A Post That’s Not About Precognition

…but you knew that already, didn’t you?

There have been a few posts about Daryl Bem recently that I’ve either written or linked to. In short, psychologist seems to believe precognition (aka, ESP) exists, publishes a lot of papers about it, generally upsetting social psychologists.

Actually, I didn’t know the name Bem from this first at all. I knew the Bems (of which there are several! Two of whom used to be married!) from the book An Unconventional Family, written by Daryl Bem’s ex-wife, who’s well known as a psychologist in her own right. From the description:

This engrossing book by the author of The Lenses of Gender is an account of her years as an egalitarian partner in a gender-liberated, anti-homophobic, feminist marriage. Bem reveals how she and her husband, Daryl, became gender pioneers, how they raised their two children, and what their experiences – both positive and negative – have to say about the viability of nontraditional gender arrangements in society today.

I’d agree with this article that ‘gender pioneers’ is putting the Conestoga wagon a little before the horses; what the Bems did was attempt to raise their two children into a gender-neutral house, trying to avoid ascribing gender to clothing and toys and behavior, while also trying to share child-rearing duties.

It’s quite a short book–at just 200 pages–including interviews with the entire family. Mostly, I think it’s an excellent read for thought-experiment reasons. I endorse most of the ideals the Bems held: strictly gendering children is silly! Dolls and trucks being gendered is not worth enforcing! (I loved my tinkertoys, thankyouverymuch) Conversely, I have lots of instinctive dislike of the idea of testing one’s beliefs about how society should be on your children, in ways that can leave them not able to fit in. I have very heavy memories of knowing exactly why I didn’t fit in and knowing I couldn’t fix it, and also feeling awful for wanting to be like Those People because doing something because everyone else was doing it was a Bad Reason. And [Third-Variable]ly, I don’t know how on earth one would predict which would be worse in the long run, or even how far away-from-normal the things you do at ages two and three will leave your children as they grow.

*throws up hands in confusion*


  1. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    My parents raise their children gender-neutral, and my husband and I did the same with ours; I don’t recall any problems fitting in with any of our peers or theirs due to that, it was becoming pretty normal (at least in South East England) until the current backlash. Lego was gender-neutral in those days, and toy tea sets, cooking sets etc. mirrored the real ones that adults used; i.e. weren’t pink. It’s become impossible for my grandchildren to be raised that way; thanks, largely, to saturation TV advertising and all the pink!!!!!.

    However, generations of us have had difficulties fitting in due to being on the autism spectrum; and being raised Roman Catholic and going to Protestant secondary schools during the Troubles would have made my siblings, friends and me stand out anyway, even if I hadn’t also been a gay trans* kid who couldn’t have been a ‘normal girl’ if I’d known how to try.


    The only rigidly-enforced (even by my parents) gender split when I was a kid was clothing. Girls wore skirts, and NEVER wore trousers; vice versa for boys.

    So, when my parents said I could have whatever I wanted in the way of clothes for my tenth birthday, I chose a grey trouser suit with a crimson polo neck jumper; like Steve McQueen. =^_^=

    (Ten years later, I got the bike and sidecar)

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