Transing children & the myth of an unbiased medical establishment

This is part II of a series on radical feminism and transgenderism. The first, The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism’ is available here.

 

I have many concerns about the current push to medically transition children because of sex-based stereotyping as I outlined here in the case of a child whose mother was terrified he was gay – on the say so homophobic relatives. As a radical feminist, I view gender as socially constructed upon the material reality of female and male bodies. It is also, in the words of Claire Heuchan, a “hierarchy imposed by men to ensure their dominance over women’. Gender, as a theoretical concept, is inherently harmful. As a ‘reality’, it is responsible for the oppression of women globally through FGM, domestic and sexual violence and abuse, pornography, prostitution, and femicide. Women are not oppressed because they identify as female; women are oppressed because men construct women’s biological sex as ‘inferior’ and women themselves as possessions. As Marina Strinkovsky writes,

if gender is real and biological sex a social construct, if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill?”

This question seems perfectly reasonable: how do we decide which foetuses should be aborted and what humans to pay less if not through the material reality of biological sex. Yet, this question is considered ‘transphoic’. Any questioning of gender theory is met with abuse and threats. Suggesting children might not be capable of deciding about medical care is met with derision in cases of transgender children, but not children undergoing treatment for diseases such as cancer. There is a double standard here that needs to be explored more fully and we absolutely need more research into the way in which mental health diagnoses or suicide risks are defined within the transgender movement. However, in this essay I want to focus specifically on gender identity and the theory of an unbiased medical establishment.

 

Continue reading Transing children & the myth of an unbiased medical establishment

Raising Useless Children – A disaster of Helicopter Parenting.

My eldest daughter’s first year of secondary school included a residential outdoor education trip. She had already been on one in primary school at a similar centre so I wasn’t going to bother attending the parent’s information meeting. Until she came home with not only a list of things required to take but skills needed to be allowed on the trip, including:

  • Being able to butter her own toast
  • Cut up dinner
  • Pour herself a drink without spilling
  • Getting dressed by herself
  • Brushing her own teeth.

As with all comprehensive schools in Scotland, integration for students with additional support needs was policy (although these children never get the actual level of support required due to systemic underfunding). The school also had a unit attached for students with autism who may find a full day too difficult. I assumed that my daughter had collected the wrong form and that the list was to double check children’s support needs in order to ensure the appropriate level of staffing to ensure that all children could attend. I went along to the information meeting assuming it would be a waste of my time (since I’d sat through a similar one the year before).

I was wrong.

My daughter had indeed brought home the right letter. And, the list above: for children without any additional support needs.

 

Continue reading Raising Useless Children – A disaster of Helicopter Parenting.

Zadie Smith: why the focus on make-up ignores the massive elephant in the room

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see Zadie Smith at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, which is why I know the “Zadie Smith banned her daughter from wearing make-up” is utter bollocks. Quite how the person who spread this rumour managed to understand Smith’s comment as a ban is mind-boggling. I’m veering between two options: a) they are on the wrong side of dim; b) deliberately propagated this for click bait.

It is incredibly disappointing to see media who claim to be feminist calling out Smith without investigating the context in which Smith referred to make-up. She did not “ban’ her daughter from wearing make-up.  The statement below was in response to a question from the about raising children within the harmful culture of patriarchal standards that hold girls to unrealistic expectations of beauty. Smith used the issue of time as a way to explain to her daughter, in age appropriate language, how patriarchal standards negatively impact girls’ lives.

 

Continue reading Zadie Smith: why the focus on make-up ignores the massive elephant in the room

The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism.

This is Part One of a series responding to the issues around transgenderism and the media representations therein.

 When my daughter was 3 she decided she wanted to be a mermaid for the ability to swim underwater. This lasted until she realised that mermaids do two things: swim and brush their hair. Understandably, this was deemed too boring. So, she became a mermaid superhero, which combined awesome swimming skills (and potentially a visit to Atlantis) with the ability to fly and read minds (and ignore her mother). Eventually this became a superhero mermaid rock star since I, in a moment of extreme unreasonableness, refused to let her dye her hair bright blue. (She decided her way around this was to become the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the band could veto my no blue hair rule, but that’s a whole different story).

 

Continue reading The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism.

The final battle in the Wars of Best Parenting:

Slides.

Genuinely.

Slides.

Like this one:

194640_orig
http://kinchinplaysystems.weebly.com/slides.html

I know this sounds utterly ridiculous. They are slides for children, but somehow they make the list of ‘The Great Parenting Battles’ (breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, working, disposable vs reusable nappies, Tom Hardy vs Chris Evans on CBeebies Bedtime Story*) on Mumsnet. There is the side who think any child who dares to try to climb up a slide is on a short road to juvenile delinquency, an ASBO, and a lifetime of petty crime. And, those who think that slides are meant for imaginative play. Not queuing in a line.

