Infantile Gender-Deviance: Your Heartwarming Tale for the Day

Elp-son—who is four years old—loves to be pretty. His favourite colour is pink, he loves fairy wings and glitter and nail varnish and dresses and pretty hair clips and so on and so on. For as long as he’s been expressing preferences about dressing, this has been the case. Lately, he has started to complain that children at preschool are being nasty, taunting him and telling him off for wearing ‘girl clothes’. We were, of course, very nervous about the situation, and couldn’t really figure what to do. (Parents seem to care a lot about gender indoctrination; how could we fight the teaching the other children were getting at home?)

We’re friendly with another family at the preschool, whose three year old son J also likes being pretty, and has also had trouble, though his trouble, alarmingly, came from a teacher, not from other children! So, knowing that they were in a similar circumstance, we told them about elp-son’s troubles. J’s mother immediately sprung into action: she decided to organise a boys-being-pretty day, and got in contact with another mother whose son was keen to be a fairy. (This boy’s mother is a social psychologist, as it happens, and was very enthusiastic about flaunting gender norms!) This mother told her about yet another child in the class whose pretty impulses were being stifled. That boy’s parents were contacted. And his parents brought in yet another child, whose parents went shopping especially for the occasion.

To date, the boys-being-pretty day has somewhat crumbled, because the boys involved couldn’t wait for a specific day to wear their pretty clothes: they wanted to wear them right away!  So in effect, we’ve ended up with (at least) a boys-being-pretty week.

I can’t decide what aspect of these events is the most wonderful: the exuberant efforts of J’s mum on behalf of elp-son; or the fact that every parent who’s been approached so far has greeted the initiative with enthusiasm; or the fact that as it goes on, more and more little boys are jumping at the chance to finally be pretty. (No, to be honest, I know full well what aspect I like best: with any luck, my beautiful, wonderful, magical little child won’t be bullied in preschool any more!)

But don’t worry: gender is still innate. ;-)

68 thoughts on “Infantile Gender-Deviance: Your Heartwarming Tale for the Day

  1. i should add: j’s parents are now on the board of directors (that’s not what it’s called; but something like that) of the preschool/nursery, and they’ve decided to put gender proscriptivity on the agenda for the next board meeting. I find this so exciting: there could be scope for really progressive thinking/educating.

  2. I’m not sure that you have heard all the evidence. Look, Larry Sumers’s children had gender appropriate desires for toy trucks (the boys) and Barbie dolls (the girls). This proves conclusively that gender is innate and that the lack of female profs at Harvard is a matter of genetic reality, not something he could hope to influence as its president. Sorry, but sometimes the science doesn’t always go your way, and when this happens, you have to limit your highfaluting feminist ideals.

  3. i loved the story of his daughter cuddling trucks, especially…as it’s exactly what my son did when he was littler. aw. and now i’ve gone from being amused by carl’s comment, to feeling sad for sumers’s children…

  4. is he trolling? i thought he was being sarcastic, and that it was funny. oh me. clearly my ridiculous bar is far too low for proper implicature-generation.

  5. I thought he was too – ‘nice trolling’ was intended as a jokey acknowledgement. (Gosh, it’s hard communicating on the internet sometimes…)

  6. ah! i read you as ‘nice trolling’ rather than ‘nice “trolling”‘–sarcastic comment rather than sarcastic use of the word ‘trolling’. oh my. oh grice. (but yes, okay good. because it was pretty funny.)

  7. “Bullied in preschool” is a shocking phrase.

    I think these little boys are extraordinarily fortunate. Just think what it will mean to them later to be able to feel that being a boy or a man can include these possibilities.

    A male philosopher friend told me recently that when he was little his mother dressed him in dresses and gave him dolls to play with. I’m not sure he thought this was a good thing – there was no sense that he wanted to do this, unlike the boys you describe. However, he is one of the most socially aware philosophers I know, with a deep sense of the injustice women can suffer. Perhaps you can expect future women to be grateful for what you all are doing now.

