This image is from a display entitled ‘Boy or Girl?’ at the Science Museum, London, as part of the ‘Who Am I?’ exhibit in the Wellcome Trust wing. We have written to the Science Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org to express our concerns about what this exhibit teaches children; you can find a template letter here, please feel free to use it to write your own complaint.
Meanwhile we respectfully suggest to them our alternative exhibit:
Boy or Girl?
An exhibit to help children expand their ideas of what girls and boys can be, resist the sex-role stereotypes sold to them everywhere they look, feel proud of their individuality and confident in daring to be different, to be happy in their bodies and to develop their critical thinking skills around the messages they are bombarded with from their culture, including current identity politics that teaches children that ‘identity’ is reality and biological sex an illusion.
Spot the Gender Stereotype
An interactive game involving images of toy packaging, books ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls,’ advertising of clothes and media images etc.
How do we think these kind of messages impact on us and our idea of what it means to be a girl or a boy? Do they influence us at all? Are boys and girls really like this?
A display of images of women and men being themselves without ‘identifying’ as the opposite sex in order to do so.
Is it OK for a woman to do a tough and dangerous job and not wear any make-up? Is it OK for a man to wear a gorgeous red frock and pearls? Does that mean she’s not a ‘real’ woman and he’s not a ‘real’ man?
Toys Through The Ages
A historical view of toys and the recent marketing of sex-role stereotypes to children
Read more about the history of toy marketing to girls and boys…
What message was Lego sending to girls and boys in the Seventies? What message are they sending now? Which message do you think is the best one and why?
The Mosaic Brain.
Some people still think that we have ‘male’ or ‘female’ brains but scientists generally agree now that that’s a load of bunk. Play the fun interactive Personality-o-meter game!
Read more about the human brain…
Do your interests, hobbies or preferences have any relation to your physical body? Do they make you ‘male’ or ‘female’? Does your biology make any aspect of your personality ‘wrong’? Do any aspects of your personality make your body ‘wrong’?
What do you think of this? What message does it send?
Sex and Gender
Almost 100% of us are biologically either Male or Female. Less than 1% of us are biologically intersex, a result of rare genetic disorders. Here is some factual information explaining the difference between the biological reality of sex and the societal concept of gender.
What do you think it is that makes you a boy or a girl? Is it your sex or is it your gender? Can you give a definition of the distinction between boys and girls based on biological sex which holds almost 100% true? Can you give a definition of the distinction between boys and girls based on gender which holds almost 100% true?
The Transgender Umbrella
Some people believe that gender is the real distinction between boys and girls and that it’s possible to have the “wrong” gender for your sex. Are all people who challenge society’s gender roles “transgender”?
Do you think your interests, the clothes you wear, your style etc make you transgender just because society thinks you’re ‘different to most girls/boys…’? Do you think that the boys and girls who don’t look and act like the gender stereotypes in the books and toys we see must really be the opposite sex? What do you think about giving ourselves “gender” labels to describe our personalities?
Messages to little children about gender identity
In this book Thomas becomes Tilly and changes his bow-tie into a hair-bow. Do you think this challenges the gender stereotypes we have seen in children’s books and toys, or reinforces them? What do you think this book is saying to little children?
Messages to teenagers about gender identity
What do you think about these statements? When it comes to sex, do sexed bodies matter? Is male and female biology irrelevant? If a male who identifies as a woman wants to have sex with a lesbian, would that be ‘gay sex’ too? Or would a lesbian be transphobic for saying no to someone with a penis?
A cartoon to make us laugh
Factual presentation: social contagion
How social contagion works in influencing us subconsciously to adopt ideas about ourselves which we would otherwise not have entertained. The particular role of the internet and social media and its impact on young people, especially teenage girls.
Have you ever felt you might be transgender because you feel you’re different to everybody else? Are you a regular user of social media? What are the messages you are getting on social media platforms? Do you know who you’re talking to online? Do you trust that they have your best interests at heart?
Factual presentation: the harms of sex-change treatments
We have no idea of the effects of puberty blockers on the developing adolescent brain. Following blockers with cross-sex hormones will most likely leave you infertile. You will be a medical patient for life. Synthetic cross-sex hormones are used off-label and carry extreme risks to health, particularly in the case of testosterone for girls. Some of the effects are irreversible even if you stop taking the hormones. We have no idea of long-term health effects; the clinical research trials have not been carried out. Breast binders alone carry severe risks to health.
Find out about the effects of testosterone here…
Do you think ‘being your true self’ needs to involve body modifications which may cause you physical harm? What do you think about painful practices in other cultures such as breast-ironing? Is there a way to be yourself which does not involve hurting yourself?
Alternative messages for teenage girls
Alternative messages are out there, you just have to search for them amongst all the other messages you get from your culture, the media and across all social media platforms that unless you happily fit into our hyper-sexualised culture’s version of a girl you are a bit odd, which means you’re probably really a boy.
What do you think of PeachYogurt? Do you see women like her in the popular media, eg on t.v? If not, why do you think not?
Did you know..? Fun facts
Click on the links below the boxes to find out more!
This Post Has 13 Comments
This is brilliant. A lot of hard work. Thank you.
As a Mom born in the 1960s, I never doubted that my daughter would not see herself as limited by any gender stereotypes. She only had to look at me. I was wrong and was totally caught off-guard. The messages out there are powerful. The lego ad differences speaks volumes. Thank you for your post and shining a light on this Brave New World…some of us will continue to dig in our heels.
Excellent article.Is it possible to post it as a link as I would love to text it to my daughter,as she would more likely read it in a text than email.The text message wont allow to paste.Would really appreciate it.Thanks
This is the link: http://www.transgendertrend.com/an-alternative-science-museum-exhibit-boy-or-girl/
OMG that’s brilliant
Yes, but the important point about the brain research you cite from the gender identification view that you’re pushing here is not that brains seem to be a mosaic of areas that can be identified as ‘malelike and femalelike’ and that most people do fall on the spectrum, but that given any brain scan a researcher could say with some confidence that is was male of female (around 80% plus I believe). That is, there is no dimorphic male or female brain, but on a population level women do tend to group towards a particular set of features and men to another, with a considerable overlap.
To be provocative, this science is hence completely constant with the statement (say) that men are generally more analytical than women. Although you can’t predict that in any random pair of a man and a woman which will think more analytically, as a group the statement is true.
This is a reply to Hiri,
Your claim that “brain scan researchers” I assume you mean brain scientists, when looking at just a scan can tell whether it is of a man or a woman is 100% not true. It is impossible to tell the sex of the person the scan came from by just looking at the scan. This is true for regular MRIs and CT’s, both of which show structure. And what are called functional MRI’s which have blotches of color on them that indicate degree of activity of those areas. Neither allow the person looking at the scan including doctors to tell a male from a female. Your notion that males “tend to” to be more “analytic” is codswallop from the 60s. Effort and resources have had to be wasted by people in brain science to debunk this simple-minded garbage. Also the population wide affect you posit would by its very nature not allow a scientist or doctor looking at the scan to tell whether that particular scan came from a man or a woman. This is the kind of junk science that plagues the transgender mess.
I love this! This needs to be spread. Great job!!!
Ezra Furman identifies as gender-fluid and it took about 2 minutes to find that out. You used his image without acknowledging his gender identity, specifically to deny such a thing is valid. I am sending a link to this page to his UK online press contact right now. Details: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/03/ezra-furman-gender-fluidity
He doesn’t identify as a woman, that was the point made here.
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