While slurping my coffee and checking emails in the kitchen this morning I had BBC Breakfast on the TV and caught an item about a program due to air this evening on the behaviour of 5-year-old boys and girls and what they say about each other.
They had a couple of the little people on the red sofa, and I have to say, I totally fell in love with feisty little Eva. The 5-year-old totally nailed the whole male-female difference issue; one that social commentators and academics have been fighting about for years.
That average men and women have small innate differences in behaviour and aptitudes is obvious. It's shown by a multitude of studies demonstrating differences in infants before they've had a chance to be socialised. These small differences get amplified to a greater or lesser extent by our culture, and it seems in our society, it doesn't take long for the effects of cultural expectations to kick in. Just last week the news broke of heartbreaking research showing that already at age 6, young girls thought that they were less smart than boys.
Girls believed that smart people were more likely to be male, and they were more reluctant to play games they'd been told are for really smart people. Other studies demonstrate that girls don't think of themselves clever enough to study "brainy" subjects like maths, even though both genders perform equally well in these. As a result, women are severely underrepresented in STEM careers.
Of course this is an outrageous state of affairs and we need to be drawing attention to better role models, and there are plenty, to show girls that they can do whatever they want. But this doesn't alter the fact that there are small sex differences ON AVERAGE in some areas. Of course, most of us aren't average. We know that men tend to be taller than women; that doesn't mean that all men are taller than all women - sure you get a lot of short men and tall women too, but no-one would dispute that there is an average difference between the sexes.
It's exactly the same when we look at behaviour and aptitudes - in spite of average differences you get the whole spectrum for both genders. It's not a case of men being from Mars and women being from Venus.
So on BBC Breakfast when little Eva was asked,
"Are boys stronger than girls?" she replied, po-faced, "Some boys are stronger than girls, but there are some strong girls.
And then, "Do girls behave badly?"
Eva: "Some do and some don't. It's the same with boys."
Dead right Eva. It's obvious isn't it?
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