There have been some dramatic events in the United States this year. But you may have missed one of them.

The priorities of Joe Biden’s presidency became clearer on New Year’s Day when Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives, proposed new rules for the conduct of the House.

The new rules narrowly passed along party lines on 4 January. One requires “gender-neutral language” in the official House rules document.

From now on, terms such as “mother”, “father”, “son”, daughter”, “brother” and “sister” must go - and “parent”, “child” and “sibling” used instead. “Himself” and “herself” must be changed to “themself”(!).

Australian commentator Gerard Henderson says: “It’s easy to make fun of such rules and wonder what will become of the likes of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. However, this action is a strike at the ordinary language of Americans.”

It’s a strike against our language too. The push to eliminate any distinction between men and women has been going on for some time in Australia. Just not quite that far – for now.

Yet the Bible says right at the beginning that God created humans in two different forms: “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

The differences are not only in physical appearance and sexual function. Some years ago, a FamilyVoice resource paper noted:

“While mothers and fathers are both physical with their children, fathers are typically physical in different ways.  Fathers tend to play with their children, and mothers tend to care for them.  Generally speaking, fathers tickle more, they wrestle, and they throw their children in the air (while mothers warn, “Not so high!”).  Fathers are louder at play, while mothers are quieter.  Mothers cuddle babies, and fathers bounce them.  Fathers roughhouse, while mothers are gentle.  Fathers encourage competition; mothers encourage equity.  Fathers encourage independence while mothers encourage security…

“Go to any playground and listen to the parents there. Who is often encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, or throw just a little harder? Who is encouraging kids to be careful? Mothers tend toward caution while fathers often encourage kids to push the limits. Joined together, they keep each other in balance and help children remain safe while expanding their experiences and confidence.”

Some people claim that these differences are merely the result of social conditioning – the way boys and girls are treated by their families.

But scientists are increasingly finding that the differences are hard-wired in the brain. US psychology professor Diane Halpern reports:

“In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks. A much more recent study established that boys and girls 9 to 17 months old — an age when children show few if any signs of recognizing either their own or other children’s sex — nonetheless show marked differences in their preference for stereotypically male versus stereotypically female toys.”

Mothers and fathers have important differences, and their children ideally need both. Vive la difference!

Peter Downie - National Director

FamilyVoice Australia