  8. That is heartwarming. I’m getting all girlie about my son’s long lost preschool years now. Have fun being pretty with elp son. It’s our job as moms to always keep Today ready for our kids to choose it as their happiest day ever. I love it when my kids say, Mom, remember that? That was the best birthday, the best picnic, etc. Trust me. No matter what he chooses to wear later in life, elp son will look back on Being Pretty Day as a special day :-)

  9. What a sweet story; it made my evening. (Yeah, I know I’m coming in kind of late on this, but still… what a sweet story.)

  10. I would be curious to see if having a Boys Being Pretty Week have any long term effects on a child and their tolerance towards homosexuals and trans genders. Maybe this one week could be responsible for putting an end to negativity base solely on observed exterior impressions.
    If you remove gender rolls from a young age, we start to have social equality set as a standard and not as something we have to manipulate. we need to do this in all the schools.

  11. rob, again, this is such a weird conclusion to draw. they find that training eliminates the gap, and yet they insist on clinging to the idea that the gap is ‘biological in basis’. if you know you can jig it socially, and there isn’t good evidence that it’s (at root) biological, *and* you know boys and girls are socialised differently, why why why would assume that any difference is ‘biological’ (insofar as it even makes sense to try to separate the two causes)? i just don’t get it. people in this field need to take a critical thinking class. or five.

  12. extendedip: I’m not of course versed in this stuff, but it’s not at all hard to find research suggesting that there are indeed general sex differences in spatial ability, and to infer that this is generally accepted among the relevant experts. It’s the significance of those differences, and how amenable they are to environmental influence and structural reform, on which there seems to be much more room for variance of opinion. Most of what I’ve looked at finds the the important differences in motivation, not ability (despite some difference at the extreme right tail).

    Related to some of this is a Psychology Today post by the authors of “The Mathematics of Sex” and a good comments thread ( –particularly those by one of the co-authors, Ceci, and one by a female math grad, though I do think the “male-grievance” comments, sifted of their vitriol, by a couple folks are also not entirely without merit).

  13. Also, for what it’s worth, near the beginning of this 2006 interview with she and her husband, Patrica Churchland, who was apparently raised on a farm, appears to accept that there are general sex differences in spatial ability.

  14. yeah, that’s the thing, people *accept* it. as in, *merely* accept it. what evidence could there be that it’s innate? think about it: we already know that brains are plastic; we already know that we treat boys and girls differently–in particular, that we educate them differently. it’s a _leap of faith_, pure and simple, to suppose that structural differences in the brain (which btw, there’s not really *so* much evidence of) are just there ‘by nature’. it’s an even bigger leap of faith to suppose that differences in performance in various tests are ‘natural’. (because, very obviously, performance on tests will be indicative of education, at least in large part.) i’m sure there are scientists who are willing to take this leap of faith, just like there are scientists who believe in god (i assume); but that these individuals are choosing to believe something that’s not supported (and probably *couldn’t* be) by the evidence is no reason to believe it.

  15. rob, this is just more of the same, and what i’ve been saying still applies: you couldn’t pass a first-year ciritical thinking course and think that the inference from these studies to claims of innateness was anything but wishful thinking. clearly, some researchers (and science journalists, let me hasten to add) couldn’t do so.

  16. As a non-gay tomboy, I’m totally assigning this discussion (or perhaps what this discussion became) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay.” Though sadly I can’t link it. Why would anyone want to predict a child’s sexual orientation in the first place? Sedgwick argues that the desire for predicting homosexuality is most usually accompanied by the desire that homosexuals simply not be.

    Regardless of whether it omens homosexuality or not, I cosign the love and for boys-being-pretty day/week/life. Awesome!

  17. Rob: Here’s a little something I picked up during my neopagan and atheist experiments. Our everyday speech is LOADED with biblical cliches. Even though I didn’t consider myself a particularly religious person before I started, my Wiccan and atheist friends corrected my lapses for close to a year!

    Somebody who is trying hard to put forth bona fide objective scientific findings will always work harder to NOT use words like “covenant” in his or her reports. Your “prehomosexual” story is the work of preachy Xtian homophobes. You’d be wise to avoid “scientists” who study gender and relationships through the lens of scripture. Their work will always be sexist and homophobic.

