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5 Reasons Why I Think the Genderless Childhood Trend is Crap

By carolyncastiglia |

genderless baby, genderless child

Gender: it doesn't matter, but it does.

As our regular readers know, a Toronto couple made headlines around the world after announcing last month that they would raise their baby, Storm, without letting anyone know the child’s gender. Then yesterday, Meredith noted that a public school in Sweden has instructed children not to utter the words him, her, he, she, girl or boy.  (That’s han, hon, honom, henne, pojke and flicka, if the online translator is to be believed.)  ”The move is being made in an attempt to eliminate gender bias,” Meredith writes.  Gender bias may be a problem, but pronouns aren’t.

Meredith believes “there’s a difference between gender equality and gender neutrality,” and I totally agree.  Here are five reasons why I think this gender-neutral trend is a bunch of crap:

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5 Reasons Why I Think the Genderless Childhood Trend is Crap

Some Girls Actually Like Pink

Sure, I think we're all a little tired of the old "blue for boys, pink for girls" standard of dress and room decor, and I'm with Peggy Orenstein when it comes to the proliferation of all things pink and princess for girls, but offering our children only green clothes and gender-neutral toys robs those who might be "girly girls" or "boys' boys" the opportunity to geek out on stuff they like. I don't care if your son wants to wear nail polish, but don't make him wear it if he doesn't want to in an effort to get him in touch with his feminine side. Why do we have to strip children of pronouns just to make it okay for them to like a variety of clothing and toys? Photo via Flickr

I don’t have a problem with men doing traditionally female things or women doing traditionally male things, but I think to pretend like we’re not of different genders is silly.  Men and women have a lot in common, and our own unique strengths that should be celebrated.  What’s your take on gender neutrality?

Main photo via Flickr

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About carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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66 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why I Think the Genderless Childhood Trend is Crap

  1. Bunnytwenty says:

    There is so much missing the point in this entry that I have no idea where to begin.

  2. Jessica says:

    I read an interesting bit of trivia recently that explained how blue came to be for boys and pink for girls. Apparently, WAYYYYY back in the day, boys were more “important” and it was believed that evil spirits would rob the male babies of their little souls. Blue was believed to be the color of angels and goodness so parents took to wrapping their little men up in the color to ward off the spirits trying to posess them. A couple of hundred (or so) years later, people decided that little girls needed a color too, and they were “assigned” pink. I read this in a bathroom trivia book, so I couldn’t tell you how accurate it is.

  3. K. Annie says:

    Totally agree with Bunnytwenty. The unwillingness to seriously engage with what it means to have a gendered up-bringing is disappointing. Barf. Yes. Barf.

    1. carolyncastiglia says:

      Okay, K. Annie. Why don’t you tell me why we should go genderless. No pronouns.

  4. goddess says:

    Like I just said in the other post: Oh dear goddess- I am 47 years old and played with my Hot Wheels alongside Barbie Dolls. I worked with computers when it was mainly a men’s profession – muscling my way in and making my niche- and was have been a headbanger since its inception. Maybe that’s why I think this is entirely too much ado. Says the mom who’s kids played with dolls, dishes, cars, dinosaurs, etc- and whose 10 yr old boy just picked out a pink bath towel, LOL!~ Oh- and the older 2 BOTH wear Megadeth hoodies (boy and girl)
    BUt like i said in the other- they best never come home disciplined for using a gendered pronoun. @@

  5. Snarky Mama says:

    Can’t wait for this post-racial, post-gender world we’re heading toward. Sarcasm.
    Why are we (as a society in general) so afraid of celebrating our differences, to the point where we pretend there are no differences? In a way, pretending we are all the same almost makes any differences more pronounced. Which is not to say that inequality, on any level, should be tolerated, but to act as though gender (and race) do not play a part in shaping one’s life is absurd.

  6. K. Annie says:

    If I had an annoying slideshow machine…
    Five Reasons Not To Be Glib About How Gender Affects Children:
    1. Kids (and adults) are still hurting themselves, killing themselves, or living unfulfilled lives because of how their gender identity fits-or doesn’t fit-into society.
    2. In some countries deviant sexual identity is a crime
    3. In some countries girls cannot attend school
    4. Or grow up to hold the same jobs as men
    5. Or vote or be elected to office
    6. In America, women still only earn a percentage of what men do
    7. Do you want more reasons? Sex traffic, mutilation, that gallop polls still ask “which gender do you prefer,” that people prefer! 
    The point is not that boys and girls shouldn’t view the world differently, it’s that the WORLD shouldn’t view boys and girls differently. A step too far or not, it’s still in the right direction–and gender equality is still a ways away. 

  7. carolyncastiglia says:

    K. Annie, I agree with everything you just said. But you didn’t give me one reason why children should stop using the words he and she. Gender equality, yes. Gender neutrality, no.

  8. carolyncastiglia says:

    And besides, K. Annie, I write about the injustices women and the gay community face ALL THE TIME. Have you read any of my posts? I’m dedicated to reform in these areas. What’s worse? Glib or snark? Ugh.

