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The Myth of Gender as a Social Construct

In the words of George Orwell, “myths which are believed in, tend to become true.” One wonders what the great writer would make of the most fashionable myth in circulation: gender is a social construct.

There is a concerted effort underway to dismantle the idea of sex, the idea that actual differences between males and females exist. Take the idea that gender is a social construct, for example, something Irish children are most definitely being told — for those who haven’t been told, they should expect to receive the memo very soon. The National Council For Curriculum and Assessment (NCAA), the statutory body of the Department of Education, recently announced that lessons under relationship and sexuality education (RSE) will be taught in a way that fully supports the LGBTQ+ agenda.

I don’t use the word ‘agenda’ lightly.

It has become fashionable for left-leaning activists to bang on about the many ways in which man socially constructed the idea of gender. Neurology, these activists argue, does not determine gender, nor does biology.

However, science – remember science? – suggests otherwise.

In an excellent piece in the Irish Times, published a decade ago, William Reville, an emeritus professor of biochemistry at UCC, expertly outlined the ways in which males and females differ, and why gender is a matter of biology, not social construction. “Males and females are different and behave differently from an early age,” he wrote. Moreover sex stereotyped play “is a persistent difference – boys generally prefer rough-and-tumble play and girls prefer nurturing play. This also holds across species; monkeys behave similarly.”

Reveille warned against treating “gender-based behaviour in children as a disease in need of a cure.” The blind pursuit of gender neutrality, he suggested, was both dangerous and idiotic.

He was right then. Ten years later, he’s still right. There’s a reason why the average boy will gravitate towards playing with trucks and action figures over a Barbie doll — and it has nothing to do with mom or dad nudging (or pushing) him in a specific direction. Contrary to popular belief, numerous credible studies clearly show that boy and girl  toy preferences appear to be hardwired, and are not a reflection of socially constructed pressures. In 2017, a group of psychologists at City, University of London published a fascinating meta-analysis of research demonstrating this fact. After reviewing 16 comprehensive studies on the subject of toy preferences among  a total of 1,600 children, they found that biology affects boys’ and girls’  toy preferences just as much as society.

What made this study particularly compelling is that the researchers looked at toy preferences in countries where the idea of gender equality reigns supreme and in countries where it’s almost nonexistent. Commenting on their findings, Brenda Todd, one of the authors of the study, said: “The size of sex differences in children’s preferences for male-typed and female-typed toys did not appear to be smaller in studies conducted in more egalitarian countries.” This study, of profound importance, really dismantles the idea that gender differences expressed in toy preferences are determined solely by social pressures. This is not to say that nurture doesn’t play a role. Of course it does. But to dismiss the idea that nature also plays a role is utterly ridiculous. Studies even show that girls appear to be hardwired to favour the colour pink.  When activists argue that gender is socially constructed, they are, either consciously or otherwise, suggesting that gender is independent of sex – but it’s not.

As the psychologist Michael Mascoio has pointed out, “if gender is an arbitrary creation of society, how is it possible for gender identity to be an “internal” and “inherent” sense of self?” Masocio concludes that it simply isn’t possible “for gender to simultaneously be an arbitrary product of culture and an inherent experience of the individual. If gender comes from the culture, how can it also be an inherent property of the individual person?”

Social constructivism, as is clear to see, is built on a foundation of mistruths and emotionally-charged, science-free motives.

Dr. David C. Geary, a cognitive scientist, evolutionary psychologist, and an expert in the area of sex, gender and everything in between, told me that, first and foremost,”social factors can minimize or exaggerate sex differences but they are not the primary cause of them. As a few examples, children’s play preferences (e.g., dolls, trucks) are found across cultures and their expression is related to prenatal and early postnatal exposure to sex hormones.

All of the above ties in with the the Gender-Equality-Paradox (GEP). For the uninitiated, this paradox shows that in countries where gender equality is strongest, gender segregation across various occupations tends to be more pronounced. In other words, you cannot force true desire. On average, females are far more likely to gravitate towards people-oriented professions (teaching, nursing, etc.) than males. On the other hand, males are more likely to gravitate towards object-oriented (mechanical engineering, physics, etc.) professions. This also helps explain the gender pay gap, so often blamed on the patriarchy, as object-oriented professions tend to offer better pay. Also, it’s important to add, men are considerably more likely to negotiate their initial salary offer than women.

“Across cultures,” said the aforementioned Geary, a professor at the University of Missouri, “girls and women are more communal and nurturing, that is, they foster the development of interpersonal relationships, whereas boys and men are more agentic, that is, focused on getting things done especially if status related. These too are related to early and pubertal hormone exposure.”

“For mammals in which males aggressively compete for status,” he added, “males are physically larger, mature more slowly, and have a shorter life span. These patterns clearly fit people, integrate human sex differences with those found in other species, and firmly anchor these sex differences in our evolutionary past.”

So, the next time you hear someone harping on about the social construction of gender, feel free to point them in the direction of this article.

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