Genderless Child-Rearing

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Guess which: Boy or girl?
Guess which: Boy or girl?

Meet Pop, the 2-year-old who doesn’t know whether s/he is a boy or a girl. Presumably her/his parents (and anyone else who has changed his/her diaper) know, but they’re not telling. They want their child to be as free from gender socialization as possible.  (Read the whole story here.)

This reminds me of a story I read for one of my Women’s Studies courses: “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story.” Written in 1972 by Lois Gould, it reads like science fiction. But here is a real-life example of the same “experiment.”

One thing I think is interesting is that Pop and her/his parents live in Sweden, one of the few places on earth that has generous paid new baby leave for both mothers and fathers. Sweden is also, perhaps not coincidentally, the country whose men are considered to be the best husbands (according to a study by Oxford University economist Almudena Sevilla-Sanz).

It could be that this attempt to raise a child who is not sex-typed will be successful in Sweden, but wouldn’t go over quite as well in the United States, let alone other less-enlightened countries. (Read about the fatwa against tomboys in Malaysia.) Then again, by what criteria would it be considered successful?

The reactions to Pop’s situation range from “it will scar the kid for life” to “it can make the child freer, stronger and more individualistic.” What do you think?

For a follow-up to this post, see “Genderless Child-Rearing II.”

[Not surprisingly, psychologist/author Susan Pinker thinks it’s a terrible idea. See last week’s Tuesday Tidbits for information about Pinker, her views and her book, The Sexual Paradox.]

Published by

Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

11 thoughts on “Genderless Child-Rearing”

  1. Making a choice like this for the child is only opening up this child’s life to ridicule and,a lack of confidence.Just how far up your ass is your head ? that’s my question !1

  2. ….. That’s too ridiculous they’re going against a fact!!!! as if society created genders…. And i don’t think they’re giving their child any choices, did they give him the choice to say “i’m a boy or i’m a girl”… But for sure they will give hima hard time, as i think this kind of behavior would probably lead to some psychological aftereffects…

    1. Society *does* create gender. It is an extremely tiny portion of our sex-specific behaviors which are natural as opposed to indoctrinated into us from birth in the form of gender roles, as evidenced by those roles having constantly been subject to popular whim over millenia, and wildly-varying throughout different cultures. Gender is a social construction- that’s a quite basic theory in sociology.

      1. I agree, Robert. I had all daughters and had absolutely no experience with raising boys. But then a grandson came along, and while I found some basic differences, they were small and assuredly mostly socialized. My grandson is now 12 and is into reading and writing more than in sports and is kind, nurturing and articulate. I don’t know how much that has to do with the fact that he is an only child and was raised by a single woman. But it’s interesting to see how little differences there are between the sexes.

        Thanks for your comment.

  3. I have been inspired with all the debate about whether it is right or wrong for parents to raise their children in gender neutral ways. Why not let children decide what their true gender is? Who is to say there is anything wrong with that and why stop there? Since my children are of a mixed racial background, Asian and Caucasian, I have decided to let them choose which ethnicity they would like to identify with. Heck, they need not even have been born the one they may want to choose. They should have the freedom to become African American, Hispanic, or even Native American. Whose to say the should be oppressed by biology? Did not Michael Jackson become the first trans-ethnic person? Why can’t others aspire to achieve such a state of being? Or in feminist speak, why should my children be oppressed by the tyranny of racial assignment?

    Sure, you can tell by just looking at them which ethnicity they are, but that does not mean they must be oppressed by some preconceived notion of race and ethnicity. Their brain may be African American, Hispanic, or even Native American even though their body looks to be white. Join me in exploring this final frontier of trans-racial exploration and boldly go where few if any have gone before.

    http://www.bluecollarphilosophy.com/2011/05/i-will-let-my-children-choose-to-be-black-hipanic-asian-or-white.html

  4. I think this is pretty neat! I never heard of anyone doing this, and I’m not surprised that most Americans would find this to be traumatizing to a child. But, who knows maybe the child will grow up to be fearless and not get sucked into these “gender roles” that people love to give.

  5. What kind of hippy bull crap is this? It’s like the parents are ASKING other children to make fun of their kid. This is the most horrible idea I’ve ever heard about.

    1. Well somebody who doesn’t have a grasp of basic english (it’s hippie not hippy idiot) I’m sure can’t possibly wrap their mind around the possibilites of raising a child without limits. Education is a wonderful thing.

      1. April, if you are going to call someone an idiot for spelling hippie with a ‘y’ then at least have the intelligence to include in your comment the numerous commas needed for it to make any sense.

        -“Well, somebody…”
        – “…english (it’s hippie not hippy, idiot), I’m sure, can’t…”

        Yes, education is a wonderful thing and you should try it sometime. Maybe it will even help you to realize that raising a child as genderless is one of the cruelest legal forms of abuse that you can perform on the unfortunate little tyke.

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