Karin Martin's article made me curious about a lot of things. She explored gender-neutral parenting well and at least skimmed each question that I've ever had about raising a child without imposing any gender structures onto them. I was particularly interested in her exploration of biological differences between male and female, and if they do in fact have any effect on gender identity. I don't have much knowledge in this area, but as far as I know there are differing hormone levels between male and female, particularly testosterone and estrogen. Science has found these hormones to affect the way in which a person acts, and things like temperament are believed to be innate and not learned...but how much do these actually affect a person's personality or gender identity? I don't think they could actually dictate whether a girl likes the color pink and a boy likes loud trucks. Martin pulled a quote from a child care book from 1996 about this:
"But while certain societal expectations relate to sex roles, there are also certain biologically based leanings, which have led some experts to suggest that the tendency to
nurture girls and boys differently actually stems (at least in part) from the fact that
girls and boys by nature behave differently. Differences in the brain and in hormones
seem to manifest themselves in differences in temperament and behavior that are visible from birth. In general, newborn boys are more physically active and more vigorous, while newborn girls are quieter, and more responsive to faces and voices. Typically, boys are more aggressive, girls more social; boys respond more to objects, girls
to people. (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 1996, 223)"
What about the gender roles of other animals? Do they exist? We could say that we are just like animals, and if gender roles are biologically determined for them it must be for us, too. However, there's a quote I like from Michel Foucault that makes me think otherwise: "a society's 'threshold of modernity' has been reached when the life of the species is wagered on its own political strategies. For millennia, man remained what it was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for a political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his existence as a living being in question" (Foucault 143).
I don't believe biology has much to do with it, but its an interesting perspective to struggle with.