|Pink is for Girls; Blue is for Boys|
Despite myths and stereotypes, gender differences are not hard wired and the root cause of children gender identity according to recent brain studies.
It is interesting to note that the march toward gender-specific clothes was not a quick transition. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century. However, the two colors were not promoted as specific for each gender until just before the onset of World War I.
Today’s blue is for boys and pink is for girls dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. The baby boomers were raised in gender-specific clothing. Boys dressed like their fathers, girls like their mothers. Girls had to wear dresses to school, though unadorned styles and tomboy play clothes were acceptable.
Brain Structure of Boys and GirlsNeurologists identified cognitive and emotional abilities of children and found that boys and girls differ by physical characteristics, self-control, performance levels in writing, reading and math, and interests. The latest MRI scans reveal small differences in the brain lateralization, and functional connectivity.
When scientists looked at the differences of the brains of boys and girls, they found very few differences. There are few significant differences between neuron-structures, brain activity, and neuron-chemistry. The difference they did find was that the brains of boys are on average 10% larger and finish developing a few years after age 10. However, these differences reflect physical maturity of the brain more than mental development. Girls on the other hand tend to sit still longer, pay attention more, delay gratification, and are better organized than boys.
In fact there are more similarities than differences between men and women in academic, social, and emotional abilities. They were also able to disprove myths of women having a larger corpus collosum, possessing higher levels of serotonin, and the ability to process language more symmetrically.
Gender PerformanceThis study shows that using gender is a poor predictor of performance. Instead of differences being hard wired, studies were able to show that performance differences in school are the result of age, ethnicity, and nationality.
Environmental factors are more important in shaping gender differences. Differences are being developed in a social-cultural context. This includes the variety of opportunities given to a child, relationship, sense of identity, and more. These factors are known as epigenetics. Behavior, gene structure, and gene expression are altered by the child’s environment such as their diet, chemical exposure, and how they are raised.
Boys and girls do start out a little different, but these differences become greater from the culture they are raised in that encourages them to see themselves different and to act a certain way. From the beginning boys are more spatially aware and more active, while girls begin talking sooner. Parents then take over and magnify these differences.
Children then bring these differences into the classroom and peers feel pressured to act a certain way. They also excel at what they are familiar and comfortable with. Girls are more active in role playing, reading and writing. Boys are raised to be more active and comfortable with math. They then continue on these paths in school.
Challenging Students and Removing StereotypesRemoving gender separations while still respecting each gender. Girls are rewarded for acting like boys and told they can do and be anything. However, this is not taught to boys and may be the reason why girls are able to fill more diverse job fields.
- Avoiding gender stereotypes
- Appreciating the range of intelligences
- Strengthening spatial awareness
- Engaging boys with reading and writing
- Encouraging boys to experiment with a wide range of extracurricular activities
- Hiring more male teachers
- Treating teacher bias seriously