To say that there are significant differences in the psychology of boys and that of girls seems to be a rather platitudinous thing to say. One would think anyone that remembers their childhood and had the opportunity to grow up with members of the opposite sex or had had the opportunity to observe both boys and girls in their studies or at play would vouch for the fact that there is a great difference in the way they behaved.
However among intellectuals and researchers and in the halls of academia, this is a hotly contested issue. In the feminist movement, it is common to characterize femininity and masculinity as a social construct of sorts. Feminist intellectuals such as Judith Butler argue that sex itself, not only the societal idea of manhood or womanhood, but actual physical maleness and femaleness are also social constructs (Butler, 1993)
Some feminists have argued that women only have a ‘feminine temperament’ because from the time of their birth they were socially conditioned to adopt a feminine personality. Men only have a ‘masculine personality because they were brought up to be men.
It is thought that things like giving girls dolls to play with and giving boy toy guns to play with are the sort of things that were entirely responsible for ‘girlhood’ and ‘boyhood’. As Wendy Kaminer writes:
“On one side, essentialism—a belief in natural, immutable sex differences—is anathema to postmodernists, for whom sexuality itself, along with gender, is a “social construct.”.” (Kaminer, 1993)
Some studies, which are more science based and less ideological, have determined that there are definite innate differences in the way boys and girls act, that are quite separate from social conditioning. Several researchers have reported seeing behavioral differences even in newborn girls and boys, though other researchers have looked towards environmental factors such as male circumcision and the different parental attitudes towards male and female newborns to be the cause of these differences (Vingerhoets & Cornelius, 2001).
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