William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Researchers Discover Parents Label Animals By Binary Sex At Zoos

The second author, whom you might judge to be male, but then that would make you a nasty bigot.

The second author, whom you might judge to be male, but then that would make you a nasty bigot.

Today a paper which is the almost certain winner of the Third Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award (First winner; Second winner). Discovered by reader Nate Winchester, we have the peer-reviewedNaturalizing Gender through Childhood Socialization Messages in a Zoo” by Betsie Garner and David Grazian in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

The shocking discovery: “adults mobilize zoo exhibits as props for modeling their own normative gender displays in the presence of children”. In other words, normal parents teach normal kids facts about normal animals. Which is unacceptable, evidently, when the parents could have taught their kiddies about transsexual aardvarks and homosexual snakes.

For a long time, I was at a complete loss how to explain this paper. I decided finally to let the authors speak for themselves.

Social psychology reminds us that parents and other adults transmit socialization messages to children about the ideological meanings associated with social distinction and boundary-making in everyday life.

Who knew?

[A]ccomplishments of human behavior, models of masculinity and femininity appear natural because gendered individuals adhere to an institutionalized set of myths they learn through everyday forms of socialization in their formative years of development from birth through preschool and elementary school. Children learn how to “do gender” by participating in “activities that cast particular pursuits as expressions of masculine and feminine ‘natures'”.

Myths? Myths? Myths? Or maybe children “do gender” because there is such a thing as boys and girls, and their minds have not yet been addled by fanatical adults.

Now what the authors did was to set loose spies at a zoo to surreptitiously watch families. Here are some of the observations the authors thought horrifying (all emphases original; I wish I could show them all).

One mother at an ape pavilion pointed to a gorilla and said to her daughter, “See how his hands look just like our hands? Well, they are bigger. They are like Daddy’s hands, I guess.”

…a mother pointed out a wandering peahen and peacock. “That’s the female and that’s the male,” she said. Her daughter was not so sure, and asked, “That’s the boy? And that’s the girl? I don’t think so.” The woman explained, “No, I’m sure. The males are the pretty, bright ones, and the females are the plain ones. You would think the pretty one would be the female, but it isn’t.”

…one father pointed to a group of river otters and said to his two toddler boys, “Look, it’s the momma and the papa and their babies!” without verifying whether the animals were actually related in that way.

In the zoo’s primate house, a mother held her young daughter up to see the orangutans and compared the mother ape to herself: “That’s like you and me. The mommy is taking care of the baby.”

Now comes the theory.

As family-friendly public spaces that simulate the wild, zoos provide a convenient site for observing adults as they draw on the symbolic power of nonhuman animals and their staged environments to quite literally naturalize hegemonic gender ideologies when interacting with children. We identified three instances in which families and other groups of adults with accompanying children make use of the zoo’s specific spatial and symbolic resources to transmit socialization messages to children according to naturalized models of hegemonic gender difference.

Gender ideology ranks as one of mankind’s most idiotic intellectual creations, if not reaching that abyss. But it is obviously false. A man can decide he is a woman, and say so. Gender ideology says he is a biological man and a “gendered” woman. But how does he know what a woman is to claim he is one? There has to be a referent.

He must be referring to a biological woman and not a “gendered” woman, else his identification falls into infinite regress. Think about it. If our first man thinks he is a woman based on his notion of a second man’s “gendered” woman status, that second man must have got his notion of woman from actual biology, or he must have got it from a third man’s “gendered” woman status, and so on. Somewhere down the line there necessarily had to be a biological notion of woman. Therefore, the biological man in calling himself a “gendered” woman, and who is in earnest, must really think he is a woman, which is impossible. Therefore the man is insane.

But his insanity is only of a mild grade, of the same kind suffered by men who think they are Napoleon. Worse is the utter madness of people like Garner and Grazian, who not only pretend with the man calling himself a woman, but who insist you do so, too.

A skeptical critic of our analysis might argue that our observations of gender socialization simply reflect empirical differences between boys and girls rather than their social construction. Yet our ethnographic observations in their totality do not bear this out. As we have illustrated throughout this article, we observed numerous (albeit far less frequent) cases in which both parents and their children contradicted such expectations, thus confirming that the differences we did observe in parent-child interactions reflected normative regimes of gender socialization and accomplishment rather than the natural order of things.

This is the ripest Bovine Spongiography, an example of the rottenest inference you can imagine. Because some parent or kid acted differently than the norm therefore the norm isn’t the norm? This is like saying that if your car broke down the idea of smoothly running cars is “functioning socialization” rather than the natural and expected order of things.

