Parents Hope Their Sons Are Geniuses and Their Daughters Aren't Fat


Another reason to feel bad for today’s little girls: one day, the straight ones will grow up to face a dating selection consisting of doted upon nightmare boys raised by parents who used the power of the internet to validate their sneaking suspicion that their lil’ All Star might be a genius. Meanwhile, the girls’ parents used Google to determine whether or not their little princesses were fat. If the children are the future, the future is fucked.

According to Google analytics examined by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz at the New York Times, parents are two and a half times more likely to Google “Is my son gifted?” than they were to search for “Is my daughter gifted?” This despite the fact that, across the country, young girls do better in school than boys. They weren’t particularly worried if their daughter was stupid, either; although parents tended to seek out confirmation that their son was the Alpha Boy, the One, the Luke Skywalker or the Harry Potter or the Jen from The Dark Crystal or whatever, they also were more likely to turn to Google to discover if their son was stupid, or slow, or behind in school than they were for their daughters. But they were still much more likely to think he was a genius.

Not that parents weren’t worried about their little sugar/spice/everything nice concoctions; Stephens-Davidowitz notes that when it comes to daughters, parents are quite concerned that they might be — Quelle horreur! — fat or ugly. In fact, people were twice as likely to search for “Is my daughter overweight” than “Is my son overweight,” despite the fact that childhood obesity is more prevalent in boys than it is in girls. They were also more likely to ask Google if their daughter was ugly, because that’s a thing that Google knows. (Googling “Is my daughter ugly?” should automatically send an alert out to local child protective services, tbh.)

Most depressingly, Stephens-Davidowitz noted that there was no correlation between geographic distribution and tendency for internet users to want their sons to be geniuses and their daughters to be beauty queens; both the reddest of the red states and the crunchiest of the granola states took to Google to ask the same things for their offspring.

As Amanda Marcotte notes at Slate, this might not just be because parents are Part Of The Problem; it may be because parents understand the reality of the world where we live. And parents, for the most part, just want what’s best for their kids; they want them to succeed, to be happy, and to be treated with respect by their peers. Men can achieve that by being intelligent. Women have an easier time if they’re hot. Overweight women, or women who aren’t conventionally attractive, are much less likely to be given a leg up in work (or in life) than women who are thin or conventionally attractive. Men, on the other hand, can get away with looking a lot sloppier. It’s just like that episode of Tyra where she walked around in a fat suit secretly filming people be mean to her.

There’s also the possibility that parents have a narcissistic stake in their children’s social success. Asking Google “Is my son gifted?” can easily be a query with its own projected self-assurance, and corresponding confirmation bias. Kids, after all, are the result of parents combining their genes, and there must be nothing more disturbing to a person convinced that they’re awesome than having to face their totally unremarkable DNA staring them back in the face, rocking their world with bland averageness, or worse, below averageness. Or maybe I’m just biased myself for having spent too much time dodging Brooklyn’s herd of McLaren strollers.

But this also hints that as much as self-proclaimed progressives wantto exist in a world where looks don’t matter to the point where they can be ignored, they still matter. None of us exist outside of the context of the society where we live, which is why the concept of being “color blind” or “gender blind” is false to the point of silliness. We’re not individual entities free of baggage; we are baggage. No matter who we are, and where we live, it’s impossible to escape the pervasive message that women are more valuable when they’re more decorative and men are more valuable when they’re the ones doing the thinking and deciding. And we don’t need Google to tell us that.

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