From the WSJ’s Notable & Quotable: Jonathan V. Last explains how kids who are given gender-neutral toys will, on their very own, “gender the heck out of them.”
When he was four, our eldest, a boy, discovered that sticks make for highly effective swords. . . . His sisters, meanwhile, gravitated toward decidedly less aggressive play. They use sticks as fairy wands and carry little Ziploc baggies of glitter which they sprinkle as “pixie dust.” In their games, there are no “bad guys,” only perilous situations—“Don’t fall off that cliff!”—where they have to help one another with their “magic.”
Over the years we’ve noticed that whenever a “non-gendered” toy is introduced into their habitat, the kids appropriate it along stereotypically gendered lines. Example: A few years ago there was a Rainbow Loom craze, where kids took tiny rubber loops and wove them into bracelets. Everyone was doing it. We bought thousands of the things for our kids. The girls wove bracelets that they collected and gave to their friends. The boy also wove bracelets—until he realized that he could use the rubber loops to weave a long elastic cord that he was then able to tie to a flexible piece of wood. He used the Rainbow Loom to build a workable bow. . . .
We never taught our kids any of this stuff. They just arrived at it on their own. Because—I understand that this is a radical concept—boys and girls are different.