Allow me to explain. Boys, you see, all dream of being baseball players. The chances of any given boy making the Majors are, effectively, the same as any given girl’s chances of becoming a Disney princess. The difference is, boys get a chance to learn this at a young age. It’s why they succeed.
Some boys don’t make it out of tee ball. By the time they’re five years old, then, they realize that athletics aren’t their thing. They turn their focus to their strong suits — math, Dungeons and Dragons, whatever — and go away happy (or whatever passes for happy for D&D dorks. Point is, they were undoubtedly pushed into tee ball by their Dads anyway).
Some boys top out in Little League. This is the level that separates the talented from the hardworking from the coasters. Boys who top out here learn that natural talent varies wildly in any given population, and that hard work can overcome some — but not all — inherited disadvantages. Some boys quit with a sigh of relief — they suspected they weren’t that good, weren’t having that much fun anyway, and now it’s ok, because how in the hell are they supposed to compete with a fifth grader who shaves?
High school is next. Here you learn that even the natural athletes have to work hard. No amount of hard work will get you over the minimum talent threshold to compete at this level, and only the insanely naturally gifted can compete here without a lot of hard work. Then college, where every player is insanely naturally talented. And then maybe, after all that, the Minor Leagues…. where everyone is one-in-a-million and only the top 1% advance.
See the difference? Unlike “princess,” “ballplayer” has a set of clearly defined, measurable skills that can be tested. And back in the Jurassic, pretty much every boy tested his, whether he wanted to or not. You learn a lot about yourself getting struck out, or tackled out of your cleats, or taken to the hoop, or whatever you call getting beaten to the goal in soccer (“prancing foppishly,” I think). You learn it’s not the end of the world. You learn you have different skills. You learn that wanting something is not the same as getting it, no matter how hard you want.
Princesses never learn this. Princesses learn something much, much worse – that if you can’t be a princess, it’s somebody else’s fault.
Jack wants to be a ballplayer, but he’s got no arm and can’t hit a curve. He’s got no natural aptitude for it, and if he doesn’t figure that out on his own — some kids have a preternatural ability to endure public humiliation — his coach will eventually take him aside and explain it to him. Coach will kindly but firmly point Jack to the Model UN club. Coaches are good at that kind of thing; they get lots of practice.
Jill doesn’t want to be an engineer, but after 50 years of feminism, her mommy is convinced Jill should be one. So Jill struggles in math class. She’s got no natural aptitude for it… but wait, that can’t be right! There’s no such thing as “natural aptitude” for academics! If Jill’s no good at calculus, doesn’t get fired up by solving quadratics, and never wanted to build bridges in the first place, it’s Patriarchy keeping her down. No teacher will ever take Jill aside and explain to her that it’s ok not to be so great at math, that calculus is the mental equivalent of being able to hit a curve — it weeds out most of us — because it’s the end of that teacher’s world if she does. So she doesn’t, and… well, you know the rest.
Mandatory Little League. It would solve most of America’s problems at the root.