up with a daughter, because you'd go into toxic shock if she dragged you in here:

I'd like a daughter, primarily because my mother would like a granddaughter especially since she already has two grandsons and three sons. Secondly, given my level of masculinity, it's probably going to be easier for me to deal with daughters than sons.

Yet you complain about women being superficial and materialistic. Good luck convincing these girls that diamonds are a ripoff. Or that they should give nerdy IT guys a second look.

If you read between the lines about their complaints, it's not that girls are superficial and materialistic, but the superficial and materialistic girls aren't interested in them. I've slowly learned that if those girls don't like you, it's not their problem, and if you can't become what they want, then it's best to stop harassing them or blaming them. Interactions with women are the free market, and if you're not desirable, then too bad.

It's so creepy to see a bunch of 9 year olds in bra tops, spandex and makeup running around.

Hot slutty adult women are great. In fact, we need more of them! Hot slutty teenagers and children are downright scary and creepy. Sadly, the kids are the victims of their parents fighting for bragging rights against the other parents.

If you read between the lines about their complaints, it's not that girls are superficial and materialistic, but the superficial and materialistic girls aren't interested in them.

Well, if that's true, it's a very counterproductive strategy for them. But there are lots of men who ridicule and genuinely are annoyed by stuff like this. It's ironic that when a woman speaks against it -- someone who is trying to produce an intelligent, thoughtful, sensible, productive daughter, a goal you'd think these supposedly "intellectual" men would support -- she is decried as someone seeking to "glue a penis" on the girl.

And, Fred, kids see all the stuff on TV and take cues from their parents and friends (it sounds like you provide plenty of encouragement), so there are more practical explanations than female hormones somehow affecting how one dresses. The column had an interesting bit about how pink used to be a boys' color, and baby blue was for girls. More to the point, most young kids, boys and girls alike, will like flashy, elaborate, sparkly things until steered otherwise. (Look how southern European, Latinamerican, and Middle-Eastern men dress.) So it's probably more a case of boys being indoctrinated against it.

I remember having to drag my wailing 3-year-old brother out of the party-dress section of a children's store. He had his eye on a red velvet number with gold glitter and puffed sleeves. He dates women exclusively, and to my knowledge no cross-dressing tendencies survived from his early childhood.

Half Sigma, you have snits over Juicy Couture

Huh? I love Juicy so much that I bought stock in Liz Claiborne.

Oh, great. So if we wear Juicy we're Half Sigma's bitches.

I see you closed the comments thread for the post in which you said it was hideous.

"And, Fred, kids see all the stuff on TV and take cues from their parents and friends (it sounds like you provide plenty of encouragement), so there are more practical explanations than female hormones somehow affecting how one dresses. "


Spungen, you're fighting a losing battle. You may be able to convince yourself of all this, but you ain't coming close to convincing me.

The Blank Slate theory has been amply discredited by science. The good or bad news is that, to a considerable extent, your kids are going to grow up to be whatevr nature compels.

Howevwer, if you makes you feel better to believe otherwise, I guess that's your trip.

Sorry, but "Mother" nature rules.

Howevwer, if you makes you feel better to believe otherwise, I guess that's your trip.

Right back at you, Fred. There sure are a lot of men emotionally invested, despite ample evidence to the contrary, in believing women naturally just happen to act in all sorts of goofy ways men are constantly encouraging them to act.

Fred, then what's the explanation for the feminine boys and tomboyish girls who aren't homosexuals?

someone who is trying to produce an intelligent, thoughtful, sensible, productive daughter, a goal you'd think these supposedly "intellectual" men would support

Remember, and I'll admit that I'm somewhat guilty of this, but they like those qualities in a woman, but only if she's hot and submissive to them only. If she's not hot or attracted to another man, then she's an utterly useless cow that should go lesbian and shut up.

Fred, then what's the explanation for the feminine boys and tomboyish girls who aren't homosexuals?

He would probably say their hormones are out of whack. Regardless of whether that's true, it's attitudes like Fred's that make some people so leery of any research into gender differences. Certain people will take any tiny physical difference and try to stretch it to say it compels women to be dumb, weak and dress like drag queens. "Aha, that 10-percent denser clump of cells in the parietal lobe must make them prefer spikey heels!" Or, "Hey, maybe their slightly elevated level of "x" enzyme makes them enjoy wiping poopy butts."

... they like those qualities in a woman, but only if she's hot and submissive to them only.

If that's true for HS, I really really really hope he finds a big loud muscular black woman. Don't you?

