The notion of gender neutrality seems as ridiculous to me as the notion of being color-blind in regards to race. There are physiological and biological characteristics that differentiate male and female. What is the point in trying to erase these through culture?
U.K. Couple Raise Gender Neutral Child
Swedish Couple Keep Child's Gender Secret
If gender is an indelible aspect of a person's identity, then any attempts to "erase" it (which is not what they're doing, by the way) would automatically fail, right?
From reading these articles it did seem to me that they were trying to erase gender. I think that's what the point of hiding their children's genders from others was. I get the impression, then, that differences are "bad" and sameness is "good," which I definitely disagree with. You are right in that attempting to culturally change biological inevitability would fail. That is why we have a LGBTQ community and why some of them suffer so much from our society.
Maybe it depends on how you define gender, as a social construct or as a person's "inner" sexual identity. It seems these 2 sets of parents were trying to remove the influence of the former on the development of the latter.
If most boys will irrepressibly become men, and girls women, then why the importance of societal reinforcement? A lot of that gender reinforcement just puts kids into a box.
I think you may be misunderstanding me. I don't want children to be put in a box or be forced to ascribe to a specific set of social constructs. I think that exploring gender and crossing those boundaries is part of exemplary parenting. I just feel like these parents are trying to create a culture of sameness where differences don't matter. Yet differences do matter, they are what defines us as individuals. Instead of hiding from them, they should be explored and celebrated. It's the hiding of these children's gender that is what bothers me.
You might be right (it's hard to know all of the motivations of these parents from a short news article).
They want their children to like things because they actually do, not because society says they have to because they are boy and girl.
It seems like a good idea to me, to not make your kids act like "good little girls or boys" all the time - giving them the idea that gender has nothing to do with goodness or specialness or their worth as a human. I don't think its really possible to be "gender neutral" - but neutrality is an attitude we adopt to let our kids make their own choices and come up with the gender decisions in various areas of life that suit themselves. In other words, this way we are not going to make a judgment on them depending on whether they like trucks or dolls etc. It seems this way we free them up to just get on with life and not worry so much about whether they are living up to gender expectations. Not having gender expectations is the way I see it. Its a good thing! People are so bothered by other people's gender choices, especially their relatives - and that seems so ridiculous to me.
I'm not advocating for gender stereotypes, I just think the idea of hiding your child's gender from society is bizarre and potentially psychologically harmful. David Reimer is a prime example. He had a botched circumcision that destroyed his penis and he was raised as a girl by his parents. Even though he was raised as a girl he never identified as female and began living as a male in his teens. He eventually committed suicide after years of depression. Children should not be limited by their gender, but there should be nothing wrong with celebrating their gender either. My oldest son's favorite color is pink, he had a baby doll that he cared for when he was younger, and he is very emotionally expressive. I don't confine him to stereotypes but I don't try to pretend he isn't a boy, either.
I think this was a case of parents forcing a child to adhere to a false gender identity, not a matter of ignoring or downplaying it.
Yes, they were completely forcing their child to adhere to a false gender identity as you say. For me, logic follows that denying there is a difference in genders may end up being just as tragic. Only time will tell, really, as there is little to no empirical research done on this subject.
Maybe, although the Magician's post above about herself and her boyfriend seem to suggest a gender-neutral upbringing is fine. Although as mega1 says, it's also near impossible to avoid the influence of social conditioning, either.
There is a way to raise children without gender stereotypes while not denying the individuality of gender. As Magician states, she is "100% female." Obviously she has a definition of female and ascribes to her own set of gender standards.
I think the idea is to let the kid make his or her own choices and not be confined by society's expectations of how he or she should behave.
There are some true gender differences, but a lot of them are defined by culture. For example, in Victorian times little boys were dressed in pink and little girls in blue because blue was regarded as more "delicate" than pink. Today, you can hardly find a girls' outfit that doesn't have pink on it somewhere.
Personally, I think this sort of color coding is ridiculous. If a boy likes pink and purple, he should be able to wear it without being called gay or girly. (The fact that "gay" and "girly" are considered to be insults is a rant for another day.) Same with toys, activities, interests, and other more serious issues. Hardly any adults truly conform 100% to society's gender expectations, so why do so many parents freak out if a little boy wants to play with dolls or a little girl likes Star Wars? It's idiotic!
