Study suggests boys and girls not as different as previously thought

Aah is this the start of the pendulum swinging back to the more progressive thinking of the 1970s when males and females weren’t considered so different afterall?

Could be.  Perhaps because all the emphasis on gender is starting to be seen for what it is, misogyny in different drag from the sexism of stereotypical sex role expectations that Second Wave Feminism critiqued some 40 years ago.

August 16, 2010

Although girls tend to hang out in smaller, more intimate groups than boys, this difference vanishes by the time children reach the eighth grade, according to a new study by a Michigan State University psychologist.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Social and , suggest “girls and aren’t as different as we think they are,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, assistant professor of psychology.

Neal’s study is one of the first to look at how girls’ and boys’ peer networks develop across grades. Because children’s peer-group structure can promote negative behaviors like bullying and positive behaviors like helping others, she said it’s important for researchers to have a clear picture of what these groups look like.

“Although we tend to think that girls’ and boys’ peer groups are structured differently, these differences disappear as children get older,” Neal said.

The reason may have to do with an increased interaction with the opposite sex.

“Younger boys and girls tend to play in same-sex peer groups,” Neal said. “But every parent can relate to that moment when their son or daughter suddenly takes an interest, whether social or romantic, in the opposite sex.”

The question of whether girls hang out in smaller groups than boys is controversial, with past research providing mixed results.

Neal examined peer relationships of third- through eighth-grade students at a Chicago school and found that in the younger grades did, indeed, tend to flock together in smaller, more intimate groups than boys.

But that difference disappeared by the eighth grade. While the size of boys’ peer groups remained relatively stable, girls’ peer groups became progressively larger in later grades.

Neal said further research is needed to confirm the results by examining a single group of children over time.

Provided by Michigan State University (news : web)

Gender Socialization vs. Gender Indoctrination

I am currently reading, “Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media” by Susan J. Douglas.

She is talking about the cultural sea of influences that shape how one looks at being female or for that matter male.  When she mentions the influence of certain obscure movies like “A Summer Place” or “Susan Slade” I remember going to these movies, which were the “chick flicks” of their day and how they shaped my world view of what it meant to be female.

When she writes about singing along to the hits of the Angels, Shangri-las, Ronettes, etc I remember singing along to those songs.  I was after all an obvious transkid who sort of learned that being called a sissy and queer didn’t hurt as much once I admitted to myself that I was transsexual and yes I did want to be a girl.

Right on the heels of having my ideas of teenage girlhood influenced from these sources and others like reading Glamor Magazine, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen came the Folk Book.  I wanted to be like Mary Travers or Joan Baez.

I tend to see the general cultural influences as the socialization that anyone can learn or be influenced by.

There is something else at play that I call gender indoctrination. This is the forced indoctrination that sticks a blue blanket on boy babies or more likely now days a camo blanket and football t-top, or a pink princess blanket and “born to shop t-top on baby girls.  Heaven forbid that some one might confuse the sex of the baby prior to the development of enough encouraged gender differences. Why that could turn a child gay/lesbian or even trans.

Never mind that gay/lesbian/trans etc are just something people are born just like the majority are born heterosexual.

You see gender has very little to do with sex or sexuality it is about the indoctrination in to the proper role expected of people who are a certain sex.  All males, gay included are supposed to be masculine/all females including lesbians are supposed to be feminine.  And both sexes are supposed to reify the idea of male supremacy.  Girls and women are indoctrinated to accept their proper place.  Their proper role is generally determined by such things as religion and its fuck buddy, psychiatry, which is just religion dressed in pseudo scientific drag.

Lately I have been witnessing the disapproving tizzy directed towards Angelina Jolie and her life partner Brad Pitt for their permitting their daughter Shiloh to dress and act any way she pleases.  It seems to me a very 1970s attitude on the part of the parents, like they might have actually read Marlo Thomas’ material from the “Free to be You, Free to be Me” school of child rearing instead of the bullshit of the closeted homosexual George Rekers and his fuck buddies over at NARTH.

I see a difference between the indoctrination part which so often fails with transkids and even with many gay/lesbian kids and socialization which I place in a different category.

Julia Serano in “Whipping Girl” avoids the confusing of gender as social role with gender as answer to the question, “What sex am I?” by the usage of “core sex identity” rather than “core gender identity”.