  9. K. Annie says:

    Ugh! I’m not being snarky. It’s called be thoughtful and engaged (which, I know is unfamiliar to you). I trust you weren’t thinking about the real injustices women and girls and gays face when you were busy defending the color pink–but I like to think that Swedish town was–and I prefer that. Gender has a huge impact of kids and society–and changing the language we use to talk about it would be a huge, important thing. I’m not saying it’s feasible or practicle or possible but it’s an interesting, progressive idea and that’s more than you’re offering.
    Also, sheesh! It’s not my job to follow your blogging career. If you are so pro-woman, pro-gay it should be apparent in this post–and it isn’t.
    USB

  10. carolyncastiglia says:

    “I’m not being snarky. It’s called be thoughtful and engaged (which, I know is unfamiliar to you).” Hahahaha… ummmm…. irony? If it wasn’t obvious to you that I’m pro-woman and pro-gay from this post, you need to re-read it. But please, don’t. I know it’s not your job. You say you want discourse, all you want is your opinion to be unchallenged. I asked you to tell me why we should go gender-neutral and you can’t. “I’m not saying it’s feasible or practicle or possible but it’s an interesting, progressive idea.” It is interesting and progressive, but not effective and therefore I think ridiculous and also on a basic level undesirable.

  11. goddess says:

    I REFUSE to quit identifying or taking pride in my identity as a woman and encourage my daughter and sons to take pride in their identities as woman and men. There is no balance without either. We are NOT neutered here. We are women and men.

  12. k. annie says:

    Your post does not acknowledge the hardships of women or those that do not fit into the cultural norm of gender identity. And your you-do-your-thing,-I’ll-do-my-thing attitude is totally missing the point. Those things I listed above—those are SOMEBODY’S thing—and because of that, ambitious, progressive steps towards gender equality (and gender freedom) are needed. I think gender neutral pronouns is a hard sell, but I’m not going to write it off as a load of crap…and I don’t think that anyone that truly understands the power that gender has on children should either. I’m not being snarky—because I’m not being cynical. I believe we can make progress on the issue of allowing children room to develop a sense of identity feel of gender prescriptions and that we already are—but I also believe that voices like yours aren’t helping matters—and I’m frustrated because despite the fact that you claim to agree with me in some regard you continue to antagonize me and further claim to be more open-minded and progressive than you appear on screen in this post, a post I consider to be utterly glib—on a topic that with great significance.

    1. carolyncastiglia says:

      Ok, K. Annie – now that’s a comment. For my part, I agree with goddess. If this were FB I’d give you the thumbs up right now. Amanda – I’ve heard that before about pink.

  13. Amanda says:

    Here’s an interesting tidbit of info: I was a page in the Ohio Legislature in college, and I was told that the reason the chamber was painted pink (or salmon, if you prefer) was because in the mid-1800s it was considered a more masculine color because it was derived from red, a color that meant power. I guess that means that pink wasn’t always for little girls.

  14. Diera says:

    I think forbidding people to use gendered pronouns is probably impractical, but I think you underestimate the impact on kids of their understanding of The Rules Of What Boys And Girls Can And Can’t Do. When my son was young enough not to know or care what The Rules said, he loved sparkly, ‘fancy’ things (as well as trucks and dinosaurs). As he learned The Rules, he dropped those things like hot potatoes. I don’t think he became a different person, he just learned he was a boy and according to The Rules (of today anyway) boys shouldn’t like sparkles. And now that I have a girl, I’ve learned how hard it is to even find a girl’s shirt with dinosaurs on it, or planes, which are both things my daughter likes, or any kind of cute saying other than “I’m so sweet” (gag me). I don’t think anyone should *force* boys to wear nail polish or girls to play with guns, and I realize that many kids go through a preschool phase in which they’re really drawn to learning The Rules, but I really wish adults wouldn’t help so much by color-coding and gender-sorting every damn thing in the whole world. I can totally understand why some adults would be drawn to keeping the world gender-free for just a few years, so kids can explore what they really like, and what they ARE really like, without those expectations.

  15. carolyncastiglia says:

    It’s not so much adults in general that are color-coding and gender-sorting everything in the world, it’s the manufacturers. Grrl power has trickled down to tots and of course “cutie pie” tees are not empowering. I don’t think going completely genderless is the answer, it is time for some anti-pink backlash. We have so much power when we spend money. In your situation, you could buy boys t-shirts for your daughter.

  16. michelle says:

    I’m a little tired of these sloppy strawman arguments. Where is this broad-based movement for complete gender neutrality you are so passionately arguing against? Oh, right, it doesn’t exist. It is not really a “trend” if your data points consist of one attention-seeking couple in Canada and one Swedish school. Instead, in most of the world we have the “trends” we have always had: pay inequality, rape culture, sex selective abortion, etc etc. Gender is not going anywhere, Carolyn. You could therefore have taken any number of more thoughtful directions in your piece. You could examine WHY the very idea of “gender neutrality” gets so many people in a twist — why gender is so important to our sense of self and how we raise our children, what the obstacles are to gender equality, why we still don’t have gender equality even in the industrialized world, or even how you define gender equality vs gender neutrality. For example, can we ever really have true gender equality if we still think along gender lines? How close is this to the discredited “separate but equal” doctrine? Are women therefore always going to be unequal? Etc etc. Anyway, I guess I am expecting too much. This is Babble, not the Times.