In my darker moments, I've always wondered if it would just be easier to do something à la Brave New World and just have children born through artificial processes. In turn, whatever sexual desires that need to be met can be done through special genetically engineered sexual beings. And the only thing we'd need to do is engineer our desire for romance out of human beings. Sure we wouldn't be the same, but it would remove those nasty little things that make our sexuality and to a lesser extent, gender such bothersome issue. Although, I guess we wouldn't be humans any more...

"...it's attitudes like Fred's that make some people so leery of any research into gender differences. Certain people will take any tiny physical difference and try to stretch it to say it compels women to be dumb, weak and dress like drag queens."

Spungen,

I don't think this approach is helping your case. Would you explain to me where, in this or any other comment I have made on this site, I argue that women are "dumb?" I presume you mean dumber than men.

"There sure are a lot of men emotionally invested, despite ample evidence to the contrary, in believing women naturally just happen to act in all sorts of goofy ways men are constantly encouraging them to act."

You describe this female behavior as "goofy," not me. Do you really believe women, in general, act goofily (not an elegant adverb), either by nature or by nurture?

To go back to your earlier comment about my earlier comment, you claim that their is "plenty of evidence" that I encourage my daughters to dress up like little princesses, when in fact, if you'd bothered to read my comment carefully, you'd know that there is no evidence that I do so. My wife orders for them clothes over ebay. We all have to wear clothes, even little girls. The fact that my wife has bought for them party dresses is strictly between her and our older daughter. I never had any input, nor did I want any. So I suppose it's my wife who's to blame, but then again, she's a woman.

You claim that it's atttiudes like mine that make many people "leery of any research into gender differences." My so called attitude is not that women are any "dumber" or "goofier" than are men. My attitude is that men and women generally have differing levels of testosterone and estrogen, among other hormones, and that these hormones influnece not only their physiology but alos their psychology and yes, their behavior.

If this is an "attitude," so is the belief that animals evolve into different forms, the earth is billions of years old, and the sun is not the center of the universe. There are people, now and in the past, who have been "leery" of investigations into these bizzare phenomena as well.

I really wish you would distinguish between what I have said about female behavior and your own, apparently rather conflicted feelings, about female behavior.

David, to answer your question, obviously, not every boy or girl, or man or woman, has exactly the same balance of hormones. Furthermore (again, to explain the obvious) I never claimed that the societal expectations with which a child is raised have no influence over what they do or don't do. But it is a losing battle to imagine that nurture will completely or largely override nature. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Fred, you are imputing many arguments to me I haven't made. My contention is that the current Princess craze is the result of marketing (something to which Half Sigma normally would give a lot of credit), not hormones. If you read the article, you'd see that the author raises many valid issues about the images sold to and pushed upon little girls. It isn't a general rant against girls dressing up, as you've made it out to be.

What evidence do you have that hormones make little girls crave Disney princesses or Libby Lu bra tops and spandex? That sounds awfully specific for a call of nature. And you haven't addressed my main contention -- that any biological desire for flashy adornments is a "characteristic tendency" of humans, not specifically females.

I don't claim that little girls crave specifically a "Disney" product or a "Libby Lu bra tops and spandex." I don't even know what the latter are, and increasingly I thank God that my kids aren't growing up in America, though I suspect that soon enough, they will be. I am trying to brace myself.

I would contend that marketing makes use of certain human predispositions, and I suspect that this is no exception. In other words, the marketing works because girls are predisposed to take a greater interest than boys in fashion and appearance. Do I have a wealth of scientific data to back this up. Nope, I am basing this claim purely on personal observation. However, for me it's not an interesting enough question to research.
Similarly, I have no opinion, and have never though about which gender of child is more attracted to clothing in bright colors, or bright colors generally. If that point is particularly relevant to your argument, I happily concede it.

However, it seems to me that we are skirting the edge of the only question which is really of interest in this discussion, which is whether or not biological differences play a powerful role in establishing differences in male and female attitudes and behavior. I am not denying that cultural factors have an influence as well.

If you concede this, then at best we're quibbling over trivial issues. If not, then I would recommend taking a look at the abundance of scientific literature on this topic. If we still disagree after that, then I suppose we simply disagree.

I am at work now, and so don't have time to read all 6 pages of the article. Perhaps once I am done for the day, I'll go back to it. I do remember, however, that the author snapped at a dental technician, female, as it happens, who invited her daughter to come sit in the princess chair and let the hygenist "sparkle" her teeth.

I agree that the woman's comment is rather cloying, a bit too sweet for my taste. However, snapping at this woman over this comment, is, in my opinion, the height of rudeness and simple bad taste. Hence my comment that the author's child is going to have lots of frustrations of her own.

Got to go now, work, etc.

