The tabula rasa delusion

The little girl looks winsomely into the middle distance, passive and unsmiling, presumably waiting for the next titbit of gossip to descend upon her kitten ears. The little boy grins and proudly shows off the image of Albert Einstein on his chest. “Your future starts here,” a new Gap advert tells him, which unfortunately is true. He is destined to be a “little scholar”. And the girl? A “social butterfly”, which isn’t even a job. Oh well, her chambray shirt (with pink logo, obviously) may not fast-track her into a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subject but it will be “the talk of the playground”. And what more could a girl want?

Welcome to the world of everyday sexism in children’s advertising. Like advertising, and Gap, it is everywhere. Watch any TV advert aimed at children and you will see girls in shiny princess outfits emoting into microphones and boys dutifully pushing fire engines. Go to the children’s section of any clothes shop and you will encounter primary-coloured stripes for boys and pastel polka dots for girls. We are living in an age when even shapes are gendered. It is that ludicrous.

The Gap ad designates boys as brainy and girls as sociable – gender stereotypes that have been around much longer than pink Lego. But people are fed up with it.

People may well be fed up with it. People get fed up with all sorts of aspects of reality. Middle aged men have been known to ponder the point that now they actually know how to deploy a willy properly they’re unequipped to do so so often. The Deity Of Your Choice is laughing at that one.

However, gender neutrality as here is to make the tabula rasa mistake. If only we brought everyone up in an entirely neutral manner then boys and girls wouldn’t be different. Except for those plumbing bits where they really are different. But that’s not how human beings work. Sure, it’s entirely possible to be a bit too reliant upon nature as the cause of differences but it’s also entirely possible, as here, to go too far over into thinking nurture is the only thing. For human beings just don’t work that way.

We really are different in our inclinations, talents, interests, from in utero onwards. The range is such that any one “female” can be far off toward the outer edge of the “male” range and vice versa. But there is a difference in the average ranges all the same.

For as it turns out it’s not just the plumbing that differs. That seemingly one difference leads to very different organisms. In muscle mass, brain structure, the hormones that wash around, even the hormones that the body generally responds to.

Which is why we get this:

“girls in shiny princess outfits emoting into microphones and boys dutifully pushing fire engines.”

Advertisers are not stupid. They are, after all, spending their own money in pursuit of profit – that tends to concentrate the mind. And the reason they do this is because it works. Because humans are not blank slates which society writes upon that is.

24 thoughts on “The tabula rasa delusion”

  1. “girls in shiny princess outfits emoting into microphones and boys dutifully pushing fire engines.”

    You think that’s hard-wired?

    “Advertisers are not stupid. They are, after all, spending their own money in pursuit of profit – that tends to concentrate the mind. And the reason they do this is because it works. Because ”

    … of network effects and the innate human desire to conform. You could start with ten thousand clones and you’d still end up with social clumps.

    Sure, the complete blank slate idea isn’t supported by evidence, but the differences are far outweighed by cultural pressure. If you want an example of this, look at the “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” meme.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    If manufacturers thought there was money to be made advertising fire engines to girls they’d be all over it.

  3. “But people are fed up with it.”

    Another statement from the ‘Guardian’ that only applies to their own tiny narrow view of the world.

    People buy this stuff and keep the Gap in business, ergo, they can’t be fed up with it.

  4. Hey Lefties, wanna celebrate positive female role models and break the chains of your upbringing? Then celebrate Britain’s second female prime minister.

    Oh except she’s a Tory; the wrong choice for girls completely and so not a choice that should be open to them.

    Back to your shackles then.

  5. Another difference between the sexes: as I sit here sipping my pre-work coffee there is a gorgeous young Chinese woman on the breakfast TV sofa explaining the importance of flossing. She seems to be very qualified and knowledgeable. I don’t care; the sound is off in the coffee shop and I’m just thinking about sleeping with her.

  6. Girls do better at school than boys, so evidence they are being disadvantaged needs to be more than asserted.

    I brought up my girls rather than my wife. Neither wore pink, nor much by way of tiaras etc. Yet they turned out to be very much girls with no interest in fire engines or similar. You can’t defeat biology.

  7. The Meissen Bison

    Chester Draws

    Quite.

    I have daughters and no sons and they were resolutely impervious to any suggestion that trains, lego or other – to my mind – gender-neutral (arrgh! did I write that?) toys could be fun.

  8. The Purge is ever more needed. Because this kind of CM shite is being spread everywhere that media-conditioned, Uni-trained young snot ( and some not so young snot) can get at any media outlet.

