Is it a girl or a boy? Does it matter?

Today the blog  Feminist Philosophers turned me on to some articles about a Canadian couple who have decided to raise their child without a gender… And a usual there are people who are upset by their choice.

As those of you who are close to me know, I am guilty of gendering babies myself. I would say that fixing cars and gendering children are the issues about which I slide on most when it comes to my feminist bent. I rely on my husband to always  take the car to the dealership or auto body shop, so much so that you would think I was allergic, and I want to buy girls pink things! But I’m not sure I’m right – in fact I know I’m absurd. What does pink have to do with girls? – other than the social association of female with all that is “pretty,” which ultimately condemns us to a future of the body image issues and princess obsessions. (And perhaps even a state of disempowerment).

Not sure. Not sure. I know one thing though – This totally makes me want to move to Canada. Too bad it’s so cold.

Tell me what you think…

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9 responses

  1. A little historical perspective on “pink is for girls…” I just finished this lecture for my Costume History class, so it’s kind of a long comment, but I hope you enjoy.

    This started with catalogues in the early 20th century. Until that point, boy and girl babies were dressed identically, in gowns, until they were allowed out of the nursery, which was essentially quarantine. For clothing, there were family hand-me-downs, and there was no difference in color, shape or ornamentation for boys and girls. These items were usually handmade by some female relative. Except for “layette” pieces which were for display purposes only, they were simple, functional garments.

    Around the 1920s, some genius, when trying to figure out how to expand product offerings to an increasingly financially comfortable and urbanized buying public, sat bolt upright at a brainstorming meeting and said, “KIDS! OH MY GOD! A completely untapped market! WE NEED DUCKIES! And different colors for boys and girls so statistics works in our favor- chances are you will have a few of each, AND THEY HAVE TO BUY SOMETHING NEW EVERY TIME or else everyone will know they are poor. And make sure the children wearing them in the catalog look like cherubs- no skinnies! We also want to be sure they know HEALTHY babies wear Sears’ whaddayacallem… ROMPERS! Because they are growing and playing, romping like roly-poly puppies!” Then this guy got to buy a new summer home.

    So, I don’t have to tell you or your readers that this idea of gendered dress is a social construct, but it is a very recent, very contrived social construct with a commercial origin that exploits parents’ desire to have healthy, happy children.

  2. I applaud this couple’s intentions, but I think they’re being a little naïve. Do they think children can be raised in a social vacuum with no contact from the “outside”? Gender has to be addressed in society, overall, to be “undone” and the home is just one part of that. I believe studies have shown that kids from egalitarian homes with parents who resist hegemonic gender still end up gendered in pretty recognizable ways.

    And one more thing: is this child growing up in a nuclear family, i.e. the little patriarchal unit that models and is modeled on the big patriarchal whole? If so, why do they think naming their kid “Storm” and playing what I like to call the “pronoun game” is going to make a lick of difference?

    O.k. That turned into kind of a rant. Back to thesis writing.

  3. Pingback: Update on Storm – the child raised without gender « Feminist Cupcake

  4. Okay, so I’ve been a creeper reader for a while now 😉 And, finally I have been brought to my knees to comment. Before I became the mama of two amazing kiddos (one boy, one girl), I would have spent the entire day arguing about the socialization and genderizing of kids. I would have said it was mostly environment and parenting that shaped the way kids decide how to “be a boy” or “be a girl.” BUT, alas, nature and real life have kicked my theoretical arse. My house is an equal opportunity home in every way (as far as my roles and my husband’s in day to day life). Luke was born first and there were multitudes of toys and opportunities – play kitchens, blocks, crayons, dollies, dress up, trucks and lots and lots of outside fun. Then came Sadie Blue, and the same toys endured. READ: I did not buy “gender” toys. There were no examples of “gender” roles in the adults (mom wears no make up, dad stays home with kids as much as mom, etc. etc. etc.). BUT, nature persists. My son LOVES to play fight, constantly fashioning weapons out of every possible material (because I refuse to purchase them). My daughter (to my constant attempts at otherwise) is obsessed with adorning herself (read: dress up, make up, fancy shoes). We do not have cable, they have MINIMAL screen time, and we hang with like minded people. All this is to say, I have come to the conclusion that there is something innate within us that dictates gender insomuch as “most” boys gravitate to very physical, full body activities and “most” girls truly enjoy the adornment process (dressing up, fancy necklaces, big fun twirly dresses). It makes sense from an evolution stand point – men hunt, offer protection, use physical prowess to prove power and ranking within a group. Women tend to the nurturing of children because they are literally (through breastfeeding) connected to the kiddos for (at a minimum) the first 1-2 years of life, they also need to catch to eye of a mate so they will be protected from physical threats of nature (read: a panther coming in the night to eat your ass). Although we don’t conform to these roles in our modern society, I believe this hard wiring in our brains and bodies persist. Sooo, to make a long rant even longer, there’s going to come a time when sweet little Storm is going to show his/her true colors, no matter what you call him/her or how you treat him/her. Allrighta, I’ll get down now.

    • Yikes. I’m not a mother but I beg to differ. I really don’t believe there is any hardwiring to say that all girls are born automatically wanting to wear jewelery and that boys are supposed to be “hunters.” That’s just the kind of thought process that has kept people continuing to believe that. As much as you say you’ve attempted to not gender your kids, considering you’re a product of this society, I don’t really believe it’s at all possible. Unless your husband wears makeup and jewelery and dresses on occasion as well and you are frequently working with tools/weapons and being more “physical” as you said (i’m assuming you guys take on these roles in the traditional gendered sense) then the kids are NOT being brought up without any gendering. And unless they’ve NEVER seen an example of this (you say tv and such are minimal, but they STILL exist meaning even 10 minutes of programming might program something within their young minds) there would be no way for them to learn it! The point is that kids learn from example. If it werent for all the ways in which we communicate, kids would never grow up to communicate things themselves. Influence is everywhere. I refuse to believe in biological determinism. I also completely recognize that if I were to ever have kids, while I would work hard to keep things gender free, it would never be completely that way. All one can do is work hard to allow their children to understand there is nothing wrong with them if they desire to branch out of standard gender binaries and to always have an open mind with themselves and with others. I think that’s the best any of us can hope for 🙂

  5. So I feel unqualified to get into this debate beyond my original post because I remain part of the kid-free section od society but – Blue Milk a blogger who talks the talk and walks the walk posted this today http://wp.me/p2Rby-2iA and I think it relates – so please read away!

  6. Pingback: The Love Your Vagina Song, Dr. Pooper and The End of Gender …. | Feminist Cupcake

  7. Pingback: Can you eliminate gender from school? | Feminist Cupcake

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