I had to laugh at the color-coding. I completely agree. My oldest son's favorite color is pink and I'm hard-pressed to find anything for boys with pink in it at all. All the pink things are *too* girly and the boy things he likes aren't pink enough. Maybe they should have a girl aisle, a boy aisle, and a "crossover" aisle with toys/clothes for both lol.
Do you know about the girl who liked star wars?
Long story short, Katie is a Star Wars fan. When she was six or seven years old, her classmates teased her for having a Star Wars lunch box, because "Star Wars is for boys." Her mom posts the story to her blog, and the internets come to the rescue. People from all over the world sent Katie messages of love and support, mailed her Star Wars-themed gifts, and to top it off, Katie was invited to a premiere event for the Clone Wars cartoon series, where she met some of the cast.
Sometimes, the world gets better.
Hmm. I'm not quite sure what you're getting at, but I was raised very gender neutral (I'm 18) and personally, I'm glad I was raised the way I was. I wasn't taught to act a specific way that'd be "acceptable" for my sex, and instead got to focus my time and energy on what I felt would be best for me and what would help me become the best I could be.
Of course there are different biological and physiological factors that are ultimately different between men and women, but isn't gender a state of mind whilst sex is what you physically are? I'm 100% aware I'm female and I'm just dandy with that, but when it comes to thinking and rationalizing, I don't classify myself as female or male, simply human
PS: As a child I was purchased all the toys I could imagine from both ends of the spectrum (toy trucks to barbie doll houses to video games), and I always chose the trucks and video games (adventure games) over girly toys. Same with clothes - I was a tomboy through and through. Just my preference
this confirms what I knew - and thanks for posting your thoughts, because you would know! We're all humans, you would think that goes without saying, but for some reason it doesn't always!
Brain research is now showing how different the male and female brain develops and learns. I think it is given that there are differences between girls and boys and really enjoy the differences...
Mega1, it sure doesn't for some reason! I guess since everything is just one big gray area, there's always a need to try and clarify or classify things more than they already can be.
Additionally, I have a very good friend (ex boyfriend actually) who was raised quite gender neutral himself as an only child. He was kept from most of the outside world because his mother was afraid of everything, and she gave him toys and games and clothes etc. etc. of both "girl" and "boy" specifics. He (now 22 and forced to live outside of his box, haha) turned out quite different than I, despite being raised in similar fashions - he's very much into love and romance, easy to cry, enjoys domestic work, and prefers the idea of settling down and having children. Though he's got many feminine characteristics and not afraid to show his heart, he's still very strong (a US Marine)! It was quite interesting when we together and our friends would come over... they'd assume the comics and video games were his while the romance novels and Disney memorabilia were mine, but it was the other way around! He was certainly the most wonderful boyfriend, something right out of the movies
Kellyward, I definitely think the male and female brain develops and learns to some sort of extent. I mean think about it, men and women have different chemical levels in our bodies and brains that make us more feminine or masculine, so I have no doubt that'd affect the brains thinking and developmental process
here's an interesting thought: If you see a baby and no one tells you, so you don't really know, whether its a girl or boy - will you somehow know which sex it is? and how much difference is that going to make in how you hold it, talk to it, play, smile, etc.? I have seen people do some pretty interesting gender-specific things with babies, once they know which sex. So . . . it makes a big difference. Culturally, we are going to lay our expectations on that baby! Does this have something to do with the fact that so many females in our society (Western/American)have such low self-esteem? I believe, sincerely, that it does. And we should at least be thinking about this when we are around babies and children!
We do lay our expectations on our children and we run the risk of "normalizing" something that may not be normal for them. Regarding "color blind;" children who have an early start in a diverse environment do not see race as a difference any more than height, or hair color. A "color blind" society is free of racism. Isn't that a good thing?
I don't mean to advocate for racism. What I meant is that by making a "color blind" society you are attempting to erase the differences between all peoples. Equal does not mean the same. It means, to me, that all people have equal intrinsic value. Men and women complement each other, in many ways, as do all the races of the world. These differences should be celebrated rather than "hidden" in a misguided attempt to erase individuality.
