Dear James Delingpole: You Are The Problem

Posted: January 25, 2014 in Political Wrangling
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Dear Mr Delingpole,

I’ve just come across your nauseatingly clueless piece, Why it’s not sexist to say that boys should never play with dolls, and was so impressed by your complete and utter failure to understand the issues you’re discussing, not to say your sexism, that I felt the need to respond to it in full. Not so much because I think you’ll listen to a word I have to say, but because it’s necessary; and because, quite frankly, I think my head might explode if I don’t. So, without further ado: here is why you are wrong. (All bolding for emphasis is mine.)

Not so long ago the “progressive” headmistress of a very smart all-girls’ boarding school invited me to dinner with some of her brightest sixth formers.

One by one the girls were asked to tell me of their impressive future plans: “Engineering, Cambridge; physics, Oxford; maths, Imperial; an astronaut; a mining engineer; a brain surgeon…”

“And which of you just wants to settle down and bring up a family?” I interrupted, partly to annoy the zappy, go-ahead, right-on headmistress but partly out of genuine curiosity. 

The girl I most admired was the single one to raise her hand. It takes real courage these days for a girl to fight against the political correctness of our time and follow her true nature.

So, Mr Delingpole: let’s be clear. You, an adult man, were invited to an all girl’s school to have dinner with students selected especially for their academic potential – presumably so that you could encourage them in their fields of choice. You, however, appear to have been cynical of this endeavour from the outset; at the very least, you evince little respect for the woman who invited you, calling her a progressive-as-insult and pettily interrupting her in front of her students for your own amusement.

You then asked the girls, who were there to hear you support their academic ambitions, how many of them wanted to settle down and raise a family. More than that: you interrupted the listing of their goals – as though the information you’d been specifically invited to hear was both boring and irrelevant – and asked them instead the most sexist, inappropriate question you could possibly think of; the same question which, over and over and over again, has been used to derail the passion and dedication of professional women: when are you going to give up on all this career nonsense and settle down with a man?

The problem isn’t just that you asked the girls about their plans to have families, although doing so was both invasive and deeply inappropriate. The problem is that you not only situated the question of their settling down as being more important than the career ambitions they wanted to tell you about, but phrased it as though the two options – career and family – were mutually exclusive. You didn’t ask them if they also wanted families; you asked them if they wanted to “bring up” a family: to be, primarily, mothers and caregivers. Which is what you seem to think most, if not all women, naturally aspire to be, in the absence of meddling, “zappy” headmistresses. You describe the one girl who said yes as having the courage to “follow her true nature” – as though every girl at the table secretly wanted to be a mother herself, and was just too shy or too brainwashed to dare admit it.

I am a mother myself, Mr Delingpole – currently a full-time one, in fact. I have every respect for motherhood, and no delusions whatsoever about how valuable, underpraised and challenging it is to raise a child. But what you did was despicable. In 2014, you told a group of ambitious, clever teenage girls that the most important thing they could do was settle down, reserving your admiration, not for the girls who bucked your narrow expectations of what women should be, but the one who conformed. Never mind your assumption that all these girls were straight, which is a different problem altogether – because I have no doubt that, when you asked if they wanted to bring up a family, you meant a traditional, heterosexual pairing, preferably one that was legalised by marriage. You diminished them by denying their potential, Mr Delingpole – and now, in print, you’re boasting about it.

Does this make me sound like a complete sexist pig?

It does, because you are. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the ability to ask a rhetorical question about whether or not you’re a sexist pig is not some magical proof against actually being a sexist pig.

Well, possibly. But that is because I happen to be one of those reactionary dinosaur fathers who would like his beloved daughter to end up in a career which suits her talents and interests.

If she wants to be a welder or lorry driver or a rocket scientist all well and good. 

But the last thing she needs is some trendy teacher steering her towards a traditionally male profession to prove some dubious political point.

Do not wave your daughter at me like she’s a point-scoring mannequin, Mr Delingpole. Plenty of sexists have daughters. Your claim to want the best for her doesn’t change the fact that you happily sat in a room full of other people’s daughters, assumed that their collective interest in “traditionally male” professions was the unnatural consequence of some teacher’s political agenda rather than the natural consequence of having their native interests and talents encouraged by someone who didn’t think their gender was a handicap, and then tut-tutted at their reticence to give the “correct” answer to a question so invasive and personal you’d be out of bounds asking it of an adult colleague or family member, let alone a strange teenager.

If your first thought on hearing a schoolgirl profess an interest in brain surgery or mathematics is to assume, on the basis of nothing more than her gender and her teacher’s enthusiasm for her intelligence, that she must have been pressured into it, then yes: you are a sexist.

This is where I think Tory MP Liz Truss was a bit silly the other day when she told parliament’s The House magazine that chemistry sets should be aimed as much at girls as at boys.

Nice theory but what would be the purpose? A toy business’s job is to make profit not engage in social engineering

And if as consumer research has shown, it appears that boys are the prime market for test tubes, chemicals and smelly potions, why waste time and effort trying to drag girls away from their hair and make-up sets?

Let me ask you a serious question, Mr Delingpole: do young girls gravitate towards pink things because of some innate, female preference for the colour, or do they like pink because everything in our culture tells them that pink is feminine? Let me give you a hint: historically, pink was considered a masculine colour more suitable for boys than girls, while blue was considered feminine. In point of fact, pink didn’t signify feminine until as recently as the 1940s – but now, it’s so ubiquitously considered the colour for girls that we seldom think about why.

I mention this because you seem to be operating under two misguided assumptions: firstly, that social engineering is something toy companies aren’t already doing;  and secondly, that social engineering is inimical to profit. Both these assertions are false. There’s no innate reason why boys should like chemistry sets more than girls – unless you think there’s really some truth in the tired, scientifically unsupported, deeply misogynistic claim that women are inherently worse at, and consequently less interested in, the hard sciences (more of which later). But as to the question of why toy companies sell some products for boys and others for girls – consider what would happen if they didn’t. If all toys were simply accepted as being for everyone, regardless of  gender, then why would parents need to buy two otherwise identical items – one pink, one blue – to spare their son the social indignity of playing with a girl’s toy? If pink and blue weren’t gendered colours, then why would parents need to rush out and buy a whole new set of otherwise identical baby clothes for an expected girl because their first child was a boy, and boy colours would be inappropriate?

By not only making some toys explicitly for girls and others for boys, but by socially enforcing the narrative that such divisions are natural and necessary through their advertising campaigns, toy companies increase their profits by effectively forcing adults to buy extra or duplicate products for children of different genders. If it’s socially unacceptable for brothers and sisters to play with the same things, then even when it might be more cost-effective for parents to buy one toy and let their mixed-gender offspring share it, they end up buying two. This phenomenon is particularly evident at the cheaper end of the spectrum – that is, at toys and clothes marketed to poorer families. Whereas richer parents can  afford the boutique prices being charged by companies quick to cash in on the revelation that there’s a viable market for gender-neutral options (which is just one example of how removing the boy/girl fixation can be profitable for toymakers), poorer families cannot, which makes them all – adults and children alike – more dependant on heavily gendered products.

I say again: toy companies are already engaged in social engineering for profit. The only difference with what’s being proposed by people like me, who dislike the compulsive gendering of children’s products, is that we’re trying to fix a system that’s both toxic and very deeply broken, to the point of actively contributing to the negative treatment of girls and women elsewhere in our culture. I shouldn’t have to say this, but even though companies exist to make money, their profits cannot and should not be prioritised over every other human or social concern. Just as we’re right to be outraged about sweatshop labour, the use of poisonous chemicals, factory pollutants and the other many and devastating outrages that routinely occur when companies are allowed to privilege profits over everything else, we are also right to hold companies socially accountable for the injustices their products and advertising help perpetuate.

For instance: the fashion industry uses heavily airbrushed images of frequently underage, underweight models to sell clothes to young girls, portraying this highly specialised body type as both beautiful and ideal. The corresponding rise in anorexia, bulemia, poor self esteem, body dysmorphia and depression among the target demographic of these campaigns is not, therefore, unrelated to fashion marketing – and especially not when we consider that the same industry has been known to airbrush sick models into looking healthy, recruit new models outside eating disorder clinics, produce clothes dummies that are the same size as anorexic girls, and sell girls sexualised “Anna Rexia” Halloween costumes. This being so, we’re not wrong to say that the fashion industry’s profits aren’t more important than the damage their current advertising and business plans are doing, and to try and take action accordingly. By the same token, it doesn’t matter if boys are perceived to be the “prime market” for science-based toys: women in STEM fields are battling sexism, struggling for recognition both currently and historically, and the discrimination against them starts early (as evidenced, among other things, by your own poor treatment of teenage girls aspiring to STEM work). This is a real problem, and one not helped when toy and clothing companies habitually tell girls that science isn’t something they either can or should aspire to. That’s why it’s not a “waste [of] time and effort” to “drag girls away from their hair and make-up sets” – because we’re not “dragging” them, forbidding them one and insisting they take the other. We’re simply trying to give them a choice; one that you, Mr Delingpole, seem to think they neither deserve nor merit.

Because it is “sexist” I suppose. That at least is how the various feminist lobby groups would see it.

Yes. Yes, it is.

One is called Pink Stinks which campaigns against “gender stereotyping” in the toy industry. 

Another – Let Toys Be Toys – successfully persuaded Marks & Spencer earlier this year into announcing that it would no longer sell gender-specific toys. Liz Truss hailed this campaign as “fantastic”.

But is it really “fantastic” to deny boys and girls the kind of toys they most want just to demonstrate how enlightened and post-sexist you are? 

What you’re failing to grasp here, Mr Delingpole, is that nobody wants to deny little girls their princesses, any more than we want to deny little boys their chemistry sets. What we want is to give children the option of choosing what suits them without being told it’s only meant for children of a different gender: to say that fairies and knights and Lego and trucks and dolls can be for ANYONE. You, however, quite categorically are denying children”the kind of toys they most want” – by refusing to allow the possibility of girls who like dinosaurs, as I did growing up, or boys who like Strawberry Shortcake, as some of my male friends did. By concerning yourself with only a majority of children whose interests are defined as constituting such by toy companies with a vested financial interest in not changing anything, you are making it harder, if not impossible, for all children to enjoy the toys they want to play with. For God’s sake, get it into your head: the only people “forcing” children to do anything are the ones who come along yelling about how it’s wrong for boys to have dolls while simultaneously kicking the Lego away from their daughters’ outstretched fingers.