OK I have revisted the NY Times article. I read the first page. I'm sorry, but I lack the interest necessaary to read the other five. I will, however, quote from the first page:

"More to the point, when my own girl makes her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom — something I’m convinced she does largely to torture me — I worry about what playing Little Mermaid is teaching her. I’ve spent much of my career writing about experiences that undermine girls’ well-being, warning parents that a preoccupation with body and beauty (encouraged by films, TV, magazines and, yes, toys) is perilous to their daughters’ mental and physical health."

In other words, despite the author/mother's persistent efforts to break her daughter of an enthusiasm for "girlie" behavior, her own daughter, by her own admission, loves to play dress up.

Are we therefore to believe that this is all simply the power of marketing operating on an otherwise entirely neutral agent, or is it possible that the child, as a female, has some predisposition to enjoy this type of play?

If one accepts the proposition that hormones influence the behavior of boys and girls, birds and bees, men and women, then it doesn't seem inherently sexist to suspect that hormones play a role in this behavior as well.

Exactly how much of role? I doubt that science or any other form of inquiry can attribute to any one factor an exact percentage.

Nevertheless, since the child's interest in dress up seems to many people a relatively harmless pastime, the mother - rather than teaching her daughter to be at war with her own inclinations, whatever their origins - might better serve her child by encouraging her to be at ease with who she is. Even if what she is is dictated to an extent by her hormones. Since for all of us, what we are is dictated to a considerable extent by our hormones, this would seem a reasonable position.

I believe Stephen Pinker's The Blank Slate discusses the role of nature in the formation of gender roles. I don't have a copy of the book with me, but it might be worth a look.

It has been suggested that I am the sort of person who takes "tiny" physical differences, and uses them to argue that nature compels women to be "dumb, weak, and dress like drag queens." (Something of a cheap shot, by the way, but also a fairly obvious one.) I don't think any evidence has been forthcoming that I have said or implied this in any comments on this site.

DA: "Fred, then what's the explanation for the feminine boys and tomboyish girls who aren't homosexuals?

Spungen: "He would probably say their hormones are out of whack. Regardless of whether that's true, it's attitudes like Fred's that make some people so leery of any research into gender differences."

So, in other words, even though it is acknowledged that hormones may well explain such behavior ("regardless of whether that's true"), identifying them as a possible causal factor is what, exactly?

Thought crime?

I actually did read the whole thing, in hard copy. She goes to extensive lengths about how much it bothers her that despite her best efforts her daughter is into princesses. There's also a fun throwaway line where she describes her daughter as 'Japanese-Jewish' which I think a lot of you race guys will enjoy.

As for gender research, Spungen, it is being suppressed by political correctness within academia, unless it proves women are better. Borat's cousin has to talk about Asperger's and stress that too much male brain bad for you; he's right in that I haven't seen serious problems caused by too much empathizing, but he also has to cover his butt here. It's not so much that what he's saying isn't true, it's that there are other true things he could say, but he won't or he'll wind up like Larry Summers.

I'm actually not unsympathetic to Orenstein's attempts to raise a girl who doesn't buy into all the silliness of marketing, or who is free to be masculine: I find frilly pink only marginally less odious than football, and that probably because nobody forced me to wear it. The problem is that she may, indeed, have a feminine daughter. In short, if we swapped her with a traditionally feminine mother trying to force her tomboy to wear pink everyone would be happy, but of course things don't work that way.

Second-wave feminist political goals (allowing women to enter the workplace) required the denial of _any_ gender differences. Note that first-wave feminist political goals (suffrage) were achieved through the opposite strategy: they argued that the women's vote would humanize the country. I actually hold the intermediate view: women are innately more 'feminine' than men, on average. Sure there are girls who want to play with trucks and program computers, just not as many. There will never be as many, but if you make an effort to break down sterotypes there will be more.

I'd say if anything we need a movement to allow men to be feminine; tomboy carries much less negative connotations than sissy, after all. When women are willing to accept a househusband, I think this will move forward. But don't expect things to be 50-50; they were 95-5, and if we open social roles up they'll be 75-25 or 60-40.

Here's a thought experiment: if gender roles are completely socially constructed, then where did each role come from? How did women get interested in adorning themselves and men get interested in killing each other to begin with?

"I'd say if anything we need a movement to allow men to be feminine; tomboy carries much less negative connotations than sissy, after all."

I'm suspicious of the word "movement," which suggests - to me, anyway - a dumbed down, media-driven driven push for social consensus that abrades some of the more subtle aspects of human freedom (whatever that means).

I would prefer a simple acknowledgment that human behavior, male or female, incorporates a range of possiblilities, and that it is generally the individual who is best positioned to figure out which of these possiblilties to pursue.

