Boys and girls are different

Boys and girls use playgrounds differently, researchers say. Girls use the swings and like to climb to the top of play structures and yell down at friends. Boys like to run around. This doesn’t seem to be a problem to me but the researchers are troubled.

The study, Children’s Use of Public Space: The Gendered World of the Playground, makes a link between boys’ dominance in the playground and their control over most of the play space, and equality gaps between men and women later in life.

. . . The study concludes that gender stereotypes rule in this realm: Boys tend to play in bigger groups and with more physicality, using the entire playground space broadly and caring less for the accoutrements of the playground; girls play in twos and threes, gathering atop the climbing structures, monopolizing the swings and preferring more complex play equipment.

The researcher wants to redesign playgrounds with more girl-attracting structures so girls will use playgrounds more and occupy the same square footage as boys. Why not require boys to swing and climb, while requiring girls to play tag?

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  1. From a military standpoint, the girls occupy the highground and control the ‘battlefield’ by reconnaissance and communications (yelling down) to the soldiers (boys). Oh well: looks like good training for later male/female relations….

  2. Of course, it’s also possible if (as suggested) the structures dominated more of the space, (i.e. more structures), then girls would be spread out further, making social contact harder and reducing their enjoyment.

    I’d have loved it, though. I spent most of my playground time exploring the structures, be they submarines, sailing ships, prisoner of war camps, or spaceships. The more structures the better…

  3. Doug Purdie says:

    Or maybe even… I don’t know – just let them play?!

  4. Shut up Doug, there are important issues being discussed here.

  5. Erin O’Connor expressed a similar amount of concern over similar playground trends in an old post of hers. The difference – she was JOKING.

  6. David Jacobs says:

    The research looks right to me. When I drop my 4yr old off at school I witness pretty much what the “researcher” found. Uh, So what? Kids have been playing this way for years and years and society seems to be holding up just fine.
    We need fewer people “researching” things and more people doing something actually usefull.

  7. No, no, don’t you understand?!???

    THERE ARE NO INNATE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOYS AND GIRLS!!! Any differences we see them exhibiting are learned behaviors, and we must help them unlearn them!!! Ve vill force dem if necessary!

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    How can I get paid to do one of these studies?
    5K a page sounds about right. Oh, and with expenses.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    $5K/page if you’d like, Walter, but you’re selling yourself shot on such an important matter. My goal is to revisit the study 20 years back by the feminist who got $100K or so over two years to examine the photo spreads in Playboy and Penthouse in order to determine whether women were presented as sexual objects.

    Seems to me an updated study is due. I’m of course glad to oblige. ‘Course, with inflation and all, I figure my time is worth about $300K over the next two years.

  10. I object to the _researcher’_ inherent gender bias. (No, really!) So boys and girls play differently? We needed a study to discover this? BUT–who says that the boys’ way to play is inherently superior to the girls’? Couldn’t each sex just have different innate preferences?

    On a practical note, “girl-attracting structures” will eat up space to run and play. Of course, the boys will be the ones primarily harmed by that, and that, it seems, is just fine. Anything for gender neutrality (sarcasm intended).

    If this catches on, I forecast a wave of new, private, all-boys’ schools.

  11. Julia writes, BUT–who says that the boys’ way to play is inherently superior to the girls’?

    Exactly. I’ll bet that if the girls were running around and the boys were on the play structures, the researchers would have concluded that boys are “higher up”, on the playground as in life. This isn’t scholarly research, or any type of research – it’s someone with an agenda interpreting data to comply with the conclusions they’ve already drawn.

  12. Gosh, I played tag quite a bit as a kid, and so did all the other girls. I guess somebody forgot to tell us we weren’t supposed to. We did Red Rover and Freezing Statues too.

  13. Ken Summers says:

    Tag has been banned in some schools, for fear of hurting the self-esteem of “it”.

    No, I’m not kidding.

  14. John from OK says:

    We used to play “smear the q***r”. Not much to analyze there. Of course to us, “gay” meant “happy” and that was all we knew about it. Girls played a game called “4-square”. Subtle right-wing social conditioning, perhaps?

    When I was 8, boys played kickball and the girls were cheerleaders. The next year they integrated our kickball teams. Girls tended to do cartwheels in the outfield rather than make any diving catches. This was in Sacramento, which is pretty liberal today. Must be a post-traumatic reaction to all those botched cartwheels.

  15. Last summer I saw a girls Little League game here in Kirkland. The team had coaches, support from their parents (especially Dads), fine uniforms, and played on a beautiful field. Most looked fit and in good condition for the game.

    At the risk of being even more politically incorrect than usual, I have to say that I did not think most of the girls cared much for the game, though a few did. Instead they seemed to be gamely trying to please their parents. For one thing, about half were not skilled or strong enough to take a regular swing at the ball and had to bunt when they came up to bat.

    The girs were–and here I commit a sin that would cost me tenure at most universities–much more enthusiastic about, and much better at, the group cheers they had worked out.

    (Please don’t report me to the PC police.)

  16. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And they ran like …girls!!!

    Thank God.

  17. Anyone for kiss-chasey? I used to run like hell to get away from those girls in grades 2 and 3.

  18. Jack Tanner says:

    Maybe the girls at that age are more coordinated and physically advanced and like the equipment more.

    For Jim Miller I coach pee wee teams and there have been girls on all the teams and they’re great. I wish there were more. They actually listen and spend way less time jumping on top of each other and actually wait their turn in line during practice. They don’t tend to run off the field during the middle of the game when the train goes by. My experience has been that parents are a lot less likely to have girls play if they’re not interested than they are with boys.

  19. There’s a simple solution to this problem. Sex-segregated schools. This way, girls’ fragile psychey will not be harmed by the boy’s dominating play.
    And please read this with a tongue in your cheek.

  20. Terry Sandifer says:

    the boys will not want to hurt the girls therefore the girls will be free on the field or court


  1. Ah, for the olden days.

    THE PRE-SHOW COUNTDOWN: I’ve just remembered how much I dislike exercising. I’ve started going to a gym — bought a one-year membership ‘n everything — and I really hate it. Exercise is boring. It’s difficult to read on a treadmill…