If girl toddlers want to spend their time playing with dollies – and they do – and if small boys want to spend their time constructing things out of Lego where exactly is the social benefit in frustrating their natural urges?

Before I had children of my own I was much more open-minded on this score. I was always perfectly prepared to believe – as the “experts” tell us – that behaviour is a social construct and that boys and girls act the way they do because of the roles that we parents force upon them through unconscious gender stereotyping.

Then I saw for myself at first hand what boys and girls are really like and the scales fell from my eyes. 

From as soon as she was able to walk my daughter seemed to like nothing better than pushing a baby dolly round in a pushchair. 

My son at the same age was only interested in sitting around on his fat bottom, building things with bricks and smashing them up.

Almost any parent who has had both boys and girls will tell you this.

No matter how hard you try to bring your kids up in a gender-neutral way – even if you refuse point blank to dress them in stereotypical blue or pink romper suits – those XX and XY chromosomes will out in the end. 

Are you aware, Mr Delingpole, that there’s a fundamental difference between natural behaviour and socially conditioned behaviour? And are you also aware that social conditioning can kick in from an extraordinarily young age? While some children doubtless do have innate personal preferences for dolls or blocks – preferences which sometimes align with their biological sex, and sometimes don’t – that’s not the full story. From the time they’re born, we dress girls in pink and boys in blue; we treat them differently even before they’re big enough for such differences to matter, our own biases so culturally entrenched that we don’t always realise we’re doing it. A recent study found that parents are more likely to explain science concepts to their sons than their daughters, for instance, while another found that mothers were far more likely to underestimate their baby daughters’ crawling skills while overestimating their sons’ abilities at the same tasks. Many adults actively police gender-conformity in children, and once they’re teenagers, despite the existence of “zappy”, “progressive” authority figures like the headmistress you openly mocked, many teachers and school speakers alike line up to continue the process, with a particular emphasis on shaming girls.  Even little children have a gender wage gap, with girls performing more household chores than boys for less pocket money, while this heartbreaking analysis of what parents Google about their children shows a preoccupation with female beauty and male intelligence. No matter our intentions, all parents suffer from the implicit biases we’ve absorbed and internalised as normative from the culture in which we live – so when we see our children conforming to gender stereotypes despite our efforts, however slim, we often assume it must be the result of some inherent, internal difference, after all.

In her excellently researched book, Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine refers to this position as ‘biology as fallback’ – one adopted by parents who, for whatever reason, didn’t expect to see their children exhibit stereotypical behaviours, and who subsequently assumed that gender stereotypes must really be innate. “Believing that they practiced gender-neutral parenting,” she writes, “biology was the only remaining explanation.” But as she goes on to explain – at length, her conclusions backed up by multiple studies – this simply isn’t the case. Rather, there’s only so much individual parents can do to successfully implement gender neutral parenting when, in every other aspect of their lives, children are exposed to a wider culture that overwhelmingly tells them the opposite.  It’s one thing, for instance, to try and tell your daughter she’s free to enjoy superheroes and princesses in equal measure if, every time she sets foot on the playground, she’s mocked for playing with action figures and praised, whether by her peers or her teachers, for dressing prettily.

All of which is a way of saying, Mr Delingpole, that no – the behaviours you’re observing aren’t the undeniable result of some absolute chromosonal impulse that tells girls to cuddle and boys to smash. They’re not even universal behaviours; the fact that your children confirm to stereotype doesn’t automatically mean that every child, everywhere, does, regardless of whether their parents are fans of gender-neutral parenting or view it with total antipathy.

Give a girl a doll and she will cuddle it and nurture it. Give a boy a doll and he will either torture and dismember it or use it as a hand grenade.

I find it extremely disturbing that you class  torture and dismemberment as inherently male characteristics, strong enough to be evident even in childhood – and more, that you seem to think boys are incapable of cuddling and nurturing. What you’re describing here isn’t a synonym for boisterousness or rough play, but something far more disturbing. Have you honestly never met a little boy with a favourite stuffed animal, one he loves and cuddles and cannot bear to be without? Because I have, many times. My own son, now nearly one, is among them: just as I did throughout my entire childhood, he has developed a particular affection for one of his toys, a plush owl. This owl goes everywhere with him, subject to constant hugging, chewing and fierce, babyish love. If the owl isn’t within reach, he won’t go to sleep; the one time we needed to wash it around bedtime to get rid of a moldy smell, he screamed and cried for the whole two and a half hours it took for the dryer cycle to finish, then fell asleep the instant we placed it into his hands. He’s too small for kisses yet, but he hugs us back when we hug him, and if you lean your head close to his, he copies and gently bumps foreheads, giggling and smiling. As he grows older, I have no doubt that he’ll play games where his toys are exploded or killed or imperilled – I did the same growing up, enacting out endless games where Starscream of the Decepticons shot rockets at my collection of My Little Ponies, or orchestrating playground games where Catwoman and Batman were fighting bad guys. But that’s a far cry from the sort of thing you’re describing.

Little boys are not universally sociopaths in training: nurturing and love are not exclusively feminine traits. But that’s what they can sometimes become, if, as so many people do, you assume that boys are naturally monstrous, and consequently neglect to teach them the empathy, kindness and respect for others you’ve already decided they’re incapable of learning. And so male brutality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if boys will be boys, then why bother to teach them otherwise? Easier far to excuse their aggression with a single pat phrase, and blindly hope they don’t grow up to become rapists or abusers.

Is this really such a bad thing? Well, you could argue that if more were done to check boys’ destructive instincts we might have less war and if more were done to discourage girls’ child-rearing tendencies we might have more women in the workplace and a narrower gender pay gap.

Or you might find as I do something rather sinister and Brave-New-World-ish in this attempt at social engineering.

What if there is a sound biological reason for the way men and women are programmed to think and behave in different ways? What indeed if the future of our species depends on it?

To a degree I think it does.

If little girls didn’t have those dollyhugging instincts we would all be in a pickle because who in the future would do the mothering and who would work in all those vital caring professions from midwifery to primary school teaching and nursing?

And if little boys weren’t hardwired into being obsessive, aggressive show-offs and risk-takers, who would spend hours in the lab before making great scientific breakthroughs or drilling for oil or defending the nation?

Are you familiar with the concept of a false binary, Mr Delingpole? I somehow think not, because if you were, you’d realise you’d just answered your own question. If some boys grow up to be nurturing, then they’ll be working in those “vital caring professions” and staying at home with the children, while the little girls with the chemistry sets and athletic skills will be, as you have it, “making great scientific breakthroughs” and “defending the nation”. All that will happen is that men and women will appear in greater numbers in the sorts of professions you seem to think they’re inherently unsuited for, and it’ll all balance out. Society won’t collapse – it’ll just look different as a result of being more equitable. As always, we’re not talking about every girl completely abandoning traditionally feminine occupations or every boy settling masculine traditions aside in favour of basket-weaving – we’re talking about gender not being a determining factor in what professions they get to choose. And while we’re on the subject: what makes you think that the gender schism evident in many Western professions is so absolute, so fundamental to human nature and gender, that it applies everywhere in the world, and throughout history? That would, after all, be the logical, sane conclusion, if your claims to biological determinism were really accurate.

In fact, the opposite is true. Women have a long and significant history of making scientific breakthroughs – but thanks to the prevailing sexism of their times, men often took all the credit, leaving us with the inaccurate, distorted perception that women never really did anything important until very, very recently. Or how about this: does it interest you to know that the professions you’ve classed as being inherently gendered – “caring” professions, like primary teaching and nursing for women; serious, manly professions, like science, military service and doctoring for men – aren’t always skewed that way? Once upon a time, teaching – even primary teaching – was a male-dominated profession; only comparatively recently has it swung the other way. In Russia, most doctors are women, and thanks to the ability of sexism to devalue women’s work, whatever it is, Russian doctors are grossly underpaid, just as nurses are in the West.In Finland, 50% of doctors are women, while in the UK, female doctors are set to outnumber men by 2017 – just three years away – despite the fact that they’re still paid 25% less than their male colleagues. And this is all deeply relevant, because one of the reasons nursing has traditionally been female-dominated is because the modern profession was formally begun by a woman, Florence Nightingale. At a time when women were more or less prohibited from becoming doctors, Nightingale found a way to teach women medicine on an organised scale – but that doesn’t mean that modern nurses are any less medicine-focussed or inherently more nurturing than doctors. For both, the work is hard, technical and emotionally draining, but because nursing, despite being vital, is seen as being feminine, it continues to be undervalued and underpaid.  

As for women in the military – well. I could write you a whole different essay on that, Mr Delingpole. I could talk about the compulsory military service for women in Israelthe fact that the first female marine, Opha Mae Johnson, joined in 1918the thousands on thousands of Soviet women who served on the front line in WWII, only to be demonised and forgotten; the Night Witches; the Dahomey Amazons;  the tale of Khutulun; the large numbers of female Viking warriors archaeologists originally assumed to be male, simply because they were buried with swords (which is also what happened in the case of this Etruscan warrior prince – sorry, princess); the women serving currently in armies around the world, and you know what? I could do this all day, Mr Delingpole, but the point is that if you’re trying to argue that warfare is an inherently masculine preoccupation, such that women have only taken it up since the pernicious advent of gender-neutral parenting, feminism run amok and modern, “zappy” headmistresses, then you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Thanks to sexism, you probably didn’t learn about it in school, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean that women warriors are unnatural or rare.

Women can be arrogant risk-takers who make fantastic breakthroughs. Men can be empathic, loving caregivers. That’s not because feminism is trying desperately to upset the natural order of things – that is the natural order of things, no matter how often various cultures have tried to pretend otherwise, because human beings are not wholly defined by our gender.

This doesn’t mean that girls can’t do boy things and vice versa.

Really, Mr Delingpole? Because you seem to have expended a great deal of energy trying to argue exactly that.

Lego for example has had great success with its new specialist toy range aimed at girls, which helped drive up its profits by 35 per cent. 

But this wasn’t because Lego suddenly discovered that girls were just as interested in construction toys as boys. 

It is because – much to the annoyance of feminists – Lego cunningly designed the new range in demeaning, stereotypical sexist pinks and purples and turned the astronauts and highway patrolmen into puppies and pretty girls.

