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By Katha Pollitt. Why Boys Don ’ t Play with Dolls. Building vocabulary. A. the National Organization for Women
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By Katha Pollitt Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls
Building vocabulary • A. the National Organization for Women • B. belief in and organized activity in support of political, economic, and social equality for women; the “revolution” refers to the changes in attitudes, laws, and practices resulting from organized feminist activity dating roughly from the late 1960s to today.
Building vocabulary • C. a Barbie doll head with hair designed for “hair styling” • D. aggressively and stereotypically male values • Refers to the popular “advice” book, Men are from Mars and Women Are from Venus by John Gray.
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 1. That twenty years of women’s lib activism has not had much effect on sex roles. • 2. Thins outside of social mores, such as genetics. • 3. The ways we raise kids (par. 4).
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 4. Her view is: either give Barbie as a present, or don’t. But don’t try to have it both ways by giving Barbie as a present and trying to negate the gift by apologizing. It can’t be that you think Barbie is bad (therefore the apology) but you continue to buy the doll and give it as a gift. Choose one or the other.
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 5. Not very. • 6. They let parents off the hook by sanctioning the path of least resistance to the dominant culture (pars. 10 and 11). • 7. Things have changed. Women are doctors as well as nurses. Boys skateboard and cook. (pars. 13-15).
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 8. People have common sense: they are well-intentioned, and try to behave as well as possible, but common sense also says that you have to do what you have to do, and it’s not “worth it” to buck the dominant practices. The writer thinks diversity in sex roles is possible but that you do have to (it’s necessary to) imposed some view of what it means to be male and what means to be female.
Understanding the writer’s techniques • 1. Sources for behavior within society and outside of it. Accepting Barbie and rejecting Barbie. Accepting sexual conventions and flouting them. The adult world and the child’s world. • 2. The way we raise kids is an index of how unfinished the feminist revolution is and how tentatively it is embraced even by avowed feminists (par. 4)
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 3. People give Barbie as a present but apologize. Feminists who would not dream of discouraging their sons from engaging in macho athleticism (par. 8). • 4. “But apologize for Barbie?” (par. 5). See the questions that make up par. 9, and the question that ends part. 13. “Isn’t that what adults always do, consciously or unconsciously?” par. 16)
Understanding the writer’s ideas • 5. Annoyed, exasperated. But in places the writer becomes sympathetic to the plight of today’s parents, as in pars. 10 and 11. • 6. The ending is effective insofar as it shows that the idea of sex roles can’t be evaded, as some feminist thinking might at one time have suggested. But the conclusion is ineffective insofar as it sidesteps the issue of whether the feminist revolution can ever hope fully to alter sexist gender distinctions, the difficult question with which the writer opens the essay.
Mixing Patterns • Pollitt says we have to look no farther than how we actually raise kids (pa4. 4).
Exploring the writer’s ideas • 1. Pollitt’s omission of the genetic argument raises at least a doubt in the reader’s mind about the credibility of Pollitt’s point of view. Is she unwilling to look at evidence that questions her beliefs?
Exploring the writer’s ideas • 2. She uses example and analysis. She implies that whatever explanations there may be for sex roles outside of society, these explanations are complementary to social explanations, not at odds with them. We can’t do anything about genes, she implies, but we can do something about society.
Exploring the writer’s ideas • 3. Feminism is a developed set of ideas, and in that sense can be said to be an ideology. Fexible sex roles: the boy who skateboards and cooks. Although Pollitt certainly implies that social explanations of behavior take precedence over others—just because our genes may be sexist does not, in her view, in any way mean that we must be sexist—it’s safe to say that a lot depends on the social implication of non-social “sources” of behavior. Would feminists reject biological determinism if biology demonstrated that gender roles are not in any way “pre-determined” genetically?