Children’s birthdays may never be the same.
Just imagine a little girl tearing open her gift: a Teen Talk Barbie doll. The little girl pulls the string to make Barbie talk, only to hear her snarl “Attack!” and “Eat lead, Cobra!”
Now picture a little boy unwrapping his birthday present: a GI Joe with machine gun and grenades. But when the boy pulls the string, he’s stunned to hear a feminine voice chirping, “I love to shop with you” and “Let’s plan our dream wedding.”
This is exactly what happened to several children this Christmas, thanks to work of a group that calls itself the Barbie Liberation Organization. The group switched the voice boxes of hundreds of Barbie dolls and GI Joe figures. It was a media stunt designed to warn children of the dangers of gender-based stereotyping.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that Barbie and GI Joe are both vacuous, one-dimensional figures. But the very fact that the switched voice boxes sound wrong to our ears signals that some differences between the sexes are not due to cultural conditioning alone. It’s a simple biological fact that women’s voices are higher pitched than men’s.
And that rather obvious fact signals other, more important, differences, ones underlying that interdependent unit, the family.
Women do bear and care for young children. And men do work hard to support their wives and children. This interdependence is not just cultural, it is built into the fabric of our biology and our character. But radical feminists and other gender benders don’t want to acknowledge the differences that make men and women interdependent. Their goal is radical autonomy, and that means each individual must be regarded as completely self-sufficient. Differences are denied or played down.
But what the radicals fail to see is that they are promoting blatant disrespect for the distinctive contributions of each gender, with disastrous consequences. Disrespect for women’s unique childbearing functions has undercut their motivation to embrace motherhood. Abortion is partly a rejection of bearing children. Use of day care is partly a rejection of raising children.
On the other side, downplaying the male contribution has prompted a massive exodus of men from family life. In America today, men’s lack of commitment to the family is a major social crisis. Because of divorce and desertion, between 1960 and 1980 there was a striking 43 percent reduction in the amount of time men spend in a family environment where young children are present.
David Blankenhorn of the Institute of American Values says, “Never before in our nation’s history have so many children grown up without a father’s presence and provision.” And studies show that children without fathers are more likely to grow up in poverty, to have school problems, to commit crimes.
So far be it from me to recommend Barbie dolls or GI Joes, with their exaggerated femininity and masculinity. But I do believe they’re a lot less harmful to children than radical egalitarianism.
There’s a reason Barbie sounds funny talking like GI Joe. And it reminds us of the rich interdependence God created as the basis for family life.