Featured on Sunday’s front page of the New York Times is an article describing the gender neutral policies being followed by pre-schools in Sweden. Even though we don’t live in Sweden the extreme practices mandated reflect the growing ideology that equates gender equality with gender neutrality. The logic seems to be that the only way to make sure women are not discriminated against and subject to domination by the so called patriarchy is to eliminate gender identity. The schools have eliminated gender personal pronouns, frown on their perception of gender specific clothing and try to teach girls to scream and boys to be more gentle. They proudly call their agenda social engineering designed to forge a gender neutral world.
Two crucial elements are missing from this approach.. First, let’s be clear. As succinctly articulated by Dr. David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard University, “Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound. In addition to anatomical differences men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength.” He also notes that there are average differences in temperament and behavior between the genders but the degree it impacts behavior is still subject to some debate despite the fiact that most adults report that men and women on average do differ in various aspects of communication and behavior.
My other concern is that the youngsters who are programmed not to recognize gender differences are part of a culture, even in Sweden, with many markers of gender differences. How are they going to develop a sense of self that it is in sharp contrast to the existing cultural norms about gender. Both in the media and in everyday life men still dress and behave as men and women dress and behave as women. Why is it so difficult to imagine a world where women have equal opportunity in their careers, equal pay for equal work and are free from sexual harassment and still feel comfortable wearing makeup, dressing up when they see fit and being respected for their gender specific energy that they bring to society. Conversely, men can feel comfortable in their masculinity and the gender specific energy that that brings to society while respecting women and making sure they are afforded equal rights. Again I wait for an answer to my fundamental question: Why must we equate gender equality with gender neutrality?