Gender stereotypes are not the primary cause of a girl's developmental issues
March 15, 2002 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Gender stereotypes are not the primary cause of a girl's developmental issues according to therapist and author Michael Gurian, who is interviewed for this thought-provoking piece on his recent work "The Wonder of Girls." He argues for more recognition of the role of physiological influences in behavioral variations, and the article cites some intriguing variations in the anatomy and chemistry of male and female brains.
posted by NortonDC (14 comments total)
Blasphemer!!! (quirky smile)
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2002

Gurian, who helped put the "boys' movement" on the map in the '90s,

This guy obviously has an agenda, i.e., making himself rich by sparking new "movements". Modus operandi: Take a current school of thought and twist it around, without throwing it out entirely, all in the interest of appealing to an audience. As far as I'm concerned, he's far more concerned with selling books than with advance social science.
posted by jpoulos at 1:55 PM on March 15, 2002

This is the first time I've seen a book review where the reviewer turns to comments to inform her apprisal of a book. An interesting approach, I think.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2002

I do hope that the definition of "feminism" provided in this article isn't meant to be exhaustive. It misses, for example, the whole "ethics of care" strand in feminist philosophy, which is precisely about mothering, specifically feminine values, and the like. For that matter, essentialist feminism is all about celebrating "natural" female behavior.

Incidentally, "womanism" is already in use, by African-American feminists.

Of course, the many women with little or no interest in "mothering" and "children" will say "so what?" to this kind of thing. Perhaps others may find it useful.

(Despite my screen name, I am indeed a woman--quite contentedly single, and with no particular urge to reproduce. Or perhaps, given this book, I'm not female at all, but some odd mutation :) )
posted by thomas j wise at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2002

My primary objection to this kind of theory is that it doesn't seem to apply to me, or any other people I know. Like you, ms wise, I am happy and single and feel quite fulfilled.

If Mr Gurian point is that we are all a product of nurture and nature, then that's an old point, but still valid. Feminist theory comes in many varieties and evolves constantly. I think Mr Gurian would be more successful if he positioned his theory as an adjunct to feminism instead of a denial.
posted by Red58 at 2:29 PM on March 15, 2002

"For instance, if you tell an 8-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl to do three things -- clean up their room, take out their garbage and wipe the table -- typically the boy needs more reminding" No S%$&*T. Some things guys never outgrow!
posted by aacheson at 3:25 PM on March 15, 2002

Why...and did you also know that increased levels of serotonin, increased secretion of oxytocin, a bigger hippocampus, and more brain "blood flow" also magically cause women to desire less money than men doing the same job, cause them to crave more menial jobs than men, cause them to choose not to advance in their chosen profession, and to welcome sexual harassment?

Really. It's the chemicals, I tell you. It's not any bias by men.

What drivel.

"What I'm arguing," [Gurian] said in an interview, "is that Mothering, with a capital M, is the primary goal of girls."

And so, our conservative friends maintain, then girls probably should be "content" in the home then, right? What need for education or equal opportunity in the professions, or outside the home?

Yeah, and a pretty good sociobiological argument could be made that Fornicating (with a capital F) any available orifice (animate or inanimate) is the primary goal of most boys. The chemicals, don't you know. But I haven't heard lately any demands from conservatives that their sons therefore confine their horizons to those *very* few inches.


Emphasizing differences in order to perpetuate discrimination and violence is criminal, from mysogyny to racism to specism. The exploitation of groups wired to lactate, or of groups wired with increased melanin, or even of our silent friends who are wired to thrive in different ecological niches -- these are all intolerable tragedies.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:53 PM on March 15, 2002

Therapist doesn't connote any medical training, so I'll take his theories on hormones and their effects with a BIG dose of salt.

Anyways, the article doesn't lead me to think he's against women working, just against the idea that women have to play by men's rules or be the same as men. I, a single working woman, agree with that. (I mother my pet rabbits a bit. So, you know, I can get my mothering with a capital M out of my system.)

I liked this part "...males are seven times more likely than females to be diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder."

No kidding. Wouldn't that explain why men have more one night stands?
posted by Salmonberry at 4:07 PM on March 15, 2002

Politics aside, his theories are probably right, in the same way that most of these theories are right, for some people. None that I've heard can really be applied universally, and even though he talks about how important it is to consider the individual nature of the person, he seems to want to apply his theories to everyone. I'm sure some women will read his book and relate to it completely, but I don't think I'll be one of them. I really dislike the New Age vocabulary he uses, but I agree with some of his ideas when I translate them. However, when I read things like "In most cases, human females and males need to form intimate, long-lasting and symbiotic relationships in order to feel safe and personally fulfilled and in order to raise the next generation safely." I think that he likely thinks that because that's what his own experience has told him is true, and because that's how he runs his own life. But that's not how it is (or should be) for everyone.

However, I applaud that he's trying to get people to be better parents by teaching them about what a kid's experience is really like. Anything that can improve a childhood is good. And anything that might help men and women understand each other a bit better is also good.
posted by biscotti at 4:08 PM on March 15, 2002

Wouldn't that explain why men have more one night stands?

Well those men are having those one-night-stands with someone, presumably the majority with females?

Obviously presuming the majoroity of men are heterosexual...

Oh and assuming the men aren't lying about it too... wow, that's a lot of assumptions for one post.
posted by selton at 4:29 PM on March 15, 2002

Salmonberry and selton - He does not claim men have more one night stands than women. He claims it's emotionally easier for men to have one night stands.

In related developments, the historic gap in the numbers of sex partners between men and women reported by various surveys has finally been addressed--older surveys failed to include female prositutes.
posted by NortonDC at 6:40 AM on March 16, 2002

Obviously presuming the majoroity of men are heterosexual...

i think that -- with my bleeding heart pluralist socialist liberal credentials totally intact -- that is a safe assumption.
posted by milkman at 8:54 AM on March 16, 2002

My personal experience in high school has been that the guys I'm friends with are more likely to seek close, personal attachments than the girls I am friends with. They [the girls] are much more into hookup culture and the like. Also, I find that every time a girl tries to explain a girls behavior as, "it's a girl thing," she is completely and totally wrong, and there is a male analouge available practically within armsreach. Maybe that's more commentary on myself and my friends than anything else, but it's true. I don't mean to be hypercritical of a book I've never read, but lets just say that I don't think I ever will read it, either.
posted by Ptrin at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2002

I read the author's previous "The Wonder of Boys". He lost me a bit when he started expounding on the joys of the Men's Movement, but I found the book helpful overall.

Watching my son and his peers approaching the age of five, it's obvious that there are differences in how the boys & the girls socialize, interact, learn etc. It's more than just "here, Suzy, you be a girl and play with a Barbie Doll. Tommy, you be a boy and go play catch." They're just wired differently. I don't see anything wrong with acknowledging these differences into account in parenting and early education.

Is there an innate need for a woman to be a mother? I think it's there, but varies from person to person. My wife is a successful professional, but has always wanted to be a mom. While I looked forward to being a dad, her feelings about parenthood seemed much deeper than my own. But that's just two people.
posted by groundhog at 7:03 AM on March 18, 2002

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