  18. Would I be right in thinking that if gender is not innate (as the wink at the end of your post seems to suggest) then that implies that it is the way that you have brought up your son that makes him want to dress prettily? Certainly it seems a distinct possibility that it is his upbringing that results in him behaving in this way.

    In which case one might then ask whether this is necessarily the best way to bring up a boy.

  19. “One” might ask a lot of things.

    Don’t feed the trolls, Xena.
    Don’t feed the trolls, Xena.
    Don’t feed the trolls, Xena.

  20. Good and brave Xena: It’s good to at least label the troll-some person, as you have done. Some of us have taken a vow of silence, so it is good someone speaks up a bit.

    You could say five “hail marys” that the troll’s soul, though that is generous.

  21. I don’t know about “hail marys”. From time to time I still think on that idea about the vicious things in the world being the cracks that let the light in, though.

  22. Jender,
    Forgive me if my understanding of the British slang I used is dated. I was careful to google it first, but the online definition just confirmed my understanding of the term. I thought it was on par with the American “jerk”, a somewhat terse stab at a person’s (ie, the troll’s) behaviour, but not biased toward any other marginalized group. Feel free to send me an email explaining its current use in the UK, if you’d like.

    “Freakin'” is a more or less contemporary Canadian replacement for the f-word, like saying “bleedin'” instead of “bl**dy”. In the past, it has been used in ableist or homophobic contexts, but it’s rarely used that way now. I only use it as a go-with-everything adjective to draw attention to certain appalling situations (ie, the troll’s NASTY attempt to bully a child) I used it once on this site to modify the word chainsaw, too.

    After the deletion, my comment #32 probably needs clarifying. I just meant that elp has done a fine job of teaching her little one to stand strong and proud with good friends in the face of a vicious attack.

    All my warmest wishes for elp-son :-)

  23. I’ve never been accused of being a troll before. Perhaps I should have been clearer.

    If a child’s interest in being pretty is innate and fixed – like eye colour is, and like homosexuality is often thought to be – then
    1) The mother’s behaviour has not caused the son’s behaviour and
    2) The mother’s response (of setting up the party etc so the son does not feel odd, different, upset etc) is clearly the right one.

    However I thought the point of the wink at the end of the original post was to suggest that this interest in being pretty was not innate.

    If the son’s interest in being pretty is not innate and fixed, but is rather a product of his upbringing then
    1) The parents’ behaviour may be that which has caused the son’s behaviour. (One can easily imagine how this might happen: discouragement of interest in toy guns, rough play etc and encouragement of gentleness, prettiness etc, delight when he behaves in a ‘girly’ way thus confirming the parents’ belief that gender is not innate etc – all of which encourages him to think and act in one way rather than another. Likewise if the parents have a sentimental attitude to the child this can affect their treatment of the child, which affects the child etc) [This is just pointing out one way that a mother’s treatment of a child could channel the child towards having an interest in being pretty. Obviously I do not claim elp-mother behaved in this way – not indeed do I claim to know whether elp-son’s interest in being pretty is innate or not].
    2) In which case, the mother’s response, of *encouraging* & feeding the interest in being pretty, is not so obviously the right one. Then there is a debate to be had about whether it is or not.
    a. It might be that once the interest is there then the thing to do is just go with it (though at the same time perhaps resolving not to bring up future male children, if any, in exactly the same way).
    b. Obviously I didn’t suggest bullying the child (where Xena got that from I have no idea). But there is a middle way between that and being delighted with & encouraging the interest in pretty things. For instance, buying boyish toys, encouraging boyish behaviour, drawing attention towards certain things rather than others, ‘Yes you look very nice dear. Don’t you want to join your friends outside playing soccer now?’ ‘Here’s some lego, would you like to build a fire-engine?’ ‘Shall I teach you how to do arithmetic?’ etc..

  24. That was exactly my point, nonanon. What you’re suggesting is a type of social conformity akin to telling darker skinned people that they *should* lighten their skin in photos, teaching left-handed people that they *should* use their right hands, telling athletic girls that they *should* focus on cooking, marriage and children, or telling a child whose favourite colour is emerald green that he’ll come to like black walls in his room, eventually.

