There have been lots of articles lately about raising genderless children and defying gender stereotypes, etc., etc. When I looked into it and read about Storm and “Pop”, I had to wonder what the point of it all was. I understand wanting to be non-conformist. I understand wanting to raise your children outside of the box. I understand wanting to give my children the opportunity to be anything they want to be. But, like it or not, this world is in our face. It’s not just my little family and me. It’s a wild world full of judgement, misunderstanding, expectations, and ridicule. It’s a world wrapped up in stereotypes and people trying to fight it or getting lost in it.
I don’t know if denying a stereotype is any better than embracing it – my girls love being princesses and playing dress-up. My oldest doesn’t like “Cars” because it’s a “boy movie.” She likes pink and purple, but also green and yellow. My youngest can be rough and aggressive and loud. They love to play in the dirt, finding worms and bugs to hold. They get to pick out their clothes most of the time and may choose cowboy boots or sparkle shoes, and, although they gravitate toward feminine things, their love of toys and “cool” stuff shows no gender bias, I promise. They get just as fascinated about water and a stick, and I’m pretty sure those can be neutral items. I let my kids do what they want across genders, same as these other families do…mine don’t defy the norm too much, though. So…I guess they’ve succumbed to the stereotype.
They spend all day creating their own worlds where they are capable of anything. It seems to me that, maybe, it’s not about denying a child their gender at all. Ultimately, these parents and I want the same thing – an environment that allows their children to explore and embrace life to its fullest. I just happen to think that embracing life and possibility includes embracing all you are as an individual…gender included.
No parent has the perfect answer. There is no “right” way to raise a child. We can easily point fingers at the “wrong” ways, and I’m just as guilty of this as the next. I guess I’d rather shift my focus on what is and what will be.
I have two beautiful girls. They exemplify, to me, purity and innocence, brilliance and excitement, femininity and empowerment, confidence and growth. They are female, through and through. This in no way limits them – this is a part of who they are – like their name and their family, it just is. “Female” doesn’t mean pink and submissive. Technically, “female” means, quite literally, the genetic makeup and ability to produce offspring. My impression of “female” is positive – it can be anything you want it to be. We can bear children and men can’t. This is a fact. However else we define it is our prerogative, and denying the word honestly would merely deny the genetic definition.
The point of staying genderless has to be about denying the assumptions of others; that girls love princesses and boys are rough and wild. However, I’ve seen many kids (including my own) that have been perfectly comfortable in the opposing stereotype with certain behaviors. Some children are aggressive, some aren’t. Some children are loud, others aren’t. When people see my wild child running around, they don’t throw up their hands in shock because it’s a girl. They laugh at my strong-willed, confident, friend-to-everyone little snugglepuppy. Her behavior isn’t based on being female. It’s her personality. It’s who she just…is.
What will be:
I will raise two beautiful women (inside and out). They will grow to embrace all that makes them uniquely them. They will know the power they have as females, both the negative and the positive. I will teach them how their femininity is something that is to be respected, by themselves and by everyone else. It is a powerful thing that is more than merely sexual. They are not objects, they are not trophies, and they are not insignificant. They play an important role in this world, and their gender is a part of it. One day they may become wives and mothers. They may become doctors or activists. They may become the first female to accomplish something that is dominated by males. Who they are is significant – every part of them – including their gender.
I never thought I’d raise “girly-girls”, and I’m loving everything about them – they are influenced by the outside world, I know. Their love of dress-up and all things feminine is largely because that’s what they are exposed to at every princess party we get invited to. I think, ultimately, these parents raising their kids genderless aren’t that different from me in wanting to fight the pressures of the world to make their kids into something that may not fit them. Where we differ is our understanding of what is rooted deeply in them – for me, identity can’t be neutral – identity is something that we’re always seeking and becoming more concrete in – and it includes gender.
People will make assumptions and stereotypes no matter what I do. My daughter’s friends are going to be all variations of the gender stereotype – we’ve been to both princess and superhero parties – the birthday cake was enjoyed just the same. Denying gender just sets up the assumption that it’s the “weird kid” or the “crazy family” and all the other horrible accusations that have been made about them. Unfortunately, I feel that some parents’ desire to give their children the world with no gender bias has instead set them apart as outcasts or enemies of the world.
I could go deep into the ideas surrounding gender and stereotypes, but suffice it to say, I’m proud of my two little girls – the stereotypical things they embrace and also the knowledge that they are learning every day that they are free to be who they are – even if it doesn’t fit the stereotype. My girls are already powerful beyond measure. I’m excited to take this journey with them.