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Are Thomas and Winnie safe?

After a social media storm, Melbourne City Council is assuring parents that it does not plan to ban from its libraries children’s classics like “Thomas the Tank Engine” and “Winnie the Pooh” on the account of failing the new gender guidelines. As with most of these sorts of controversies, it’s difficult to know whether this was always going to be the case or whether the public backlash has forced an overnight back-flip:

“Our libraries aim to promote diversity, not censor books,” a council spokesman said. “None of the books mentioned in media reports have been banned. The books mentioned are in stock at City Library.”

Two years ago, the council commissioned the Australian National University to look into the development of gender roles, bias and stereotypes in preschool children.

The research, published in March, suggested educators should avoid defining children according to gender or label certain activities for boys and others for girls. Instead, it’s recommended activities be equally promoted to all children.

“If girls avoid playing with toys such as Lego, they may miss opportunities to develop special and mechanical reasoning skills that are necessary for careers and courses in science, technology, engineering and ­mathematics,” the authors of the study wrote.

It warns about the impacts of girls playing with “hyper-feminised” toys such as Barbie and Bratz dolls but makes no mention of banning books.

“Hyper-feminised” toys. Do Barbie and Bratz represent toxic femininity?

I’m reminded of Ben Lee’s autobiographical lyrics, “Boys with their barbies and girls with toy armies / We don’t have to play by their rules”.

Indeed we don’t. No one should force boys not to play with dolls, and no one should force girls not to play with Lego – just as no one should force boys to play with dolls and girls with Lego to try to destroy gender stereotypes. Let the children play.

If you believe that gender is a social construct you essentially believe that babies with either set of genitals are born as identical blank slates. What they grew up into is a matter of parental and societal influences – the environment. In other words, boys and girls can enjoy Barbies and Lego equally, but genderification that starts at birth forces the respective socially accepted roles on them. This, needless to say, is done in the interest of the patriarchy, to keep men superior and the women in subservient or supportive roles.

The left hates genetics, because science shows that who we are is not wholly determined by “nurture” – there is also the element of “nature”; we are already born with certain traits and predispositions. In other words we are not all identical and we are not blank slates on which the society can successfully write whatever it wishes. Contra the gender warriors, there are differences between the two sexes.

That biological differences make boys more interested in mechanical toys and girls in dolls is an anathema to those who want to radically reshape the society (as is the concept of inborn human nature) because it posits that there are limits to how much you can change the society. Not surprisingly, the efforts to create a “new man” or a “Soviet man” (and woman) have always ended up in blood and tears.

No matter how much the gender warriors might wish it otherwise and try to change it, boys will by and large remain boys and will prefer to play with toy guns (at least until these are banned) and trucks, and girls will by and large be girls and will prefer to play with dolls. There will be exceptions, of course, as there always are, and unlike in the past, they should indeed not be forced to confine themselves to one but not the other. But neither should the children be forcefully homogenised in the service of unscientific theories that deny natural differences between people, including between the two genders. You can treat people as equal and equally worthy without falling for the fallacy that they are all equal in the sense of being identical and the same.

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