    Whether his love of fairy wings is inborn or not, the point is that HE LIKES FAIRY WINGS! And he’s not hurting anybody by wearing them. So leave him alone! Any invasive attempt to change a child’s behaviour for the sake of the invader, rather than the sake of the child is bullying.

    And I’m sure elp will not neglect elp-son’s math skills, or any other marketable skill that he takes an interest in building. Boys, just like girls can be both pretty AND mathy, you know.

  25. but xena, nonanon clearly states that the mother (or is it the parents? hmmm…) can encourage the child to act one way or another – pretty or mathy/soccer-y/fire engine-y. don’t be so confusing! we are trying to debate how other people should bring up their children here!

  26. I don’t want to join this discussion really, but I do just want to point out nonanon, that you might be inferring too much from the wink. The point is that gender is not innate. It doesn’t follow from that that an interest in being pretty isn’t.

  27. i should just leave this alone, BUT i actually do think that nonanon is right that there’s an issue to worry about here.

    personally, i want my child to have the full range of life-options, and he’s been encouraged throughout his little life to follow his fancy, irrespective of gender/sex, and i’ve no doubt this is why he’s felt free to be sparkly where most boys don’t. (i suspect most little children like pretty sparkly magical things, i have to say. the world, then, is divided between those who are and those who aren’t given social permission to embrace it; rather than between the likes and the dislikes.) and i think this is right: i think i’d be taking options away from him if i ‘gently nudged’ him towards more ‘boy’ behaviours, even if, in the short term, that made things easier at school.

    HOWEVER, it seems *right* that if socialisation shapes these interests (which, it seems to, clearly, tho perhaps not quite in the way nonanon’s question implies), there are real questions without obvious answers about what’s the right way to proceed, given the gendered world we live in.

  28. (btw: elp-son loves soccer and legos, and fire engines, and he’s very good at maths. he also loves his dolly house and his tea set.)

  29. NonAnon, your line of thought at #35 assumes a false dichotomy: that an interest in being pretty is either `innate and fixed’ or `a product of his[/her] upbringing’ and hence completely changeable. Like pretty much everything else about us embodied, socially-embedded beings, it’s probably the product of the complex interaction of both sorts of factors.

    Take, as a heavily simplified example, encouraging little boys to roughhouse and get dirty and encouraging little girls to `play nice’ and keep clean. This aspect of their upbringing probably does some gender differences in adults’ behaviors. But this encouragement is partly in reaction to the child’s genitals: if the infant has a penis, you start calling him `him’ and dress him in blue and other such things that signal, in context, that this is a boy; and in response to those signals people eventually encourage roughhousing and other masculine behaviors. Maybe testosterone also plays a bit of a role at various stages, although the evidence there is shaky.

    In short, the most complete story will involve *both* some more-or-less fixed biological factors (penis, testosterone) and some more-or-less variable social factors (gendered clothes and the reactions people have to them) and the dizzying array of interactions between them. And that implies that gender (or even a particular gendered behavior) is neither absolutely fixed and final once the child is born nor completely and utterly free and perfectly malleable for the person’s entire life.

  30. well put, dan. (but i still do think it’s a difficult and important issue just what we ought to do, upbringing-wise, given the non-ideal world we live in.)

  31. Actually sk, that was my way of asking permission to leave a :-D That was funny, but I wasn’t sure if you meant it that way.

    I don’t want to annoy anybody or get annoyed with anybody right now. Sleepless night, stress and all that. Funny helps.

  32. elp – I completely agree. I think it’s made even more complicated by the way things we can deliberately influence are all entangled with things that we can’t.

  33. Xena’s posts indicate that she thinks that there are only two ways that a parent can interact with her/his child: 1) bullying and controlling 2) letting the child do exactly what he/she wants. But Xena is wrong to think that.

    There are many ways that parents (and others) can influence children. For example, parents can influence the child enormously by directing the child’s attention, giving the child opportunities to engage in certain activities, doing things with the child, responding in certain ways to the child, talking to the child in a certain way about certain things and so on. And of course, in addition, the child will often simply copy the attitudes of the parents and others.

