Monday, June 6, 2011

Baby Storm and Gender Ambiguity

 So yesterday I wrote a big long post outlining my feelings about that couple in Canada who are choosing to keep their baby "gender neutral" by not revealing the baby's boy/girl parts. I went on a rant about what the difference between gender and sex is, and why I felt this couple was mistaking their own social issue for parenting.  Read the blog below for a synopsis of the story and someone else's opinion:

http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/05/28/genderless-child-update-parents-defend-move-to-keep-babys-sex-a-secret/

I read it again this morning and deleted the whole damn thing. Not because I disagree with myself today, but because rantings are rarely kind, and without knowing this couple I don't feel like I can make a judgment call on their motives. They could be just as selfish as I accused them of being, but they could also just truly want what is best for their kids and with all the lunatic parents out there smoking crack and dangling their babies over pits of crocodiles, maybe I should just remember that not everyone parents like me.

I do still want to comment on the story, because that is what blogs are for and this story is big news. SO here are my thoughts, in summary.

1. I think this couple is confusing sex (penis/vagina) with gender (boy/girl). Society has built stereotypes of gender and what boys and girls should like, play with, dress like, act like, etc. If they want to fight the stereotypes and let their children discover who they are apart from society telling them, I would think it would make more sense to allow their children to decide what their outward expression is going to be, not take away their sex.

2. I feel very sorry for a 4 month old child who has been so exposed to scrutiny, opinion and public media. Doesn't seem nice.

3. These parents obviously feel very strongly about something, which is fantastic. But they are not affecting only themselves- they are forcing their children to live out their opinions. Their oldest son wears his hair in three braids and likes a pink skirt. He is old enough to go to school, but they keep him home because of the teasing he got from his classmates. So essentially, his "freedom" is keeping him housebound. Is that okay? It feels a little like his parents are sacrificing a greater good. Part of my goal is raising Purslane is to make her relevant to her culture- I want her to be able to hang with anyone and do whatever she wants to do- not because she blends in and looks like everyone else, but because her sense of self is not a detriment to making whatever choices she wants to make.

Thoughts?

6 comments:

  1. Considering I don't have kids / am not pregnant (yet), I didn't give this issue much thought except that I thought it was strange. But I do have strong opinions about girls on playing with girl toys, etc. and boys only playing with boy toys, etc. I was a friend's house recently and she has a girl that is about to turn 2, and her husband was very much setting up gender roles for that little girl that I felt *very* uncomfortable with. I haven't yet learned not to judge... but of course I did so silently. To each his own, but I shudder at the thought of my little girl being introduced to only pink things and kitchen sets. Or not buying my baby boy a doll or letting him wear girl clothes as dress up or out in public if he wants. I agree that our society defines too much by sex. Even in this age of "acceptance" -- it's really only accepted if it's the norm. So don't count on being accepted if your son decides he likes wearing princess outfits.

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  2. Hey Gina! Another interesting factoid about this family: their two other children (both boys) are very into things that aren't the societal "norm" for boys. Their oldest wears his hair in three braids and likes a pink skirt. And while they are encouraging self-expression with gender, they are keeping him home from school because the other kids made fun of him. So is it worth it?? My point above is that while they might have addressed an important societal issue, they just might be sacrificing a bigger good.

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  3. (From Kate Nelson...don't know how to do the OpenID thing):

    I wonder how much that little boy CHOOSES to wear a pink skirt, and how much he's been guided to it. I think part of parenting is raising your children to be able to survive/exist in our culture. This means you teach them how to be kind to others, how to behave in public, how to take care of hygiene, not to say the f-word at school,etc. Sometimes we have to compromise what we want to do b/c it's simply not acceptable. I can't dye my hair pink b/c that's not an acceptable look when I teach undergrads, even though maybe I feel like that would express who I am. The tricky part is learning where that line is between losing who you are and fitting into our society. Parents should help with that. This little boy hasn't learned anything regarding social skills, and will likely have to hide in his parents' house his whole life. I don't consider that to be successful parenting.

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  4. (from Mallory Starr)

    1. I <3 your blogs.
    2. I miss your face.
    3. Congrats on a new baby boy :)
    4. 100% agree with you on this couple,
    although I have no children of my own to
    base my opion on.

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  5. I agree with you. I think it's more important to raise active, productive members of society than a child who thinks "expressing himself" is the most important thing. I'm not against self expression, but not to the exclusion of everything else.

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  6. Their oldest wears his hair in three braids and likes a pink skirt. And while they are encouraging self-expression with gender, they are keeping him home from school because the other kids made fun of him. So is it worth it??

    Well, in my opinion, it doesn't seem to be. If he wants to be different/his own unique individual, but is getting picked on at school for it, I think they need to find a better solution than running away from that. 'Cause that kid is going to have a lot of issues as an adult. School is good and bad for kids in a lot of ways, but I believe the good outweighs the bad. It's tough socially, but you learn a lot about yourself and about others at school. You just don't get that same psychological development when you're learning at home, protected by your family.

    P.S. -- I'm a free woman (school is over) -- can we hang out? I miss your face!

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