In other words, for some people, the physical conflict of organized football or boxing is a kind of joy, for others, a torture. For some people, the study of physics captivates them; others are simply frustrated and bored. If someone wants to participate in beauty pageants or try their hand at fashion modelling, why is this any more or less contemptible? You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who liked and excelled at all of the above, but the point is that no one should have to do all of the above.

Implied in such freedom is the recognition that people are not simply little lumps of clay to be molded by their betters. An acceptance that the 'blank slate' theory is a fallacy does in certain ways advance a respect for individual inclination. This might be a good place to start.

Yes, but as I've said the second-wave feminsts are not likely to give up without a fight. Oh well.

Hence my comment that the author's child is going to have lots of frustrations of her own.

As a woman growing up in America, she'll have many other sources of frustration beyond her mother's taste in clothes. Sooner or later, she's going to have to oppose something. This will particularly be true for an educated, working woman. The mother makes a good point when she raises the question: At what age is it appropriate to start questioning and criticizing things that are popular with children?

Fred, haven't you ever once had to criticize the majority culture to your children (be it Turkish or American)? Sometimes being a good parent means taking an unpopular stance. Frankly, I was relieved when I saw the little penis on that ultrasound. Around here, it's common for fourth-grade girls to go to school with dyed, sprayed hair (and that includes white girls). Since I was a kid, there's been an explosion in businesses that cater to kids' fantasies of glamour. There are zillions more beauty pageants than there used to be. Ditto for dance teams, cheerleading teams, and "modeling clubs." The malls are full of salespeople who call themselves "scouts" and try to get kids to get their parents to buy ripoff photo sessions and lessons to feed their modeling fantasies. Almost every little girl I know is involved in some activity her parents pay for that tells her she's pretty and sexy and feeds her fantasies of making a living that way. In the old days, we just watched the Solid Gold Dancers and copied them; today, there'd be "Solid Gold Dancer Camp." It is not uncommon for girls to get breast implants in their teens now, and that's not just some rumor I've heard, I know of several actual cases.

People have all sorts of unpleasant biological inclinations -- sloth, anger, greed, jealousy. I think our job as parents is to encourage kids to overcome these tendencies. If biology gives women the tendency to be more vain than men (I don't think it does, but men are pretty vain), to gossip, and to be superficial and catty, then the culture being marketed to girls nowadays encourages all their worst tendencies to the nth power. This is what the author of the column is complaining about.

How did women get interested in adorning themselves and men get interested in killing each other to begin with?

SFG, I think women are plenty interested in killing people. We just can't do it as easily because we lack upper body strength. Traditionally, we had to encourage you to do it for us. And as I said earlier, I think men are vain, too. American culture suppresses male flashiness more than most other cultures do. In nature, isn't it usually the male of the species that has the adornments?

I'm suspicious of the word "movement," which suggests - to me, anyway - a dumbed down, media-driven driven push for social consensus that abrades some of the more subtle aspects of human freedom

As opposed to the thoughtful, nuanced, rational way things would work otherwise? Nah. Everything in our culture is marketing- and media-driven.

"I think women are plenty interested in killing people. We just can't do it as easily because we lack upper body strength."

It doesn't take much upper body strength to fire a gun.

Which is why we see more women doing it. But it does take aim, knowledge of how guns work, and possession of a gun. Fewer women traditionally have these things, although it's getting easier to acquire them.

People notice women more, too. It's harder to sneak around. We usually can't run as fast. Breaking down doors is harder for us. If a male target gets close enough to grab the gun, we'll probably lose the struggle over it. And scaling walls is next to impossible for the average woman, but pretty easy for the average (young) man.

"I think women are plenty interested in killing people. We just can't do it as easily because we lack upper body strength"

Why are the audiences of violent action movies and cage fighting predominantly men then?

Primarily uneducated men, EMPhan. That has to be about more than gender.

Besides, I meant people women know. People like to say women aren't violent by nature. I think a lot of it is simply lack of physical ability. A lot of the rest is culture and opportunity. Girls are becoming more physically violent toward each other now than they used to be.

Girls are becoming more physically violent toward each other now than they used to be.

I think part of that is because of the insistance that girls act a little more like boys. Hence, my objection to the article.

And is it just me, or are there a lot of ads and music-vids showing women boxing? I saw one boxing in a herpes med commerical! WTF? Christine Aquillera and Ashlee Simpson both have vids where they box. I think it's overused. More importantly, I can't help but think that it'll make it more culturally acceptable for guys to punch-out their girlfriends.


someone who is trying to produce an intelligent, thoughtful, sensible, productive daughter

No, she's out to produce an ideological clone.

if we swapped her with a traditionally feminine mother trying to force her tomboy to wear pink everyone would be happy, but of course things don't work that way.