Having a core sex identity that is counter to the assigned sex offers an explanation as to why the gender indoctrination is such a failure while at the same time many transkids (particularly those who come out young) are socialized into the gender role to the point that there is no gender transition.

When people talk about having to learn these things many who came out young are surprised because so often our transition of presentation was more a matter of changing clothes and the way we wore our hair.  Our peers looked at us and said things like “You are the same person, only a girl now.”  It took a while for me to wrap my mind around the idea that the same thing happened with people who came out in middle age.

They weren’t so much changing their gender as their presentation and their physical being.  Actually it was probably more obvious. Although many who come out in middle age seem faced with a steeper learning curve when it comes to internalizing the socialized gender part.  Probably due to learning to shun the girl socialization as part of the development of the mask while trying to embrace the often counter intuitive (for them) boy socialization.

Assimilation Happens

One thing that should be obvious but often isn’t is that “transsexual” really doesn’t belong in the LGBT/T category once one is post-SRS.

It is there because of how laws and politics work rather than how lives are lived.  Discrimination in matters of employment and access to medical care are obvious issues.

WBTs have been called “separatists” for just going off and assimilating.  Calling people who post all over the place “stealth” is a bit of a joke considering how easy it is to track ISPs even when folks use sock puppet e-mail. But let’s assume that most people who have assimilated  are only out in the world of 3D to a select circle of friends or for certain purposes.

It isn’t some separatism for most of us.  It is lack of common interests.  I have known a number of sisters who were involved in the bar and even ball cultures, who found themselves excluded from those scenes once they had SRS.

Once you have had SRS queens no longer relate to you as being one of the gang.  If you do not limit your involvement in their scene they will ask you why and you find yourself labeled as both odd and having made a mistake.

Having a vagina others you to people who live as women but keep their male parts.  Queens put their post-SRS friends they used to see as sisters on pedestals and tell them how brave they are while gossiping behind their backs,  “Well, she got her surgery and thinks she is better than us (forgetting that they put us on the pedestal to begin with) so why is she still hanging around us?”

The message is that we no longer belong there.  Time to move on with our lives.

Of course the activists then accuse us of separatism and deserting the community while conveniently forgetting how every year at Pride Day the same dozen people show up and how most of the “community” is dressed in sequins and riding on one of the bar/club floats.

After a few years even when one is an activist being part of that same dozen people starts to feel like being part of a severely marginalized Trotskyite Faction.  What is the point?

Perhaps it is different for those who come out through the IFGE route but I suspect it isn’t.

I know it isn’t if one is part of Tri-Ess and actually comes out as transsexual, I’ve read Tapestry in the past and have heard the stories at gender groups of how old CD friends are uncomfortable and nasty towards anyone who realizes they are not transvestite but are actually transsexual.  I’ve had transgender friends tell me the same thing about how they were put on a pedestal when they went full time.  Told how lucky they are that they can now dress full time. Never mind that the transgender sister has taken the down elevator on the socio-economic scale.  Comments like that are why transgender sisters who live 24/7/365  call episodic transvestites fetishists.  It isn’t so much that they fetishize the clothes as they hegmonically covet the lives of sisters willing to pay the price in order to live their lives according to their inner needs.

The main reason I believe “transgender” should be limited to only those living 24/7/365 is because, like transsexuals they have their lives colonized and objectified by those of the transvestite class.

At the same time people who are transgender either  because that is where their internal compass has landed, or due to economic issues, face conditions the majority of post-SRS sisters are less likely to face such as violence, ghettoization and denial of both economic opportunity and social safety nets.

The Day of Remembrance will soon be upon us.  I post articles regarding the murderous violence and senseless slaying of TS/TG sisters even though it isn’t a part of my world where violence more often takes place in the form of denial of health insurance, loss of work due to layoffs and fraudulent financial practices on the part of corporations.

While I will mention DOR the likelihood of my going to an event is very slim.  Not because I am afraid of “outing myself” or because I am disinterested but more out of a sense of futility and having to work.  The same reason I missed Pride Day.  Going to something like this requires planning and the arranging of time, a commitment that conflicts with day to day life in a Nickel and Dimed world.

As time passes after SRS the world of TS/TG is less an active part of life.  Even for those of us who blog and consider ourselves activists.  It takes little effort for me to be transgender inclusive on so many issues.  I learned that while working towards adding gender and perceived gender to the hate crimes laws of California.  It isn’t like adding a few phrases that protect transgender folks to any bill aimed at protecting gay and lesbian folks really makes that bill harder to pass.