Actually, no – allow me, once again, to set the record straight. Prior to their introduction of the pink-and-purple, female-oriented Lego Friends range, Lego was already successfully selling their products to girls. As these vintage Lego ads clearly show, Lego was originally marketed a gender-neutral toy: in fact, I grew up playing with Legos, as did pretty much every other child – male and female – of my generation. But as I’ve already explained, Mr Delingpole, toy companies like their profits, and a clear way to make parents buy more Lego is to create a new kind, one that encourages them to buy two different sets – a Lego for boys, and a Lego for girls – rather than just the one, shared product. I don’t doubt that Lego Friends has found a market, likely even attracting new customers in the process, but the idea that girls weren’t playing with Lego prior to this – that they only became interested in building once they could make hairdressing salons and play with pink bricks – is demonstrably absurd, a claim debunked not only by the testimony of every girl and woman who played with the stuff before then, but by Lego’s own advertising history. This is what social engineering really looks like: a campaign to convince little girls they suddenly need a different, special type of Lego than the one they’ve always played with, because the proper stuff is for boys.

When my niece was growing up and my brother wanted to recruit her as a companion on his military re-enactment expeditions he conducted a similar successful experiment.

At first being a girl Freya just couldn’t be persuaded to care that much about war and weaponry.

Then one day my brother hit on an ingenious solution. He bought her a toy gun, painted it pink with pretty flowers down the side, called it a Barbie Gun and it became her most treasured possession.

MP Liz Truss, I gather, has two daughters so if she fancies making them a couple of Barbie guns to help them combat society’s ingrained sexism I’m sure my brother would happily send her the colour scheme.

I have no doubt that’s exactly what happened – but in all the times you’ve told this story, Mr Delingpole, have you ever stopped to wonder why? As I’ve already stated, pink isn’t an inherently girl-attracting colour, as evidenced by the fact that it’s only been marketed as girl-exclusive since the 1940s. Girls like pink because girls are trained to like pink, which is the exact same reason that boys now tend to avoid it; because literally every single thing that’s branded as being “for girls” is either pink or purple, and boys are socially punished for liking pink or feminine things. Growing up as a girl, it’s virtually impossible not to end up with a wardrobe and toybox full of pink things, even if – as was the case with me – it’s not your favourite colour. What it has undeniably become, however, is a symbol of femininity. Girls are trained to view pink as theirs, as something that cannot be taken from them. Nobody questions a girl in pink: it’s safe, and can therefore become a source of strength. Your niece didn’t have some innate, fundamental objection to toy guns simply because of her gender – she was hesitant to play a game that every single aspect of her life had told her was for boys only. But when your brother made her a girly gun, he sent her the message that guns could be girly, too, and that playing with them was therefore acceptable. He told her that guns could be for girls, not by appealing to some inherent, chromosonal attraction to the colour pink, but by manipulating the social convention that says it’s absolutely right and OK for girls to enjoy pink anything.

How do I know this? Because your niece isn’t alone in her experience. I’ve heard stories of little boys who’ve expressed a desire to own and play with ‘feminine’ toys, like dolls and ponies, when offered versions that were mocked up in dark, ‘boy’ colours, like red and black. Walk into any store that sells baby clothes, and look at the striking difference in the colour schemes: pinks and purples and pastels for girls, and lashings of red, blue, black, green and bright everything for boys. We dress our kids this way from birth, most of us without questioning it, and even before they’re walking and talking, we buy them toys that confirm to gender stereotypes, with dollies for girls and trucks for boys. We teach them that boys and girls are fundamentally different – not always with words, but absolutely with actions. Children learn from example, and they do so early, that pink means girl and blue means boy. We teach them to laugh at boys with long hair, to puzzle over little girls who like spiders and dinosaurs. On the playground, they learn gender discrimination – they police each other from day one, because that’s what adults have taught them to do, however unthinkingly. And then we get surprised, and sigh, and act as though biology alone can explain it, when some girls only feel comfortable using toy guns and building blocks that are coloured pink.

But it seems a bit of a waste of talent to me. Though I love my boy and girl equally I am in little doubt that females are manifestly the superior species in almost every way: more articulate, more empathetic, more resilient and more capable of multi-tasking.

This may come as a shock to you, Mr Delingpole, but benevolent sexism is still sexism. Saying girls are somehow fundamentally “superior” for their innate possession of various traits isn’t complimentary; it’s a covert way of praising women who conform to outdated gender stereotypes while mocking, rebuking, exclusing or demonising those who don’t. Girls aren’t made of sugar and spice and all things nice, just as boys aren’t made of slugs and snails and puppydog tails. We are human beings, just as capable as the next person, whoever they are, of being venal, arrogant, greedy, abusive, stammering, callous, single-minded and anything else you’d care to name. To impose on us the burden of being moral and social caregivers – the sweet, smiling stoics whose biological destiny is to rein in the destructive impulses of angry, aggressive, goal-oriented men – is to deny us the full range of our humanity; and more, to implicitly blame us when the men in our lives get out of control, for failing to use our feminine wiles to soothe them. Don’t limit us to the sort of roles you’re clearly unwilling to adopt yourself. Don’t put us on a pedestal we neither deserve nor want. Let us be flawed and wonderful; let us be human, and don’t think we’re being unfeminine when we dare to stray outside the bounds you’ve arbitrarily set for us.

Why would you want to steer someone like that into a boring, obsessional field such as maths, chemistry or car design? Girls deserve better than that.  

No, Mr Delingpole. Girls deserve better than to have men like you decide that they deserve better than their passions. “Boring, obsessional” fields, as you term them, are neither boring nor obsessional to those who love them, whatever their gender. Don’t presume to tell us that the “better” we deserve is to get married, knocked up and spend the rest of our lives raising children, just because you’d feel slightly more comfortable if we did. Don’t try to couch your sexism as protectionism, as though little girls everywhere need to be shielded from the scary predations of straw feminists out to turn them into truck-driving lesbians by throwing all their Barbies onto the fire. Don’t tell any more teenage girls that their ambitions are worth less than their reproductive potential. In fact, don’t say anything at all.

Just shut up, and listen, and learn. Because right now? You are the problem.


Foz Meadows

ETA on 25.1.14: Behold the sexist majesty of James Delingpole’s Twitter response to a woman who called this article fabulous:

James Delingpole being a sexist ass on Twitter, 25.01.14

And again, which, ew:

James Delingpole being a sexually harassing ass on Twitter, 25.01.14

Male feminists, however, are apparently “beneath contempt”:

James Delingpole anti male feminists on Twitter, 25.01.14

But it’s OK, guys! Because Delingpole isn’t really being a sexist ass – he’s just goading me:

James Delingpole goading on Twitter, 25.1.14


Only, no: he’s also really serious about feminists being ugly:

James Delingpole on feminists on Twitter, 25.1.14

  1. Jean Lamb says:

    Oh, splendid! My childhood games involved swordfighting with wooden swords, multi-generational soap operas with my Barbie dolls, turning the treehouse into the Mother Ship (I started reading SF quite early), creating a totally horrible musical involving Robin Hood as peripheral character, and never mind the bike-riding all over town. I sometimes woke up at dawn (my brothers had the cool toy trucks out in back), and played such genderless games as 1 o’clock and the Ghost Never Came Out, variants of baseball in the vacant lot (a peach tree branch was third base, and anything hit into the massive spruce was an automatic double), Flashlight Tag till our parents called us home, and never was it even suggested that anything was gender-oriented (the green plastic soldiers were sometimes recruited into the aforementioned soap operas). The only thing really gendered were the Barbie dolls, and that was mainly because I was youngest more than anything else. And my dad took the whole neighborhood fishing–whenever someone tried to scare me with a worm I generously mentioned what my father was paying per dozen for live ones, and that nonsense stopped right off. There were other gender issues in my family, God knows, but toys usually weren’t involved–if there was, it usually worked in my favor, since I felt free to try to burn down the house with the wood-burning set whenever my brothers weren’t at it, whereas they considered themselves too old to mess with any of mine, and I kind of liked it that way.

  2. Temporarili says:

    BLESS you for this article. Beautifully argued, thorough, well-cited it is a gem that I suspect I will be pointing people to myself when I get into these arguments in the future.

  3. Essie says:

    Scathingly brilliant.

  4. The gist of this whole mess is that there are still people like Mr. Danglypole who continue to think that women can’t have careers and a family at the same time or else they’re newfangled feminazis, that boys are meant to kill and mutilate small fluffy animals (and later become frat boys)…

    And said people think they are completely right in their beliefs; anything else and political correctness will bring about Armageddon.

    You have to both wonder and not want to wonder about what kind of deeply-knotted brainwashing these people have gone through to think it’s still okay to say all of this.

  5. Oh, Mr. Delingpole…you SO deserved all that. For you are, indeed, a sexist.

    Data from an earlier day: my mother was an engineer. A very good shot with pistol or rifle. Expert rider. Used both hand and power tools. Also a good cook, seamstress, knitter, painter. As a child–with no “social engineering” expended on me, I played with blocks (this was pre-Lego) , Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, toy cowboys and horses, more typical dolls, a toy road grader (great fun in the sandbox), a battery powered boat (from which I extracted the electric motor and drive shaft, attaching it with a rubber band to a Tinker-Toy water wheel, and discovered how to throw gobs of water across the room. I wasn’t allowed a chemistry set, so instead tried things out from reading the encyclopedia (which did not tell me that a lye solution made from fireplace ashes would corrode a tin can. Later, I devised, from reading about chemistry, a fuel for toy rockets…but since I wasn’t allowed a chemistry set, a friend whose parents let him mess with “stinks” concocted it. A chemistry set intended for children would have been safer.) I knew other girls who liked to ride, shoot, camp, climb trees, read science fiction, do math puzzles, make things. The whole “pink” nonsense hadn’t started then, so girls who learned to shoot did so with the same guns their brothers and fathers and mothers and other sisters used.

    As it happens, I am a mother and wife–and I can say with at least as much authority from experience as you that your notions of what is “innate” and what is “social engineering” are absolutely, positively, wrong.

  6. Rin says:

    That was awesome. Thank you for this.

  7. Hala J. says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. YES!!! This was absolutely perfect!!! Thank you!!

  8. […] Dear James Delingpole: You are the problem – “Little boys are not universally sociopaths in training: nurturing and love are not exclusively feminine traits. But that’s what they can sometimes become, if, as so many people do, you assume that boys are naturally monstrous, and consequently neglect to teach them the empathy, kindness and respect for others you’ve already decided they’re incapable of learning.” […]

  9. Michael Fairclough says:

    Mr. Delingpole seems to have written a somewhat ill thought-out piece, and to some extent your reply is correct in its assertion that colour-gender identification is something of a construct that has changed over the centuries. I would also wholeheartedly agree that everyone should get to choose their career.