I just had a thought -- people have done studies where they show that secondary sex characteristics (aggression, among other things) are continuous functions of hormone levels. In some cases these functions are monotonic (in others you get weird behavior as you max out hormone levels).

For the monotonic ones in which outcome variables (both behavioral and physical) are functions of hormonal levels, wouldn't it be interesting if what we were observing was a regression to the mean phenomenon? That is, Orenstein might have higher basal testosterone levels than the average woman, but her child is likely to be less of an outlier (assuming of course that the joint distribution (X,Y) of parental and child testosterones had an equation for the conditional expectation E[Y|X] which satisfied the regression to the mean condition).

Hence her child's propensity towards boyish activities, confrontational behavior, etc. would be less intense than Orenstein's.

People like to say women aren't violent by nature.

It's not that people "like to say" it, it's that it happens to be internationally true across time and space. I doubt you'd find a single country in the world or in recorded history in which the female murder rate is close to the male murder rate.

This isn't just true in humans, btw, but also in related mammals. (cite, cite, cite)

Seriously, if you're interested in pushing the Blank Slate line I'd advise you to pick a more defensible position. Claiming that men are not more inherently violent than women is almost as ludicrous as claiming that men are not inherently taller on average than women.

IQ denial might be more your speed -- that's something which is not as visually perceptible and hence easier to demagogue :)

Christine Aquillera and Ashlee Simpson both have vids where they box.

That's because it's growing in popularity as a sport for women.

I agree that a lot of people seem to have way too optimistic an idea of what the average female body can do with proper training. This is probably because they have unrealistic ideas about the human body, because they don't use their bodies for much. But it's also fun to fantasize that we could kick ass.

Like Starbuck could really tie a boxing match with Lee.

What's this "Blank Slate" theory I keep getting tagged with? I have the book, and it didn't say anything about girls being genetically programmed to like Disney Princesses. I'm surprised that it's so controversial to say that we should present girls with better role models than these treacly images of women who get everything from hereditary entitlement. At least the Solid Gold Dancers did something. Even supermodels do something to make their money.

Kirk, I'm surprised you take such offense to the sports bit. It seems men are up in arms (especially on the Internet) about the proliferation of overweight women, so you'd think guys would be happy to encourage women to be more physically active.

Beauty, grace, and serenity are instruments of the patriarchy, used by the Man to keep the woman down. They couldn't ~possibly~ have any value in their own right (like enhancing the quantity and quality of suitors or enabling peace of mind).

And you're right, HS. Nary a word about the "Prince Charming" myth in an overlong, 5 plus page article.

Orenstein's insensitivity is duly noted.

It's not that people "like to say" it, it's that it happens to be internationally true across time and space. I doubt you'd find a single country in the world or in recorded history in which the female murder rate is close to the male murder rate.

CQ, women have also had lesser physical strength than men in every country and throughout recorded history. We have some very practical incentives to avoid physical conflict.

If uneducated means no college degree, then that's true mainly because the majority of people are uneducated. My friends and I are all college graduates from first tier universities with over half of us are going on to med, law, pharm, dental, or other post-grad education, yet we are all fans of UFC and Pride. Each time a girlfriend or female friend comes to the PPVs, they sit there, bored or bothered. It's true that physical violence by women is on the uprise, but (I'm just going from memory here) men are still something like 10x more violent. As long as women have less testosterone than men, this will continue to be the case.

I'l admit I don't know what UFC, Pride or PPV are. But I don't know any guys who like that stuff either. (Do you mind me asking, are you white? Raised in America?) I find it hard to believe it's all because of men's testosterone levels.

And the data I'm familiar with suggest that an interest in violent entertainment isn't necessarily linked to the tendency to commit violence.

it didn't say anything about girls being genetically programmed to like Disney Princesses.

That's a caricature of the claim. Just wondering -- have you ever taken biochemistry or neuroscience? I'm not trying to be pedantic, just curious. There are certain general trends -- women being more interested in self-decoration/beautification among them -- which are predictable consequences of hormonal levels. For example, tomboys have been shown to have higher testosterone levels:

http://www.hbns.org/news/tomboy11-12-02.cfm


STUDY SUGGESTS THAT TOMBOYS MAY BE BORN, NOT MADE
Levels of testosterone during pregnancy appear to influence the gender-role behavior of preschool girls, according to a new study...

"Because hormones influence basic processes of brain development, they also exert permanent influences on behavior," says lead author Melissa Hines, Ph.D., of City University in London "In both rats and rhesus monkeys, genetic female animals treated with testosterone during critical periods of prenatal or early postnatal life show increased levels of … male-typical play behavior as juveniles."


