i almost agree with dobson

December 13, 2006

Time magazine has an opinion piece this week by James C. Dobson about Mary Cheney and her female partner, who are now pregnant with their first child.

of course, dobson feels that this is wrong and bad because babies need a mommy and a daddy and it’s been this way for more than 5000 years, and science says so. disregarding the fact that nuclear families are not nearly as traditional as dobson would like to believe, i want to focus on one point that he tries to make.

in trying to create evidence that children need a parent of both sex, he says:

“…researchers have determined that boys are not born with an understanding of ‘maleness.’ They have to learn it, ideally from their fathers.”

although he doesn’t say which researchers have determined this, i am very willing to believe it. however, i think that dobson is conveying something which he is very much not intending and that is: gender and sex are two different things and are not inextricably linked.

little boys are not born knowing how to portray what our society deems masculine behavior, just as little girls are not born knowing how to act “feminine.” they are taught by being told to “act like a lady” or “take it like a man.” They are taught to wear dresses, or not depending on sex* and culture. They are taught to either be emotive or keep their feelings to themselves. They are allowed to manifest physical displays of affection, or not, again depending on sex* and culture.

i’m glad dobson understands this, even if he doesn’t really understand this.

one nit i’ll pick, even with this short statement is that dobson never explains why they have to learn it; or why it’s best that they learn it from their fathers. given that our whole culture is saturated with messages instructing you on how to act in a properly gendered fashion (i.e. your gender matching your sex*) it’s hard to miss this lesson.

*sex here really means perceived sex.

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