    However, there is one assumption that I think is incorrect in this article; that boys are not inherently more violent. Statistically sociopathy is found in men more than women, by a ratio of 4:1. (source:, which indicates that men are more liable to have violent and impulsive personality traits.

    But I would not disagree that boys are capable of love and nurture as well. I would argue, however, that the love that boys (and men) show for the things in their life (be it a cuddly toy, a woman, or a business) has a different basis than that of women. Men’s love is based on a deep-seated (and hard-won) respect for the object in question. Women’s love is based on taking advantage of the most advantageous position in the current circumstances (hence the war bride phenomenon I acknowledge that this would have little visible effect in childhood, but I feel the point is worth making.

    • Morgan says:

      Michael, you’re ignoring the social and environmental factors at work that lead to mental illnesses like sociopathy being more prevalent in one gender than another. Bear in mind the origins of the word “hysteria” before you take scientific studies of differences between men’s and women’s (I guess those us who don’t identify within the gender binary still don’t count as far as research goes…) tendencies towards different mental illnesses as proof that gender is inborn rather than learned. Social issues like mental illness do not exist in a vacuum, and thus are just as deeply effected by the socially constructed notion of binary gender and gender stereotypes as anything else.

      As for your second point, I find it frankly offensive that you’re implying that women’s love is based on using others to get ahead in life, whereas men’s love is born from respect based in rationality. (It doesn’t help that you use the word “object”, either, since we’re not talking about objects when we talk about love and nurturing — we’re talking about relationships between human beings.) All that argument does is reinforce the notion that women and other female-bodied people are driven by emotion instead of rationality, and that our love does not, ultimately, come from a place of well-thought-out (i.e. “hard-won”) respect for our loved ones. In essence, you’re telling me that I’m with my partner not because I love her for who she is, but because she’s somehow the most “advantageous” option available to me at this time. And you back up your assertion by mentioning war brides, which, as the Wikipedia article itself states in its introduction, was a phenomenon primarily isolated to the WWI and WWII eras. War brides were a product of their time and place in history. It’s frankly absurd to use their choices as some sort of proof that women’s love originates from a different impetus than men’s.

      I understand that you’re not trying to be sexist here. But you really need to check some of your privilege and assumptions before you go around making assertions about how men and women really are fundamentally different. Unfortunately, in doing that, you make yourself part of the problem as well, in a manner not dissimilar to Delingpole himself.

  10. Lisa says:

    Well said! Delingpole’s article may as well be called “Women, and why I fear them”. And lost under all the other sexist nonsense is his reference to a female MP as “a bit silly”. Shrill and hysterical too, I shouldn’t wonder.

    I’ve linked to your piece on the Let Toys Be Toys Facebook page, hope you don’t mind.

    I’m interested in this idea of pink and blue only becoming gendered colours in the mid-20th century, I’ve read that a few times in different articles on the subject. Yet there’s a line in Little Women, when Meg has twins: “Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell.” That was in 1870, so I wonder if this is something that has fluctuated over time.

    Anyway, I think the issue really is not whether the colours can be said to “innately” be favoured by girls and boys, but the way they are used to guide their choices. As you point out, social engineering is already at work and has been for a long time, but because it is part of the accepted status quo it’s rarely challenged. This makes it easy for people like Delingpole to create a strawman from any call for change as the work of dangerous feminist lefties in hob-nailed boots and dungarees. Nasty little man.

  11. L. M. Myles says:

    If he wasn’t so unpleasant, I’d feel awfully embarrassed for him. What a silly man.

  12. hawkwinglb says:

    What a deeply unpleasant human being he is, for sure.

  13. What I don’t get is the ‘furious’ and ‘despicable’ and other emotion charged words in your lengthy piece. Is this topic worth getting this upset over?

    • fozmeadows says:


    • What I don’t get is how you can be so oblivious as to ask that. I can’t think of a more worthy topic to get upset over than social iniquities that deprive vast swathes of the population of the opportunity to live without artificial constraints on their ambitions and their ability to realise those ambitions.

      What I do get, however, is how tempting you find it to dismiss an impassioned female writer as excessively emotional to the point of being *gasp* upset. Maybe, even, hysterical?

    • tinyorc says:

      What I don’t get is that Jeff Wolfers doesn’t seem to understand what blogs are for. Bit embarrassing really.

    • ” Is this topic worth getting this upset over?”

      Tell me, Jeff. Do you think it’s worth getting upset over the fact that young men avoid professions they are drawn to because they fear being seen as ‘girly’? Would it be upsetting for you if young fathers looking after their kids during the were excluded from playgroups and parental gatherings because they aren’t women?

      Does it upset you that young boys are bullied by *adults* if they wear ‘gender inappropriate’ clothing or accessories? Or if they grow up to be ballet dancers, or teachers, or nurses, they sometimes face obstacles because of their gender?

      It upsets me, and I’m a woman. If it doesn’t bother you, then you must be pretty damn insensitive.

      The answer to your question is “Yes. Yes it is. Any more stupid questions?”

  14. Cat Rambo says:

    I want this on a t-shirt: “…the ability to ask a rhetorical question about whether or not you’re a sexist pig is not some magical proof against actually being a sexist pig.”

  15. Lydia says:

    Reading his article made me want to stab myself in the face. Or stab him in the face, I’m not sure. Still, it was nice of him to point out I’ve been brainwashed by social engineers, which must be the only reason I’m studying science at Cambridge Uni. Because obviously that just goes against my ‘nature’.

  16. Miles says:

    Just to say thanks. This guy runs rampage for a living over any ‘liberal’ view he thinks will get a rise. Thankfully he is hoisted by his own petards so often I calm down eventually, but it is nice to see someone take him to task. The strange thing is that he seams to hold Margaret Thatcher as some kind of fantasy figure, yet his adulation stopped short of seeing her as an obvious contradiction to his thesis, taking on science – for which she had a lifetimes fondness – and an ‘agressive’ leadership without ever been ‘tied down’ by biology, yet also displaying an understanding of how, for those less well off, motherhood could be a dissproportinate concern – wether by choice or circumstance.
    When this new generation of snarky right wing bloggers can’t seam to learn from thier own I wonder if they are in fact spoofs. Then I realise that spoofing idiocy for money and internet traffic, and genuine idiocy, is indistinguishable – and therefore inexcusable.
    Thanks again.

  17. My kid would don her breastplate & thwap him mercilessly with her boffer sword for saying Hot Wheels and swordplay weren’t part of her “true nature.”

  18. Thanks, Foz – you’ve said everything I wanted to scream at that odious little twerp.

    I’m old enough that I’ve avoided the pink tsunami, thank goodness. As a child my toy car was a tractor-trailer, my favourite colour was blue, and the action figure I most wanted was the one with the speedboat, scuba gear and a speargun. I never had a Barbie or a Tiny Tears doll – I played with Lego. My dad taught me about gardening, and how to fish (I was Baitdigger-General, and baiting my own hooks with maggots from the age of eight or so). I read scifi and spent hours with a sky atlas identifying constellations. I can mix concrete, lay bricks and flagstones, do carpentry, hang wallpaper, use power-tools, wire a plug and fish spiders out of the bath all by myself, thank you.

    I did all this because I wanted to, because it was interesting and fun, and my parents encouraged me to learn whatever took my fancy, whether that was cookery or cosmology. Oh, and I hate pink with a passion.

    Clearly, according to James, I am doing “girl” wrong.

  19. tinyorc says:

    The hilarious thing about Delingpole’s argument is that it falls over like a house of cards once you expand its scope outside the parts of his own family that conveniently conform to his hypothesis. Talk to a handful of people about their experiences growing up and their own experiences with kids and already you’re going to hear wildly varying accounts of how gendered behaviour manifests in both boys and girls.

    When I was a child, I was absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs. I also loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and always insisted on being Leonardo (you know, THE LEADER) when I played imaginary games about them. I had a blue plastic sword to help me play my role better and I used to run around the house whacking my dad with it. I called a moratorium on wearing skirts, dresses and the colour pink at age six, much to my mother’s dismay. I was thoroughly confused by dollies… especially the sort that need feeding and nappy changing. According to my parents, I was given one of these for Christmas when I was six or so. I “played” with it warily for half an hour and then shoved it in the back of my cupboard, never to see the light of day again.

    My sister was much more typically “girly” than me… she liked pink, playing with make-up, wearing dresses doing her hair, much more than I ever did. We were raised in the same house, so we were obviously subject to similar levels of “social engineering”… so why didn’t my natural propensity cuddle dollies didn’t manifest like it did in my sister? Were my chromosomes broken?

    Even more bizarrely, our gendered behaviour as children didn’t actually influence our future career paths at all. Despite conforming to all these typically feminine “nurturing” traits as a child, my sister graduated with one of the highest marks in human genetics that her university has awarded in years. Along with various awards and medals and speaking invitations, she’s now fully-funded in a prestigious PhD programme. She is driven, ambitious and frankly a bit of a genius, and she would destroy a sexist dinosaur like Delingpole in a second if he tried to suggest to her that she should abandon her career for something more nurturing until it’s time to get married and raise babies. Because she’s a scientist and she knows that’s not how gender works. Not just because she’s generally brilliant, but because she’s a scientist so you can’t just throw words like “chromosomes” around in her company without having an extremely thorough understanding of what you’re talking about.

    See Delingpole? ANYONE can pull anecdotes from their personal experience to make a point.

  20. Cathy S. says:

    Here’s some perspective for Mr. Delingpole, if he thinks settling down and raising a family should be the be-all and end-all of a feminine life. Renowned country singer Loretta Lynn did that, and built an incredible singing career besides.

    How? Partly by telling it like it for so many American (and world-wide) “housewives”, which included her”: You’ll need to cut and paste it, sadly I don’t know how to make it a hyperlink. But it’s worth the effort!

  21. Angua says:

    Fantastic piece. Mr. Delingpole’s logic and anecdotal “evidence” is like a sieve, but the social conditioning we’ve all been getting all our lives is so pervasive that sometimes articles like his can be difficult to rebut. You’ve done all the heavy lifting, and it’s beautiful. Thank you. If he reads your piece, he should be justly ashamed of himself. Obviously he can’t admit it – but neither can he argue with you. I especially enjoy his stated reason for not engaging in anything meaningful (although he seems to have no problem with disgusting insults); he’s just “goading” you. Right. He doesn’t have a thing he *can* say, so sexually charged abuse it is. Presumably he thinks we can’t see that for what it is: the last resort of the impotent.