    It needs to be cut off at source. The schools and Unis and all aspects of leftist “outreach”. They can still speak freely after the Purge but then it will be ONLY with their own resources. As it is the taxpayers tit is paying for CM propaganda. And because so many media turds are trained and conditioned middle/upper-class members of the “enemy-class” even private media that people are paying their own money to have cultural marxist ordure delivered daily. The Uni-trained gang needed to be cut. And all “journalistic” qualifications abolished by law. That will put some competition back into the marketplace.

    More people need to wake up to the attempted conditioning that is going on every day. It is a huge part of the problems of the day.

  9. Chester and Bison: Were you the only people that your daughters had contact with, or were they exposed in some way to wider society?

    gunker: I’d never heard it as that they were swapped, only that baby clothing was essentially gender neutral until recently.

  10. Matthew L: Despite all the bullshit from assorted leftist cunts I don’t see millions of people all that dissatisfied with their lot. Yes a few freakos and lots of CM scum who don’t really give a shit about the tripe they spew only in so far as it serves to disrupt and destroy the best society there has ever been. Or ever will be if socialist scum win.

  11. Bloke in Wiltshire

    Matthew L,

    “You think that’s hard-wired?”

    Mostly, yes. But it’s hard-wired at an individual level, with people on a spectrum where boys generally don’t want to do ballet and girls generally don’t want to play football.

    I know sisters raised in the same house who were different – one liked playing around with meccano and computers, the other liked Barbies. Parents who gave them opportunities to try what they wanted.

  12. Matthew L: Were you the only people that your daughters had contact with, or were they exposed in some way to wider society?

    You may have something there.

    I kept them locked in a tower until one escaped by cutting off her and using it as a rope and the other made a ladder out of the lego.

    Being a girl, obviously the ladder was a bit rubbish so she fell half way down and broke her arm.

  13. Ah this old hoary chestnut.

    “Sure, the complete blank slate idea isn’t supported by evidence, but the differences are far outweighed by cultural pressure. If you want an example of this, look at the “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” meme.”

    Thing is they’ve done experiments with primates; baby girl chimps pick up the dolls, baby boy chimps pick up the fire engine. Gender “determinism” for want of a better description even supersedes our species.

  14. BiW, it only takes one comment from an auntie along the lines of “Put that trainset down, girls don’t play with trains, here’s a nice dolly” and all the parent’s attempts to raise chidren unconcerned by such things can be irreparably an unknowingly undone.

    FWIW I believe significant amounts of the difference can be put down to social pressure and it is so entrenched and can act so significantly on a young mind, that no parent can raise a child insulated from it completely.

    Besides which this discussion completely misses who is being sold to, the child or the parents? Yes there is some pester power, but it will be just as likely that the parents are buying things for the kids that the parents want the kid to have. Mummy, in her pink velour tracksuit and with a pink steering wheel cover, is going to dress her little princess like a princess whether she likes it or not, and because mummy tells her from the moment she is born that is what she should like, she will probably accept it.

  15. All right, Tim is an economics blogger, so I might assume that most of those here understand at least as much as I do, which is not very very much, about economics.

    There is something called a “market” which tells “producers” how much to make of what. No doubt, various producers have tried making a “product” that counters the prevailing wisdom. Some have gained, some have failed. The persistence of the “pink for girls blue for boys” meme hints to me, anyway, that producers who do it the other way get signals from the market that this is not a good way to do it. So why not let the “consumers,” namely the parents and the children themselves, decide what they want to buy and to wear?

    And I hate to prick the PC bubbles about gender, but MRI scans show that when men and women perform a task, different parts of the brain get busy on the problem. I’m trying hard to imagine how this could come about as a result of stereotypical nurturing. Men and women really are different. And vive la difference.

  16. Bloke in Wiltshire

    magnusw,

    Do you think that’s common?

    I’d say I hear far more complaining about this sort of “gendered marketing” than I hear any mothers complaining that their daughters don’t want to wear a dress.

  17. The people who complain about gendered marketing are very vocal.

    Few mothers will complaing their daughters don’t want to wear a dress because by the time they reach an age where that is possible, their mothers have already conditioned them that dresses are normal and society at large reinforces that assumption.

    Such a daughter would be a child who has rebelled against both parental and societal norms, the equivalent of a boy demanding to wear a dress against their parents wishes. Very rare.

    It tells us nothing about the inherent nature of males and females. I imagine at different times and places in human history dresses or smocks have been normal attire for boys and men, the fact they are not in 20th/21st century western society is social, not biological.

    I don’t doubt there are biological differences, I just don’t think this is the correct battleground, too much social influence to make any claims about biology.

  18. @Southerner:

    When citing fMRI to support an argument, it’d be a good idea to confirm that the studies involved have been corrected for dead salmon. Have they?

  19. …because by the time they reach an age where that is possible, their mothers have already conditioned them…

    Well played. When every counter-example can be dismissed due to prior contamination, the argument is dead easy, isn’t it?

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