All Articles Tagged "nature"

Let The Kids Cook: Are Gender Preferences In Toys, More About Nature Or Nurture?

December 20th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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Toy Manufacturer HASBRO has created a non-gender specific Easy Bake Oven so boys can now equally partake in the joys of eating a gummy, half-baked cake cooked under a 100-watt light bulb.

I kid. I never had an Easy Bake Oven as a kid and was very jealous of the girl up the street from me, who regularly made gummy, half baked confections in her oven.  Anyway, HASBRO made the announcement earlier this week that it will introduce more neutral colors including black, silver and blue to the line of children’s ovens, which currently come in pink and purple. According to published reports, the toy company introduced the new gender neutral colors after meeting with 13-year-old McKenna Pope, who launched a petition on on behalf of her 4 year-old brother, who always wanted an Easy Bake Oven but felt discouraged because of all the girlie packaging.  In total, over 45,000 people signed the petition.  HASBRO plans to begin selling the new non-gender specific ovens sometime next summer.

As trivial as it seems, demand for gender neutral toys appears to be a growing, particularly among some of the more socially progressive parents, who are conscious of the ways in which toys, and marketing of toys, might reinforce gender roles. And as in the case of Pope, sometimes it is the children, who revolt.  Who could forget the video of little four-year old Riley Maida, who last Christmas took the toy companies to task for tricking girls into buying pink princesses?

As such many retailers have responded by introducing more inclusive versions of some of our old favorites. Some have been successful, such is the case of Mattel recently introduced Build ‘N Style Luxury Mansion, which will inspire girls to not only decorate but actually build their own Barbie dream home – hot pink hard hat sold separately.  And other gender inclusive toys have not been as well recieved as in the case of LEGO, a Demark based company, recent launch of a new “girl friendly” version of its popular building blocks.  These girl centered LEGOs, which came in colors of pink and purple and included mini-dolls, was nominated  for the Worst Toy of the Year last month by Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood for being “so jam-packed with condescending stereotypes it would even make Barbie blush” Obviously the campaign is not aware that Barbie is building houses now.

And not just here in the States as just this year, Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys “R” Us in northern Europe, has begun publishing and distributing gender-neutral Christmas toy catalogs featuring images of girls playing with toy guns and boys playing with kitchen sets.  And in some major department stores in UK, retailers have gone as far as to end segregation on its shelves through categorizing toys by interest rather than gender.  The hope, of course, is that by removing gender-specific  marketing from toy displays and advertising, children will not grow up feeling that they are limited to certain professional and domestic tasks, duties and careers.

It is a novel response to gender inequality in society however is nurture over nature in gender preference, for toys in particularly, really rooted in science?

While there is research, which suggests that parental influence might be a major motivating factor in how children choose toys, there are other studies, which offer more weight to the argument that our gender preferences might be more biological than societal. In a recent column for Psychology Today, Gad Saad provides several examples of studies where children identified sex preferences naturally, including children in their pre-socialized stages of cognitive development as well as little girls who suffer from congenital adrenal hyperplasia (i.e. born with ambiguous or underdeveloped sexual identities including organs).

Saad also writes, “Thus, work stemming from developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and endocrinology, using both non-clinical and clinical populations, and a wide assortment of dependent measures (e.g., eye gaze, digit ratio), points to an unassailable conclusion: the sex-specificity of toy preferences is shaped by sex-specific biological forces. This does not mean that parents do not reinforce these biological realities via various forms of socialization. However, it does mean that to the extent that nurture matters, it typically takes place within boundaries set by nature.

I definitely agree with that. I also agree that gender atypical play in boys and girls shouldn’t be seen as negative behavior in need of correcting. There is no harm in allowing children to explore all facets of themselves, especially in early childhood. If anything, those instances of gender atypical play is probably more damaging and traumatic for the parents, who are worried about what other parents/people think, than the actual child.

Stop Blaming Women: Men Who Become Dads Late In Life Are A Risk To Babies Too, Study Says

August 23rd, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Older women have been disproportionately blamed for genetic disorders that affect their children, citing the increased risk for complications such as diabetes during pregnancy and the greater potential to have children with chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome. But a new study in Nature is correcting the “overemphasis on the riskiness of women giving birth at older ages,” as the LA Times reports.

In the in the international study, which sequenced the entire genomes of 78 Icelandic parents, nearly all of the new mutations detected in children came from the father, and the older the father, the more mutations he passed on. For example, A man aged 29.7 at the time he fathered a child contributed 63 new mutations to his offspring, on average, but a man aged 46.2 contributed double the mutations — 126, specifically. According to the Times:

Many of the mutations would confer no effect either for good or ill on the children, scientists noted. But some would — and that is significant because in developed countries there has been a shift over the decades toward older men fathering children, said study senior author Dr. Kari Stefansson.

Stefansson, who is a human geneticist and neurologist at the University of Iceland and the company deCODE Genetics in Reykjavík, noted for example that the average age of Iceland’s fathers at the time of a child’s conception was 34.9 in 1900, falling to 27.9 in 1980, then rising back up again to 33 in 2011.

“Similar changes have taken place all over the Western world,” Stefansson said. “It’s very likely to have made meaningful contributions to increased diagnoses of autism in our society. What percentage is due to that and what percentage is due to increased focus on diagnosis, I cannot tell you.”

The basis of this story isn’t entirely new, as it was already known that fathers who have children later in life likely contribute strongly to the development of autism and schizophrenia in their children. But because of the emphasis on women and their biological clocks, it’s important to note that men have biological clocks of their own that could affect an unborn child’s health— not to mention the psychological shift of sharing the burden of blame when it comes to children with developmental issues born to older parents. Both mother and father need to be aware of the risk they present if they are contemplating having kid later in life.

More on Madame Noire!

Why Don’t Black People Visit National Parks?

August 4th, 2011 - By Demetria Irwin
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Ever been to Yellowstone in Wyoming? Yosemite in California? Acadia in Maine? If you have, you probably noticed that you were one of the few people of color there. According to “The National Park System Comprehensive Survey of the American Public” released earlier this week,  blacks and Hispanics are severely under-represented in terms of  visitors to the country’s 394 national parks.

Overall blacks account for just 7 percent of visitors to national parks and when you look at parks that have a wilderness focus, it gets worse. At Yosemite, black folks were a mere 1 percent of visitors in 2009.

Centuries old trees that are as tall as skyscrapers, wild animals in their natural habitats and sparkling, unspoiled lakes are just a few of the treats found in national parks. That’s a far cry from the blighted and neglected inner city neighborhoods that many people of color call home. Maybe you’re not a hardcore outdoors person and that’s cool. Personally, I am not the one to be hiking up mountains or spending an evening in a sleeping bag in dirt,  but I do enjoy taking in the beauty of nature and I make a point to remove myself from the NYC grind on a regular basis.

So what gives? Why don’t black people visit national parks? It’s not the entrance fee. Yellowstone costs $25/vehicle for a seven-day pass. Arrive on foot at Yosemite and it’ll cost you 10 bucks. Is it the cost/time associated with getting there? Is appreciating nature just not a priority when you have other more immediate concerns?

Obviously visiting a park is not the most pressing matter in the world right now, but it is something to think about. Changing your environment, even if just temporarily, can make a big impact on how you think and feel.

Oh and if you are interested in learning more about getting in touch with nature and all that good stuff, check out! Super cute site and very informative.