  22. Arlene Davis says:

    When I was a girl, I preferred to play with my brother’s GI Joes and He-Man action figures. I still prefer yardwork to household chores, and I’m a happily married mother of two. My son’s favorite fictional characters are Iron Man and Princess Luna from My Little Pony. Although Delingpole’s abuse and misguided logic are deeply upsetting, I reserve the right, at least for myself, to ignore it and coach my daughter on to become the brilliant artist she wants to be. If my son decides to be a construction worker or nurse, or even if he turns out completely gay from watching MLP (which I do not believe is likely as he’s only three, but I’m sure Delingpole would scream about) I will love him just as much as I do right now. I’m not saying we should all ignore him and he’ll magically take all the other ignorant trolls off to sexist fairyland, just that I’m exercising my power to reduce him to irrelevance in my own mind.

  23. Yahong says:

    Oh my God, I am so impressed by your ability to coherently put together an argument in response to that kind of article because it is SO. RAGEWORTHY. Thank you for being so consistently eloquent in your smackdowns of this kind of sexist bull. ❤

  24. LLana says:

    Thank you for this.First off the fact that he asked girls he didn’t know if they wanted to start a family is extremely disturbing. As a teen and girl myself I can tell you right now how disturbing and creepy that is to any girl.
    And his idea that girls can’t love fighting and want to be scientist unless forced makes me want to go on a rampage.I grew up with barbies.I liked dressing them up.I also liked playing jaywalking barbie which was basically running the barbies over and making sound effects of painful death.However until I dad showed my sisters and I the game we merely acted out soap operas.Why? Because girls watch Disney not Bob the Builder,and being told that they are adorable and should become dancers while boys are told are smart and should become an astronaut or a chemist. I never saw girls fighting(sadly can you imagine how much better it would be if Snow White was really a badass warrior princess who told the prince to shut it, she was going to save her kingdom?)only cuddling and dressing up so that’s what I did. When I was I given Legos I loved them.When boys splashed mud in sandpit I was there too.I find babies ugly and not that lovable. But I still like make up,and wearing heels occasionally.

    Because that’s who I am.NOT because I’m a girl.

    So thank you for telling that sexist ass the truth .

  25. sylvia says:

    “Women can be arrogant risk-takers who make fantastic breakthroughs. Men can be empathic, loving caregivers. That’s not because feminism is trying desperately to upset the natural order of things – that is the natural order of things, no matter how often various cultures have tried to pretend otherwise, because human beings are not wholly defined by our gender.”

    I love this line.

    Also, my Barbie doll was named Tarzan, because I knew who had all the adventures. Elephant rides! Swinging through trees! With my hair braided around my head because tomorrow I’m going to be a princess!

    • Iain Hall says:

      Hi Foz
      Essentially I think that there is a very clear difference between boys and girls in the way that they think, their propensities and their abilities. Some of this may well be learned behaviour but some of it is innate, with this in mind I have tried from the outset of the parenting journey to allow both of my children to follow their individual muses with no sanction or overt gender role modelling on the part of either their mother or myself.

      Having spent the best part of the last 15 years raising both a daughter and a son (as primary care giver) I too started out with the idea that gender roles were fluid and mailable only to find that my daughter was totally resistant to learning to use “drilly grindy things” and to make things in my well equipped workshop. My son is younger and a very caring and sensitive boy but none the less he has the clear propensity to be a warrior and a builder. He is utterly fascinated with construction and making things.

      One thing that your post seems to ignore is the reality that a woman’s biology gives a limited period of her life with which to make children and if the best time in life to do so is totally focused on work or a career then she could very well miss out entirely. This is not a prospect that should be lightly dismissed or downplayed and to be frank I have discovered that child rearing can be a very satisfying endeavour and definitely not in any sense a lesser calling than any sort of paid employment or a career.

      • fozmeadows says:

        Iain: no, on all counts. Just – no.

        There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that boys and girls have drastically different cognitive functions, and especially not their “abilities” and “propensities”, that hasn’t since been thoroughly debunked. As I said in the article, the fact that you, personally, have observed gender stereotyped behaviour in your own children doesn’t magically mean that all or even most children are the same, or imply that nature is always stronger than nurture; and certainly, it doesn’t erase the personal testimony of literally every other woman commenting on this thread telling you about her own, very different experiences.

        As for the idea that “a woman’s biology gives her a limited period of her life in which to make children” – this is actual, literal nonsense in the sense that you mean it; which is to say, the sense that women have a much more limited window of opportunity than men. The idea that female fertility peaks naturally around 30 and has a steep decline after 35, which is what we’ve all been told for years, is information based on a single analysis of women’s pregnancies and their commensurate ages that took its data from French birth records collected – wait for it – between 1670 and 1830. Studies conducted in the modern world, however, paint a very different picture, one in which women can quite comfortably fall pregnant at older ages, and where their fertility declines much more commensurately with men’s. (Because, yeah – male fertility also declines the older they get, and yet I don’t see thousands on thousands of newspaper articles and alarmist columns panicking about how men might miss out on having families if they wait too long. Why? Because women are still presumed to be the ones who’ll stay home with the children, and because nobody thinks men are denying some fundamental part of their biological gender-destiny if they decide that kids are a low priority.) And in any case – why the hell is female fertility relevant to a discussion about how not all little girls want to play with dolls? What, are you honestly suggesting we should train all girl-children to race towards motherhood, even against their own passions, because otherwise they’ll miss out?

        So – no. I’m sorry: but no.

        • Iain Hall says:


          Having been on the conception roller-coaster because my wife and I left having our children to later in our lives I am absolutely certain about the biological reality of a woman’s declining fertility after the age of thirty. Not just from our own experience but that of so many other people that we met on that horror ride to make our children. You just can’t pretend that a woman is equally fertile for their entire life. look up any medical reference source for the facts.

          In the modern world you do hear of women being able to fall pregnant at relatively older ages but, and its a very big but mostly its with the use of either donor eggs or other forms of medical intervention. We were lucky in so far it only took three years of trying to conceive our daughter and a further two to make our son but many of the couples we met just never had any joy after much pain suffering and expense.

          I want to see women in our society having fulfilling lives and careers but they just can’t have a blithe disregard for the realities of biology not because it suits men but because there is a serious risk that they will have to find outrageous amounts of money, endure horrible regimes of hormone treatments, invasive surgical procedures and an emotional roller-coaster that only those who have ridden it can possibly appreciate the depths of its despair. Its a better option to do something like having children when you are physically best able to do so and a modern woman would be wise to consider this when they are setting out on their life journey rather than learning the truth when its too late to do anything about it.

          • fozmeadows says:

            Iain: of the two of us, I’m the one who’s linked to actual scientific research in support of my point. You, however, are annecdotally referencing the same widely held but not necessarily true belief that my evidence debunks.

            Secondly, and far more importantly: your continued insistence that all women must necessarily WANT to have children – that we’ll be unfullfilled and denying our biology if we don’t, and that encouraging little girls to do more than play with dolls is a prime cause of same – is both factually incorrect and deeply misogynistic. Certainly, and as I’ve already pointed out, this is a thread about why it’s harmful and wrong to force children to conform to gender stereotyping in their toy choices even when they don’t want tonot a thread about why they should never conform under any circumstances. The fact that you saw me make an argument about why some girls might like to play with chemistry sets and responded with “but women need kids! and early!” is a good 90% of what’s wrong with sexism in our culture.

            • Iain Hall says:

              my story may have been anecdotal to you but to me and my family it is the story of our lives, if you really need a citation the you could start with Wiki (even though is flawed) and then consult with doctor Google

              I am not by any stretch of the imagination being at all prescriptive about what any woman may want or any course that they wish to travel in their lives I just want them to avoid the sort of pain and suffering that I have seen and shared when we were trying to have our children. There is nothing at Misogynistic about wanting women to make the choices of their lives from a truly informed position.
              My children have grown up in a house hold where their parents have always had unconventional family roles, My wife the breadwinner and me as chief cook and bottle washer nappy changer and bum wiper when they were smaller.
              As for toy choices in particular my daughter was never interested in dolls,Toy cars ect were offered and rejected as well she had a fleeting interest in “my little pony” but it soon passed. in fact her toy choices, like those of my son are up to her interests. In fact if anything over the years I have actively tried to offer both of my children gender neutral options some that they took to and others that they didn’t.

              • fozmeadows says:


                Male fertility declines sharply at age 41; that’s based on very recent data from fertility clinics, but all the panic about leaving it too late is still reserved for women. By contrast, the Wikipedia page you’ve linked to begins by citing three different academic sources for its claims about the drop-off around age 30: two of those sources no longer exist, the studies evidently having been removed, and the third links to the same, now-debunked study of French birth rates from 1600-1800. But if you read the information further down the page that encompasses the data of more recent studies, you’ll see that the decline of female fertility much more closely parallels that of men than is commonly believed, thanks to the fallacious French data; male fertility drops to 35% at age 45 – down from 60% at age 41 – and the most conservative of the studies cited says that female success at age 45 is 25%, down from 63% at age 40. Historical data from the 1950s, however, says that 87% of couples aged 45 or over are infertile – in other words, the failure to conceive is due equally to the decline of male AND female fertility, not just to women’s biological clocks. Wikipedia proves my point, not yours. I’m not trying to invalidate your own experience and say it never happened; I’m just using data to point out that it isn’t necessarily a universal experience. Infertility affects men and women of all ages, but the decline is commensurate between the sexes. As such, the idea that women need to take far more care to have kids early is not only sexist, but scientifically inaccurate.

                All that aside, I say again: female fertility, whatever its rate of decline, isn’t relevant to a discussion of children’s toy preferences.

                • Iain Hall says:


                  You took particular umbridge in your piece because Dellingpole dared to ask those school girls if any had considered motherhood as a “career” choice the whole point of my commentary on the female fertility bell curve was to point out that all women have to factor in their own biology when they decide to focus on paid employment and or a career. Now while I agree that male fertility likewise declines with age even your citation points out that the decline is of far less significance than it is for women.
                  From your citation:

                  Dr Richard Sherbahn, of the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, said that while it is likely that male fertility does decline, any difference is likely to be just a few per cent over decades.

                  He added that IVF can compensate for many problems in sperm, in a way that it can’t with eggs.

                  Charles Kingsland, a consultant gynaecologist at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and member of the British Fertility Society, questioned the quality of the study and added that the quality of a woman’s eggs is far more important.

                  He advised men who want to stay in good reproductive shape to eat healthily, not smoke, drink only in moderation, keep active and avoid hot baths, as sperm likes cool temperatures.

