No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? (BBC Two, Wednesday, 9pm) is a spurious bit of propaganda. Taking the premise that gender is shaped by environmental factors, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim goes into a primary school class and tries to stop the boys being boys and girls being girls.
Why? It’s a colossal waste of effort: teaching them to read and write might have been a better use of time. And whatever might be achieved at the age of eight is wiped away by puberty anyway. When does gender really kick in? When the genders start to show interest in each other. Suddenly, life becomes very biological indeed.
This looks like a nice school minding its own business, and the class has a lovely teacher who calls the boys “mates” and the girls “my lovely”. The programme is set on the Isle of Wight, where this is probably some sort of byelaw – but Dr Javid demands that it change. Now girls must learn how to do geometrics and boys to dance, which implies some belief that one must be advantaged and the other actively dumbed down if we are to make society fairer. Is Dr Javid not aware that later in development – when the hormones kick in – girls academically overtake boys?
Oh, who cares about that! This isn’t about the kids, it’s about adults feeling good about themselves – signalling to the other adults that they’re not sexist, they want a world of sugar cubes and rainbows, too. At the end of this depressing two-part series, which is probably a sign of the future, the children give an assembly in which they show what they have taught. “Girls can be mechanics,” says a girl, waving around a spanner like a truncheon. “Boys can cook,” says a boy in a ridiculous chef’s hat. The contradiction had me screaming at the TV: Dr Javid says gender is all about performance and yet here he is getting his children to perform at having no gender.
And it is just a performance. Kids will say and do anything for a reward. The moment your back is turned, they’ll go back to being whatever the heck they want to be. Take it from someone who has actually taught them.
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