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Mommies, Daddies, Families

Shlomo's picture


Anne Dalke's picture

Changing thoughts?

I read this with a smiling face and light heart; I'm just loving it that you and so many of your classmates are finding ways to spread the words we are reading here to younger audiences; be sure to check out some of the other illustrated manuals, created by your colleagues and now available on-line.

I'm also totally surprised by what you've done; I think your project is delightful, and very engaging visually; I think it does the work you want it to do. And/but! it's not @ all what I expected, given your thoughts on Roughgarden a month ago; then you reported that you bothered, distrustful, and upset; that you couldn't see "the point of knowing about fish that change sex frequently," and that you couldn't see how that information, however fascinating, really applied to human gender and sexuality ( makes a similar point in her current project, which questions the wisdom of "anthropomorphising animals to contribute to a conversation about human" behavior).

A month ago, you wrote that you were "forced to conclude that I dislike Evolution's Rainbow in large part because of how hard it tries to offer an alternative to the generally accepted model....we need to learn the widely accepted model before delving into the mess....I would benefit more from learning and discussing the mainstream views before turning to Roughgarden."

See why I'm puzzled? Why are you now inviting children to begin their understanding of the natural world w/ Roughgarden's model? I'm curious to know what's been going on to shift your thinking in this direction....(don't get me wrong! I affirm the direction!...and/but now I want to understand better how ideas get changed....)

At the end of your last paper, you asked about the relation between theory and activism; I guess that's the question I'm asking you back now, about the relation between what you think, theoretically, and the action you are taking here in creating a web page to teach children about diverse families. I'm eager, in other words, to hear the back-story here....

Shlomo's picture

The Back-Story


I'll try to give you and any other potential readers an understanding of what I was thinking.  My thoughts on Roughgarden have not changed, although they may have become less intense.  In short, I think that my interpretation of Roughgarden really depends on the use to which her work is being put, and on the context in which it is being read or shared.

So, when children are young--too young to learn the generally accepted biological model of sex and sexuality--I think the anthropomorphization of beloved animals, using zoologically sound facts, is a really useful tool.  Without delving into the why or the how, such an approach teaches children to be accepting of sex and sexuality differences around them.  Call it the Seuss-ian approach.

However, in a collegiate environment, where we all know sex and sexuality basics, and where almost everyone in the classroom comes from a pretty liberal, accepting background, I don't think we need anthropomorphization to understand and practice acceptance.  Instead, I think we need to delve into studies of human sex and sexuality.

I should also add that I hope I am not inviting children to accept Roughgarden's model.  I used her book as a starting place, not a destination (I don't think I made that clear enough in my original comment explanation).  So, to better clarify: my book is not trying to disprove, diminish, or alter Darwin's theory of natural selection.  My book is attempting to teach the acceptance and understanding of diversity.

All of this being said, writing this did enable me to explore Roughgarden's book more deeply, and while my original statement about distrusting her argument still holds, I did gain more respect and understanding for her work.



Shlomo's picture

Please Read

Dear Friends,

Due to some picture scanning and formatting issues, my web event snuck in just in time.  However, I didn't have time to compose this brief message for you.  My apologies, and here is what I want you to know:

This web event is meant to serve as a sort of adaptation of Joan Roughgarden's Evolution's Rainbow for children.  More specifically, I want this web event to show children some snapshots of the diversity found in nature.  It is my hope that these snapshots will help children understand how diverse the world is, and how diverse humans are, and the fact that human diversity is not a bad thing.

I also wanted to include in this web event the idea we have discussed in class that perhaps there is no such thing as normality.  It's a deeply difficult question to answer, and it may not mean a lot to children.  However, I hope that my statement that "There is no such thing as a normal family" may at least make children think about normality and its flaws.

A note on the representation of genders here: I drew females exactly the same as I drew males (in most cases), except for the eyelashes and lipstick the females have.  Obviously, these representations are not perfect, and they bring with them some sexist baggage.  But I wanted children to have an easy way to differentiate by simply looking at the animals (as opposed to reading "male" or "female" above each one, which I think would distract from the simplicity of the scheme).

I hope you enjoy the ideas presented above, and my feeble but heartfelt attempts at artwork.  Thanks for reading.



Works Cited

Roughgarden, Joan.  Evolution's Rainbow.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009.  Print.