Friday, March 14, 2014
‘Free to Be’ Boys and Girls: 40 Years After the Failed Gender Revolution
Christina Hoff Sommers
This week marks the 40th anniversary of an event close to the hearts of gender activists everywhere. On March 11, 1974, ABC aired Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me” — a musical program celebrating gender-free children. Thomas and her fellow co-neutralists envisioned a world where the sex distinction would melt away. Instead of “males” and “females,” there would be mutually respectful, non-gendered human persons. The project resulted in a platinum LP, a best-selling book, and an Emmy. More than that, the idea of gender liberation entered the national zeitgeist. Parents everywhere began giving their daughters trucks and sons baby dolls. Like so many dream boats floating on the utopian sea, this one crashed and sank when it hit the rocks of reality.
In one “Free to Be” song, two babies discuss their life goals: the female wants to be a fireman; the male, a cocktail waitress. Another tells about a girl who liked to say, “Ladies First” — only to wind up being the first to be eaten by tigers. The songs drive home the idea that we are all androgynous beings unfairly constrained by social stereotypes. “William‘s Doll” is memorable. “A doll, said William, is what I need. To wash and clean and dress and feed.” In the end his kindly grandmother buys him the coveted toy.
A few months ago, I found myself in a place William would adore: the American Girl doll palace in New York City. But nearly all the children there were girls. “They know what girls love,” said a transfixed seven-year-old girl attached to my hand. We were standing in front of a doll salon, where you could make appointments for your doll to have her hair and nails done. The hundreds of little girls in that store showed a purposefulness and sense of well-being I had not witnessed since the summer before, when I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Only in Cooperstown it was little boys who were enthralled. Hundreds of them filled the shops where they carefully examined and evaluated an unfathomable number of little cards with photos and data about baseball heroes. Yes, I realize there are boys who would enjoy the American Girl doll store and girls whose dearest hope is to visit Baseball Town — but those are the exceptions. I am talking about the rule. And as a rule, the young Williams of this world do not want a doll.
“Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron,” another jaunty “Free to Be” song, tell us: “A person should do what he likes to. A person’s a person that way.” Well, OK, maybe sometimes. But, after 40 years of gender activism, boys and girls show few signs of liking to do the same things. From the earliest age, boys show a distinct preference for active outdoor play, with a strong predilection for games with body contact, conflict, and clearly defined winners and losers. Girls, too, enjoy raucous outdoor play, but they engage in it less.
Girls, as a rule, are more drawn to imaginative theatrical games — playing house, playing school — as well as exchanging confidences with a best friend. Boys playing kickball together in the schoolyard are not only having a great deal of fun, they are forging friendships with other males in ways that are critical to their healthy socialization. Similarly, little girls who spend hours in deep conversation with other girls or playing theatrical games are happily and actively honing their social skills. What these children are doing is not only fun but developmentally sound.
The year 1974 was a long time ago. It was the Age of Aquarius, and Marlo Thomas and her friends can be forgiven for thinking gender neutrality to be a workable and desirable plan. But in a recent interview, Thomas, now 76, said she found nothing dated about “Free to Be.” Children, she said, “need to hear that … boys and girls are pretty much the same except for something in their underwear.” Except that they are not.
In 2009, David Geary, a University of Missouri psychologist, published the second edition of Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. This thorough, fair-minded, and comprehensive survey of the literature includes more than 50 pages of footnotes citing studies by neuroscientists, endocrinologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and psychologists showing a strong biological basis for many gender differences. And, as Geary recently told me, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes is children’s play preferences.”
The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species. Researchers have found, for example, that female vervet monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. Nor can human reality be tossed aside. In all known societies, women tend to be the nurturers and men the warriors. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points to the absurdity of ascribing these universal differences to socialization: “It would be an amazing coincidence that in every society the coin flip that assigns each sex to one set of roles would land the same way.”
Of course, we can soften and shape these roles, and that has been, in every epoch, the work of civilization. But civilization won’t work against the grain of human nature, and our futile attempts to make it do so can only damage the children that are the subjects of the experiment. Though few would deny that parents and teachers should expose children to a wide range of toys and play activities, almost any parent will attest that most little girls don’t want to play with dump trucks and few boys show an interest in Hello Kitty tea sets.
“Free to Be” purports to be an anthem to freedom; but to “liberate” children from their gender will require unrelenting adult policing, monitoring, correcting, and shaming. Enlightened opinion tells us not to do that with gender non-conforming children; but surely it is just as misguided to do it with kids who conform to the conventions of their sex.
The writer Andrew Sullivan is right when he describes the sex difference as “so obvious no one really doubted it until very recently, when the blank-slate left emerged, merging self-righteousness with empirical delusion.” That delusion was jumpstarted in 1974 with the advent of “Free To Be… You and Me.”