If you did then I don't think you would say:

I find it hard to believe it's all because of men's testosterone levels.

Look, think about drugs. Some drugs are powerful, right? Look at what alcohol, morphine, leptin, or serotonin does to your system. Think about hooking up an IV with a different passel of drugs flowing into your system every minute of every day. That's basically what we're talking about. Testosterone is only the start.

And is the violence difference entirely because of testosterone? No, but that's definitely a big factor. Try shooting up with a syringe of testosterone into your arm and see what happens to your aggression levels :) Ever heard of the term "roid rage"?

CQ, women have also had lesser physical strength than men in every country and throughout recorded history. We have some very practical incentives to avoid physical conflict.

You're putting the cart before the horse. What led to sexual dimorphism in the first place? And why would there be a barrier between physical and behavioral adaptations?

Think about natural selection. Couple a reduced physical capacity for aggression with an unchanged behavioral tendency towards aggression. You get people picking physical fights they can't win. They tend to die. Over time, the ones who survive don't pick fights as readily.

Ah, the great Greg Cochran. I wonder who'll show up next?

My guess is that UFC is the ultimate fighting championship.

Look, Spungen, we're not denying the cultural role in forming gender roles, simply saying that it backs up genetically determined ones. If 70% of women do something it becomes 'feminine' and the number will go to 80 or 90.

I do wonder what produces feminists. I actually don't think it's just a high testosterone level.

Kirk, I'm surprised you take such offense to the sports bit. It seems men are up in arms (especially on the Internet) about the proliferation of overweight women, so you'd think guys would be happy to encourage women to be more physically active.

I remember reading an article about coeds trying to outdrink male students, to sometimes disastrous results. The article blamed much of it on the feminist "women can do anything men can do" ideal(which college students have in spades).

I don't want these same women thinking they can get into fights with their male counterparts and come out okay. (Even worse, would be the guys getting the same idea.) Yet, that happens in a lot of fiction nowadays -- 120 pound chicks like Syndey Bristow kick guy's asses all the time.

Yeah, fantasy is fantasy, and I always thought Emma Peel was hot, but still...

I saw a dashboard video of a male suspect beating up a female cop. Just using his fist, he broke 14 bones in her face, and gave her brain-swelling. It couldn't have taken him more than ten seconds.

Women have thinner facial bones than men. (Or so I read, anyway. I suppose I could do some research, if anyone wants to debate it.) Yet, something tells me that Orenstein would be thrilled if her daughter wanted to dress up like a cop or boxer for halloween.

I'm not really sure what my point is. I just find it sad, that a mom could so casually attack her daughter's fantasy of becoming a princess. What a fuckin' bitch....



The contention that I see in the argument is whether or not women (and men) are influenced by society or by nature. The problem we have is that the features that deemed as female and natural are deemed as handicaps in our society, and there are some people who wish that these ideas are implanted through societal influences and that with a few tweaks, these female traits can go away to be replaced with what some may consider (superior) male influences.

Sadly, we've been cursed with dimorphic features that are useless in our modern world. Maybe it's time to start massive genetic engineering a large scale and start artificial births to reduce the differences in the sexes.

I think that is godless capitalist, not Greg Cochran. Cochran is tired of arguing the sphericity of the earth and has moved on to pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

Godless, God bles him, will still come and slog it out in the trenches.

Less upper body strength than men might explain why women don't pick stand up fights with men. It does not explain why women don't fight each other, where there is no relative disadvantage.

Spungen: funny you ask that! I'm actually Belgian/Vietnamese, but I don't consider myself "white" since I associate that with Americans, who have a distinctly different sense of humor and view of life than Europeans. My friends are basically all American-born children of middle-class immigrants. We're like a mini-UN, although I've still never had a blonde or Native American friend.

The sport of mixed martial arts has really gotten big since landing a reality show on Spike TV. There's a very good chance that this Saturday's pay-per-view will hit a million purchases (at $40/each). In fact, it's expected that MMA will surpass boxing as the most popular combat sport within the next few years. Pride, the Japanese organization, has had events with 50,000 fans in attendance. American events have yet to reach that level (biggest crowd has been about 18,000), but the live gate money is only a small part of the overall revenue.

ahahahahah! check out this pic of peggy orenstein as a little girl posing with a big smile outside of buckingham palace:

http://www.farfilm.com/peggy/peggy.htm

If only she'd had a RESPONSIBLE mother there to beat her into compliance with non-princessly norms of behavior.

