MIDWAY: Useless research

I like to think I’ve been pretty quiet about it, but all things being equal, I shall soon be in possession of a baby, whose gender I yet know not. “Why didn’t you find out?” people ask, and then, “But what colour are you going to paint your nursery?” Ah, the pink/blue conundrum.

Over my dead body would a daughter of mine be put in a pink nursery; unless, she looks like a boy, and I need to distinguish her in some way, otherwise she’ll pick up pre-linguistically

on how discomfited I am by the boy-girl issue and her gender-confidence will be negatively affected in later life. If that’s the case, she will be dressed in wall-to-wall pink until such time as she is old enough to assert her femininity herself, in some new, 21st-century way. Social conditioning is tenacious because it is so convenient. Like air travel, it is much easier to rail against than to eschew.

Apparently, though, this is nothing to do with social conditioning. Anya Hurlbert, professor of

visual neuroscience at Newcastle University, has just published research showing that there is “biological and not simply cultural substance to the old saying: pink for a girl and blue for a boy”.

Here’s what I want to know: when are we going to stop this idiocy? In the 1960s, there was a vogue in academia for investigating which race was the most intelligent. Hans Eysenck, at its vanguard, decided that the Chinese were the most intelligent, and black people the least. These results have been contested ever since; almost the whole of the 1970s was spent contesting them, the most compelling case against being that the IQ tests upon which the evidence was based were culturally biased.

What, likewise, is the point of proving that women prefer pink for biological reasons? Where does that leave us? In whose crazy imagination are we just about to return to a state of Neanderthalism where that information will come in handy?

This concentration on innate biological difference between (let’s be frank) oppressor and oppressed is so discredited in the racial arena, it’s functionally an academic taboo. How did we never manage to discredit the same impulse in the business of gender? Were we distracted by strawberries?