Raising a Child as Gender Neutral

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Love him or hate him (I personally love him!) first-time dad Russell Brand made a joke previously about not imposing a gender on his new child and how he’s going to ‘let it grow up to be whatever the hell it is.. and never tell it there’s such a concept!’

I chuckled and moved on with my life, not really absorbing the show’s lighthearted content; until the next day, however, I noticed there was several tabloid headlines ridiculing him for daring to say such a thing and questioning his capabilities as a father  – ‘That poor child!!’ they cried. ‘The horror!!…What a monster for imposing his crazy ideologies on an innocent baby!’

Seriously?! 

Jokes aside, the more I thought about it, the more it struck a chord with me. The ‘concept’ of being gender specific hadn’t really crossed my mind before, especially in regards to how I’ll raise my own son and what effects of imposing ‘masculinity’ onto him could have.

Like the Biblical phrase ‘seek and you shall find’, after my reading I suddenly became HYPER aware of just how many people unconsciously conform to the pink/blue idea of girl/boy and how it’s a either/or category that a person falls into. No straddling the definitions – no grey areas! Well, where I come from anyway. Dare to come even remotely near the edge of that line and you’ll be daubed as being an ‘oddball’ or that there’s sommit wrong wi’ ye.

My partner had gone Christmas pressie shopping for his 3 nephews and 1 niece (all 3 years old and under) and I offered to gift wrap his haul knowing he’d make a pig’s ear of it when he got back, and I was actually shocked at how different the male/female purchases he made were.

Now I know my partner had the best intentions with what he bought but I had to point out something that was glaringly obvious to me now, but that I would have been completely blind to days before. For the 3 boys he bought interactive, computer integrated learning toys that could talk, sing, dance, be programmed, move on command and had multi uses that developed a child’s cognitive skills and dexterity; his niece got a Disney princess. A plastic princess doll that had a shiny tiara and pink dress and that could move her arms up and down that’s about it.

Now I know people would say that small girls LOVE princess dolls and I know I did when I was wee, but at 3 years old I don’t think many kids actually know what they what – they only know what the parents (and advertisements!) tell them to want.

Another conversation arose the next day with a family member who told me they were so convinced I was going to have a girl, that they were looking at those silver christening baby bangles to buy as a gift when my little one arrived. ‘But I can’t get that now… those are for girls’, they said. ‘You can get it if you want’ I replied, ‘Just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean he can’t wear it!’. ‘Oh no, but they’re for GIRLS‘, they stressed – obviously missing the point and looking at me like I’d six heads.

A few days later I then noticed someone on Facebook had posted a picture of them with their very young daughter, pouting together at the camera. A little, feminist part of me inside died. Pouting in a sexually provocative manner at that age was not the child’s idea, I’ll guarantee you that. I’m sure it was done in jest and not much thought had gone into it, but children are like sponges and look to parents and adults to replicate their actions as they develop their own. Do we really need the next generation of women to shape their identities on Barbie worshipping, Instagram & Facebook obsessions filled with chronic pouting selfies?!

The Kardashians have A LOT to answer for…

I’m not saying I’m going to go as far as that English couple below who refused to reveal the identity of their child even to the child itself (although that too was exaggerated by Daily Schmail of course) in a bid to completely avoid their son having to conform to any kind of male stereotype. But I do think this idea of raising your child as somewhat gender neutral has it’s merits.

A lot of people will disagree with it stating the importance of clear gender definitions so the person – or in this case – child will have a strong sense of self and what the expectations of their ‘role’ in society will be. But a lot of the time this role a female or male needs to conform to according to society is extremely detrimental to a person’s well-being. Many men are masculine but not all are; many women are very feminine but not all are. You have ‘masculine’ women and ‘feminine’ men. So what role does someone who falls into a grey area fill? It all becomes pure nonsensical if you think about it enough.

I say DOWN with these stereotypical roles! Look at the Swedish, they already have gender neutral schools or the ‘Egalia’ where kids are to refer to each other as hen  and where all their teachings are inclusive of LGBT, same-sex parents, one-parent families etc, normalising them and avoiding the idea of a family consisting of ‘mum and dad’ with sons or daughters and that’s what is normal – no questions please!

Fuck that!

I want my child to feel completely equal with his peers regardless of his life choices or situation, or theirs for that matter. I refuse to impose ‘male’ expectations on him or encourage him to desire certain types of toys, clothing, activities that are very male driven. Instead, I’ll strive to expose him to everything and then let him choose. If he wants to wear pink, grow long hair and be the next Billy Elliot, that’s grand! If his favourite colour is blue and he loves football and computer games that’ll be OK too. As long as he’s following his passions and not conforming to expectations then how could that be an issue?

I highly doubt he’ll suffer as a result. What is the fear of? That a new wave of ‘gender blenders’ will swoop in and deconstruct social ideals that corporations, advertising agencies, governments and schools have spent so many years successfully imposing on us.. for THEIR gain? Cause it sure as hell isn’t for ours.

I was brought up pretty liberal. I had both barbie dolls and matchbox cars, I played with tractor sets, painted my nails then had a go on a computer console – none were imposed on me, I always had the option of choice. I spent most of my childhood days up to my knees in muck and cow shite as I ran through the fields in my ripped jumpers and matted hair. I don’t have any problems with my identity or gender. I can rough it like a cow in a cow shed, I can also wear slinky dresses and slap on the makeup if I fancy. But I can see how some of my peers who’ve undergone lip-filling treatments, are on constant diets or protein-fuelled gym regimes to pump up bulky muscles may not have had it so easy.

I fully expect to get loads of blue gifts once D-day comes, and I’m not that ungrateful that I wouldn’t appreciate anyone’s generosity. But as I did yesterday and will continue to do, I just couldn’t resist buying a little pair of purple fluffy slippers for my wee man when he arrives. Cause they were so damn cute! And I know that the feet that will eventually fill them will grow up knowing that purple fluffy shoes is a perfectly acceptable choice of footwear regardless of sex – because it’ll be THEIR choice. And if anyone has a problem with it… well, that’s just their problem!

*AH I came across this after posting… he sums up perfectly what I’m trying to say.

Cheers Russell!! 😀

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