Boys and Girls

Is it okay to prefer a girl or a boy? Should parents reinforce gender?

Even people without much of a prior preference get excited when a child’s sex is first revealed, whether during an ultrasound or at birth. To most people, "It’s a hoy” or "It’s a girl” is big news. In the United States both sexes are usually welcome, like chocolate and vanilla ice cream are both welcome. Indeed, male and female are thought to be truly distinct, noninterchangeahle flavors. We expect raising a hoy to he quite different from raising a girl. So learning you’re having a hoy or a girl is learning quite a hit about what the future holds.

What is it you want, if you want a girl or you want a hoy? Very likely, it’s not only a matter of the physical features that distinguish hoys and girls. You expect something inside to he different, hut what? We’re drawn to maleness and femaleness as distinct inner qualities without being able to say exactly what they are.

Pushed to explain, we might say there’s a hit more social connectedness to a girl, compared to a hoy. And there’s a hit more "rough and tumble” to a hoy, compared to a girl. Of course, that’s what our culture tells us about hoys and girls, and we should he wary of cultural platitudes. Is it really different to have hoys or girls? If there’s any difference, how should we respond? Should we raise girls as girls and boys as boys, according to traditional gender norms?

For the most part, this is really a question not about ethics, but about the biology, psychology, and metaphysics of sex and gender. What are sex differences? How biologically real are they and how constructed or cultivated? How innate and how learned? The philosophical parent will have to think about these issues at many points as baby grows up. The early thoughts, when baby is at the very start of life, are just the beginning.

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