    1. carolyncastiglia says:

      Michelle – “This is a blog post, not a feature,” is a more appropriate assessment, but you’re right. This post isn’t research-based, it’s an opinion piece, and since only a few families here and there are adopting this gender-neutral lifestyle (it sure does seem trendy, tho!), we have no idea how it is affecting children or what the long-term results will be. Strollerderby has examined the very questions you bring up in other posts on the subject. I think it’s ridiculous to deny gender and to ask toddlers to stop using pronouns, and that’s the focus of this post. (The very next post I wrote tackles rape culture.) What those who don’t like this piece can’t seem to tell me is what kind of positive effect raising babies gender-neutral will have on the future, or how it will help women (since that seems to be the major concern, except in Diera’s case). How are we helping women by denying femaleness? How are we helping anyone by denying sex? We don’t deny race. I don’t know any black person who expects people to look at them and not notice their skin color. It’s not about pretending people aren’t black/Muslim/female/etc., it’s about people being accepted as equal human beings regardless of skin color/religion/sex.

  17. Tigresskat says:

    As the Mother of two very “blue” minded little boys I’m glad they enjoy their feminine ways and aren’t trying to be sissys. I’m a woman. I’ve not been made to feel unequal – maybe its just a matter of having self confidence instead of beating the drum for women’s lib or worse being a lezbo. Why would I condone the destruction of the family unit by supporting the gender confused gay community whom I consider to be an abomination and a very outnumbered minority. Sweden is a sick country to me to do this and I hope they fail miserably.

  18. Gretchen Powers says:

    Gender neutrality is bothersome because it’s a perpetrating a myth. Obviously men and women should have basic equal and legal rights—things like education, owning property, power over their own bodies (abortion…circumcision IF THEY WANT IT AND CAN CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES later–gulp!) the vote, running for office…hey wait..we have all those things in America except one…WEIRD! Anyway, I hate the “slideshow” format, too.

  19. Gretchen Powers says:

    FURTHERMORE…you know what…there are alot of really powerful things I love about being a woman that no law could have taken away or given…well, maybe they could have…but they haven’t yet…the power to grow and squeeze a fabulously wonderful new human being out into the world with MY OWN BODY, the power to feed and grow this human who I love so much with ONLY fluid from my own body for a good 6-7 months til this human was fit to eat other food…and, there’s new evidence out about the power of menstrual cord blood…these things don’t even scratch the surface of the non-physical things women typically bring to the table that men don’t generally. Women, don’t DENY all the great things about being a woman in the name of some vague equality. Fight for those qualities to be recognized and valued.

  20. Bunnytwenty says:

    “You say you want discourse, all you want is your opinion to be unchallenged.”
    Says the blogger who was freaking out at someone who expressed a different opinion. ai yi yi.
    Anyway, Michelle pretty much covered what I was going to say. This blog post oversimplifies the issues and claims to be rebelling against a “trend” that consists of exactly three recent news stories and has little to no effect on anyone who isn’t directly involved. It’s a tempest in a teapot that you’re contributing to – railing against people trying to improve things for both girls and boys instead of railing against the millions more people who make things worse for both.

  21. Bunnytwenty says:

    Also, Carolyn: bringing race into it actually makes a wonderful point – race is a social construct, and a fairly recent one, historically, mostly used to justify colonialism and slavery. The ease with which race can be erased/elided makes it clear exactly what a false construct it is – look at our President for an example of how someone with a white mother is still considered “black” because of the legacy of the one-drop rule. There is more genetic variation within people of the “same” race than there is within “different” races. There’s one REAL race: the human race. We just look different from each other.
    But you insist that gender is different?

  22. bob says:

    Someone needs a glork.

  23. K. Annie says:

    And, speaking of race…we have changed the language we use to talk about race. Very much. And for the better. Just sayin’. And further changes—like being able to more accurately talk about a person that doesn’t neatly fit into social prescriptions of race—like BunnyTwenty mentions above, the idea that we still consider the prez to be black when that doesn’t truly represent his race—would be a massive step forward. And, of course, there are people of mixed race that will identify as one race or the other—and take pride in that (good for them and no one is going to take that away), but what about those who don’t and are instead being TOLD that they are black and are being perceived as black by the world.
    Are you seeing the parallels?
    Opening up language doesn’t take away an ingrained sense identity—it merely makes room for less black and white (and boy and girl) thinking. And if you truly think gender pronouns will take away what it means to be a man or a woman, then…I’m don’t actually get what you think it means to be a man or a woman. Is it just a construct of language? Would it really crumble away? Really?