They do compliment each other, but if you think about it, the reason this is so is because society raised men and women to be the way that they are. It's possible for them to still compliment each other even in a gender neutral environment. It might take longer though - it wont show much as children. After all, women will always will be women and men will always be men
From the time they were babies, I aimed to raise my three kids as "people first", letting their genders take care of themselves later; when Nature tends to send kids of both genders off in the direction of their own sex. The only gender-related thing I did was aim to help each of them (two sons and a daughter) like whatever gender happened to be theirs. When you work to build the person first, that person stays and the child builds upon who/what he is as he goes on to branch off once he's closer to adolescence. If he were to branch off in a direction other than the gender he was born with (in other words, not turn out to be heterosexual), it wouldn't matter all that much, because he's already got the "well established "person-first" that he's been since early childhood. That's got to be better than boxing a child in with preconceived notions about gender, only to discover he "branches off" in a whole other direction.
I don't think we should be blind to what people are (race or gender). I think everyone ought to like what he is, and others should like him for what he is. I do think that when it comes down to it, the most important thing about anyone is that "person first" that everyone ought to be. I don't think a person can really learn to be a man, a woman, or anyone else if a whole lot of time and effort and respect haven't gone into building that "person-first".
Love what you've said here Lisa. I can't really add anymore, I agree with you completely.
Thanks, although I do some one point that I think we see differently . I don't really see men and women as complementing one another. In my own kids, I've always seen three people who are very much the same kind of people (even though they, obviously, have their own personalities too). When I've read books (you know the most famous one, so I won't mention the name of it here) about "how women think" and "communicate" and how men do, I've found that I most often (with some exception) fall under the "how men are" category, and my kids' father most often fell under the "women's list". I've seen the same kind of thing in other people, so with the exception of the sex aspect of complementing each other; I don't really see that in people's thinking, personalities, or abilities.
I see a conflict between a lot of men and women, with "everybody being the same" in some people's views, but with "certain other people" not wanting to be "the same" and instead wanting to be "The Big Cheese"
The only way I ever see complementing taking place is if/when a woman just says, "OK. I'll be the little cheese, the "assistant cheese" - and you be the big cheese". Then "complenting" appears to be taking place, but it's not if a woman really doesn't want to happily be "littler cheese". I see that more in people of my generation. I don't see the same kind of expecting women to always be the "little cheese" going on with young men or women or my kids' generation.
I often tell this story about my oldest son - he was 3 and had just started to pre-school. One day several of the neighborhood kids came over to play in our yard and he came running in to ask for 4 more juice pops - he said "there's 3 kids and a girl out there!" Not only had he done his first math addition problem, but he had determined that boys are kids, girls are not!! He didn't seem to think boys were better, just recognized the difference. I was shocked and realized that already after only a couple weeks of pre-school he was accepting gender-bias as part of life. No big deal. He played almost exclusively with the boys and this one girl who didn't act very girly. The other girls he would watch from a distance, as if they were a different species. I thought it was funny then, but now I know it really isn't. It is very hard to shield children against the gender bias that is all over the place out there - but in the home you can definitely develop attitudes about being non-judgmental.
I get the point of what they are trying to do but might not trying to hide a child's gender be just as stressful to the child as making it live up to an unrealistic expectation of it.
Haven't read all the responses but if you go to a toy store you will most likely find all building, construction toys in boy's department and girls are left out to play with fashion dolls. I find it offensive. Both my girls liked to play with blocks, trains and dolls. Some parents stereotype and choose only boy's toys for them and only boy's behavior for their sons and ban any emotional sensitive reactions in them. Daughters used to be limited to play dolls, wear fancy things and not allowed too much to get messy, loud and boisterous.
I find it interesting to let them find their own personality outside of the gender stereotype although I am not going that far as to keep their sex a secret.
My parents were oddly ahead of their time. My sister and I had the whole thing with the nylon dresses on Sunday and dolls etc. etc.; but from the time I was about three, I also had bop bags (that yellow Joe Palooka one), a pedal car (which I "drive" until I was about six), and (not that I approve of this, or would have had it for my kids) a "cowgirl" guns - and some other traditionally "boy" toys. The again, GI Joe (which my brother had) was Ken doll size, so my brother and I would have Barbie and GI Joe go to the beach, go camping, etc. I knew GI Joe would never go to prom or shopping with Barbie, but I was OK having Barbie do "gender-neutral" type stuff. (She wasn't about to fight a war, but I don't think my brother really made Joe go to war either. He liked all the little camping gear and accessories that came with Joe.)
