Oh, My Brainy Boys… (Oh, My Lovely Daughters?)

I couldn’t pass up mention of this article in the Sunday Times, as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes about our brainy boys. And, in contrast, how we may be doing a disservice to our girls.

Go. Read. Now.

The article is titled “Google. Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” and you’ll be shaking your head. Not only because we find it usual to ask our oracle, The Google, for signs of which way the cultural winds are blowing. And yes, I do the same on occasion. However unscientific, these queries provide an indication of what “the masses” have on their minds.

The Words Parents Use

Back on point: language, behavior, gender differences. How easy it would be to make fundamental changes in the way we speak to girls – and boys. The words we use are so powerful, and so potentially insidious. Language reflects our preoccupations, our obsessions, our fears, our prejudices, our values.

Language reflects the extent to which we continue to focus on how “pretty” our daughters are. We are concerned about appearance from a child’s earliest years, aren’t we, especially our girls? And let’s not forget about the “fat” issue.

Yet don’t we continue to expect a different level of performance (higher) from our sons, when it comes to academics or debating – or for that matter, early forays into their sexuality (to prove their manhood)?

Sure, sure. We socialize the genders differently because we’re different. Or so you may tell me. But pumping up the importance of appearance over competence doesn’t serve anyone. And apparently, we’re still at it.

The Google Says…

If we look to Google for any indication (of what we already know?), we continue to want “our boys smart and our girls skinny,” according to the article.

The writer points out:

…It’s not that parents don’t want their daughters to be bright or their sons to be in shape, but they are much more focused on the braininess of their sons and the waistlines of their daughters… In fact… Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”

Ouch!

And this is in direct contrast to the fact that girls speak with larger vocabularies and more complex sentence structure earlier on.

However, when we look at Google queries on overweight:

…What concerns do parents disproportionately have for their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance….

Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?”

Gender Bias: An Improving Picture?

Hello, Gender Bias.

Pass the diet pills, the workout regimen, and the makeup for our girls. Fork over the gadgets, the science kits, the special tutors, the SAT prep classes… for our boys.

Personally, my gut tells me it isn’t as bad as it once was, but my “gut” isn’t a scientific study. Then again, nor are Google queries. But they are some indication that we have a long way to go before we achieve more balance in how we treat our daughters and our sons when it comes to nurturing their self-esteem, and preparing them for opportunities.

Can a simple thing like awareness help? Can we stop ourselves and alter our language? If our kids are halfway raised, might we still be able to help change their impressions of themselves by changing the way we view them – sons and daughters with equal potential as individuals?

If we’re at a stage to start fresh with grandchildren, might we take this awareness into our conversations with our adult children – and how they speak to their budding brainiacs, regardless of gender?