    For example, I have friends who have a young daughter. The father has a tendency to be controlling ‘It’s time for bed. Go and get ready now.’ The daughter is then extremely stubborn, and in general the father and daughter tend to argue and not get on. The mother on the other hand, is brilliant (she actually teaches parenting courses). For example, saying ‘Shall we go and brush our teeth together?’ making it into a nice cooperative, friendly, girly shared experience. Then once the teeth are brushed, the routine kicks in (and children generally like routine) so the daughter naturally then has a wash, and gets changed into her pyjamas, and snggles up in bed for her story…

    Good parents know how to *encourage* their children to go in certain directions and as a result of that encouragement the child may or may not go in that direction. If the child does not go in that direction then the parents obviously should not force him/her (well in the matter of clothes at least – if the child were being vicious then knowing how to respond gets much more difficult…).

    Now remember that the original post says: ‘he has started to complain that children at preschool are being nasty, taunting him and telling him off for wearing ‘girl clothes.’

    This is not very nice for the boy. And it is *likely to continue* if he continues to dress prettily. So given this it seems to be best *for the boy* to try to encourage him to dress in a more conventional way. And to try to avoid encouraging the inclination to dress prettily. Clearly if it does not work (so the boy continues to insist on dressing prettily) then the parents and the boy simply have to deal with the situations that arise; the parents hoping (for his sake) that the boy will grow out of it.

    That’s all I was saying. I am surprised it has turned out so controversial in some quarters.

    Dan – I left out the third possibility – innate but still malleable, to try to keep things simpler and clearer. I don’t see leaving it out as introducing a flaw into the argument as such, because the response to the innate and malleable is the same as to the non-innate and malleable: consider whether to try to try to influence it. An interest in things that sparkle, as ELP suggests, may be innate. Yet the preference for dressing in a sparkly way is probably malleable.

    I guess how much effort you expend on trying to encourage a certain form of behaviour will depend upon the details of the case. If the child is being selfish then you might think that this requires a great deal of effort on your part to draw the child’s attention to the perspective of others, empathise with others and so on. If a boy is wearing sparkly clothes and this is getting him mocked at school which will undermine him over time, then you might also think it is worth a fair bit of effort. If he has a preference for sewing over soccer, for instance, you might think there was nothing wrong with that so not do anything to change that particular bit of non-stereotypical behaviour. And so on.

    Clearly, as you imply, decisions whether to try to influence a particular aspect of a child’s behaviour get more complex & difficult if you don’t know for sure whether the particular behaviour in question is fixed or malleable.

    Thanks Elp, for saying ‘that nonanon is right that there’s an issue to worry about here’ and ‘i still do think it’s a difficult and important issue just what we ought to do, upbringing-wise, given the non-ideal world we live in.’ I don’t wish to tread on anyone’s toes, but these are important & difficult issues so I thought they were worth discussing.

  34. Talk to me when you’ve actually raised kids, nonanon. I never said I ever assumed there were only 2 ways to do ANYTHING, least of all raise kids.

  35. NonAnon –

    I think `innate but still malleable’ is quite the wrong way to think about things like gender, but I see now that’s really a red herring.

    The problem you’re concerned about is the other children teasing’s elp-son for the way he’s dressing. I certainly agree. One way of dealing with that, as you suggest, is to change the way he’s dressing — `try to encourage him to dress in a more conventional way’. Another way, of course, is to stop the other children from teasing without changing the way elp-son is dressing. This is exactly what the parents and teachers at elp-son’s preschool did when they tried to change the gender norms for the way boys dress. And the end of elp’s post suggests that they were quite successful. But then why think that teasing is `*likely to continue*’ — your emphasis — if he continues to dress in the way that he likes?

    Xena –

    NonAnon may be looking at places where you say things like this (from #36):

    Whether his love of fairy wings is inborn or not, the point is that HE LIKES FAIRY WINGS! And he’s not hurting anybody by wearing them. So leave him alone! Any invasive attempt to change a child’s behaviour for the sake of the invader, rather than the sake of the child is bullying.