The sport of mixed martial arts has really gotten big since landing a reality show on Spike TV. There's a very good chance that this Saturday's pay-per-view will hit a million purchases (at $40/each). In fact, it's expected that MMA will surpass boxing as the most popular combat sport within the next few years. Pride, the Japanese organization, has had events with 50,000 fans in attendance. American events have yet to reach that level (biggest crowd has been about 18,000), but the live gate money is only a small part of the overall revenue.

It could be argued that MMA is likely to surpass boxing as the most popular combat sport not so much because MMA is so popular, but because professional boxing is in such a severe slump. Boxing suffers from a lack of centralized authority as evidenced by the alphabet soup of sanctioning authorities (WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF) and multiple "champions" in each weight division. In addition, the increasing number of Russian and Eastern European boxers, especially in the heavier divisions, may not be helping the sport's popularity in the United States. There aren't really any charismatic boxers who are guaranteed box office draws, at least since Oscar de la Hoya retired.

While MMA has two major sanctioning bodies, UFC and Pride, they seem to complement each other rather than act as rivals. That might begin to change, however, now that Pride has started holding fights in the United States rather than strictly in Japan. One of Pride's top heavyweights, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, is now moving to the UFC, and another star, Fedor Emilianko, may follow. It's possible that the UFC might gain at Pride's expense, but almost certainly MMA is in little or no danger of becoming the anarchic mess that boxing has long since become.

Interestingly, I've noticed that UFC fights (I'm less familiar with Pride) are becoming more like boxing even as the UFC gains at boxing's expense. There's more standup fighting and (relatively) less of the groundfighting that characterized the UFC in its earlier years. It's probably because as fighters have become better at cross-training in various fighting arts, they become harder to submit. Back in the "old" days BJJ practitioners could submit other fighters almost at will. Not anymore. In addition, UFC rules allow the referee to make fighters stand up if they've been grappling on the ground with no apparent progress, and this authority seems to be exercised more quickly and more frequently.

I do wonder what produces feminists. I actually don't think it's just a high testosterone level.

That's reassuring, SFG.

I just find it sad, that a mom could so casually attack her daughter's fantasy of becoming a princess. What a fuckin' bitch....

Perhaps a board heavily populated by single, childless men isn't the best place to debate the proper raising of daughters.

I've been trying to stress that this article is a cultural critique, not a biological debate. I don't see anything in it where the writer says girls should act exactly like boys all the time or that there are no biological differences between men and women.

She's saying that these characters set bad examples for girls. They are cheesy and frivolous. They don't do anything. There's some evidence that women who buy into these feminine stereotypes are more likely to end up depressed and with eating disorders. How is a parent a "fuckin' bitch" (thank you Kirk) for worrying about this?

Let's say women are biologically programmed to enjoy dressing up -- is this necessarily how they have to satisfy that urge, by emulating these particular characters? Wonder Woman had a sexy outfit, but at least she took action.

Jo Esperanto, I don't see where HS or anyone else mentioned the absence of a Prince Charming reference, maybe your comment is a meatspace crossover? But whether mentioned or not, the Prince Charming myth is another valid reason to be uneasy about the Princess image, even though you may have meant it sarcastically. And from what I've observed, the pop culture meaning of "Princess" is a lot less Diana, and a lot more Paris Hilton. It's about being spoiled, entitled, and frivolous, not about "beauty, grace, and serenity."

Even the original post's criticism wasn't about biology. HS was alleging (wrongly, I think) that women shouldn't worry about what society does to their daughters because their sons may have problems too.

"Perhaps a board heavily populated by single, childless men isn't the best place to debate the proper raising of daughters."

And bitter! Don't forget bitter!

What about girls who assume masculine stereotypes? Any evidence on them?

Seriously, I doubt exterminating the princess would do any good. You'd further have to prove causality: maybe depressives are more interested in princess fantasies for some reason.

"I don't see where HS or anyone else mentioned the absence of a Prince Charming reference"

HS said, "[Peggy Orenstein] seems to think that boys have it better."

The "Princess" myth no more oppresses girls and women than the "Prince Charming" myth oppresses boys and men.

"And from what I've observed, the pop culture meaning of 'Princess' is a lot less Diana, and a lot more Paris Hilton. It's about spoiled, not about 'beauty, grace, and serenity.'"

Cinderella is not and never has been "spoiled, entitled, and frivolous". Perhaps you are thinking of her sisters.

It's really quite interesting to contrast the comments on this issue with those that were made about a week ago in response to the "dirty dancing" article about 14 year old kids doing the bump and grind.

Now, we have people claiming that the princess craze does, or may do, harm to girls, which will lead to psychological problems as they mature into women. The opposite camp, in effect, claims that the princess thing is a benign form of childhood fantasy.

Last week (or whenever it was) there were people arguing that sexualized midteen dancing at least implied some deeper cultural crisis, debating against others who argued, in effect, "Come on, this is just kids dancing. Get over it!"