I genuinely had no idea that climbing slides was ‘bad’ behaviour in the UK until I joined Mumsnet. There are always threads by mothers complaining about other people’s children using slides in ways which are deemed ‘rude’. Obviously, there are differences between preschoolers on a slide and school age children. I’m just not convinced that 7 year olds need to queue to climb steps to use a slide. Or, that 10 year olds are incapable of being aware of their surroundings and sharing.

 

Continue reading The final battle in the Wars of Best Parenting:

The Myth of the “Girl” Brain; or how to spot a misogynist

I wasn’t going to bother writing about this again since my views are pretty clear to anyone who’s come across my rantings on “girl and boy” brains. Some of the media coverage of the new research “proving” brain differences has been excellent. Glosswitch wrote a great review in the New Statesman as did  Marstrina at Not A Zero Sum Game. I was ignoring because it irritates me no end to see people claiming that  gender science is totes real and completely removed from our culture. 

I’m fairly certain there are only three kinds of people who believe in “girl” brains:
  1. Those with poor literacy skills
  2. Nincompoops
  3. Misogynists.
Anyone growing up with an access to good education falls into the last two categories. And, most are misogynists. They may not think they are but the only reason to believe in inherent differences between men and women based on junk science is if you believe that women are inferior to men. The myth of “girl” brains only serves to maintain the status quo: which is a culture where women earn 70% of what men earn, are fired for getting pregnant and are blamed for being a victim of a crime.


Here’s the thing, we just don’t have the ability to tell what is clearly a genetic difference versus what differences are caused by socialisation. Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences breaks down the problems with the science and the refusal the effects of socialisation in a patriarchal culture. I won’t bother repeating what she wrote since everyone needs to read this book; especially for the Daddy Rat research.

Every time someones claim that they can ‘see’ observable differences, whether in MRI scans or toddlers playing, I am reminded of Nazi scientists who swore blind they could see observable differences in the skull sizes of Jewish and African people. I am reminded of 19th eugenicists who claimed the same. In 20 years, we may have the science which can conclusively prove, once and for all, whether or not there are actually differences between the brains of men and women; or prove that actually the statistically insignificant differences we see now are nothing more the process of socialisation on the human brain.

Until then, I’m going to assume that those who insist in genetic differences are either nincompoops or misogynists with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo: and women’s inferiority. 

You Too Can be a Model or a Pop Star: Living the Barbie Dream

Remember when Barbie was President of the United States? A vet? An entrepreneur with a string of high street stores? An astronaut? A paraolympian? A jockey?


Remember when Barbie’s body measurements were hateful but Barbie herself could do anything and be anything?

I do.


It’s unlikely my kids will remember Barbie this way since Barbie is now either a model, pop star or actress. It’s not that Barbie can’t be President of the United States since a limited edition Barbie for President 2012 doll was produced or that Barbie the Vet is no more, it’s simply that the most easily available versions of Barbie for sale on the high street are fairies, mermaids, princesses, models and popstars; all of which are tied into films and all of that subsequent merchandising. 

To be fair, I also had Pop Star Barbie; mine owned a record company, spoke 6 languages and had a PhD in archaeology. It’s probably fair to say I was a nerd. It’s not also that I think girls today lack the imaginations to make their Barbie mermaids into something; my small has made her Barbie mermaid into a superhero but Barbie used to be every girl [even with the ridiculous figure]. Now, even with the new more “realistic” bodies, Barbie is actually more 
limited in terms of careers and adventures.

The Barbie films may be predicated on the notion of girl power and female friendships, heck Barbie and the 3 Musketeers is practically Germaine Greer-approved, but they are reinforcing an even more narrow version of femininity that is inherently harmful for girls. The opening of the first life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin is just further reinforcing the idea of Barbie-as-Object rather than Barbie-the-Adventure-Girl of my childhood. 





Barbie-of-the-Dreamhouse only allows two careers: model or pop star. Girls can pretend to bake cupcakes in her fake kitchen and rifle through her wardrobe. There is no evidence of President Barbie or Barbie The Musketeer or Barbie the Vet here. It’s just the plastic pink version of femininity that Barbie has been criticised for more than 40 years. At this point, I’d love a return to Malibu Barbie and Stacey who hang out at the beach surfing. At least they were athletes. Barbie-of-the-Dreamhouse doesn’t do adventures and I’m not entirely sure when she works as a model or pop star when she seems to spend all her time baking cupcakes and dressing up.

Barbie had an opportunity to change into something really quite radical with the return of President Barbie. Instead, Mattel has returned to the pink princess twaddle. 

