Sunday, July 12, 2009

A child with a secret gender  


How do we, as feminists, raise our children to be free from gender constraints? Well, according to the New York Times, one Swedish couple knows how. Currently, only a handful of close relatives know the gender of their two year-old child, and that's it. The child's gender is kept a secret from anyone else, and the child is simply called "Pop."

"We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset," Pop's mother told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet last spring. "It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead."

Pop wears dresses, and also "male" styled pants, and Pop's hairstyle changes often, from traditionally feminine to traditionally masculine (and, one would imagine, to some untraditional styles now and then.)

I agree that the manner in which conformity and stereotypes are thrust onto children at the youngest of ages is disturbing. However, will this do more harm than good? Is it wrong to thrust our feminist agendas onto our children? Will this lead to resentment and confusion on the child's part? It's difficult to answer these questions, so if anyone can offer their opinion, I'm all ears. I think it's wonderful that they're trying to break out of a gendered society, but it's important to ask these questions before doing so.

Having a genderless child, however, is a great way to challenge the rigid manner in which a gendered society is run. Which bathroom will Pop use? Which line will Pop join when teachers split the class up into a boys' line and a girls' line in the hallway? Undoubtedly, Pop's activist parents will confront those who are responsible for these sexist set-ups, perhaps leading to people changing their own behaviors and challenging stereotypes, but is it ethical to use a child as an instrument to break the patriarchy?

A complex situation, to say the least. Still, I admire the courage and the strong values of Pop's parents. It's not easy to be in the small minority of those who challenge gender roles.

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2 comments: to “ A child with a secret gender

  • July 13, 2009 at 1:50 PM  

    I can understand the appeal. In fact, when we had our first child I teased my relatives about doing exactly the same thing. However, I don't believe that feminism is always about neutralizing the genders into a gray, sex-less culture. It's navigating the complexities between celebrating a sex and the ability to critique the social influences thrust onto a particular sex. I would guess this child will have a difficult time celebrating their uniqueness of being fe/male.

  • July 13, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

    Pop knows Pop's gender. Therefore, the situation is not entirely without influence of the popular culture...

    ...However, you know what? I bet that kid will be far better socialized than most of their peers. Too many times at the toy store I worked at did I have to hold my tongue as people discussed 'gender appropriate' toys. We did our best not to conform, but the toys themselves were often marketed that way, it was frustrating.