  24. Bunnytwenty says:

    K. Annie: I have nothing constructive to add to this, except that I like you a lot.

  25. Jacob Woods says:

    OMG! I couldn’t have said this better myself. I am going into psychology, not that it matters, but it seems like it doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out you don’t need to push kids into their feminine and masculine sides to make the world a fair and productive place! If you are interested, here is my take on the issue. http://www.goodasgay.com/2011/06/i-think-sexual-identity-is-important.html

  26. Lindsay says:

    Thank you K. Annie. Such great points, nice to see that at least someone doesn’t take this whole thing as a personal attack and sees it as a way for us to discuss and grow as humans. Gender neutrality doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to like being a woman or like pink. It’s about not putting that on kids and letting them truly decide who they are without these ‘rules’ so to speak. Whether or not you do expose them to both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ things is moot, kids pick all these things up in society and learn the unspoken rules and it’s kind of saddening.

    Maybe people aren’t going about this the right way(kids shouldn’t be used as social experiments, IMO), but the idea and concept behind it is something really interesting and freeing.

    Why do we even have gender pronouns, there really is no point to them. Imagine if we had separate pronouns for people of a different race – that’d seem pretty silly too. I think this is a great conversation and essentially about everyone having their own spectrum of where they are when it comes to gender, which isn’t necessarily just about what is between your legs.

    I felt this post(article?) was reducing the issue to a joke or a personal attack, when it’s all about freedom and getting rid of labels. Noone is telling you that you can’t dress you kid in pink, in fact people are saying the opposite: dress your kid our yourself in whatever you want, there shouldn’t really be a male vs female way to dress, essentially.

  27. Jen says:

    I like the idea of different, but equal. No matter which way we slice it at the end of the day women carry and birth babies. Men CANNOT do that. At least not yet…

  28. Kristen says:

    If you’d like to read a much more nuanced and eloquent post on this issue, try this: http://feministing.com/2011/06/29/the-end-of-gender/

  29. K. Annie says:

    Sorry, Jen, but separate but equal doesn’t exactly have a proven track record of success. And, a community attempting to neutralize gendered pronouns does not change the fact that women have babies—language is not biology, it’s not science—that’s the point. A more open-minded approach to gender roles/rule/prescriptions for children doesn’t deny that people can (should, might) feel their sex as part of their identity, it just asks that identity not be forced upon someone because of their sex.

  30. Gretchen Powers says:

    That’s all really interesting, but reading the Egalia teacher’s quote in the Feministing post that “Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing”…I just ask, really? Still????? In Sweden? I just don’t see it. Nor do I see the “forcible gender categorization and policing”…of course, I live in suburb of a major metropolitan area, not, say, Texas, but still. I am not seeing any extreme, weird, forcible gender roles. What I *DO* see are moms buying their own little girls lots of Disney princess crap, moms of boys taking them to see Cars and stuff like that. Seems like the parents want this stuff. In my family we don’t, we’re more into art/adventure/block pursuits with animals playing the main character roles and they’re pretty asexual except there are mamas and babies among the animals. I think that its become a pretty healthy mishmash out there, actually, if parents give a SH*T to help control their kids media and toy intake just a bit.

  31. Erin says:

    Carolyn, I agree with every single thing you have said in your article, though I hate the slideshow format. I can’t believe that anyone thinks that changing pronouns or trying to eliminate gender would change anything about gender in equality. Because we don’t use “he,” “she,” “him,” or “her,” all of the bigoted people in the world are going to suddenly was away their gender biases? Absurd. And you can’t eliminate gender. It’s not a social construct. It’s a biological fact. There are chromosomal, hormonal, and a host of anatomical reasons to back this up. (Which I can’t believe I would have to actually spell out, seriously…) And it is a scientific fact that the respective (and different, which is perfectly FINE) hormones we have in our bodies encourage certain types of behaviors. No, girls aren’t genetically predisposed to love unicorns and boys aren’t likewise predisposed to love dump trucks, but giving a girl a dump truck to play with doesn’t make her cease to be a girl, nor should it.

    So there aren’t dinosaur shirts for girls? My 2-year-old daughter loves dinosaurs too, so if she wants one on her shirt, I buy her a “boys” shirt. So what? Am I all up in arms because I had to go to the “boys department” to find her shirt? No. It’s more often that she asks to wear a “beautiful dress,” and I’m sure some of you that fancy yourselves “progressive” for being genderless would have a big old problem with that. I guess I am setting her up for a lifetime of discrimination and abuse by letting that clothing choice slip by. Pfffff.

  32. K. Annie says:

    Erin, what you are talking about is not “gender” it’s biological sex–hormonal and physical differences between male and female. The terms are not interchangeable. Gender is not so much about male and female, but feminine and masculine. A love of dinosaurs is not male or female, yes, but is it masculine or feminine? We’re letting clothing manufactures dictate that for our children. That’s a problem.

  33. Gretchen Powers says:

    Like anything else, mainstream manufacturers make what they think will appeal to the masses and market it to target audiences. By buying our girls dinosaur t-shirts or whatever they like, we are breaking out of this. I question why people LET themselves be so dictated to by mainstream culture. If you don’t like something don’t buy it. If you like something buy it. I, for one, am NOT letting manufacturers of anything dictate anything to me. I really don’t get what the problem is. I would admit, though, that boys clothes are often really really butch to the point that I wouldn’t even want them for a boy. I mean, who wants a picture of a truck on their shirt, anyway? Kids clothes in general are kind of goofy. One has to be pretty selective.