                  He added: ‘There are a lot of advantages to being a young father. First and foremost, you’ve got energy. But being an older father also confers certain advantages – stability, wisdom, maybe a bit of financial security but you don’t have the energy.

                  Read more:
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                  As I said when I cited Wiki its a flawed source and to be frank I did not even check any of its hyperlinks but there are plenty of more authoritative links to be found via” Doctor google” that will say precisely the same thing about the decline, with age, of female fertility.

                  • fozmeadows says:

                    Iain, you’re missing the point. Regardless of sexual orientation or individual gender, EVERYONE who wants biological children needs both eggs AND sperm to make them, and while those of us with uteruses still have to fall pregnant – and are therefore potentially subject to whatever physically invasive fertility measures might prove necessary – declining fertility is nonetheless rendered a collective problem. Let me put it to you this way: if a man waits until he’s in his late forties to settle down, and ends up with a female partner who’s anywhere near his own age – or hell, even if she’s in her early thirties, according to Doctor Google – and they both decide they want kids, then any loss of fertility, no matter whose, is equally disadvantageous to the guy. Cisgendered men cannot create children from thin air. If leaving it too late is a problem that can reasonably be said to affect women, then it is also, by definition, a problem that can reasonably be said to affect men, because where the fuck else are they going to get their biological children from?

                    Yet as I’ve said, over and over and over again, because of sexism and misogyny in our culture – because of the scientifically and socially unsubstantiated yet widely-believed fallacy that women are inherently more nurturing, more desperate to be parents, and more likely to feel unfulfilled without children than men – the assumption is that declining fertility is purely or primarily a female problem: that women, not men, are the ones who ought to be making early decisions about parenthood, putting their careers on hold, and generally keeping one eye on a ticking biological clock. Which is why I’m taking such offence at your continued insistence that this is something only women need to think about – when it is, rather, something everyone who eventually wants kids should think about. If it’s acceptable to ask a room full of teenage girls whether they plan to settle down and have kids (and I’m still not convinced that it is, because it’s such an invasive question), then it’s equally acceptable to ask the same question of a room full of teenage boys. But we don’t, because as always, out culture places the onus of caring both for and about children, even hypothetical ones, on the shoulders of women.

                    That’s what I’m objecting to: the idea that, even though female fertility is requisite for ANYONE who wants to have children, it’s still only ever considered a women’s issue.

                    • Iain Hall says:


                      Iain, you’re missing the point. Regardless of sexual orientation or individual gender, EVERYONE who wants biological children needs both eggs AND sperm to make them, and while those of us with uteruses still have to fall pregnant – and are therefore potentially subject to whatever physically invasive fertility measures might prove necessary – declining fertility is nonetheless rendered a collective problem.

                      I have no trouble acknowledging the meta issue of societal fertility the fact remains that it is each individual man and woman who have to deal with their own biological imperative to produce offspring and it is down to each individual to deal with the consequences of the decisions that they make or delay during the course of their lives. Thus there is no comfort for individuals to be found in statistics or it being a “collective problem”.

                      Let me put it to you this way: if a man waits until he’s in his late forties to settle down, and ends up with a female partner who’s anywhere near his own age – or hell, even if she’s in her early thirties, according to Doctor Google – and they both decide they want kids, then any loss of fertility, no matter whose, is equally disadvantageous to the guy.

                      Probably its more of an issue to a man if the truth be told which is one reason that I think that making an enduring pair bond at an early age is advantageous, even if, as a couple two people decide to establish some level security before they make their children.

                      Cisgendered men cannot create children from thin air. If leaving it too late is a problem that can reasonably be said to affect women, then it is also, by definition, a problem that can reasonably be said to affect men, because where the fuck else are they going to get their biological children from?

                      Here in lays the problem with the feminist theory that has privileged career over our biological imperative to produce the next generation. If we men dare suggest that we would like to have children while we are young there are are howls of protest that complain that men are reducing women to mere breading stock.

                      Yet as I’ve said, over and over and over again, because of sexism and misogyny in our culture – because of the scientifically and socially unsubstantiated yet widely-believed fallacy that women are inherently more nurturing, more desperate to be parents, and more likely to feel unfulfilled without children than men – the assumption is that declining fertility is purely or primarily a female problem: that women, not men, are the ones who ought to be making early decisions about parenthood, putting their careers on hold, and generally keeping one eye on a ticking biological clock.

                      I agree that the female as superior nurturer meme is quite clearly false and to be frank the people who have perpetuated it the most are women rather than men. In fact men like myself who have stepped up to care for and nurture our children are treated with a great deal of suspicion and only superficial acceptance (try being the only bloke taking your infant daughter to a play group!) That said I don’t think nor am I arguing that only women need to consider the issue or that only women may feel unfulfilled with out children. The biological imperative is equally shared between the genders.

                      Which is why I’m taking such offence at your continued insistence that this is something only women need to think about – when it is, rather, something everyone who eventually wants kids should think about.

                      But I am NOT insisting that its something that ONLY females have to consider, that has NEVER been my argument.

                      If it’s acceptable to ask a room full of teenage girls whether they plan to settle down and have kids (and I’m still not convinced that it is, because it’s such an invasive question), then it’s equally acceptable to ask the same question of a room full of teenage boys.

                      I don’t get how you can argue that fertility and fecundity is a meta problem and then suggest as you do directly above that its and entirely personal and private issue.Frankly I see no problem with discussing the making of the next generation with either male or female adolescents.

                      But we don’t, because as always, out culture places the onus of caring both for and about children, even hypothetical ones, on the shoulders of women.

                      As you suggested earlier its women who have the equipment to gestate the next generation and the ability to breastfeed. I don’t think that can or should be changed however I think that those who think that raising a child is in any sense something of lesser value than any paid employment are kidding themselves.

                      That’s what I’m objecting to: the idea that, even though female fertility is requisite for ANYONE who wants to have children, it’s still only ever considered a women’s issue.

                      That is not the way that I see it, nor I suspect is it what Dellingpole was implying with his question either. We men are very often considered outsiders in the children business damned or suspect if we express much interest in children especially if we are unrelated to them). Frankly women consistently try to maintain their special monopoly on raising kids much more than men do.

          • Angua says:

            Everything that Foz said, plus this: If we assume that a woman’s fertility declines faster than her physical ability to bear children, there is an easy solution: Eggs can travel in time, via the time-honored tradition of deep freeze. No woman needs to “miss out” on having kids if she is aware of this possibility during her “peak” fertility and she can therefore opt to have kids whenever she likes. If she likes. Add to that a compulsory paternity leave for men, on the same scale as women take and hey presto: we have equal opportunities and equal incentives to have or to not have kids vis-a-vis our careers.

            This is a bit off topic, so feel free to delete if you will, Foz.

            • Iain Hall says:

              The problem with your suggestion is that its no simple thing to collect viable gametes from a woman is that its no simple thing to do, in the first instance a prospective donor has to undergo a course of daily injections to induce hyper-ovulation and then a laproscopic procedure to collect the eggs. this may have to be done more than once.

              • Heidi says:

                I agree with Iain here… the process of preserving female fertility is anything but easy! Having been through in-vitro fertilization myself I have experienced first-hand what a woman has to go through to have her eggs preserved for future use. The process is very expensive, the medications you have to take have severe side-effects and the entire process has significant risks to a woman’s health. And most importantly, the scientific techniques for freezing a woman’s eggs are still in their infancy, so there is no guarantee you could actually have kids after having gone through all this. So calling this an “easy” solution is false… It’s anything but easy, most people can’t afford it, and many women would not be willing to put their bodies through that.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  Heidi, I’ve never said IVF was easy; all I’ve said is that female fertility doesn’t decline as sharply as was previously thought, and that the burden of thinking ahead about children is something men and women should share, rather than being imposed on women alone.

                  • Iain Hall says:

                    Thanks Heidi 😉

                  • Heidi says:

                    Foz – I read with great interest you and Iain’s discussion regarding female vs male fertility. I have to say that initially I agreed with Iain… most of the statistics I’ve been exposed to are IVF success rates by age and these point to rapidly declining fertility in 30-something women (form example: But after I read your arguments regarding the source of female fertility statistics, I did some googling and came across this great article that summarizes more recent research on the subject: … I was fascinated to see these numbers that show that fertility for most 30-something women is actually much higher than I had previously thought. So thank you for making me discover this interesting information.

                    However one thing I did note in that article in The Atlantic was that female fertility does decline pretty quickly for women in their 40’s… getting pregnant naturally after 45 is pretty rare and after 50 it would take a miracle. For men fertility also begins to decline in their 40’s, but it declines much more slowly and it isn’t unheard of for a man to father a child in his 60’s or 70’s… I think this is why women who do want kids worry about their age a lot more than men do… women have a fixed end-point for fertility, while older men may have more difficulty with conception but the possibility still exists. So yeah I agree that both men and women should take responsibility for decisions about when to have children, but I still think women have a shorter time-frame than men do and that limits them a bit more than men in when they can have kids.

                    Iain – one point you mentioned a couple of times that I strongly agree with is that nowadays it seems like raising a family is considered a lesser endeavor than having a career. I am very thankful of all the opportunities women have nowadays which they didn’t in the past. I myself have a professional career in a very high-paying, male-dominated field and while it always struck me as surprising that there were so few women in my field, I never felt that being a woman has held me back in any way as evidenced by the fact that I was top of my class (ahead of all the men) in university. However after having spent 8 years working in this field I have come to the realisation that I would much rather stay at home with my children than continue to work in my profession. I certainly don’t believe that I’ve been brainwashed by society into thinking that I should be a mom, in fact it’s quite the opposite: most of the comments I encounter are how it’s a “waste” of my education for me to quit my job in order to raise my kids, or that I should be able to do both (what if I don’t want to do both?), or that I should find another career if I’m not satisfied with the one I have. It’s almost like feminism has worked SO WELL that society now discourages and devalues those women who chose their family over their career, which I think is unfortunate. Isn’t the whole point of feminism that women should have more choices? The choice to spend years of your life raising children without having a career should be included among them, as some women and men will still choose that instead of having a career… and the choice to not have kids at all and focus on your career should be equally valued.

                    Getting back to your original article I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading such a well-researched article with such great arguments Foz and you had some great points about gendered toys and nature versus nurture that gave me a lot of food for thought and will probably influence how I raise my kids (I’m already vaguely disturbed by the pink vs blue thing that society tries to impose on kids).

                    • Iain Hall says:


                      Iain – one point you mentioned a couple of times that I strongly agree with is that nowadays it seems like raising a family is considered a lesser endeavor than having a career.

