People who believe that small children are proof that gender roles are natural are really on a whole other level.

A young child, using words she learned purely

by mimicking

the way others speak: I want to be a mommy when I grow up.

Y’all absolute Mensa candidates: Wow. This child is a blank slate. Completely unaffected by society. Guess lady-brains truly are the only explanation here, science deniers. 

Babies cry with an accent within a day of being born, and can even observe sounds while they’re still in the womb. There’s no stage of life where people aren’t already affected by socialisation, everyone who believes that nature can truly be separated from nurture is naive as fuck. 

I absolutely love this post just because of the “y’all absolute mensa candidates” at the top.

So there’s this part of the mammalian brain called the neocortex. It’s the part of the mammalian brain which is basically a blank slate that just process input, figures out and predicts patterns from that input, and suborns autonomic processes to higher-level abstract patterns it works out from all that data. (On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins, excellent neuroscience book, I highly recommend it). And humanity’s whole Thing is that our neocortex has become massively oversized and completely taken over our brain, to the point where it directs the action of the rest of the brain rather than the other way around like in other mammals. That’s basically our whole schtick as a species, being run by this massive blank-slate pattern matching machine rather than preprogrammed instincts.

Other mammals are instincts with some learning thrown on top, but humans are basically only learning, with some residual instincts to make sure we don’t fuck up too bad. That’s one of the reasons why humans take so much longer to develop motor skills than other species, because our brain has usurped the typical mammalian in-born neural motor programming with a blank slate that has to just like … figure that shit out on it’s own. Human babies can’t even see properly when they’re first born, even though they have perfectly functioning eyes, because our brain replaced all that silly mammalian visual recognition software with the neurological equivalent of a blank sheet of paper, a pencil, a shrug, and “you’ll figure it out, go get ‘em tiger”.

And that’s a huge advantage! Evolution can only adapt a species really, really slowly, to changing conditions over millions of years. Typical mammalian neocortices are a fantastic patch on that which allow adaptation over the course of a creature’s lifetime, but they don’t allow for that adaptation to be passed on, and it’s still just a patch on the greater impetus of evolved instincts. But humans. Ohohohoh. Humans are nothing but adaptation. Our ability to mimic and pass on behavior means that we don’t need a lot of those built up evolutionary behaviors which change so slowly, because we just can figure that shit out by mimicry and raw learning anyway. So we just ditched most of it and a lot of what’s left now comes with a “you can learn to override this if you need to” feature. It’s a way, way more flexible and adaptable system than that old clunky “being a bunch of preprogrammed mental software” thing other mammals use.

So the idea that you can assume anything about humans’ intrinsic instincts by looking at their behavior when young is just ridiculous. From the moment we’re born we are tiny pattern matching machines, intaking and copying everything around us, because we literally do not have enough instinct left as a species to exist without pattern matching other’s behavior. We can’t even fucking see without having to learn it from scratch. But yeah, I’m sure intrinsic gendered social skills and housecare aptitude made the evolutionary cut when fucking sight and walking got the axe.


Simon, I’m struggling with depression and would like to tidy my apartment since cleaning is one of the things that really helps me feel like I’ve been productive — do you have any tips for cleaning thoroughly and efficiently?


Run around the room in a timed way, collecting everything out of ace. Pile it in the center of the room. Then make a game of putting the things away in groups. I mean it. Make a game. Give yourself rewards. Put on music. Sing and dance. And be very dedicated to throwing out or giving away anything you haven’t used or looked at in over a year. Have a box at the ready for all those things. Dust. It improves a sense of cleanliness. Do the floors last.

I’ve seen a contemporary woodcut that had a woman in church just breastfeeding as if it was normal, and it wasn’t the focus of the picture, just part of what was there. Judging by the art style, it’s not from before your time. Do you know when the taboo started against public breast-feeding? What was it like, in its early stages?

It was different along social classes, but it began with the upwardly mobile middle class. Around the beginning of the Edwardian. Became less of a mark of maternal, linkage with the holy Madonna and became a mark of the lower classes who had to feed their chudren bodily and breech propriety, rather than seclude themselves and hire nannies or wet nurses.

Until the 1700’s it was considered a mother’s duty, and it would simply have been more important that the child be present than to worry about an exposed breast, though most women would have had a shawl to cover the baby.not merely to preserve modesty, but also to hide the baby from the health risks of others and so on.

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