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December 08, 2005

Monkey Gender Wars

You know that old gender fight about boys’ toys versus girl’s toys? That boys play with toy cars and guns and girls with dolls because of an oppressive patriarchy molding their little blank slates into arbitrary gender roles?

Yeah, a lot of that wilted in the face of previous studies on just how early boys and girls preferred their respective sexes’ “assigned” toys.

Also, try as you might with all that “Free to be you and me” noise, boys forced to play with dolls would often start using them as guns and cars, comically using them to shoot at each other, or racing them over tables. Vroom, vroom.

Now, tossing a little more dirt on the grave, researchers say those toy-play 'gender roles’ show up even in monkeys:

WASHINGTON — Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls, a research project has shown.

Researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkey, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll. Males also preferred balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were equally interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

Part of my delight in stories like this has nothing to do with sticking it to the extreme sect of feminism. That’s just a bonus. Really, anything that helps bury the notion of man’s infinitely malleable nature is just double-plus good to me. Tired but true, history's greastest evils have been leveled by utopia-seekers remodeling societies in accordance with their vision of what man’s inner character could be, if only.....

Anyway, I draw pleasure in knowing there’s something retrograde in mankind that won’t go along for the ride, an intractable imperfection guaranteeing them failure.

But then again, I also love sticking it to the Dworkin crowd. Their predicted feminist research counter-offensive? "Study shows monkey math biased against female monkeys’ "ways of knowing.'"

(h/t comment on Althouse.)

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posted by Dr. Reo Symes at 04:59 PM

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