Yet there are so many causes, so little time and most of my causes are bigger than the identity politics of the “Transgender Community”.  Part of why I have called a moratorium on  name calling, other than feeling like it is sort picking on people who have a harder life than I do, and not wanting to add to their oppression, is that engaging in name calling takes energy away from more important causes.  Like universal health care, hate crimes laws, ENDA, Same Sex Marriage, defending the environment, women’s rights etc.

Of course my working for any of a menu of causes that are positive for me means automatically extending those protections to all.  See I’m not some Ayn Randian right wing moron who is all hooray for me, fuck you.  I actually believe in equal treatment and the right to human dignity.

But as I said assimilation happens…  Even for activists who step beyond identity politics.

It happens for most post-SRS folks without them even trying, indeed it sometimes seems that folks who remain crusaders almost have to constantly make an effort to make themselves visible as transsexual.  The exceptions to this are those who are physically obvious although working retail and having encountered many people whose appearances are different, even odd.  It sometimes seems that facial hair is the only real give away.   I don’t know about some folks but for most of us assimilation seems inevitable.

Particularly if you are authentic and not pretending.  The goal was to be a woman, SRS removes the ties that bind one to those who stay transgender and time does the rest.


Yesterday was my day off and we went to see the Michael Moore’s film Capitalism: A Love Story down at the Magnolia Theater in the Village.

Afterward we went to a Borders Books so I could use one of the discount coupons they bombard me with.  Among other things I picked up a paper copy of Mother Jones Magazine.

From Mother Jones Magazine

Articles like this one are reason enough to support the independent muck raking and nay saying publications such as Mother Jones and In These Times

Code Pink

By Lauren Sandler | Mon October 12, 2009 7:00 AM PST

WHEN MY DAUGHTER WAS BORN about a year ago, I was suddenly buried in pink. The only gender-neutral clothing appearing on my doorstep was the brown uniform of the guy delivering piles of packages containing untold yardage of powder-pink cloth: pale-pink blankets to swaddle pale-pink diaper covers, monochromatic onesies and rompers that redundantly announced “baby girl” in contrasting embroidery. (Thank God my generous gift givers did not send any of those bow-festooned headbands designed to confirm the femininity of a bald infant.)

We’ve come a long way from my early-’70s childhood. Those were good days to be an ungirly girl: I wore work boots while sharing a sandbox with the progeny of some of the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves. In those circles, it would have been absurd to suggest that girls’ clothing be exclusively stitched with butterflies and blossoms or that boys be clad in T-shirts emblazoned with something requiring an engineering degree to build. Such totalizing distinctions were seen as defunct at best, and at worst, harmful. Yet many of the self-described feminists who had dressed their own children in primary colors and overalls were now deluging me with enough pink to adorn a Barbie convention. What happened?

Maybe they were just buying what’s out there. Kids’ clothing stores are sharply divided into boys’ and girls’ sections, with no demilitarized zone in between. Healthtex touts its toddler boys’ line as “rich with fun, rough and tough images of cars, dinosaurs and animals in vivid bright colors”; its girls’ line is “adorable with flower art and embroidery in light and airy colors.” Restoration Hardware’s nursery designs are exclusively pink or blue, as is almost all of Pottery Barn’s kids’ line. Everywhere you look, American kids appear to be waging a national color war.

Despite the aura of old-fashioned wholesomeness that surrounds it, the pink-blue phenomenon is actually a fairly recent one. Only in the last century have American babies worn any color at all: Throughout the 19th century, children of both sexes were dressed in long white gowns. When gendered palettes came into vogue in the first two decades of the 20th century, boys were assigned pink and girls blue. This was a nod to symbolism that associated red with manliness; pink was considered its kid-friendly shade. Blue was the color of the Virgin Mary’s veil and connoted femininity. In 1918, Ladies’ Home Journal advised mothers that “pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

By the late ’30s and early ’40s, the color code flipped. It’s not entirely clear why—Shirley Temple’s light-pink dresses? Navy-blue wartime uniforms?—but by the time the baby boom kicked in, the his and hers hues we take for granted were firmly established. Pop psychology and salesmanship intertwined as trade publications urged clothing store managers to segregate boys’ clothing from girls’ after age two, since little boys “feared” being perceived as girly. In 1959, the New York Times quoted a children’s clothing buyer, “A mother will allow her girl to wear blue, but daddy will never permit his son to wear pink.” Conveniently, the fashion split also meant that families with boys and girls had to shell out for at least two separate new wardrobes—for the rest of the kids’ childhood.

