A few years ago, one of my sisters-in-law came to town with two of her kids, a boy and a girl. Over ice cream the adults in the group asked these great kids what they'd do if they found a treasure chest full of gold. My nephew pondered. Then he said, "A gun." Then, more pondering. "No, wait. A sword would be good, too. Maybe I'd get a gun and sword."
We then asked my niece the same question. She immediately replied, "A cheerleader uniform and a grown-up makeup kit." She didn't need to revisit the question. She was positive.
Now, a certain kind of feminist might say that such sentiments reflected the deep-seated cultural biases that force little kids to assume "gender roles." True, society helps shape the people we become. But knowing the environment these kids come from, it simply strains believability that nature wasn't a bigger culprit than nurture. Science backs all of this up, of course. Studies show that if you give a little boy a Barbie doll, he's more likely to pretend it's a shapely gun or knife.
In fact, outside a handful of ideologues, I don't think I've met anybody who doesn't think there's something to the idea that boys and girls are different, not just anatomically but in more significant ways. Obviously, this doesn't mean that there aren't boys who are more "feminine" than some girls and some girls who aren't more "masculine" than some boys, whatever those terms may mean. Indeed, the inability of people to speak clearly about such things is often the source of most disagreements. One need only look at Larry Summers, the Harvard president now on his umpteenth apology for saying what he believed to be true based upon a giant pile of data. Although one could say that Summers' real "crime" was speaking "too clearly."
What's particularly interesting is that even most self-described feminists believe there's an essential femaleness that is different from maleness. Over a decade ago, the feminist flibbertyjibbit Naomi Wolfe - who, recall, advised Al Gore to dress like an alpha male - had condemned U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick because she wrote in "a voice so Olympian, so neck-up and uninflected by the experiences of the female body, that the subtle message received by young female writers is: to enter public voice, one must abide by the no-uterus rule." Ah, yes, Ms. Kirkpatrick's analysis of totalitarianism would have been much improved if she'd been more cognizant of her status as a utero-American.
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