Last week I listened to a podcast by the Naked Scientists about gender and toys which seemed to me to miss this point. The presenter talks to Jo from @lettoysbetoys and Vicky a research pyschologist.
Vicky has a few points to make:

  • Biological processes as well as societal influence affects toy choice. So 'universally around the world' little girls like dolls and little boys like weapons. These are what they choose when presented with novel toys. She points to her research on the effect of congenital adrenal hyperplasy where the adrenal gland overproduces testosterone and causes girls with the condition to have more masculine looking bodies and to be more likely to choose weapons, trucks and cars than their non-affected sisters. Also 'even at 12 months' babies more likely to look at toys associated with their gender.
  • It's insulting to say that children don't know their own minds, can choose to go against societies' expectations
  • Campaigners are implying girls' toys less good than boys' toys
  • By adulthood neglible differences in abilities, so what they play with doesn't matter.

Jo answers many of these points well, especially pointing out that social stigma is greater for boys who like 'girly' toys than vice versa. But there were various points that I felt could have been made more strongly.

Vicky said 'even at 12 months' suggesting that at that age society hasn't influenced babies much. However, I've read of studies where babies where dressed in blue or pink (regardless of actual gender so some dressed in blue were girls and some in pink were boys) and observed how adults responded to them and interacted with them and there were clear differences in the sort of things adults said to those in blue to those in pink. IIRC, blue were more likely to be 'strong' and pink 'pretty', so social conditioning begins long before 12 months.

Vicky also hugely downplayed the social impact of stereotypes. Yes, the child might know his or her own mind and still choose things associated with the other gender, but that's not much help if the parent then refuses to buy the thing because it's wrong. @Everydaysexism on twitter has retweeted examples people have overheard of children being told they can't have something because it was for the other gender. So if a budding female scientist isn't allowed a chemistry set because it's for boys maybe she'll not choose science at A level and so her talents will be lost from science, even though, as Vicky acknowledges, the differences in talents of adults are negligible.

Vicky also mainly failed to address the issue of tendency versus universaility. Jo pointed out that you can't say 'all' girls and boys will choose with the tendency of their sex . VIcky said that putting the dolls elsewhere wouldn't stop girls choosing them, which is true and completely fine. The whole point of the campaign though isn't to stop girls choosing dolls or boys choosing weapons but to enable girls to choose weapons and boys to choose dolls if that is what they want. That's why marketting by function makes sense, it opens up the categories rather than shutting them down.
yrieithydd: (Easter)

Kevin Ellis, the Vicar of Bartley Green (@vicarbartleyg) tweeted a link to a post on Fulcrum Anglican from Andrew Goddard
on the recent Faith and Order Commission report "Men, Women and Marriage"
* saying that he found it a helpful contribution to the debate.


My response to this )

The title of this post is a quote from the Report of the Church of England Faith and Order Commission (pdf) published today. Bishop Alan mentions it in is critical blog response to the report and someone tweeted it as a quote. I responded to this tweet saying " I have so many issues with 'people not asexual, either m or f' from @c_of_e that I don't know where to start." This blog post represents an attempt to start.

The quote appears in a longer paragraph which I will quote in full:
26.Biological differences do not simply cease to matter at the level of personal relationship; persons are not asexual, but are either male or female. Their sex attains a personal meaning, as relationships are built constructively on the endowments and strengths it offers. The relationship of marriage is more personal, not less, as the partners come to it in receptiveness of what only the opposite sex can bring to their own.

I think the basic issue here is the ignorance of LGBTQIA issues that is demonstrated here.

Firstly, Intersex people are declared not to exist as people are 'either male or female'. This just is not true; whilst the majority of people have an XY or XX genotype and male or female genitalia to match, there is a minority who do not fit these categories and have a range of different genotypes and genitalia and are known as Intersex.

Secondly, there are issues around gender and sex which are basically ignored. Where does a trans* person fit in this schema? For some people their sense of being male or female does not match with their genitalia. I am by no means an expert on trans* issues and indeed often struggle to get my head around them and am uncertain of the terminology perferred by those for whom this is personal, but those I know who have transitioned have been a lot more at home in themselves and happier after transition. There are also people who identify as genderqueer who do not define themselves as either male or female.

Thirdly, whilst I can see what they were intending to mean by 'asexual' here, it is a problematic word in this context because asexual is used as a descriptor of sexuality. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network defines an asexual as someone 'who does not experience sexual attraction'. This is the point at which it gets personal for me. I possibily have not send this publically before, but this is who I am. About a decade ago I found myself thinking the prefix to -sexual that most seems to fit me is a- though at the time I had no idea that other people identified like that and was glad to come across AVEN sometime later. As a teenager I just did not get what other people meant by fancying people, it doesn't resonate with anything in my experience. It doesn't really bother me, and it has meant that I have been happily single most of my life. I have had one relationship and there are things that I miss -- having someone to talk to about my day, share stuff with and cuddle up with mainly -- but I've never felt driven by sexual desire. That's just how I am. Now, my first reaction to 'persons are not asexual' was that my Church was telling me I didn't exist, but in fact they aren't talking about people like me at all; rather it is Intersex people who do not exist in CofEworld. But the fact that they used the word 'asexual' shows that they are not aware that there are people like me who identify as asexual and that is disappointing too.

Thus in a report which is problematic for Lesbian and Gay people (and Bisexuals who have fallen in love with a person of the same gender), the CofE has in one sentence also igrnored trans*, genderqueer, intersex and asexual people. There is a lot of information out there about LGBTQIA issues, is it too much to expect my Church to have engaged with them when writing a report on marriage in the context of the proposal to allow people of the same gender to marry?

The final sentence of this paragraph of the report also hints at complementarity 'what only the opposite sex can bring' and indeed the word complementary is used later in the report. This is an issue which is also highly contentious for the other red button issue of the moment -- the full acceptance of women in all rĂ´les of ministry. I would ask my Church to go away and really engage with issues of sex, gender and sexuality apart from the specific issues of whether women can be ordained as priests and bishops and whether marriage is of necessity between two people of different genders. Human experience, that of human beings made in God's image is just not as simple as 'there are men and there are women and they should marry the opposite'.

Interestingly, at the Governing Body of the Church in Wales today announced that it was referring the issue of same sex partnerships to its Doctrine Commission. I hope it does better that the Church of England on this.



July 2017



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