    Here you’re contrasting bullying with a laissez-faire approach to parenting — `leave him alone’. You don’t mention any alternative to these two and your strong language (*any* invasive attempt) might give the impression that you think the only way to not be bullying is to be laissez-faire. And the argument you give (he’s not hurting anybody … So leave him alone!) is reminiscent of libertarian/classical liberal views, on which the state either bullies citizens or lets them do what they want so long as they don’t hurt each other.

    I’m not saying that this is clearly the right way to interpret passages like this. I’m just saying that I can see how someone could interpret it in this way, like NonAnon did.

  36. nonanon, i think, to be fair, you should take to heart what dan is saying about being careful not to oversimplify. (i say this in part because i think you’re missing a lot of the intricacy of your own question, and in part because you’re sort of a little bit (repeatedly) implying there’s something wrong with my parenting. which btw there’s not.)

    in particular, i don’t think it’s at all obvious that encouraging him to do what avoids the teasing is what’s best for him. to take a non-gender-charged example (or, less-so, anyway) i was teased as a child for being ‘brainy’. and the teasing did continue well into my teen years. ought my parents have encouraged me to be less so? i don’t think so.

    in the case of elp-son, it’s not at all clear to me that encouraging him to take on certain interests, while discouraging other interests, based on what’s chic in the playground, would count as good parenting.

  37. ah, very interesting, bakka. thanks for the link.
    ‘A bacha posh can also more easily receive an education, work outside the home, even escort her sisters in public, allowing freedoms that are unheard of for girls in a society that strictly segregates men and women.’

  38. *GASP!* You’re pulling the libertarian card Dan? *pout* ;-)

    No, I’m just saying that in the grand scheme of parenting, there are behaviours that matter and behaviours that don’t. My son’s autistic, remember? My daughter’s extremely bright and high-spirited. There are numerous positive ways to encourage desired behaviours. The method nonanon discussed ties in with modelling and shaping and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the child sees the value in what the parent is trying to encourage. eg: a fun movie over a not-so-heart-smart dessert.

    But when parents try to undermine a child’s creative expression, eg: telling a child to “Put the saxophone down for your own good. People are going to laugh at you.” or even “why don’t you try the kazoo instead?” without a good reason like, we can’t afford it, the child *may* lose something of himself. Constant redirection toward the parents’ wishes over the child’s *can* lead to the type of quiet resentments that may lead to other types of acting out in adolescence.

    And extremely bright children like my daughter laugh at operant conditioning techniques, and flip them around into practical jokes ala Bugs Bunny and the standard bait trap.

    I believe nonanon and I are arguing Skinner and Maslow, but s/he doesn’t know it yet. The point is to remember that a parent-child relationship is one between 2 human beings who are trying to help and learn from each other, and build a life together, not a relationship between a subject and an object. Because nonanon’s model is cited from book learning, rather than the deep personal experience of loving one’s own child, the techniques just strike me as calculating and mechanistic.

    That’s not his/her fault. But he/she should get some experience before he/she starts quoting Barbara Coloroso at me. Got the sequel, the t-shirt, and the bag of chips, sweetie.

    Your last comment #47 was a little more balanced & constructive, but elp is right.

    Elp, it sounds like you’ve got the right idea. Unfortunately, we can rarely devise a structured plan that’ll be a fail-safe path to self-actualization for our kids. It’s a constant and dynamic series of little interactions, each with potentially profound consequences, good or bad. I still say go with the glitter and deal with the bullies if and when they come around.

  39. Man, I must be sleep deprived or something. The second-last paragraph of #53 should read: The rest of your last comment #47 was a little more balanced & constructive…

  40. Xena –

    I believe nonanon and I are arguing Skinner and Maslow, but s/he doesn’t know it yet. The point is to remember that a parent-child relationship is one between 2 human beings who are trying to help and learn from each other, and build a life together, not a relationship between a subject and an object. Because nonanon’s model is cited from book learning, rather than the deep personal experience of loving one’s own child, the techniques just strike me as calculating and mechanistic.

    I never took a psych class and it’s been a long time since I read about Skinner and Maslow, but I don’t see anything in NonAnon’s comments that could support any of the claims you’re making about her/him here.

  41. Dan, I’ve just done another close reading of #47 and a refresher on my understanding of Skinner&Maslow and am confident that I have some good points to argue. Unfortunately, this may get a little long-winded and I have a busy schedule today. So I’m putting this off until tomorrow.