BUT, even though my brother (five years younger than I) and I played "club" and did VacuForm and Creepy Crawlers, etc., this really BUGS me: He'd always announce that he was the president of our two-person "club", and that I was the treasurer (as if the club had any money). One day I decided it was time to say I wanted to be "president", so I said that. My brother firmly announced, "I'm the president. You're the treasurer." Then, after a little bit of debate he said, "Then you can be vice president." Five years younger than I am!! THAT is the difference between a lot of boys and a lot of girls. (Today I am the president of my own "club" of one, which is still better than being treasurer of a club of two that has no money. )
Assigning a gender and making kids play a role is harmful. Let kids figure it out for themselves.
Some girls are rough and tumble so we label them "tom boys."
Some boys are reserved and read books so some label them "sissies."
Each person is an individual.
We lived on a dairy farm when I was in my "formative" years. I watched carefully the distinct gender lines put down and the things my brothers did vs. my sisters. I really thought boys had it best - I so wanted to do the rough stuff they did and so when I was about 4 I climbed up on the bathroom sink one day and using water, slicked my hair down and combed it to one side the way my oldest brother did his. I thought I looked so like a boy, I was really in love with myself! I kept it like that all day, with much water and combing - the comb in my pocket. I do remember noticing that my mom and sisters were giggling a bit and giving each other meaningful looks, but no one said anything to me - mom said something like "new hairdo?" and I let her know that from now on I was a boy! They just thought it was cute I guess. This was in the 50s when little girls were encouraged to stay clean and wear hair bows. But I remember spending many hours out in the Kansas sun in the powdery dirt building elaborate cities with my brother and driving our matchbox cars and herding our marble cattle. Never wearing a dress except to Sunday school, and that felt strange. I did not get interested in cooking, sewing, dolls etc until I started to school. Even though I already had all my sister's hand-me-down dolls - a family of 13 who had to be washed and tucked in every night. Thing is, because I was the youngest, I believe, the gender difference thing was not such a big deal and I was "spoiled" because they considered everything I did "cute" not serious. As a result I really think my intellectual side was stimulated and I believed I could do wonders (until school knocked that idea out) I have never forgotten how strong that urge to be a boy was, and I prayed to be turned into a boy - checking every morning to see if God had given me a penis!
That sounds like you had quite a bit of fun! I was in the same boat as you were though, wishing and praying to be a boy... I didn't 100% come to terms with the fact that I'm a girl and it's alright until around 15 or 16. I actually enjoy being a girl now though, because I look at it differently -- it gives me a chance to really stand out from most women my age, and I get to be different! Now who doesn't wanna be different?
I also agree and feel the same about my intellectual side being stimulated as well because I sort of had the same thing, everyone thinking everything I did was cute and never taking me seriously, allowing me to push boundaries and learn, experience, and live
I understand what these people are doing. But I think hiding gender from the child themselves is harmful, and will probably lead to problems when they are older. Also, many children tend to copy those around them, so it can be difficult for children to make truly independent choices, because of peer pressure and wanting to fit in.
oh hey, how can anyone hide it from the child? I really remember noticing the difference between girls and boys - (and wanting a penis!) you can't hide that! If they hadn't used the words "girl" and "boy" I would have had to think up words of my own for it - I think these people were trying to control how other people acted around their babies - not being tough with the boys, soft with the girls - and that is an interesting experiment, although it probably made some people really angry, not to know which sex the baby is because they wanted to know how they should act! It certainly reveals how crazily caught up in gender are our simplest behaviors!
I'm really interested in this. Just now I am realizing that most adults put a sexual connotation on gender no matter how old you are - whether you want to have sex with your own sex or the opposite sex is the deciding factor, not so much what occupation or interests you have. That's why adults are aghast when a boy wants to wear a skirt or a girl wants to drive a truck. Some adults think that if that boy wears a skirt, he's not going to want to grow up to be the man of the house. and etc. . . With children, though, it isn't at all about the sex act, because most kids don't even want or like to think about that until they are pubescent. They are just very busy selecting and learning things so they can survive with their own distinct persona intact.
