Yes indeed, why boys will be boys: an array of evidence that doesn't, however, negate the value of nonsexist childrearing....


GIRLS AND BOYS: The Limits of Nonsexist Childrearing

Yes indeed, why boys will be boys: an array of evidence that doesn't, however, negate the value of nonsexist childrearing. Stein, author of emotional-issues texts for parents-and-children (A bout Phobias, On Divorce, etc.), correctly notes that even in nonsexist settings, boys gravitate toward blocks, girls toward domestic or make-believe play; that even children with professional mothers identify men with the world-of-work, women with nurturing tasks. Though some would challenge the degree to which she draws distinctions, the literature on sexual differentiation and gender identification does support her contention, developed in stage-by-stage detail, that boys and girls exhibit different traits from infancy--which are reinforced by their differing relations with their mothers and fathers. But suppose boys and girls, in childhood, are different--if not as different as Stein believes. (""It becomes somewhat difficult,"" at age two, ""to talk in one breath about boys and girls as we did about infants and toddlers."") Stein's argument is that wearing a frilly dress--which she seems to think all little girls prefer to pants--does not prevent a woman from growing up to be a doctor; that, moreover, women cannot make their own, unique contributions ""if we hinder our children's capacity for achieving a firm gender identity by denying their need, belittling their efforts, and contradicting their choices to be clearly male or female."" What this argument overlooks, in upholding the validity of sex stereotypes, is their effect in relegating women to a secondary, supporting, often subservient role. Stein is particularly adamant (and negative) as regards homosexuality: ""Most crucial, and most difficult to understand, the parents of effeminate boys do not discourage the earliest signs of feminine behavior."" Stein's discussion, based on well-known research (Maccoby, Money), has little to offer to specialists. The ordinary, similarly-inclined reader will find her review of early childhood development quite technical and not very stimulating. (Letty Pogrebin's equal, she isn't.) But until this post-liberation point of view is better articulated, the material will serve for debating purposes.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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