We have a similar divergence on these two issues, but some of the people who were arguing last week, "Get over it!" are arguing this week, "Don't you see what a crisis this is!"

Part of the question has to do with what we want our kids to become. As the father of two girls, I take the point that no responsible parent would raise his or her daughter to be a passive, dependent, inert baby-maker. Cetainly not in our culture, and I wouldn't endorse that approach in any culture.

I wouldn't want that - and would go out of the way to avoid that - for my daughters. However, one way to avoid that is actually to try to steer your daughter away from parenthood when she's still a child. Such an ambition for one's child might lead to the conclusion that encouraging young kids to express their sexuality in ways that increasingly approximate having sex might actually make it more likely that they WILL have sex. Children, notoriously, don't think through the consequences of their actions very well. There is scientific evidence based on brain scans that those areas of the brain involved in self-control and rational decision making don't fully develop until the mid-twenties (24 is the age I remember reading somewhere).

A 14 year old is - in terms of maturity - a far, far cry from the age of 24.

I find it a bit ironic that to question the harmlessness of such dancing, and by extension, the sexualization of 14 and 15 year olds, brands one as a puritan, or as "sexually repressed" which as Dennis Dale so articulately pointed out recently on his blog, is about the worst thing, other than racist, that a person can be called these days.

Why is the position against princess mania one in defence of the welfare of kids, and concern about "enthusiastic" teen dancing a malign form of repression and sexual frustration, more or less directed against kids? It could well be that the people who disapprove of the sort of dancing described in that article do so because they recognize that getting pregnant at fifteen is not a very good way for a girl to make her way toward adulthood. Does anybody disgaree with that?

Well, obviously somebody must, since plenty of 15 year olds get pregnant. Maybe 15 year olds are not yet mature enough to exercise on their own reasonable judgment about what to do with their fast-developing sexuality.

However, there is the difficult question of cause and effect, and I suspect one can't prove that such dancing causes teenage pregnancy, anymore than one can prove that childhood princess fanatasies lead to eating disorders and depression. In both cases, adults may be projecting their fears onto innocuous childhood behavior. In both cases, adults might be motivated by a legitimate desire to shield children, and particularly girls, from cultural influences that could do them harm.

I don't doubt that the dancing described in the article might actually have a positive effect, serving as way for kids to "blow off" (sorry, but I can't think of another way of putting it) some sexual steam, which could make it more likely that they will defer actually having sex.

Similarly, the princess fanatsy, for all I know, might make it MORE likely that girls will in real life take on responsiblities for themselves. (The fantasy serving as a necessary counter-balance to the psychological stress associated with accepting personal respoinsbililty.) I'm not Freud, so I don't know, and of course, Freud didn't himself really know either. I guess nobody really knows.

Both issues involve the role of hormones, and the question as to how they interact with the cultural environment to shape behavior. I remember from the "dancing" debate that someone, Agnostic, I believe, pointing out that teens are more sexually driven than are adults in their thirties and fourties. This is undoubtedly true.

However, this observation could very well be used to support the position that because young teens are so sexually charged, and because virtually without exception they are not yet ready for the responsiblities that go along with parenthood, or the trauma of abortion or giving up a child for adoption, there is all the more reason to "repress" their sexuality, until such time as they are better able to give it "expression."

Of course, maybe such a time never really comes, because we're just primates playing at being human beings, but that's for another discussion.

Like Starbuck could really tie a boxing match with Lee.

Now watching "Kill Bill", on TBS. Other than changing "Pussy Wagon" to "Party Wagon," it appears relatively uncut.

You can never get too much of this stuff. ;-)

I love it, that Uma ("Beep") can get on a plane with a sword. We should all have the same priveledge.

Fred, I just saw your last comment. I don't think the two positions are inconsistent. I think sexy dancing and sex are great things for adults; the only question is whether kids are doing it too early. I've got no "values" beef with it. Wheras my dispute with princess culture/Libby Lu isn't that it promotes sexiness, so much as shallowness, materialism, anti-intellectualism, worship of unearned privilege, and excessively stereotypical vanity.

Some of it is probably just a taste issue, I'll admit, and I know all kids have bad taste.

Has anyone seen the dolls for girls to play with recently? I would much rather have my daughter play with cinderella than a 'brat' doll regardless of the marketing trends.

I know this is not in line with recent positings, but yesterday I was at the store and say a doll with more makeup on than Tammy Fay in spandex zip-up knee high boots, glittery bra top, and short shorts. To top it off the name brand is brat. So not only do these dolls dictate the style our girls will want to start imitating, but they now want to influence them on a personality level.

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