    In the meantime, while I tcb and work on editing this thingie for brevity, let me get your thoughts on Skinner&Maslow and any discrepancies between what I said in #53, and how you grasp their models.

    Also, I’ll ask elp if she thinks that much detail would be overkill, to stop this discussion before it starts to tax the readers.

    Finally, if JJ is reading, I know you could end this discussion in a few short paragraphs with your mighty theoretical sword&aegis. But it’s good exercise for me. Provided elp feels the discussion should continue, let us hammer this out. Rescue me in 2 or 3 days if I start to flounder, ok? Thanks.

  42. Kathryn? Accidentally funny is accidentally cool, so I’m fine with that lol.
    But I don’t get it. How am I funny? The thing about JJ’s mighty aegis?

  43. “Sword&aegis” sounds good, but I’m not sure. I’m think Xena has figured out that I love baggy dresses:
    from Wiki:

    An aegis (pronounced /ˈiːdʒɨs/), from Greek αιγίς, is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or, it is the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small version of the shield appearing on the garment. It originally was derived from the protective shield associated with a religious figure when related in myths and images. The wearing of the aegis and its contents show sponsorship, protection, or authority derived from yet a higher source or deity. The name has been extended to many other entities, and the concept of a protective shield is found in other mythologies, while its form varies across sources.

    Chomsky totally ruined Skinner for me; you can check out the destructive essay on the web.

  44. Oh, that’s the actual tool used by actual people. I was comparing you to the Goddess Athena, wearing the head of the monster her champion took down. I was just saying in my quirky, living-my-myths kinda way that I approach theory as a kind of grand adventure too. It doesn’t mean much to me if I can’t apply it, make it useful. The Epic of Elp-Son in a cute but still serious way has given me a nice outlet for my protective/creative energies :-)

    (And a way to get my head outta my M&E homework–Aristotelean metaphysics–why do I do these things to myself?)

    On Chomsky and the cognitive revolution, yes JJ. I was trying to make a similar point. That all of Nonanon’s suggestions, except for the one where s/he referred to his/her friend’s child’s bedtime routine as a “cooperative, friendly, girly, shared experience” focussed on external behaviour. How to talk to it, redirect it, influence it, or what have you.His/her approach is all b-mod. Well great, if it’s a no-brainer like “eat your vegetables”. But behaviour comes from inside the person, not outside.

    Elp-son is still too little to let anybody know if his love of fairy wings is just a passing fancy, or an indication of gender preference, or an identification with an unconventional cartoon hero, or a simple tactile or olfactory response to a “collection” of girlie things whose effect on his senses combine and “feel like home.” I get that effect from the combined sounds and smells of baking biscuits and listening to Simon&Garfunkel. That was something I used to do with my mom, and it still makes me feel cozy, like a favourite blankie. I still have preferences for certain songs to go with certain foods.

    I brought up Maslow to point out the possibility, however small, that Elp-son’s love of dressing up might be SO much more than just a game, or just an exercise in comfort, or even an indicator of gender preference. There’s a possibility that this little quirk may go well beyond creature comforts, or needs for group acceptance, or any of the other contentions we’ve been discussing so far. What if this behaviour is the way he perceives his most beautiful self? What if this manner of expression is the vehicle for his Magnum Opus? Like Mozart or Baryshnikov, Peter Jackson or other people whose childhood obsessions turned into something awe inspiring. What if this is the type of creativity that causes real personal distress when it’s stunted? Look at Baryshnikov. I’ve never seen a man in pink tights and a mullet (White Knights 1985) look so powerfully masculine. More like a panther than any of the prey animals that dancers are usually likened to. Look at what he went through for his art.

    Other children and daycare staff were not able to redirect elp-son’s behaviour, even with taunts and meanness. With an older child, that usually means that the joy in whatever the child is doing makes it worth bearing the taunts for it. Maybe that’s true for elp-son, maybe it’s not. But why take the chance when it’s such a little concession to just let him wear the fairy wings?