  34. carolyncastiglia says:

    GP – “I would admit, though, that boys clothes are often really really butch to the point that I wouldn’t even want them for a boy.” Ha. Agreed. And most of the girls’ crap is awful, too. But I could never afford Zutano or Gymboree, so I shop mostly at Target and the Children’s Place. I think CP is pretty great, actually. They do have the section of screen-printed tees, but other than that their clothes are very tasteful and child-friendly, for both boys and girls. Well-constructed, lots of bright colors, no high heels or low necklines – their clothes really feel like kids’ clothes, I think. My daughter got some high-end hand-me-downs recently and I’ve been letting her wear them cuz I’m currently broke, but they’re much too feminine for my taste. (Scoop necks, ruching, etc.) When I went to buy a onesie for a friend who has a boy, I didn’t see much that I liked, either. When I was a kid, my mom made most of my clothes. I don’t know how to sew…

    The toy section in any store is even more depressing than the clothing section, tho.

  35. Gretchen Powers says:

    I went into Gymboree once and hated it…totally girlie! Give me Target, Old Navy thrift stores and wacky online spots, like punk rock baby etc. We have found lots of good CP stuff in thrift stores. Our mom made our clothes, too. I made my kid’s Halloween costume last year and it took a month, so if I were to make her clothes, she’d have one outfit or wear pillowcases with holes for the arms…hahahahah.

  36. carolyncastiglia says:

    Hahaha – that actually sounds fairly haute couture, and thus, no good for kids.

  37. Erin says:

    Clothing manufacturers dictate nothing for my child. They’re clothes. Relax. The fact that the dinosaur shirts are in the boys’ department does not discourage my daughter from liking dinosaurs. My girl wears what she likes (when she cares, anyway), plays with the toys she likes, chooses the playmates she likes, etc. And I believe the biological “sex” is certainly an accepted definition of gender. I celebrate masculinity and femininity. They are both glorious aspects of humanity and are not wrong. Neither are the pronouns that indicate respective genders – or sexes, if that’s the word you prefer. Refusing to acknowledge that there are such things as male and female human beings, and that they aren’t the same thing, solves nothing. Not only does it solve nothing, but it’s ridiculous.

  38. KevinK says:

    I think the real solution is that society needs to be aware and welcoming of other genders. Sure those who are against it are in denial themselves, so they need to know it is okay form them no to hide.

    I also think that gender and biological sex cannot be entirely separated. Even if society is accepting of different genders, if dissonance theory has any merit, then there is inherent conflict when one’s sexual identity mentally and emotionally does not correspond to their physiological sex.

    I understand that some are suffering about not be able to live freely in their gender identity. Yet, they are many things that cause suffering in people. They might not seem important, but for those who took their own lives over it, it was.

    The way I see it, we are trying to fight for individuals against an establishment with special interests groups. But special interest groups are not individuals.

  39. K. Annie says:

    Sorry, Erin, but biological sex and gender aren’t interchangeable terms. I didn’t make up this distinction. It’s a real thing and the idea that you are insisting otherwise helps me understand why you are bring flip about gender pronouns. I feeling like you  aren’t aware–or being respectful of–of the power and rigidness of language and how it affects children and society. And while I dislike that this conversation has become more about clothing than gender equality and gender freedom, I just want to say that claiming a t-shirt has no gender value to you or your kid  doesn’t mean anything if you still call it (and see it) as a boy’s t-shirt. Then it is a boys t-shirt. That’s what language does.

  40. JEssica C says:

    In german they have the word “the” but for male(der), female(die) and gender neutral (das) for everything. I wish they would go genderless it should would make learning their language easier. I think spanish has something similiar to that too. Maybe this is what they are referring to in the swedish schools (they maybe learning in another language) but this language distinction does not translate well into english.

    I love jcrew clothing I have been eyeing a plaid pink shirt for my son for picture day! His skin tone and the pink/white combo would be awesome. I don’t have girls but I sure do envy their side of the store (3/4 of the store or department) compared to the boy section. My son doesn’t pick his clothes and if I had a daughter she wouldn’t have that option. I also do believe if you want a picture of dino for your daughter urban outfitters has a make your own shirt deal. But it looked pretty expensive.

  41. Melissa says:

    The reason we shouldn’t use gendered pronouns is because until our kid tells us how they identify and understand their gender, we just don’t know. And I, personally, believe that just assuming my female child is going to end up a girl is problematic and cis-sexist. Sure, my female kid is likely going to end up identifying as a woman…but what if they don’t? Some awkward linguistic tics are worth the price of letting my kid develop without me imposing assumptions. The rest of society already makes plenty of assumptions; I don’t need to add to it.

    I’m just saying this because the author asked point blank why gender neutral pronouns or the avoidance of pronouns altogether is necessary. For what it’s worth, I find this blog post terribly insensitive, privileged and tone-deaf.

