Parenting

Gender-Neutral Parenting Ignores Science: Brains of Boys and Girls Are Different

In a fabulous article over at the Los Angeles Times, sexual neuroscientist Debra W. Soh draws much-needed attention to the fact that the gender-neutral parenting community conveniently denies a boatload of recent scientific research clearly showing that gender is a biological fact, not a lifestyle choice:

In the face of scientific data, the gender-neutral movement nevertheless continues to gain momentum. Indeed, its adherents took heart in a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which touted the idea that the brains of women and men are identical. If so, that would offer support to the theory that gender is an artificially created, outdated concept.

However, an immense body of neuroimaging research has shown brain differences between the sexes. One meta-analysis of 126 studies found that men have larger total brain volumes than women. Men also show greater white matter connectivity running from the front to the back of the brain, while women have more of these connections running between the two hemispheres.

Additionally, when researchers reanalyzed the same brain data from the “no sex differences” study, they found that it was possible to correctly identify whether a given brain was male or female 73% of the time. But this discovery did not receive much attention from the media, and as a result, the initial study’s misinformation continues to spread.

Soh recounts the stories of parent-patients obsessed with gender neutrality who are shocked when their little girls favor dolls and their little boys favor cars. Apparently, gender isn’t a construct after all. At least not scientifically speaking.

In fact, the only real instance of gender nonconformity among children occurs among girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH. Exposed to high levels of testosterone while in the womb, these girls tend to prefer boys’ toys, even when encouraged otherwise by their parents. Soh notes that even this study provides important evidence regarding “…the vital role of hormones in developing gender preferences and sex differences in behavior…”

Gender has never and will never be a socially constructed idea. The only way the gender-neutral lobby can get around this scientific fact is by ignoring it completely, as they did with the most recent research in the field. Or, they can put political pressure on public entities to pass laws that give a nod to the idea of gender nonconformity, like requiring public schools and colleges to provide gender-neutral bathrooms. Gender-nonconformists could also put financial pressure on corporations to bow to their agenda by forcing chain retailers to stop labeling toys for “boys” and “girls” and rewarding companies that target their traditionally female products, like mascara and eye makeup, toward male consumers.

Both Soh and a writer for NYMag covering Soh’s piece attribute the politics surrounding discussions about children’s toy preferences to be rooted in nothing more than a typical fear of bad parenting. This is especially ironic given the fact that raising children to reject their gender is one of the most psychologically damaging things a parent can do to a child.