Are conceptual willies destroying our planet? An 8-year-old’s perspective.

The conceptual penis entered our lives on a rainy Saturday morning, via Twitter. I don’t think any penis has ever made me laugh so much. This is a hilarious academic hoax; deliciously absurd. It presents the penis as a social construction responsible for, among other things, global warming.

What is worrying is that the paper, written as a parody, was approved – indeed, highly praised – by two academic reviewers and accepted for publication in the journal Cogent – Social Sciences.

As the authors point out, this hoax highlights a fundamental problem with how certain journals ensure (or fail to ensure, as the case may be) quality through peer review. Like the authors, I also think that, although hoax papers have been accepted for publication in other disciplines,  the current biases driving research in gender studies provide fertile ground for this kind of hoax to work.

What is all this to do with parenting? This hoax also made me realise that simply raising my children not to accept ready-presented truths and imposed absolutes – something to which they are exposed every day at their faith school – is not enough. I want my children to stop and think whether something makes sense or not, regardless of whether it is fashionable, publicly endorsed, or consistent with what they already believe or would like to believe.

I want them NOT to be like the reviewers who accepted this paper.

 So I decided to ask my 8-year-old daughter, Arianne, to review the paper with an open mind. Of course I had to adapt it a little and remove the jargon. But this was partly the point of it.  What would an 8-year-old with no political biases make of the basic ideas in the paper, once all the impressive jargon was removed?

What Arianne came up with was the illustration and comments below. Did this partly backfire? Is an 8-year-old’s take on this informative in any way? At least I was glad to see that she did keep an open mind and didn’t rush to conclusions. What more could a parent ask for?

The Willy

Are conceptual willies destroying our planet?

Adapted from

Lindsay, J. & Boyle, P. (2017). The conceptual penis as a social construct.  Cogent Social Sciences, 3: 1330439. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1330439

by the Agnostic Parent

under the terms of the  Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 licence.

Willies exist, but having a willy does not mean you are a boy. Remember that some people who see themselves as women may also have willies.

So it is better to think of a willy not as an organ that boys have, but as an idea that boys and men show off about.

We call this the ‘idea of a willy’, or ‘the conceptual willy’ or The Willy. As you will see below, The Willy is a poisonous idea that is destroying the world.

The conceptual willy. You have learnt so far that the willy is the organ men have to wee and have babies with. Well, this is what men and scientists want us to believe. But think again! What about men who cannot have babies, or whose willies are damaged, or are not, actually, men?

So, forget the rule:

A willy is the organ that males have.

Remember instead:

The willy has nothing to do with being a boy or a girl.

But The Willy is all about the Power of stupid evil men.

Rude men and their Willies. Many men who think they are better men than others, you know the type, a bit like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, or Donald Trump I suppose, powerful and full of themselves and rude to women, think that having a willy is a big deal. And remember: this is not even a real willy we are talking about. It is the idea. The Willy.

Think, for example, about men competing about who has the biggest willy or how far they can pee. As if their willy was such a big deal! The same with men who sit with their legs apart on buses and trains. Really rude behaviour. Their excuse is that they need to sit with their legs wide apart so that their willies and goolies don’t get squashed, but really what they want to do is boss everyone around. Just because of this Willy = ‘I am a man’ idea.

The Willy and global warming. But the real problem is not that people cannot find a seat on the bus because of these rude men and their conceptual willies. The biggest problem is global warming. You have learnt about this at school (the earth getting warmer part, not the willy part). Now it is time to learn about the willy part. It is The Willy idea again!

These men who brag about their willies and think that the more willy you have, the more man you are, are destroying our planet! Not just because they are arrogant and rude, but because that ‘the willy makes the man’ idea encourages people to use technologies that damage the environment and destroy Nature. Especially if you think of Nature as a woman.

Conclusion. So, how do we make the world a better place? If we stop thinking that the willy is such a big deal, stop having this dangerous idea that The Willy = The Powerful Man, then we may start being gentler and kinder about poor people, gay people, the environment etc.

Reviewer’s comments

  1. First, this idea that having a willy doesn’t mean you are a boy. I can sort of see why they are saying that. I mean, most of the time, if you have a willy, you are a boy, this is most of the population. But then this is not always true, as they said. Let’s say there were no boys or girls, just people, and then we decided that we would call people with blond hair ‘boys’ and people with dark hair ‘girls’, but this is because we decided. It’s a bit the same with willies. I can see that.
  2. About men who boss everyone around. I can see it may have to do with willies, but they may just do it anyway. It’s true that sometimes because they’ve got one they go around and show off to people who don’t have them.
  3. About the men who sit with their legs wide apart. I don’t agree this has to do with willies. A boy in my class sits like that in P.E., but he says it is because his bum is uncomfortable. So it’s not always about willies.
  4. Why do they call them ‘willies’ anyway? ‘Penis’ would be more correct. (OK, the original did say ‘penis’ – point taken).
  5. About the global warming: I cannot see the connection at all. This idea is random. Where did it come from? It’s not stupid, exactly, but it’s weird. It’s not well thought. Unless they thought too deep about it, so deep that no one else can figure out what this has to do with willies. 
  6. I can sort of see why all this willy idea has to do with gay people. Some people think it is wrong to be gay. Someone with a willy may think gays are losers. They are wrong. But if the willy was not such a big deal, maybe people could love anyone they wanted, because it wouldn’t matter if they have a willy or not. They are just people, and that’s fine. It would be less fine if someone fell in love with a penguin, for example. Or maybe not, even loving penguins should be okay.
  7. By the way, Barbie’s boyfriend doesn’t have a willy. Does this matter in this research?

Reviewer’s decision.

I wouldn’t publish this paper. The beginning maybe, but I wouldn’t publish the last bit about the environment. It’s come out of nowhere. I would ask them to go and think about it.

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