  42. Erin says:

    I didn’t say it was a boy’s t-shirt. The first time I put “boys” in quotes because that’s what it is put forth as, not necessarily what it needs to be, and not what it is. It’s just a shirt. The second time, I said it was in the boys’ department, because that’s where it was. I didn’t say it was a boys’ t-shirt. Hey, I know, let’s talk more about shirts. Obviously a highly important social topic.

    For what it’s worth, I do wish we had a non-awkward gender neutral pronoun to refer to living beings, because it would make writing a lot more flowy. It does get tiresome to say, “his or her” and “he or she” all the time instead of having just one universal word. But that’s not about pretending that being a boy and being a girl (sex-wise or gender-wise) are the same thing. Just a desire for more flowy writing.

    It’s interesting that KEVINK brought up the point he did, because I was thinking the same thing. If there’s no inherent identity (and importantance with such identity) as “boy” or “girl,” then there would be no such thing as Gender Dysphoric Disorder. It’s not all interchangeable. The overwhelming majority of girls identify as such, as do boys. When they don’t, it’s a painful and confusing situation. If there was no such thing as identifying as masculine or feminine; boy or girl, then people with Gender Dysphoric Disorder would not feel so compelled to change their physical gender to match the gender with which they identify. We’re not all just grey, sexless people. Let’s not pretend we are. It’s a disservice to the human race.

  43. K. Annie says:

    There are gender identity disorders because society expects gender and sex to be a matching set. A male with a gender identity disorder isn’t saying he is not physically male, but rather that he doesn’t identify physiologically as male—and so may wish to make physical changes to be less male. Take gender away, and yes, a male with a gender identity disorder could likely still be dissatisfied with his born sex. This doesn’t mean, though, that gender and sex are interchangeable—but rather shows the pressure to have them match. Always. And, it also shows one of the many ways that gender roles influence a life. I’ve never said that being a boy is the same as being a girl. Biologically there are obviouse differences. What I am saying is that maybe we let gender define those differences in rigid, non-biological ways—and that that has an effect on children around the world (and everyone, really). And that while distinctions between boys and girls may be important for doctor visits, they shouldn’t be equally important in classroom settings. And, who wouldn’t want to be addressed by their teacher every morning with “Hello, friends.” Or be called by their name instead of he or she. I’ll be honest, I had mixed feeling about the gender pronoun stuff at the start–which felt awkward and difficult–and maybe a step too far, but as I am engaging with the idea further, I must say, I find it quite lovely. And would love to be a part of a school like this.

  44. Gretchen Powers says:

    I think a gender identity disorder is probably something more than a girl wanting to camp and not wear makeup or a boy wanting to play with dolls, though…seriously. I don’t think we have to change our language and the way the vast majority of people operate because a handful of people have a “disorder” or because it’s cool to be butch or femme if you’re not feelin’ whatever is “normally” attached to your biological gender. What we DO have to do is just be nice to people, cut them some slack, give them room to be who they are. And for those who really want to play this game/do this experiment, we actually do have a pronoun in English that is without gender, it is called “it.”

  45. Denise says:

    I read in a magazine the other day that researchers are discovering that boys and girls are different – mentally and physically and socially. WOW! I am so glad someone had to do research to figure that out. Boys and Girls are different, they have been and always will be. That doesnt make them unequal or make one sex better than the other, but they will always be biologically and socially different. How bout instead of leveling the playing field all the time, that we recognize the benefits of each gender (like the fact that you need men for sperm and women for eggs in order to even carry on the species), and celebrate them instead of making children afraid to call their friends boys or girls. I am truly afraid of where this world is going. Whats next? We might as well manufacture human brains that function outside of bodies and then ask the brains what kind of bodies they want to have. oh but then those brains might not like that they were manufactured that way and ask to be remade. Good grief.

  46. Jackie says:

    I don’t think that the author of this article understands the greater reasoning behind the movement towards raising children in a more gender neutral environment (i.e. the systemic issues with gender currently and in the past). The arguments proposed here are incredibly superficial to the actual issue and don’t touch on any of the meat of the subject. I agree with the commenter that said the article was glib and totally besides the point.

  47. Melissa says:

    @Gretchen Powers: I, personally, find the admittedly gender neutral pronoun ‘it’ dehumanizing and not an appropriate term for my kid. ‘It’ has connotations of lacking personhood which makes me resistant to using it for my kid. I would vastly prefer a pronoun that was gender neutral but hinted at value and personhood the way ‘he’ or ‘she’ does.

  48. Aleah says:

    I agree with disliking the slideshow format; I usually skip those – however I was quite interested in the subject matter of the post.

    Re the attention-seeking couple in Canada; I do feel they’re just that. I dislike their parenting methods, but they’re not my kids, and I hope their girls/boys/whatever come out of their parent’s social experiment with a strong sense of their own identity.

    I agree with the distinction between gender equality and gender neutrality. To deny we’re one or the other would seem to be as futile as someone who’s born gay trying to play straight. There is no denying our gender, our sexual preferences, and our individual strengths and weaknesses. I have two boys with Mohawks and Metallica shirts who LOVE having their toenails painted. They’re both sensitive and charismatic, and I hope that carries over into their adulthood.