Today, an army of gender scholars and activists is marching in support of the genderless ideal. But these warriors forget that ignoring differences between boys and girls can be just as damaging as creating differences where none exist. “Free to Be” is a cautionary example of how an idealistic social fantasy can turn into a blueprint for repression.
Immigrants cost Britain £3,000 a year each, says report
Immigrants have cost the taxpayer more than £22 million a day since the mid-1990s, totting up a bill of more than £140 billion, according to a new report.
MigrationWatch UK, which campaigns against mass immigration, added that in 2011 the costs were equivalent to £3,000 for each of the eight million foreign-born people living in Britain.
It compiled the figures in response to a study published by University College London (UCL) last year which claimed immigrants made a “substantial” contribution to public finances.
The pressure group’s new report said UCL’s conclusions - which were given prominent coverage by the BBC - were “simply wrong”.
In fact, immigration between 1995 and 2011 cost the taxpayer more than £140 billion, or £22 million a day, after balancing what immigrants pay in tax with what they take out of Britain’s coffers by claiming benefits and tax credits, it said.
In 2011 alone the cost was £23 billion, or £3,000 each for the eight million foreign-born population, the group concluded. The sum was equal to the amount spent by the NHS on GPs and dentists in a year.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “Our report finally disposes of the immigration lobby’s oft repeated claims that immigration reduces our tax burden.
“The total cost is high and increased dramatically between 1995 and 2011, providing no compensation for the overcrowding of this island which we are experiencing, largely as a result of immigration.”
MigrationWatch accused the authors of the UCL report, Prof Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini of the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, of burying a crucial figure in an annexe of their original report, published in November.
It was claimed the UCL study found the overall impact of immigration had been £95 billion but this “was not even mentioned in the text of the report”, said MigrationWatch. It added that the omission was “truly astonishing”.
A separate figure by UCL on the cost of immigration since the year 2000 was also wildly inaccurate, MigrationWatch claimed.
While UCL said immigrants made a fiscal contribution of £25 billion since the turn of the century they have, in fact, cost the taxpayer £27 billion, it said.
The new study used the same methodology as the UCL study but adopted what MigrationWatch claimed are more realistic assumptions about immigrants’ earnings and investments.
It also pointed out: “Similarly the claim that recent European Economic Area migrants are only half as likely to claim ’benefits or tax credits’ is highly misleading.
“Recent EEA migrants are much more likely to receive tax credits than the UK-born population, and more likely to receive housing benefit, and these are likely to be paid at higher rates in view of their lower incomes.”
The new report added: “The claim that recent EEA migrants contributed 34 per cent more in revenues than they received in state expenditures is simply wrong.”
Immigration to Britain continued to have a “significant fiscal cost”, it concluded.
Prof Dustmann rebutted MigrationWatch's criticisms of the original report.
"The report is written in a derogatory language seemingly attempting to undermine our reputation with suggestions that we do not adequately describe our methodology or comment on all our results. We are in fact very open about our methodology - which has been acknowledged even by earlier critics of our work," he said.
"Their strongly worded criticism is all the more surprising as the MigrationWatch report is based on a substantial amount of guesswork, does not provide clear indication of how their figures are computed, and is at times sloppy or simply wrong."
Cameron wants to do business with Israel. No one cares what the 'boycott Israel' fanatics think
I doubt if David Cameron had time to scroll through Twitter before he left for Israel this morning. But if he had been on the lookout for Israel-related tweets, he couldn't have failed to notice the hashtag #BDS.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel makes a lot of noise. Twitter is awash with #BDS tweets, implying that the extremists who demand that the West stop buying goods produced by Jews are in the ascendancy.
The reality is rather different. Bilateral trade between the UK and Israel is booming to an extent never before imagined. Last year it was estimated by the FCO at £5.1 billion. Growth is accelerating every year.
That's the context in which the Prime Minister's visit today should be seen. The media tends to view everything to with Israel through the prism of the peace process. And while it's true that Mr Cameron will also be holding meetings in Ramallah tomorrow, both those and his meetings in Israel today are primarily about business and economic cooperation, not John Kerry's plans.
Look at who's on the plane with him: Trade Minister Lord Livingston; Xavier Rolet, Group CEO of London Stock Exchange; Clive Dorsman, Chief Technology Officer at Talk Talk; Steve Ressitt, CEO Europe of Balfour Beatty; Henrietta Conrad, Chairman of Princess Productions – Shine TV; Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK; Dr Alan Belfield, Arup, Group Board Director and Chairman of Arup's UK & Middle East Division; Dominic Rose, Head of Strategy at ASOS; Ziko Abram, Founder of Kiwi Power; Maurice Helfgott, Chairman of MyOptique; Yoni Assia, CEO of eToro; Joanna Shields, Chief Executive of Tech city; Lord Stone of Blackheath, Director of Moon Valley Enterprises; Nicola Cobbold, CEO of Portland Trust; Saul Klein of Index Ventures and UK Business Ambassador for Israel Tech; Antoine Mattar, Co-chair of the Palestinian Britain Business Council; Hugo Bieber, CEO of UK Israel Business; and Liam Maxwell, the UK Government's Chief Technology Officer.