                      I have thoroughly enjoyed raising my children even though it has often been seen as a “lesser choice” by some of may personal critics and political opponents. As I see it for anyone who thinks that the world can be a better place the people that we can have the most influence upon are not strangers that we may preach to online but our own children. Its a most worthy task

                      I am very thankful of all the opportunities women have nowadays which they didn’t in the past. I myself have a professional career in a very high-paying, male-dominated field and while it always struck me as surprising that there were so few women in my field, I never felt that being a woman has held me back in any way as evidenced by the fact that I was top of my class (ahead of all the men) in university.


                      However after having spent 8 years working in this field I have come to the realisation that I would much rather stay at home with my children than continue to work in my profession.

                      No matter what becomes your profession doesn’t come down to why you are working? My favourite adage on this is to say taht I work to live rather than live to work.

                      I certainly don’t believe that I’ve been brainwashed by society into thinking that I should be a mom, in fact it’s quite the opposite: most of the comments I encounter are how it’s a “waste” of my education for me to quit my job in order to raise my kids, or that I should be able to do both (what if I don’t want to do both?), or that I should find another career if I’m not satisfied with the one I have.

                      Our own mortality and the biological imperative to create our own replacements is the driving force that feminism has only poorly grasped in their wish to counter traditional roles in life. I also think that collectivist thinking and a belief that nurture and education creates excellence rather than any aspect of genetics has severely undermined the biological importance of our best and brightest women having children.

                      It’s almost like feminism has worked SO WELL that society now discourages and devalues those women who chose their family over their career, which I think is unfortunate. Isn’t the whole point of feminism that women should have more choices? The choice to spend years of your life raising children without having a career should be included among them, as some women and men will still choose that instead of having a career… and the choice to not have kids at all and focus on your career should be equally valued.

                      Whiled I mostly agree about the various choices being valued I still think that for those choices to be truly appreciated by those who must make them they must be educated and informed choices denying or down playing the biological realities of the human animal for ideological reasons is essentially self defeating because if those who so strongly advocate for feminism and the status of women do not raise their own children then all they have to pass on is words rather than living thinking examples, in time those words will be easily forgotten but offspring can continue to bear witness to the truth that men and women are equal in their humanity and that gender need not be an impediment to anything that an individual wants to do with their lives.

  26. PandoraEve says:

    I think this may be one of the most infuriating things I’ve read in a long time.
    Now for the obligatory story of my childhood. I was one of those children who “confirmed” to my mother that girls are one way and boys are another, since she apparently tried to raise me relatively gender-neutral. Apparently. Despite this, little me had a very strong belief in the gender dichotomy, which explains what happens later. I always wore skirts and dresses for the first several years of my life, and I loved pink and unicorns and stuff. Despite this, however, I also had an interest in entomology, and I wanted to study bugs when I grew up. And then I discovered pokémon, officially becoming a fan when the first movie came out and started hating myself for being a girl and trying to become a boy because only boys are allowed to be interested in geeky things and still have friends, right? (also, because I knew that if I was a boy, there would be far more options open to me in life.) So, yeah, about that gender dichotomy thing? It’s not really working out that well. At least for me.
    I do still consider myself quite girly though, if quiet about it, but I am not nurturing, and I have been told I never have been. I remember my parents teasing me about how I would make a “lovely” wife, and my mother telling me about how I was so uninterested in a baby doll that I didn’t even care to name it. And due to my background, I’m…not exactly good at housework, so being a housewife/mother would be a terrible idea. I don’t have a place in this narrative.
    Also, is it incredibly disturbing to anyone else that it said that little boys would just naturally torture and mutilate Barbie dolls? I’ll admit that I hadn’t even heard of this happening until just a few years ago, but it still makes chills run down my spine to think that there are boys who mutilate an iconic representation of girlhood… Ick.

  27. […] not actually going to go into too much detail about the article itself. Foz Meadows has a fantastic point-by-point response, which is recommended reading. I’ve already covered a lot of my thoughts on gender neutral […]

  28. […] Foz Meadows responds to a misogynist blowhard on the tired “should boys be allowed to play with girls toys” (and vice versa) issue, and comes up with something more substantial than the usual talking points: […]

  29. […] Dear James Delingpole: You Are The Problem – Meadows takes on some disgusting columnist who wrote a blindingly sexist article for a UK newspaper about gendered toy marketing. His ignorance is especially troubling in light of this BBC article reporting that the toys children play with correlates with career choices later in life. […]

  30. guthrie says:

    Delingpole is a nasty piece of work long known for his anti-science rants about climate change, which is where I first encountered him. He is basically a troll for hire, and the only surprising thing about his article is that a headmistress would think it appropriate to ask him along to a dinner which was attended by school pupils. I’d like to know what she was thinking, because a minute’s searching on the internet will find dozens of Delingpole articles which flaunt his lack of knowledge and desire not to think critically about anything which might affect his comfortable lifestyle. There is no good reason to invite him to speak to teenagers, because even if you try and use him as an example of a nasty piece of work, some will form the (regrettably correct) impression that you can make a living being nasty to people.

    The difficulty with nasty people like him is working out how much he says just to wind people up, and how much he really believes. So I really liked your article and all of us appreciate it even although he can’t/ won’t.

  31. I love seeing sexist assholes getting their arguments torn down. Keep up the good work, Foz. Let’s hope someday guys like Dellingpole will be less prevalent than they are already.

  32. Wow. You left no stone unturned for this one. I felt my blood pressure rising just reading this. Two small points that pale in comparison to your well thought out response to this misogynist. 1. Would he have asked this question of a room full of students at a boy’s school? Of course not. I am so beyond sick of women being asked questions that aren’t also directed at men. Female celebrities have been asked often, of late, if they are feminists. Why aren’t those questions being directed at the men? Of course they (the women) are feminists (If they actually understand the definition of feminism and not the perverted definition that has been promoted over the last few decades) If not they must be a sadomasochist. Who else would anti- something that gives them equal rights? 2. I love how Dilingpole bases his theories on anecdotal evidence from his two children. Because that’s an accurate and scientific way of evaluating something. This piece is so well written and vital.

  33. RobotDancing says:

    Like, like, a million times like this post.

    As I read through this, I thought; I can tell them that I had a chemistry set, and Lego, and a microscope, and I loved them.

    I can tell them about my girl, who loves planes, and my boy, who loves babies.

    I can talk about the time I tried to buy a globe for my daughter and left the shop in disgust when I found one labelled “Boys’ Room.”

    Or the time we wanted to buy some child-sized baking equipment for both children to use and struggled to find any that wasn’t aimed specifically at girls.

    But then I came to the end of the post, and I saw the horrible tweets this pig of a man has been sending, and now I just feel angry; angry and ill. I hate that you, having written such an articulate and powerful piece, have now been subjected to such filth. I struggle to cling to hope for the future sometimes, but I know that if we keep raising our children to be better than this disgusting “man,” then we will win out in the end.

  34. segmation says:

    I don’t agree with James Delingpole but everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether you agree or not, right?

    • fozmeadows says:

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, yes – but that doesn’t mean some opinions aren’t actively harmful (racism is an opinion, for instance) or that rebutting an opinion is either unacceptable or pointless.

  35. kingpollux says:

    Reblogged this on King Pollux the Writer and commented:
    Awesome burn. Check this blog out! I know I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

    Good show buddy!

  36. Reblogged this on From a blank page to happily ever after and commented:
    I was very, very lucky at school, because I had teachers who encouraged anyone who was interested. Everyone deserves teachers like that, regardless of their gender.

  37. katherinejlegry says:

    Originally in history pink was considered the “boy” color. It was seen as bolder. Like how male birds are more flamboyant in order to attract a mate. It doesn’t matter what toys we play with as kids. It matters if your father talks to you like a human being and that he listens to you as an evolving human being regardless of your changing interests. The “authors” daughter is not a lucky girl. She doesn’t matter to him as a person. She is a preconceived notion he likes to build growing evidence against. She probably won’t be allowed to have a real friendship with her brother. If this was all goad and jibe to get a dialogue and a rise from women, I suppose label it under satire, and be glad Foz carried the piece because she can actually write, while Delingpole just siphons.

  38. kldawson says:

    Mr. Delingpole, In your picture you look like you’re ten which is about the age I’d expect for a commenter like yourself.

  39. Looks aren’t everything, but this Delingpole looks like a pretentious condescending twit. I have zip to add to this discussion except this anecdote: Christmas Eve a few years ago, I gave my daughter a big box of Legos, because she a very creative person. She said “This is a boy’s toy.” 5 hours later, I was the first of us two to get tired of playing with them; she was still making things. People are interested in what they are interested in, not what society says they must be interested in.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I think it’s very relevant to note that your daughter KNEW – or rather, had absorbed the idea – that Lego was for boys, and therefore not for her. Kids pick up on this stuff even when adults never tell them so specifically, and it absolutely influences their behaviour. But I’m pleased to hear the story had a happy ending, and that she realised she could enjoy Lego, too!

  40. marymtf says:

    I agree with much of what you have to say and I like your righteous anger. But I have sons and grandsons (granddaughters too). I hear more that is sexist aimed at men (by women) every day and feel just as rabid their comments as you do about what mr Deligpole has to say. Perhaps I should take my cue from you.
    ps. I have known boys who if you gave them a doll would turn them into aeroplanes in about five seconds flat and go zoom zooming around the house.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Sexism absolutely affects men as well as women; I particularly hate the sexism that says men make bad parents without female guidance, are useless domestically, are bad listeners – all the old tosh. It hurts men by shoehorning them into restrictive notions of masculinity just as much as it hurts women, and it can certainly be perpetuated by women, too. It all needs to be thrown out for society to get anywhere.

  41. I won’t pretend to have the context of your own culture, being an American with limited experience in other countries. That being said, this form of professional, adult trolling, especially on women’s issues and rebuttals of feminism (as well as most basic human decency) gets frequently broadcasted across social media and it makes headlines amongst traditional media as well.

    It’s ridiculous and childish and in my opinion (and this should be everyone’s opinion), it eradicates all credibility of people that partake in it. People behaving this way are children that should be put in the corner for a time out.

    Your response to his article, which I believe was truthfully what is in his heart (not yet trolling), was brilliant, intelligent, organized, and everything that debating any contentious issue should be. It wasn’t petty, and not a single word of it was a substance-less attack.

    Had this gentleman responded in the same manner (though I’m not really sure what that response would look like), this could have been a truly fruitful conversation that could have changed minds and enlightened everyone that took the time to read it. Those are the type of intellectual exchanges that could really change the world.