    They’re both WELL aware they are male – the distinction being the genetalia they were born with. Beyond that, I don’t feel it’s necessary to tiptoe around issues of gender bias or neutrality; it’s OKAY to be a feminine male or a masculine one (ditto for women). But eliminating gender from speech does no one a favor and shifts focus from where it should be – eliminating bias and discrimination in places where gender issues are MUCH more serious than what kind of toy your kid likes to play with.

  49. Tara says:

    I think that this whole topic is interesting. I think it is a shame that we can not have a debate about something, anything, without it turning into an outrageous name calling argument. If you ask me, this is the problem in our world. How are our children going to learn to be productive adults in a world so in need of change if the adults in their lives can not even have a civilized conversation? I have two boys aged 3 and 1 1/2. They happen to be rough and tumble little boys, by choice. I am a very feminine woman and my husband very much a man. However, I have, and will continue to encourage our boys to be themselves, no matter what that means for them in the future. I think it is a courageous choice to raise your child genderless in a society so bound by “acceptable” gender roles. It is not a choice I would make, but more power to them. I do however not see that point in banning gender pronouns. I don’t know that it does anything for any cause. As to the comments about the gay community being an abomination… I will not even try to respond to something so close-minded. I think we all need to take a step back and realize that there is no one right answer to everything.

  50. CK says:

    I agree that it’s absurd to make an issue over pronouns. In helping children construct identity we have to help them define themselves in certain ways, as well has help them re-define ways that don’t work for them. But you need to have a definition in order to change it. Yes, there are third-gendered individuals, and I fully respect their right to change their pronoun should they choose to do so, but for the vast majority of people I think it is a ridiculous and cumbersome thing to attempt to erase pronouns or go to calling people “it.” Also, by and large I agree with the writer here. It’s about eliminating bias, not eliminating gender. And, for children, I often think it’s harder for boys these days than girls. Girls can wear blue, play sports, adore trucks and trains, and for the most part nobody bats an eye. But boys? People go crazy when boys dress in girly clothes, have long hair, or, god forbid, play with a doll. I think for both sexes it’s important to give kids a basis for who they are, but encourage them to experiment with that and re-define their personal gender in their own ways. I have girls and I encourage them to embrace being girls in whatever way feels right to them. But I don’t try to tell them that they aren’t girls. They are. And that is a wonderful thing to be in this world.

  51. CK says:

    Oh, and as someone said, I think that a lot of people misunderstand that the terms “gender” and “sex” are two separate things. For the majority of people their sex is biologically based (there are third-gendered individuals, however, and it is important to remember that even from a biological standpoint sex is not as obvious as we would always like it to be), but gender is pliable. Gender is how an individual defines themselves. Gender involves choice, preference, and individuality. What we want to do is create an environment where girls and boys can be whoever they want and fall wherever they like along the gender spectrum. However, I still don’t think we have to eliminate pronouns in order to do that.

  52. person says:

    Thank you so much for showing the common sense side of this issue. I think it’s heartless to make a child be gender neutral just so you can make your “hen” fit into your own perfect world. It’s not freedom it’s just bondage in another form! I think it’s really hypocritical for parents to demand gender freedom and then dress their own kids in all grey to keep them from falling into a gender stereotype.

  53. joy says:

    Call me crazy, but i like being a girl and I like treating my little boys as just that… BOYS. There is a difference between the two and has been since we started on this earth, get over it people!! just because there is a difference in EVERYONES interests, male and female doesn’t mean we have to take out he and she and replace them with it. taking out words isn’t going to fix anything…

  54. Alicia says:

    Didn’t read all of the comments (have a busy day today), but instead of doing away with “him/he” and “she/her”, we add a third option for those that want to be gender neutral? So far English only has the word “it” for this, but we could borrow a third option from those cultures in the world who recognize a third gender that is both male and female. It’s pretty common in several Asian and Pacific Islander societies for there to be boys who are raised to be feminine like women. They aren’t transgendered because they don’t change their anatomy, but they dress and act in a feminine way, and they’re fully accepted members of their society. I don’t think everyone should be forced to be gender neutral, especially if they strongly identify themselves as one gender or another, but there should be the inclusion of a third gender if that’s what the person wants. I personally think that gender neutrality is okay as long as it doesn’t turn into the fad du jour, where everyone starts considering anyone who isn’t gender neutral a “bad person” or parents who don’t go the gender neutral route “bad parents”. But I think gender *equality* is far more important to work for around the world. Only when there’s true gender equality everywhere can we be free to squabble over gender neutrality.

