Weird Science 

Toddler weighs in on BYU gender experiments.

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A BYU professor studied how 18 toddlers age 18 months to 2 years respond to gender stereotypical behavior. He found that 2-year-olds paid closer attention when the stereotypes were violated'when women shaved and put on ties or men applied lipstick and painted their nails.

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'The Salt Lake Tribune, June 14, 2007

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Outraged parents have been barraging Brigham Young University with complaints about recent experiments in which toddlers were exposed to videos of men and women engaged in activities of a transgender nature.

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An e-mail from Elna in Orem is typical: “It’s bad enough to have sick and depraved drag shows (my husband and me saw one of these shows by mistake in Vegas, and I wanted to puke), but to subject innocent babies to women shaving'and what parts of their bodies were they shaving, may I ask, besides normal parts like legs, armpits and upper lips? And to show little kids movies of men wearing lipstick and toenail polish? Well, it is just totally disgusting.nn

A lot of traditional scientists are scratching their heads about the experiments down at BYU. Dr. Edgar Van Pelt, a developmental psychologist at the Locke Institute in London, told City Weekly that he can’t figure out what the professor at BYU was trying to prove.

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“Of course toddlers will pay more attention to something they haven’t seen before. You don’t need to show kids pictures of men acting like women or women acting like men to come to that conclusion. From the remarks of one of the researchers, I suspect there was a different agenda.

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“In the newspaper article, someone named Professor Flom was quoted as saying, ‘Holy cow, our 2-year-old is picking up on these subtleties. Imagine what else they’re picking up on.’ First of all, what is subtle about a woman shaving her face? Or a man putting on lipstick?

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“But the main point is that the professor is issuing a warning to parents: Dad, don’t paint your toenails. Mom, don’t shave anything on your body but your legs front of the children. You don’t want your kids to grow up as weird cross-dressers or drag queens. Flom’s study is a not so subtle sermon on so-called traditional family values masquerading as science.nn

City Weekly thinks Dr. Van Pelt is perhaps a little hard on poor Professor Flom. In the interest of fairness, we wanted to get a different perspective on the matter and thought the best person to consult would be one of the toddlers who participated in the gender-stereotype study.

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We got in touch with Jared Dell Pratt, an engaging lad who just celebrated his second birthday. Somewhat plump (still carrying some baby fat), Jared was wearing stylish open-toed sandals, the nails on his chubby toes painted red.

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City Weekly: Tell us how you got involved in Professor’s Flom’s gender-stereotype experiment.

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Jared: A lot of people think my mom pushed me into it. But I saw something on the bulletin board at my daycare center about the study and, right away, it struck me as an intriguing project.

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CW: We couldn’t help noticing your painted toenails. And if you don’t mind our asking, are you wearing just a touch of lip gloss?

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Jared: None of your beeswax. And so what if I am? Are you with the gender police? Or are you just a captive of our conformist sexist society that can’t see beyond gender stereotypes? It’s all relative, man. Back in the Renaissance, males wore all sorts of things to make themselves look good, including lip gloss, blush and nail polish. Codpieces, too.

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CW: Did you wear lip gloss and paint your nails before you met Professor Flom and saw those videos?

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Jared: Only in the privacy of my room. Professor Flom gave me the courage to be who I am.

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CW: Have any of the other toddlers started to wear lip gloss or nail polish? And what about the girls? Are they shaving?

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Jared: You’re coming from the simplistic psychological premise of monkey see, monkey do. I’m not a monkey. I might be only 3 feet tall, but I’m a real man, despite the lip gloss and nail polish.

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CW: Getting back to the Renaissance, is that a codpiece you’re wearing?

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Jared: No, it’s my diaper, Mr. Gender-stereotype Brain. This interview is over. I’m outta here.

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D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.

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