    Instead, he acted like a child on the playground.

    Don’t worry about him. He is picking on you because he doesn’t have any logical rebuttal.

  42. Greg says:

    I was gutted to find he’s from the UK. What a nasty, self-important little man. I hope his daughter grows up with the guidance of a more tolerant and impartially encouraging role model.

  43. cra1130 says:

    I couldn’t even read this whole thing because the article you were critiquing was so stupid and blatantly sexist that it wasn’t worth my time. Your points, however, were magnificent.

  44. John Hric says:

    you hold the high ground in this discourse. the snide parting comments of the one who seeks to limit will be altered eventually. someday soon the low ground he thinks he holds will be taken away, undoubtedly to be taken away by his own daughter when she explains it in terms even he might understand.

  45. laurajosephineauthor says:

    Your argument was logical, eloquent and well-sourced. It is only a shame that Mr Delingpole feels the need to mock women for being educated rather than meet you on the same platform. I’ve seen the same behaviour expressed in four year olds, who, confronted with a problem they cannot counter retort: “Well, you’re a stupid-face!” or similar.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but those who refuse to consider other viewpoints are limited and consequently are people I personally cannot trust. Not on any level of fact. They dismiss everything that is not their own opinion. It simply isn’t helpful.

  46. Kim Franklin says:

    The verdict of child psychologists and experts in gender is divided – with most supportive of the aims, but questioning the means.

  47. Sapna says:

    OMG! You are awesome and take a bow for this awesome post.

    Such a coherent, well thought out, well researched post it is. No wonder he couldn’t give any logical reply.

    And now the obligatory childhood story, I have played with all the boy toys and yes I had a barbie doll and a few soft toys too. The story is same for quite a few friends of mine too. Simply coz, then we didn’t know, these were “Boys” toys. And in my case a lot of credit goes to my Parents who never asked me to do or not do something simply because I am a girl.

    And Congrats on being FPed 🙂

  48. ampd2014 says:

    I agree not only with you but also partly with Mr. Delingpole. I think what Mr. Delingpole was trying to say in the situation with the dinner party is that too many women now a days put their career over their families. Some mothers will hire a nanny and have here raise the kids and a some women will abort their children just for the sake of keeping their jobs. I believe what Mr. Delingpole wants to show girls is that their family their kids should be first priority not their job, career, or popularity. Now I understand single mothers may have no other choice but to work instead of staying home with their children so they can put food on the table but the husbands of the non-single moms should be in charge of providing as it has been since the beginning of time. Also I do see your point on women should be able to prove themselves in this world and build a career if that is their choice. There are many smart young women on this earth that have the potential to accomplish great things and change the world. They should be able to go out and use that potential to the benefit of themselves and those around them. I believe this whole heartedly but all in all family above job.

    • guthrie says:

      You haven’t really explained why men should put family above job? After all…
      no wait, the cultural pressure is for the man to put his job above the family. Oddly enough feminists (and me) think that’s a crazy way to try and work things. People should be free from genderised pressure to put job ahead of family or vice versa.

    • Apologies for being late to the party, but this comment grabbed my attention: “the husbands of the non-single moms should be in charge of providing as it has been since the beginning of time.”

      Um, no. Seriously, just NO. Our species started with a gathering and hunting lifestyle. Generally women in groups did the gathering, which meant foraging for edible plant-life, watching the kids, keeping an eye out for dangerous predators, and catching or killing any creature they could. Men just hunted, with a far lower rate of success… and usually only when they had to. Statistically, those societies subsisted on between 60% to 90% gathering. So if you want to reference a more “natural” lifestyle, then it’s women who do most of the providing… not men.

  49. yakinamac says:

    Brilliant, brilliant article. I’m grateful for the sake of my blood pressure that I came across your riposte before I saw its inspiration…

  50. JudahFirst says:

    What annoys me is the idea that it is perfectly fine (read: politically correct) to argue for doing away with gender but downright evil if someone has the opinion that gender is a reality. I’m not arguing for Delingpole (he’s obviously sexist, and the tone of his article was offensive, I grant), however, it bothers me that it’s okay for YOU to get angry at his sexism, but not okay for HIM to get angry at a culture trying its level best to eliminate gender differences altogether. Personally, I like that people can all have opinions. I am weary of one side taking such self-righteous offense at the other (and since the progressives have the loudest voice, it’s the one people hear – even though they are likely in the minority, truth-be-told). It’s annoying. Let Delingpole have his opinions, and you are welcome to yours. The anger and vilifying should stop somewhere if anyone is to have a civilized conversation about these issues.

    • fozmeadows says:

      What annoys me is people who conflate “everyone is entitled to their opinion” with “nobody is allowed to have opinions that are critical of other people’s opinions”.

      • JudahFirst says:

        Hehe, yeah, I thought of that while I was typing. It’s not the opinion of other’s opinions that bothers me. We all have those. It’s the anger. We are never going to get anywhere while shouting. Peace to you.

        • fozmeadows says:

          If it were possible to politely ask sexists to treat women as people and have them comply, it wouldn’t be necessary to shout. We’re angry because it’s the only way to make ourselves heard.

          • JudahFirst says:

            Hmm, then I’m sorry for you. I guess I’m surrounded by a lot more caring sexist men than you are. 🙂 My husband is pretty sexist, but he listens to me and has changed a lot of his thinking because I talk instead of shout. It strikes me that I do a lot of shouting about a lot of things, but the only time my kids listened to me was when I spoke quietly.

            • fozmeadows says:

              I’m not talking about family members and friends – people who have good reason to listen to your complaints, and are predisposed to be sympathetic. I’m talking about the kind of guys who ask if you’ll shag them for a pound on the streets, or the ones that send you rape threats online. I’m talking about an overall culture and the toxicity that accompanies it, and as much as I wish it were the case that stating my case dispassionately, calmly and politely were enough to effect change, experience has taught me that you need a mix of approaches if you’re going to get anywhere. Some people respond well to politeness, and there are times when that’s all I need; others, though, need to be shaken out of their complacency, unaware that this is an issue people care deeply about (and therefore disinclined to take it seriously) until they see how you really feel. And then there are those who are so stuck in their ways that no approach will really work; Delingpole, I suspect, is of this sort. He was never going to listen to someone like me, and as such, I didn’t write it for him, but as a much-needed valve for my own frustrations, and to debunk his arguments for those who needed to see it done.

              • JudahFirst says:

                Well, good on you, staying true to your voice! For me, I feel like the media is doing a stellar job of “yelling” at the traditional viewpoint. The progressive voice is so loud, I wonder at times that there is any other.

                Personally, I’m tired of being “told” that traditional roles are evil. No role is evil. And I’m glad to know there are those who still hold to some tradition when it comes to gender. Tradition provides an anchor in the storm of progress. My greatest fear is that the progressives will truly win out and do away with gender altogether. Sexism is wrong, but so is that. It’s the extremes I stand against. We have to find a way to meet in the middle if we are to avoid tearing one another apart.

                My two cents, and worth even less.

    • katherinejlegry says:

      Saying women are “progressives” for not fitting into an archaic stereotype and imaginary gender role, vilifies progressives, and is a misuse of label. He is entitled to his “opinions” but they are not fact based or provable no matter what little studies and research he conducts to support his opinion. Anger at sexism is legitimate as it leads to action. You don’t have to be afraid of a loud voice. No one is threatening you with violence. This is an entirely civilized conversation without you pointing the finger to calm down. He wrote this post and can take or leave the responses. He has been given a vast treasury of fodder for his future work and may come back swinging harder, or he may soften and learn something of value. It is not up to you to squelch any voice so he can be the loudest and so you can feel more comfortable.

  51. I can honestly say that this is one of the best blog entries I have read in a while, hands-down.

  52. fluxforum says:

    Yes! A brilliant and methodical take-down of a tired, ubiquitous argument. Thank you.

    Flux: Encountering Adulthood

  53. ashokbhatia says:

    A thought provoking post.
    Allow me to share what is up in the corporate world:

  54. Miriam Joy says:

    This is the best Freshly Pressed post I’ve read in ages. As someone who grew up playing with Lego, detesting pink, and roleplaying (male) Tolkien characters — though, admittedly, there were very few female ones on offer — and climbing a lot of trees, I know what it’s like to have people say that’s not very ladylike, or try and steer me in the direction of something girlier. But you know what? Sometimes I climbed those trees in a miniskirt and flip-flops and I STILL got up there quicker than the boys I was hanging out with.

    I’m gonna try and reblog this post to my blog because I think my readers would appreciate it, but WordPress keeps glitching on me, so I might not succeed.

  55. Miriam Joy says:

    Reblogged this on Miriam Joy Writes and commented:
    This is one of the best Freshly Pressed posts I’ve ever read, dealing with the issues of gender and social conditioning and sexism, and I’d definitely prod you all in the direction of reading it. By responding to an idiotic article, it breaks down attitudes in our society that are entirely unacceptable and explains just why that is. Given that you’re all reading a blog that advertises itself as “writing, reading, feminism, fandom”, I’m guessing it’s a safe bet to think that gender issues interest you, so go check that out.
    I don’t often reblog, but on this occasion it was worth it. I’m also ill (even though I thought I’d recovered — my body hates me) and I don’t have the brain power to write something of my own, so this is all you’re getting. It’s worth it, though.

  56. Beef says:

    Reblogged this on Beef's Blog and commented:
    This just in: Delingpole is a bit of a tosser.

  57. Larissa Lee says:


  58. Great post, Foz. You are a truly gifted writer with the ability to brilliantly capture and distill the essential truths of gender roles and sexism.

  59. […] a shot of intellectual brilliance, clear critical thinking, and perfectly constructed argument. This utterly incredible, elegant yet rapier-sharp blog post (a response to an infuriating sexist who made the most inappropriate remarks I’ve ever heard […]

  60. […] particular, this amazingly well sourced article written by Foz Meadows at Shattersnipe which thoroughly dresses down James Delingpole and his […]

  61. […] Dear James Delingpole: You Are The Problem […]

  62. E says:

    I guess there must be something wrong with me then, or I must secretly be a man, because I don’t like or want children. I loved dolls as a kid, but not baby dolls, and as an adult, I have way more maternal instincts for pets than for children. I’m glad that this fusty old dinosaur isn’t someone I ever have to interact with.

    Should I even ask – what’s “fisked”? A misspelling of “fisted”? If that’s the case, he’s not only a dinosaur, but a gross old pervert as well.

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