If that's not a business delegation, I don't know what is.
No wonder, because Israel has one of the most technologically advanced economies on earth, with a hi-tech sector that we can only envy. It's 16th on the UN's Human Development Index, classified as "Very Highly Developed". Its medical, scientific and hi-tech equipment inventions are everywhere. And with free trade agreements with the European Union, the United States, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Jordan and Egypt, its trading success is growing, not collapsing as the boycotters would have us believe.
Two and a half years ago, our hyperactive ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, set up the UK Israel Tech Hub, which was designed to bring together British and Israeli tech companies. As the FCO puts it: "The Hub's unique model aims to create partnerships in which British companies help Israeli innovation go global, and Israeli innovation gives British companies a global competitive edge."
I was going to write that today's trip is a public two-fingered gesture by Mr Cameron to the boycott crowd. But in truth it isn't, because although the #BDS ranters have their occasional successes, overall they are so inconsequential and unsuccessful that they don't even merit a public dressing down. Just business as usual.
When Blacks Voted 80 Percent Dem, Malcolm X Called Them 'Chumps'
When blacks gave 80 percent of their vote to the Democratic Party in 1964, black activist Malcolm X called them "political chumps."
White voters, X said, "are so evenly divided that every time they vote, the race is so close they have to go back and count the votes all over again. Which means that any bloc, any minority that has a bloc that sticks together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that's who gets it."
Yet Democrats, said Malcolm X, failed to deliver on a promised and much anticipated new civil rights bill, knowing the party could still count on their blind support in the next election.
"You put them first," said Malcolm X, "and they put you last. 'Cause you're a chump. A political chump! ... Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that party can't keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you are dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party -- you're not only a chump but you're a traitor to your race."
What would Malcolm X say about today's 95 percent black vote? Did the Democratic Party keep its promises to promote family stability, push education and encourage job creation?
The black community, over the last 50 years, has suffered an unparalleled breakdown in family unity. Even during slavery when marriage was illegal, a black child was more likely than today to be raised under a roof with his or her biological mother and father. According to census data, from 1890 to 1940, said economist Walter Williams, a black child was slightly more likely to grow up with married parents than a white child. What happened?
When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, 24 percent of black babies were born to unmarried mothers. Today that number is 72 percent. Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2008: "Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves."
Not only has family breakdown coincided with increased government spending, but the money has not done much to reduce the rate of poverty. From 1965 until now, the government has spent $15-20 trillion to fight poverty. In 1949, the poverty rate stood at 34 percent. By 1965, it was cut in half, to 17 percent -- all before the so-called War on Poverty. But after the war began in 1965, poverty began to flat line. It appears that the generous welfare system allowed women to, in essence, marry the government -- and it allowed men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility, while surrendering the dignity that comes from being a good provider. Psychologists call dependency "learned helplessness."
About the importance of education, Malcolm X once said, "My alma mater was books, a good library. ... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity." What would he say about the Democratic opposition to school vouchers -- where the money would follow the student rather than the other way around?
Urban schools, where students are disproportionately black and brown, are simply not producing children who can read, write and compute at grade level. The dropout rate can approach 50 percent in some urban districts. Nationwide, 10 percent of parents send their kids to private school. But in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago, 40 percent or more of teachers send their own kids to private schools.
Democrats don't do blacks any favor by supporting "race-based preferences" in admissions to colleges and universities. Turns out, the more a school lowers standards to achieve "diversity," the greater the chance the "diverse" student drops out.
More than that, Democrats have convinced blacks that but for race-based preferences, black growth would suffer. Nonsense. Respected researchers Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom wrote: "The growth of the black middle class long predates the adoption of race-conscious social policies. In some ways, indeed, the black middle class was expanding more rapidly before 1970 than after."
Finally, as to the economy, then-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., admitted: "With 14 percent (black) unemployment, if we had a white president we'd be marching around the White House. ...The President knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn't to someone white."
Democratic policies have contributed to family breakdown, maintained underperforming urban schools -- with no opt out for parents -- and have promoted tax-spend-and-regulate economic policies that have resulted in a level of unemployment described as "unconscionable" by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
So would Malcolm X call today's black voter a political "chump" -- or a political "traitor"?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.