So what we're really talking about here is the early choices children make about their likes and dislikes that come from somewhere deep inside - and if they are encouraged to go through the smorgasbord of life picking out what is meaningful to them, they will usually come up with a unique combination of interests. Whether those things they choose are traditionally girl or boy things isn't going to be important to them at all unless the older people, their role models, make a big deal out of it. I am thankful that my mother taught me the things she knew but never denied me the pleasures of the dirt and raising little animals etc. while my father never denied me the pleasure of hanging about in the barn while he and my brothers milked the cows and showed me how to drive a nail in a board when I was quite young. I was lucky that way - and later on, when "polite society" tried to shove me into a box, I just ignored them, mainly and felt sorry for the little girls who had to sit still in starchy petticoats while my mom let me dash around outside, climbing and jumping and shouting! Now of course, I don't fit in very well anywhere, but I wouldn't change that part of me for anything!
I believe in allowing my child to make their own decisions. My son has chosen dolls, my daughter has a tool set, and so forth. I don't think forcing anything on a child is a good idea. This would include gender neutrality. It requires them to deny an innate part of themselves. To me, this does not allow them to "grow" as an individual, it keeps them confined to what the parent deems as "gender neutral."
In the article I read about the parents who attempted this, it said the child was not allowed to wear skulls or cargo pants because the parents deemed them too "masculine." How is that gender neutrality? My daughter LOVES her cargo pants and has an adorable yellow and black swimsuit with flowers AND skulls on it. You can't claim to be allowing your children more independence from society's expectations if you, as a parent, are setting restrictions on what are too girly or boyish of choices.
As a boy, I had toy cars, a cricket bat and stumps, and went to football clinics run by legend Don Scott.
The result - I am now a (edit) pre operative male to female transsexual, who has just been told that she has been accepted for the last stage of the process prior to gender corrective surgery.
The moral of the story - let your kids be themselves. Not who you want them to be.
Valuable lesson. For people with a different gender from their born sex, repeated gender reinforcement by parents and society can be, at best, pointless, and worst, harmful.
The Writers Dog - Did you enjoy those masculine things as a child or were they pushed on you? Did you always dislike them or only later on? I'm really interested to know when you felt that were born with the wrong gender. My best friend in kindergarten was a boy named Joey who wanted to be Wonderwoman for Halloween and be a housewife just like his mom when he grew up.
I hated the football clinic but was made to go to help improve my hand/eye co-ordination (now we know that was an early symptom of my NF2).
The cricket I enjoyed - I could always out bat my younger brothers. For those non-British Empire Hubbers, there are internation womens' cricket tournaments.
Having a father who was the Akela of the local Cub Scouts condemned me to enforced child militarism at age 7. I hated Cubs.
I was quite happy over the road at my little girlfriends playing with her Barbies, or helping Mum cook.
there are lots of reasons to like Star Wars! there's fighting, those cool ships, the many weird beings and languages, Princess Leah, for pete's sake fighting alongside the guys? - point is, its not just a guy thing - I don't know how those other kids could think its just for boys. That's where gender bias gets so strange - I know plenty of guys who love all the women super heroes and they like to fantasize having one of them for a girlfriend - so for people to dictate which movies and stars and stories we can obsess on - that's just nuts! even worse than dictating which colors we can wear! those days are way over - imo!
I know, I get a lot of that with my son. He gets teased for like the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. Yet he also loves Iron Man and all the Marvel heroes. He's got Spider-Man sheets and pink curtains lol. Children should be encouraged to explore all aspects of their personalities.
It also seems to be more harmful than helpful to me. If we would all just drop the gender/sexuality issue all together than a little boy in a dress would be better accepted. Instead they have set this child up for constant ridicule and humiliation in a society that is mostly close-minded, and havn't even bothered to prepare him for it. Children should be encouraged to be themselves and to be proud of all that entails, but at the same time I think there are far too many who are lacking in a good dose of reality when it comes to how they will be treated in society.
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