  45. Xena –

    That all of Nonanon’s suggestions, except for the one where s/he referred to his/her friend’s child’s bedtime routine as a “cooperative, friendly, girly, shared experience” focussed on external behaviour. How to talk to it, redirect it, influence it, or what have you. His/her approach is all b-mod. Well great, if it’s a no-brainer like “eat your vegetables”. But behaviour comes from inside the person, not outside.

    That makes much more sense to me than what you said in #53 about `arguing Skinner and Maslow’ and subjects and objects, which I found quite vague. I can see now how what you’re saying here is similar to what you were saying earlier. And I do think you’re making some good and fair points here.

    However, I’m still not sure that it’s an accurate summary of NonAnon’s views. It’s one thing if the handful of examples s/he gave can be cast in terms of modifying something’s external behavior. It’s another if s/he actually thinks of children as things to be manipulated rather than developing persons with projects and a sense of self-identity of their own. And none of that goes to your claim that her/his `model is cited from book learning, rather than the deep personal experience of loving one’s own child’.

  46. Most people who have kids of their own don’t say “my friend’s child does such and such”. They’ll usually contrast the other child’s behaviour against their own child’s behaviour, or they’ll draw on their own experiences and back up their views with reputable sources. I’ve studied enough psych and childhood development theories that I can more or less tell, even without a quoted source, which main school of thought a person is drawing on. I can also tell, more or less, when a person is a novice or an expert. Hence my commentary on JJ’s Goddess-like wisdom.

    Another btw about Chomsky’s criticisms of Skinner: I did feel that they were a little harsh. This essay looks like the turning point between Chomsky the linguist and Chomsky the anarchist. Like Marx, I agree with much of what Chomsky says about everything that’s wrong with the world, but his model for change leaves much to be desired. My dad’s anarchist practices killed him. Whitehorse is the worst place on the planet to try to live like Gandhi.

    I don’t think Nonanon OR Skinner are/were control freaks. (I did think Nonanon was trolling at first, buts/he has demonstrated that s/he means well) Reading Skinner and seeing him on film are 2 entirely different things. Right away I noticed how comfortable Skinner’s animals were with him. I hate to anthropomorphize, but they really did look happy to see him. And the ping pong game! I suck at ping pong, and I have thumbs. The man taught pigeons to be happy playing ping pong with him. He did not appear to be the Victor Frankenstein/Josef Mengela character that Chomsky made him out to be. He seemed to have a real sense of wonder and joy about the behavioural processes he was studying, more like Gepetto than Stromboli. (that’s a Disney reference–I haven’t actually read Pinocchio). His daughter speaks highly of him as well, describes him as very gentle.

    I’m more inclined to think that what happened with Skinner’s work is closer to what happened with Einstein’s work. Other people took it and misused it. Yes, there are enough flaws in the design itself that I would never put my son on IBI. But that doesn’t make BF Skinner a monster. It just means that he goes into the history books with Freud and everybody else that got close, but didn’t quite get it.

  47. Ok, I just looked up some of Skinner’s political philosophy and it does sound a little totalitarian. I’m going to let that one go, because it would send the discussion off on an unproductive tangent, and it’s a little too close to the M&E homework I’m trying to avoid.

    I don’t think a long-winded debate about whether or not “pink” is really “pink” would be helpful to elp-son.

  48. Yay!! My son is 20 now and from the time he was 14 until recently, he always wanted to be pretty. He asked for a coat for Christmas, and it was from a “women’s” clothing store. I didn’t care. He wanted it, it was in the budget, he got it. He wore polish on his nails and pink clothes. His running shoes for phys ed were black and pink. My son is no into pretty anymore but still very much into fashion. He has a girlfriend and many friends. I would be happy if he had a boyfriend. His life. Let your kids dress how they want. It’s such a small battle when there are huge ones to be fought.

  49. Awww. The thing that gets me isn’t even the gender switching. It’s that some parents actually just can’t grasp that it’s ok to let their kids choose for themselves what they want to look like. Children do not have years of stereotypes pounded into their heads. They are too young. It bothers me deeply that so many parents are offended when bright, open minded parents like these woman allow their children to explore and express without restriction. The child who is not barred from truly exploring s far more likely ti find himself as he was meant to be.

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