  55. Paula says:

    If the whole point of this discussion is that there are some people out there that were born as a female but wished they were a male (or vice versa) wouldn’t it be easier to find a pronoun for them. Cause I’ve never known what to call a transsexual, so a separate pronoun would be good. Other than that, I want my son to know he is a boy. Not in the sense that he cannot play with dolls, but in the sense that he knows there are certain ways he should behave… I do want him to hold the door for his female friends. I do want him to know it is OK to change his clothes in a room full of boys (like after gym class), but it is not OK to do the same in a room with girls. And I do want the opportunity to tell him how wonderful is that we men and women are different, how both sides have their unique contribution to this world, and how we couldn’t exist without each other. I think it is one of the best lessons I can teach him, why do you make it a bad thing? Someone’s brought up the fact that there are women out there that cannot vote, are being abused, under payed and so on. I agree, it is tragic. But this is the solution, confusing our children from an early stage? If we spent the same amount of energy we do in finding ways to make a gender neutral world into explaining to our sons how they should treat women, and explaining to our daughters how they should fight for their own rights, we would get much further, more quickly. Just because a racist calls someone “african american” instead of “negro” doesn’t mean he isn’t a racist anymore. Just by eliminating a pronoun doesn’t mean that those who discriminate women will stop doing so…

  56. angelina says:

    Funny post.
    Parents need to be parents. Why would your kids need you if they were just meant to raise themselves. I can’t imagine growing up and being confused about my gender because my parents went out of their way to put me in an entire new category—genderless. I can only imagine what my friends in Pre-K would ask… if girls have a vagina and boys have a penis, what do “genderless” have. Parents are to shepherd their child’s heart–not experiment with their future. Males and Females are equal but each have their own roles. Own it.

  57. Tania says:

    There are too many differences between women and men for children to be raised gender neutral. No matter what you name your kid, colors you dress them in, or types of toys you allow them to play with. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. Most will not fit the mold of the typical stereotype of the gender either. But that’s what makes every individual unique. I don’t see how raising children gender neutral is going to rewire their brains to think differently when they’re adults. When the teenage years hit, these girls(or boys) are still going to want to look cute for boys. And the boys (or girls) are going to want to impress girls. And when it comes to gender equality it’s all about what is valued most. Men are physically stronger and tend to make more money than women. But women can withstand pain better than men while giving birth to new life. And the list goes on for PROS for both genders. We are equal, just in different ways.

  58. angie says:

    Tania–YES!

  59. Anoosh says:

    Rather than doing away with gendered pronouns altogether, we should be more accepting of other genders outside the he/she, boy/girl binary. Trans people have invented their own pronouns, ze/hir, so we could incorporate those as well. Gender is too deeply imbedded into our culture and language to dislodge it, so a different approach would be to expand rather than eliminate.

  60. Lulu says:

    I agree that some things are very sexist, but these days people are going too far. Why must we all be neutral? We must expirement with our children, let the girl be princessy and pink, ask her if she wants to wear blue or green or orange or purple or keep wearing pink, keep loving princesses and fairytales.

  61. Nevada says:

    OK, so you being all parents and adults, I guess you have the biggest say in this, but for me, a 12 year old girl, almost 13, I think being genderless through childhood (as the author puts it) is truly, crap. Oh I known there are you peaople saying gender inhibits your kids, but I don’t think being a girl has changed anything, at least so far. I mean, don’t any of you know guys are the stupid ones and that is the reason they need us smart girls, to help them along through life? I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with calling a girl a she and a boy a he, I mean that is what we are, duh. Unless you would rather have your child called an it? Anyway, gender neutral kids I believe will be the ones that grow up into weirdos and outcasts. Simple as that. :]

  62. Chelsea says:

    K.annie of this were facebook I would give you two thumbs up

  63. Natasha says:

    I think that not referring to ourselves as male or female is absurd. We are what we are, (gender-wise) if you are a man that feels like a woman, you are still a man, right? you were born with a penis, that makes you male right? I think gender equality is important, but gender neutrality is just weird. I think everyone should be free to be who they are, love who they love, and wear what that want to wear, and refer to themselves as whatever they want to. But raising a child, without gender is just forcing your ideals onto them, let them know what gender they are, but let them decide on their own, what they feel comfortable with. I was raised by a woman, who was “straight” but she hated makeup, fashion, etc.. and she wore menswear and a very short pixie hair style. She raised me, and even though I went through a serious tom-boy faze, I grew to be a woman that loooovvvess makeup and fashion, yet my favorite color has always been blues/green, Ive always loved action movies. My grandmother told me when I was a kid, that I could decorate my room in any way I wanted, and the whole thing was blue, blue everything. Ive always been aware im a female, ive always felt female, and I am straight, but I grew up with only male friends,i generally don’t get along with females, and I like a lot of things men typically do, but I also love girly things…so am a woman, but its my choice as a woman to enjoy anythings I do, whether they are “supposed to be” meant for a man. I raise my two daughters with this mentality too. You are females, mommy is a female, daddy is a male. Which clothes do you like? What color do you like? what toy do you like? I get the things they like, I don’t force them to wear pink or have princess things, they can decide, they are free to be themselves as females. If my daughers want a pirate ship toy, I get it, if they want a blue shirt and jeans, ok, that’s great! if they want short hair instead of long, its fine by me, if they grow up and tell me they like woman, I support them. Its not that hard folks! Be who you are, know who you are, d what you want, do let others decide, we are all intitled to our opinions, but if we live our lives the way we choose and we aren’t hurting anyone in the process, then what more can we ask from life.

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