Gender differences
Sun, 30 Apr 95 21:04:23 -0500

NE>: Gerold Firl ( wrote:
NE>: : I think it is fair to say that socialization plays a part in the formati
NE>: : of all human behaviors, but to deny the role of instinct is delusion.

NE>: : Consider the propensity to play with dolls seen among girls. Girls are
NE>: : encouraged to play with dolls, of course, and that is cultural. But when

And boys don't play with dolls? What are all those toy soldiers? <g>
Is it that you mean that female children are encouraged to play with
baby dolls, and as realistic ones as possible, even to drinking and
peeing. They are encouraged in this play at about the same age at which
male children take up gunplay. Surely all this is purely cultural
learning designed to get the children to mimic adult human behavior. ;)

NE>: : see a juvenile baboon female who manages to get ahold of an infant, I
NE>see a
NE>: : behavior which is clearly instinctive, and instantly recognizible as
NE>: : related to behavior in our own species.

Hasn't there been a study of postpubescent human females showing their
instinctive reactions to babies-- increased attention, dilated pupils,
hearing tuned to the baby's cries, increased pulse rate-- and comparing
those reactions to postpubescent males' reactions to a girl in a bathing
suit? I remember reading that years ago.

NE>: Have Harry Harlow's studies been discredited? If memory of my
NE>: primatology course 19 years ago is holding firm, he removed rhesus monkeys
NE>: at birth to raise them in complete isolation -- the intent being to

All Harlow proved was that primates are social animals; the isolated
monkeys were completely dorked, culturally and instinctively, and were
all cases of arrested development because of social deprivation.

NE>: (Speaking anecdotally, as a former girl, I had no inclination or interest
NE>: in dolls and babies despite all the cultural cues and encouragement
NE>: American society could heap on in the 1950s and 60s. So much for instinct
NE>: ;^)

NE>: regards,
NE>: Kathy

Well, Kathy, speaking as a former girl myself <g>, I can remember that I
liked to play with all those toy soldiers that the boys had, and with
their cap pistols as well. (1946) I was furious because my father would
not allow me to have a BB gun like all the boys had, even though I was
the best shot in the neighborhood. (1947) My grandmother had a
marvelous china berry tree with small, supple limbs that I used to swing
through like Tarzan (or Cheetah maybe, but surely never Jane!), and I
can remember my mother screaming at me from the porch swing, "Ann, why
don't you come down out of that tree and play with the paper dolls I
bought you?" (1948)

Sometime about 1950 or 1951, everything changed; my body changed, and my
attitude changed, totally. All of a sudden, Jane looked great to me,
sitting in that tree house taking care of Boy while Tarzan and Cheetah
went swinging off through the trees. <g> When my mother had another
baby, I was 18, and I thought he was the most gorgeous, marvelous toy to
take care of that I had ever seen, and by the time I was 25, I had two
of my own.

Hormones, honey, hormones, and instinct that kicks in at puberty! To
this day, you can distract me from the most interesting intellectual
problem or the most vexing power struggle by putting a baby in my arms.

Of course, you are you and I am me! So much for anecdotal evidence.

NE>I don't think you can apply these studies to gender differences. Those
NE>monkeys were totally disfunctional. They could not interact with other
NE>monkeys at all, sexually or otherwise. In fact it was not a matter of

I agree with that.

NE>Indeed the big discovery in this seems to have been that some of
NE>the effects of raising monkeys this way could be partly alleviated
NE>by providing a surogate mother in the form of fur covered dolls.
NE>Wire mesh mothers were not good enough. The babies had to able to
NE>hug them for comfort. These studies were important in understanding
NE>pyschological development in primates. But I never heard of anyone
NE>using this as evidence of learning gender differences.
NE>Doug Scott

Yes, that is the way I remember that experiment, too. Of course, the
rising tide of feminism in the 70's fought against that interpretation
because it insinuated that the mother had to be there with the child all
the time or the child would be permanently damaged. Folks assumed that
real men were not instinctively caretakers, and that all nurturance must
fall to the female, as it does in our primate cousins.

See Dorothy Dinnerstein's *The Mermaid and the Minotaur* and Steven
Goldberg's *The Inevitability of Patriarchy*, both published in the

But from the 1970's, we've come a long way, baby! <g>


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