Fast-forward five decades, and the marketing of color-coded gender differences has entered a new phase—one that author Peggy Orenstein has described as the “relentless resegregation of childhood.” Whether fueled by anti-feminist backlash, third-wave feminists reclaiming their girliness, or the trickling down of the Juicy Couture aesthetic, bruiser boys and dainty girls are big business. The ITP—infants, toddlers, and preschoolers—apparel market is expected to be worth $20 billion next year. Disney recently announced plans to expand its $4 billion Princess franchise, originally aimed at three- to six-year-olds, into baby products. The brand’s head told the Wall Street Journal that the move was merely a response to “highly gender aware” moms who’d tired of cute yet asexual characters like Winnie the Pooh. The Princess line even has its own dedicated shade of pink: Pantone 241. As Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist and the author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps—and What We Can Do About It, wonders, “In today’s hypermarketed world, what niche is easier to exploit than male or female?”

Yet beyond sapping parents’ paychecks and offending feminist sensibilities, does the current wave of pinkness actually have any negative effects on kids? After all, it’s not as if gender equality defined the epoch when babes were all tangled up in the lacy hems of white gowns. Pink itself isn’t the problem; it’s the message it conveys. That troubling message, explains Eliot in her sharp, information-packed, and wonderfully readable book, is that girls and boys are deeply dissimilar creatures from day one. She argues that the pink-blue split shapes some enduring assumptions about babies’ emotional lives—at a time when girls’ and boys’ brains are almost entirely alike. Eliot notes a study in which researchers concealed infants’ sex by dressing them in gender-neutral garb or referring to them by a popular name of the opposite sex. When adults were asked to describe the babies’ behavior, the “boys” were often said to be “angry” or “distressed”; the “girls” were thought to be “joyful” or “quiet.” Throw in some pink headbands and suddenly baby girls are from Venus.

Kids quickly get wrapped up in the pink-and-blue world. In an investigation into what was termed the PFD—Pink Frilly Dress—phenomenon, a team of social psychologists from New York University found that as early as age two, children’s sense of gender is heavily based upon notions of color and dress, with little girls becoming adamantly attached to pink. One mother reported that she had to prove to her three-year-old daughter that every single pink article of clothing she owned was in the laundry—literally showing her the soiled clothes—before the little girl would agree to wear any other color. (To be fair, that’s pretty typical picky toddler behavior.) Likewise, kids latch on to gendered toys like Thomas the Tank Engine (blue) and Dora the Explorer (pink). When offered a choice of a typical “boy” or “girl” plaything, three-year-old boys are 97 percent more likely to pick a toy like a truck.

Plenty of arguments have been made for why children gravitate toward trucks or dolls—boys like motion, girls are nurturing—yet no one has reliably proved that kids are hardwired with these preferences. As Eliot points out, “neither trucks nor dolls existed a hundred thousand years ago, when the human genome stabilized into its current sequence.”

But the theory that the PFD is rooted in our evolutionary past dies hard. Two years ago, neuroscientists from Newcastle University suggested that women are drawn to pinks and reds because their prehistoric ancestors had to be attuned to ripe berries and feverish infants. Early men, on the other hand, were connoisseurs of blue—a sign of good weather for hunting. Fortunately, most academic responses to this study suggested that it was a shade of bovine-manufactured brown.

But no matter how dubious their results, the media buzz about such studies adds to the popular suspicion that we can’t defy our evolutionary urges, which feeds back into the idea that it’s harmless—and maybe even essential—to indulge our kids’ inner princesses and train engineers. “The more we parents hear about hard-wiring and biological programming, the less we bother tempering our pink or blue fantasies,” writes Eliot.