And, don’t even get me started on Barbie the TV series which is available on youtube. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to post-modern irony or the brainchild of someone deeply stupid but it is well past creepy.

Dear Disney, Fuck You. Love, Merida’s Fans

A Mighty Girl has started a petition to ask Disney to stop trashing Merida. Now, I’m not the greatest fan of Brave, as I blogged here, but I cannot believe Disney is turning their first real female character into another cookie cutter pastiche of femininity.

This is the text of the petition:

Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for — a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have.

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.

In an interview with Pixar Portal, “Brave” writer and co-director Brenda Chapman stated, “Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn’t be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they’d be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!’”

This new Merida is a paler reflection of her former self without the spark and the ‘you go girl’ quality that her creator intended.

We write to you on behalf of all the young girls who embraced Merida as a role model, who learned from her that they too could go off on an adventure and save the day; that it’s not how you look that matters but who you are. For them and for all the children — both girls and boys — who benefit from seeing depictions of strong, courageous, and independent-minded girls and women that are so scarce in animated movies, we ask you to return to the original Merida that we all know and love. We ask you to keep Merida Brave!


To:
Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company
Zenia Mucha, Executive Vice President, Chief Communications Officer, The Walt Disney Company
Nidia Caceros, Director, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for — a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have. 

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty. 

In an interview with Pixar Portal, “Brave” writer and co-director Brenda Chapman stated, “Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn’t be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they’d be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!’”
This new Merida is a paler reflection of her former self without the spark and the ‘you go girl’ quality that her creator intended.

We write to you on behalf of all the young girls who embraced Merida as a role model, who learned from her that they too could go off on an adventure and save the day; that it’s not how you look that matters but who you are. For them and for all the children — both girls and boys — who benefit from seeing depictions of strong, courageous, and independent-minded girls and women that are so scarce in animated movies, we ask you to return to the original Merida that we all know and love. We ask you to keep Merida Brave!
Sincerely, 

[Your name]

The Daddy Rat : Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, The Real Science Behind Sex Differences

It’s a standing joke in the Mumsnet Feminism/ Women’s Rights section that we should all be receiving royalties for Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences. I must recommend it at least once a week on threads about gendering children or men being too stupid to see dirt so they, consequently, stink at housework. This, of course, is the same men who are so “visual” that they need to look at porn in order to get off. How, precisely, one can be simultaneously visual and non-visual is beyond me but that’s the argument always put forward by those who believe in innate gender differences.

I’m a neuroskeptic. I don’t believe in innate gender differences. I certainly don’t think we can “scientifically observe” gender differences when our culture is so seeped in woman-hating that anything constructed as “female” is immediately wrong. I have no tolerance for people who claim that boys are physical and girls are emotional. Or, that boys are better at math and spatial awareness than girls because their brains are hardwired that way. All the neuroscience I see insisting on innate gender [and never sex which is what they actually mean] differences has been about supporting the status quo of women’s subordination. 

Cordelia Fine deconstructs all the major “research” on innate gender differences and demonstrates what unrelenting twaddle it is. She is equally snarky, funny and downright angry at the misuse and falsification of “scientific evidence” to support fallacious constructions of gender [which fail to acknowledge the historical and cultural situations in which they were created]. I can not recommend this book enough for anyone who thinks that its totally normal for boys to be violent and girls to be nurturing. This is by far one of my most favourite feminist texts, despite not being advertised as such.


This is my favourite quote from the book: The Daddy Rat

Male rats don’t experience the hormonal changes that trigger maternal behaviour in female rats. They never normally participate in infant care. Yet put a baby rat in a cage with a male adult and after a few days he will be caring for the baby almost as if he were its mother.  He’ll pick it up, nestle it close to him as a nursing female would, keep the baby rat clear and comforted and even build a comfy nest for it. The parenting circuits are there in the male brain, even in a species in which paternal care doesn’t normally exist. If a male rat, without even the aid of a William Sears baby-care manual, can be inspired to parent then I would suggest that the prospects for human fathers are pretty good. (88)

It makes me snigger every time I read it.


Some interesting Discussions on Mumsnet: 




Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella and Sam

Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella and Sam series are some of my favourite children’s stories. I love Stella’s imagination and her utter joy at life. I love the simplicity of Stella and Sam playing together and the beautiful stories Stella tells Sam: about being Star of the Sea, Queen of the Snow, Fairy of the Forest and Princess of the Sky. I love Sam’s never-ending questions and his innocent trust in the infinite knowledge of his big sister.

These books are the celebration of the real beauty in the relationships of siblings (when they aren’t arguing over whose turn it is to clean the hamster cage or empty the dishwasher) but also how powerful the gift of imagination truly is. 

Needless to say, we own them all. 🙂


(image reproduced from here)