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I don’t think this issue is as black and white – or pink and blue – as is portrayed in this article. The issue of gender with regard to stereotypes, differences, discrimination, equality and so on is complex. While I agree that children should not be sorted by gender in pre-school or elementary school, or singled out by acknowledging their gender, or differentiating their abilities.
But, there are indeed differences, including behavioral, between males and females. I think that the goal should be to understand and respect the differences, and to view them as strengths and complements rather than negatives, and to ensure that the differences of each gender are not held against its members.
I understand the concept of treating all children the same with regard to their good or bad behavior in the classroom or playground, and their desires, aspirations and abilities. And, yes, children should be allowed to choose their own toys. If a boy wants to play with a doll and a girl wants to play with a truck, they should be allowed and encouraged to do so.
But, I don't agree that the maleness and femaleness of each child should be denied or ignored. There are differences due to hormones, but, again, that does not mean that members of either gender are suited for only certain tasks, careers or accomplishments. I think we need to find a balance, though, so that a little girl who chooses to wear a pink dress and play with dolls or a little boy who doesn't care what he wears and likes to take his truck apart aren't criticized or discouraged from doing so. Boys and girls should also be encouraged to play together with stereotypical toys if they wish to do so. Both genders can play house or football together, whichever they choose, with no recriminations.
However, because there are hormonal differences, what should occur when children reach middle school age and their entry into puberty and increase in hormonal activity drives their behavior, more clearly distinguishing the girls from the boys. Do we ignore those differences or try to address them, in fairness to both genders? For example, there are studies that show that girls, in particular, fare better in single-sex classrooms, especially in certain subjects, and that boys fare better in classrooms with both genders. This is due to the way they view each other – the way they view the opposite sex. Treating boys and girls the same with regard to their aptitude and abilities is certainly wise, but there are other differences that must be addressed, because they do affect children’s behavior and learning.
For example, what about encouraging girls and boys to pursue certain subjects and majors that are viewed to be gender specific, such as the humanities for girls and math and the sciences for boys? We need to look at the whole picture, and how a gender non-specific approach in elementary school plays out later in the children’s lives. In more than 200 years the U.S. has not seen women hold the office of President of the United States; women are still in the minority in Congress and women make up a very small percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs. We've been talking about this subject for decades, numerous studies have been done, but we’re still talking about it instead of doing much about the gender imbalance in society. We need to look deeper and farther than just pink and blue, cars and dolls to determine what works and what does not.
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