In [intlink id=”girls-and-video-games” type=”post”]yesterday’s video lecture[/intlink], Brenda Laurel refers to “certain kinds of feminists” who think that they know what little girls are like. She seems to be implying that these feminists have an ideal in mind of what girls–and women–should be like. And would be like if they weren’t socialized by our patriarchal society to be stereotypically feminine.
This is a sore point between feminists and non-feminists: feminists tend to see the differences between men and women as societal constructs. If men and women were raised alike, many of them seem to be saying, without anyone trying to push them into male and female behaviors, they would be so alike they could be seen as androgynous.
Of course non-feminists think this is bull. Everyone knows that little boys and little girls act like–well, little boys and little girls. Males are males and females are females and never the twain shall meet. And the difference isn’t merely biological. It is psychological as well. Non-feminists believe that these differences are hard-wired into us.
Feminists aren’t so sure. Some reject that notion completely. But I would venture to say that the vast majority of feminists agree that there are some male and female characteristics that will appear regardless of how a child is raised. Their point, though, is that society reinforces those stereotypes, so that a girl who is a tomboy or a boy who likes to make doll clothes will be made to feel unnatural. The individual is sacrificed on the altar of conformity.
What is more, a partriarchal society such as ours not only assigns certain characteristics to each of the sexes, it also assigns different value to male and female behavior. It is good to be in control of your emotions, it is bad to be emotional. It is good to be assertive if you’re a man, but a woman who is assertive will be seen as a bitch, because she is out of her place.
Feminists aren’t so much saying that the sexes are alike as they are saying that each sex should be valued equally. They are saying that most qualities are just human, that could be embodied by either sex. There certainly can be biological and psychological tendencies that are unique to each sex, but they shouldn’t cause a person to be caged in by what society says is appropriately male and female.
Ideally we would not pigeonhole our children and make them feel segregated from one another. That only exacerbates the conflicts that do exist between the sexes. But neither should we try to force children to act like we think they should act. Each child should be accepted for what he or she is.
That may mean that the vast majority of boys will be drawn to war games and most girls will be drawn to games about relationships. But there will always be exceptions to these so-called rules. And when there is, we should honor the human being that we have in our care by allowing her or him to be just that: human.