Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gender Variance, Baby!

This blog by Albert Mohler cites a couple of articles in Florida and California in which school children are being subjected to a view sometimes labeled “gender variance” where children are not “forced” into traditional gender roles, but encouraged to construct their own genders from a very young age.

As Mohler notes, this is a dramatic and profound worldview shift. Right at the foundation of the issue is the conflict between a Christian view of humanity where personhood is essentially a given and the postmodern view where personhood is essentially constructed. This postmodern view reflects the rampant individualism and narcissism inherent in our current culture. Not only will we not let “the man” tell us who we are going to be, we won’t even let our own genetic make up tell us what gender we will be! Instead of resting in the “givenness” and grace of our creation in the image of God, we are left to drift on the currents of our shifting culture and mores. Though many might argue that this postmodern view allows us to become who we really want to be, and is actually empowering, it leaves us in a mire of moral confusion with no real ground to stand on. Has our culture, which has been finding itself for decades, become more mentally healthy and grounded or less?


Daria said...

hm...."gender" is a cultural concept, as distinguished from "sex," which is biological (and which is not actually always clear, as mutliple genetic and physiological problems around biological sexual development exist).

Gender identity does have fluid elements in young children, because they are learning what it *means* (as far as roles, dress, etc.), in their cultural context, to be a male or female. looking at the blog on the articles, I must agree that what is being reported is shocking. I don't see it as really about helping young children learn about "gender"--arguably a critical part of children's socialization. It seems far more likely that these poor children will, indeed, be virtually guaranteed to develop huge confusion around gender identity. : ( and that is sad.

I have always striven against blocking people into silly culture-and-history-bounded notions of the feminine and masculine, since there is greater variability of characteristics within males and females (in virtually every psychological domain) than between them. Helping a child understand, however, that there is nothing intrinsically, objectively "female" about playing with dolls, for ex., is quite different than what seems to be going on in the school mentioned in the blogger's post.

what a crazy world...

erratum ; ) said...

oops--must correct something from above: technically speaking, aka, statistically speaking, one does often find very small mean differences on some social-personality and cognitive-style characteristics between males and females, which means that there is slightly more variability between rather than within them. Sorry!

Practically, however, what this means is that males and females experience tremendous overlap across characteristics. Making a big deal about these factors and their supposed relation to sex is therefore not useful (and sometimes perhaps actually harmful) for gender identity development (ie, it's not very sensical to define maleness and femaleness by factors that really are more overlapping than divergent across the population).
Hope this helps...

Daria : )