Sociologists have long understood gender to be a cultural artifact, but so too have they lamented the persistence with which biological determinism is credited with explaining gender differences.

Sociologists have not long understood gender to be a cultural artifact. That disease is a modern invention.

18 Comments

  1. Why do we persist in believing that people are male and female, despite the brilliant insights of scholars like Betsie and David? It’s almost as if it’s genetic.

  2. Sander van der Wal

    September 21, 2016 at 8:19 am

    @John

    Indeed. Changes are it is the result of Evolution. It is very difficult for “gendered” females who are biological males to procreate.

    Hey, there’s an idea. The Genderists are against Evolution. Which makes then Creationists, by definition.

  3. “transsexual aardvarks and homosexual snakes”

    Don’t know about those. But if mommy taught the kids about transsexual parrotfish and homosexual bonobos, she would be teaching about nature as it actually exists. (The fish don’t just put on dresses, they actually change sex.)

    The bit about the transgender infinite regress was quite clever.

  4. The other ‘fun’ thing about gender theory is that it destroys the foundations of feminism. So it’s got that going for it.

  5. It’s just such a lot of old nonsense. Sociology is good for nothing.

    Little boys and little girls know they are different and not because they were ever told.
    My sister said at two when asked how she knew I was a girl:
    “you can tell by the way their buttons are done up”
    Little boys know that girls are contemptible screaming, weak and toffee-nosed creatures and little girls know for sure that boys are dirty, stinky, rough and without grace.
    Nothing changes, much, when they grow up, everybody has to pretend.

    It’s not the people who are confused about what they are who upset me.
    It’s the users who take advantage and make something of it.

    Some people just have a few problems. It can only bring on more contempt if society is asked to call it normal when it isn’t. Unfortunately the contempt is always aimed at the wrong people.
    I blame feminists for everything that’s been going wrong in media and which academia is now reflecting as though it were the way things really are.

    This is a matter in which majority of sane people will win out over a few.
    Democracy will sort this problem out despite the MSM’s best efforts to brain wash and lie to the public. I hope it’s the media who get the blame and not so much the pawns.
    The public might be easily intimidated but they are rarely easily fooled.

  6. I was unwilling to pay 36$ for something I can find by the roadside in the country for a pound so I haven’t read the paper. So I wanted to ask, do the authors make any reference to sex at all? I mean, I agree that those peripheral characteristics we associate with different sexes are mostly culturally determined and might usefully be lumped together under the heading “gender” but sex is still there underneath. As it were.
    “That donkey’s got a big dick hasn’t he daddy?”
    “Or ‘she’ dear, or ‘she'”
    Really?

  7. “mother”… “daughter”… “her”… “she”… “woman”… “father”… “boys”… “he”…

    Those researchers sure used an awful lot of gender-specific words. I wonder if they asked those individuals what their self-expressed gender identities were? Or did they just base their report on an “institutionalized set of myths” about “expressions of masculine and feminine ‘natures'”…

    Also, holy damn, but … mother? … daughter? … father? … I’m sorry, but did they even consider “verifying whether the animals were actually related in that way” before making such gross assumptions about the human animals? They’re oppressing babysitters!

  8. @Sander They are indeed creationists, and they seem themselves as the creator. They don’t like the world as it was originally created, and they want to refashion it in their own image.

  9. Zoo animals are raised in the by professional care givers, allowing the the adults the freedom to live their care-free lives without the responsibilities of child-rearing, and giving trained professionals the proper place to indoctrinate the young with the values of the state.

    It really is the the model for the Brave New World.

  10. To point out the obvious, sex is biology, gender is language. In Fairfax, VA the school board passed a new transgender policy. After much searching I obtained a draft of the new policy. They started the policy paper with some definitions like “sex assigned at birth” which is written on your birth certificate. Stupid me, I never knew that sex was assigned at birth. I always thought it was determined at conception by chromosomes, but evidently not according to the school board. Now you would think that since this is a policy on transgenderism there would be a definition of gender. Well, gender is undefined in this policy paper as is transgender. Gender is mentioned continually in the paper but they never explain what it is. When I read the policy, I said to myself that nothing has changed. When I was an undergraduate in college, the education majors were notorious for being the dumbest kids on campus and they evidently still are .

  11. This was totally necessary

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0uO5RKI-S8

    Zebras are reactionary

  12. John B()
    aah!
    orang-utan s are skeptical of changes in their cages

    “Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
    To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
    He prayeth well, who loveth well
    Both man and bird and beast.

