Tuesday 24 May 2011

Genderless Children

This morning I read this article. Have a read. It's long but worth the read.

Basic summary (TL:DR) - two parents, three children. Two boys and one child who has never publicly been "labelled" boy or girl. All three are allowed free choice with no gender restrictions. So anything goes.

My thoughts on the article is that it seems a bit like a social experiment and an extreme one at that. But then I am always looking for non-pink kitchen toys or dolls/action figures for Monkey, friends are looking for positive role models for princess-obsessed girls. 

What do you think? What is your take on this family's choice. Is gender-neutrality the way forward? Or is it all just hippy gone bad? Please let me know what you think. I am very interested in hearing your take on this.
“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,”- Storm's Mum

(I have worked briefly with a boy (nine) who chose to be a girl. He dressed like one and acted like one. He was ridiculed by the boys and barely tolerated by the girls. It was accepted by the teachers and they protected him. His parents encouraged it. I was never given any background as to whether he was gender-ambiguous or had a reason so it never made sense to me. It just seemed like a good way to confuse your child. This was all pre-Monkey so maybe I would have formed a different opinion now...)


  1. I think its a step too far. It almost feels like the child is, as you say, an experiment.

    I get what they are trying to achieve but it sounds to me like they've already achieved it with their first two children despite people knowing that both were born male. And now instead of people getting to know their child for who their child is and what their likes and dislikes are they've ended up with exactly what they were trying to avoid... people obsessing over whether the child is a boy or a girl.

  2. I have a few thoughts :-)

    1. Why are you looking for non-pink toys for Monkey? What's wrong with pink?

    2. As long as Storm is allowed to tell people what gender s/he is as soon as s/he wants to, I don't see the problem. It doesn't sound like the parents are being very dictatorial about it, they're just delaying the gender labelling as long as they can (they can't prevent it completely after all, at some point the kid will grow either boobs or a beard :-))

    3. I would love to have secret film of the family over a week or so, and see just how often the parents subconsciously slip into non-neutral gender behaviour. I can't believe anyone is capable of being totally neutral all the time.

    4. Lego is the answer to all toy/gender questions :-)


  3. I haven't read the article yet but my first daughter was drawn to trains, building, Lego and wouldn't walk down the dolls aisle at a toy shop. It used to infuriate me that toys in shops are so gender aligned - i.e. Rarely see girls on the packaging of train sets, car toys etc. Or boys on packaging of dolls sets.

    When she reached the age of 4 to 5 she became aware that not many girls liked to play the way she did and were into 'princesses' (which she disliked). I simply said we all have a choice and it's not fair to criticize other people's choices of what they enjoy playing with, but to try and accept that we are all unique and special in our own way.

    I'm all for a healthy balance. Woosh... This is a big topic of conversation!

  4. Just read the fascinating article. I totally understand what they are trying to achieve though it would probably be alot easier if they just said, 'Well the bits between the legs say (boy or girl) but please don't assume (he or she) is going to be a (princess or a fireman etc)'.

    My folks gave me and my sister a healthy gender balanced upbringing. There was always an assortment of toys across the board. My sister always hated dolls - I was more into them and dancing. We both played cowboys, Indians, shot with pretend bows, arrows, guns, climbed trees, went on adventures as well as baking and playing with tea sets! My sister ended up doing geophysics and working on an all male research vessel in the North Sea! We were given the message, 'We will support you to do/be whatever you wish, free from stereotypes'. And in our youth there wasn't an OTT amount of pink in the shops! We wore lots of orange, brown and blue!

  5. Personally I don't know if they are actually making things any easier for their kids going forward.

    Mine absolutely love saying "I'm a big girl" and my eldest who was 3 at the time my youngest was born was so proud to be able to say "I have a baby sister". Sure my kids wear pink. They've always liked pink. Nowadays my eldest like white, blue and pink and my youngest white, blue, pink and purple. When my eldest was 2 she was very much into yellow. Both of them sometimes like wearing dresses, but often pants or shorts and often they like wearing their gumboots.

    Both my kids like doing typical kids stuff - riding their bikes or their scooters. They both have building blocks, they both like playing with trains and cars. They like playing rough and tumble and I often joke with hubby that we don't need boys, our girls have enough "boy" in them. Sure they went through a phase where they wanted to take care of their "babies" (dolls), but that wasn't because we specifically pushed them to do it. Sure they like to watch movies about cinderella, snow white, but they also love movies like Asterix, ghostbusters, smurfs, gummi bears, mega mind, simpsons, Suzie's world and a whole range of other ones including Harry Potter. My eldest is absolutely not into barbie and would far rather have a bow and arrow set or fake blood with vampire teeth from the toy store whereas my youngest sort of likes barbie. They both have a lot of books which my hubby got when he was working for the National Library when he cleared out and I can honestly say that sometimes they like reading typical girl stories, but then also plenty that are not typical at all. In fact along with some fairy stories, my eldest also likes reading the goosebumps series as well as some of those old choose your own adventure books.

    They both have friends who are boys and girls.

    It has never made a difference to how they were perceived by anybody and usually when people buy presents they ask what the kids are into, so it has always been appropriate.

    I honestly don't think it has ever made a difference to their interests knowing that they are girls. I think kids have a right to know so when they become a teenager they don't suddenly become confused about the changes in their bodies. If I grew up not knowing and suddenly at the age of 13 was told "hey actually you are a girl" I think I would have been hugely upset that my mum wasn't honest with me (and I was a tomboy growing up). So I cannot imagine why they think not telling their kids are all that great.

    I think as parents it is our responsibility to teach our kids to have a range of interests and then once the kids have decided what they are most interested in for parents to support them in that so they can reach their potential. I think also parents have to teach their kids to be confident, you will always get kids who tease and could be cruel regardless of the situation, but if we teach our children strategies to deal with that then they will not lose self confidence. I do however believe parents have an obligation to let kids know the facts about themselves, but let the kids know that you will never let them feel bad if i.e. they are a girl but like playing with cars for instance. After all adults are either female or male and it is then pretty obvious so you won't then still be able to go around being neither male nor female.

  6. I haven't read all your post in detail - but a case studied in a fourth year psychology paper springs to mind. The john/joan case about David Riemer a summary of which can be read here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/reimer/.
    Disturbingly, the Doctor who was the proclaimed expert in reassigning Bruce as Brenda in the 1960s, Dr Money, was a New Zealander. Gender is not just a social construct but a biological one and because of that, we are not blank slates.

    Interesting concepts.


Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I try to reply to as many as I can either here or by email. <3 LJx