Yet is pink really the gateway color to painting your nails in science class or an appearance in Girls Gone Wild? Buried in the PFD study is the reassurance that the pink phase is just that; many elementary-school-aged girls told the researchers that they had outgrown pink and now refused to wear it. Does that mean that these girls have also shed the “math is hard” mentality that we fear lurks in the folds of crinoline? Perhaps: Notably, the pink tidal wave has crested at the very moment that girls have caught up with—and often outperform—boys in the classroom. Now pundits and parents fret that it’s boys who are getting left behind, victims of a new bias against boyishness.

Clearly, trucks and tiaras are not destiny. Despite the racing set in my childhood bedroom, I still can’t drive a car, much less fix what’s under the hood. My closet is stuffed with high heels and dresses with cinched waists. I’d like to think that I chose my girliness, not the other way around.

And I’m ultimately more freaked out about the prospect of my daughter wearing tween-size thongs than pint-size princess outfits. Besides, I’ll admit that bright pink lights up her cheeks, and I’m happy to pair it occasionally with some cargo jeans from the boys’ department or a charcoal shirt. I’ve had quite a few of those on hand ever since I dumped a mass of pink presents into a giant lobster pot on my stove top, poured in some dye, and turned them a lovely shade of gray.

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A Lot of Becoming isn’t about Trans-Anything

I came out at a time when people were constantly questioning authority and analyzing everything.

I’m reading a book by Sheila Rowbotham, Promise of a Dream, a Sixties memoir.

From a perspective of time I can see how so much that I was going through, all the questions I was seeking answers to were the same questions women born female were seeking answers to.

Quite suddenly that December I started ruminating about being a woman in a spate of dairy entries.  Brooding on the masculine lens which filtered perceptions of femininity–‘State of being a woman seen through the eyes of men’–  I was reinterpreting the woman characters in books by male authors.  For instance, I questioned the ‘good girl’, ‘bad girl’ dichotomy in John Braine’s Room at the Top, a novel in which I had obediantly loathed Susan and identified with Alice (especially after she was played by Simone Signoret in the film).  I also began reconsidering Sartre’s passive woman in the dressing gown, a figure of dread for me because Bob had communicated her ‘immanence’ as a kind of female living death.  Now I had stumbled on to an insight about the obvious; those literary figures I had worried so much about resembling had simply been created out of men’s hang-ups.  It was all in their heads.

I tried to make sense out of incidents I had observed with resement, putting many uneasy feelings and responses together– a man at a party talking about women’s buttocks as if she were meat, another calling girls ‘bits’.  Women I noted operated within the narrow spaces allotted to femininity, as assertive hip chicks, academic women, mother goddesses, geisha-type sex symbols, independent girly girls, being matter of fact or dismissing men.  I thought we jumped in and out of these modes of being and that our discomfort about how to ‘be’ put us at a disadvantage in relation to men.  There was an emphasis upon ‘wholeness’ in hippie thinking, and Mary had suggested to me that if these diverse forms of behaving and relating could only be combined it would make women much stronger and less dependent on men.

I puzzled over how this integration could happen.  Even in resisting we seemed to ‘map out certain areas of independence and compensate in others’. I was convinced the solution couldn’t be found by simply working out an ideal of emancipation in your head, for the very ways women learned to be feminine came from male culture:  ‘Women take on the attributes given to them by men and parade them with pride. Very like the black/white thing’. Nor were we necessarily conscious of how we assimilated our femininity.

Rolling around the phrase, “how we assimilated our femininity”. When I was growing up I learned my femininity second hand through observation, from book, movies, the culture.  It was a melange of often contradictory ideas of what it meant to be a girl and how I should deal with the world.  At first the lack of experience left me extremely vulnerable to exploitation.  I was looking for wholeness and was in a process of becoming.

I turned to women writers, feminist mainly.  I listened to women’s music andsubmerged myself in feminist culture.  I was trying to escape becoming the subject authored by men, sculpted in the male gaze, idealized to the male perspective of what a woman should be.

In the questioning of authority, including church and state as well as the way the patriarchy sets out to mold women into their own ideal I was struggling to become my own woman.  A task rendered impossible in a world dominated by the patriarchy.

Banging against a stone wall is tiring and I settled into being my own woman, picking elements from where ever I find them even if some are thrift store worn and others barely fit.  Sometimes I try things out only to discard them if they contradict the sense of my internal compass.  Yet the be-ing mingles with the becoming and the journey is the purpose of the trip.  I see life as process, including my dealing with my circumstances of birth and not the attainment of some artificial goal, a journey not the reaching of a destination.

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