    He prayeth best, who loveth best
    All things both great and small;
    For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all. “

  13. SOCIOLOGY–the study of a group of people who don’t need studying by a group of people who do.

  14. Ray,

    “When I read the policy, I said to myself that nothing has changed. When I was an undergraduate in college, the education majors were notorious for being the dumbest kids on campus and they evidently still are .”

    I think education majors universally have a reputation of being the dumbest students on campus. Many go into “Education” because they can’t do anything else (my apologies to any one here in education. There are always exceptions). Unfortunately, many go on to advanced degrees because they can’t do anything else, then end up with access to our youngest and most vulnerable children. It would be almost funny if it wasn’t so insidious.

  15. A lot of good comments today; thank you, everyone. Let me focus on one comment. Lee Phillips points out, correctly, that, e.g., sex-changing fish, and prevalent, if not ubiquitous, bonobo homosexuality, challenges a ‘plain meaning’ take on ‘nature’ and ‘natural law’. (‘Plain meaning’ as in the thesis that anyone can read the Book of Nature, and determine that Book of Nature to have a ‘plain meaning’ regarding human morality, and human sexual behavior, in particular).

    In the same way, some Christians propose that anyone can read the Bible and determine its ‘plain meaning’, at least about all the important issues, while they still may disagree strenuously about what that meaning is, and even disagree about which books actually make up the Bible (Protestant Bibles are seven books shorter than Catholic Bibles; yes, really).

    A more sophisticated teleological approach to human sexual morality; viz., that reason, not mere observation, reveals the ‘end’, or purpose, or ‘perfection’, of human sexual behavior, still baffles many whose reasoning does not admit a very particular panoply of other controlling assumptions, a prioris, and chains of argument, which even committed Thomists agree are there, in the background.

    In sum: ‘Just look!’ is not a convincing argument to all; the ‘Just look!’ approach to ‘natural law’ fails.

    At the moment, it would seem that only a minority of philosophers takes Thomism, or any ‘natural law’ approach, seriously; the majority reject Thomism, because they see it as far too Catholic; that is, they contend that it’s Catholicism, not really ‘pure reason’ or ‘pure nature’ that Thomism is based on. Myself, I think that classical Thomism is fatally flawed, because it’s not Catholic enough.

    But I do agree with Lee Phillips: ‘Just look!’ is not an effective argument.

  16. Don’t confuse tradition and culture and socialization with some magical natural order. Natural order is an oxymoron anyway. A myth. Just yet another flimsy religious apologia. And there’s nothing wrong with tradition and culture and such. They can be very nice and useful. But at least see it for what it is. Do not pretend you have somehow mastered some order of nature.

    JMJ

  17. “…Sociologists have long understood gender to be a cultural artifact, but so too have they lamented the persistence with which biological determinism is credited with explaining gender differences.”

    Sociologists have not long understood gender to be a cultural artifact. That disease is a modern invention….

    Actually, they have ‘long understood’ this to be the case. For at least the last couple of years.

    It is usual for post-modern scientists to discount anything that happened before the last fashion craze, which was usually no more than 5 years ago. Remember, for them history began with the hippie movement of the 1960s. Anything before that is boring, dull, not available in colour photographs and hence practically mythological. Certainly not worth any serious study. After all, what can someone who is dead have to teach us?

  18. @JohnK:

    “Lee Phillips points out, correctly, that, e.g., sex-changing fish, and prevalent, if not ubiquitous, bonobo homosexuality, challenges a ‘plain meaning’ take on ‘nature’ and ‘natural law’.”

    If by “plain meaning” you mean straw-man caricatures of nature, human psychology and natural law that no one (at least no one around here) defends that, I think, is quite correct. Otherwise, Lee Phillips’s observations are simply irrelevant.

    “At the moment, it would seem that only a minority of philosophers takes Thomism, or any ‘natural law’ approach, seriously; the majority reject Thomism, because they see it as far too Catholic; that is, they contend that it’s Catholicism, not really ‘pure reason’ or ‘pure nature’ that Thomism is based on. Myself, I think that classical Thomism is fatally flawed, because it’s not Catholic enough.”

    At the moment, it seems you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, what natural lawyers actually defend (e.g. there are Catholic natural lawyers that not only are not Thomists, but reject the Thomistic metaphysical foundation), or even what the actual arguments are. “‘Just look!’”” is not an effective argument, but is also one that only you have made and for the sole purpose to knock it down. Or what Thomists have written about grace and nature, and how the former completes the latter, or a number of other things that does not fit in the span of your non-existent understanding.

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