Good old nature/nurture…

I was recently sent a link to this story in the Swedish online site The Local: http://www.thelocal.se/20232/20090623/

It discusses two parents who have decided to withhold the sex of their child,Pop, in attempt to “avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.” Only they, and a few select others, are aware of the sex, and Pop is currently encouraged to express whichever gender Pop chooses…if that means wearing a dress today, or wearing trousers today, it doesn’t matter, it’s up to Pop.

I have a couple of issues with this, one of which is raised by a child psychologist in the article: “Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual.” Is this decision to raise Pop as genderless, responsible? As someone who has spent a significant part of her childhood in a daycare, I can say with surety, that children can sometimes be the most unaccepting and cruel towards people who are different. As parents, do you have the right to knowingly “other” your child? Because that is what is going to happen to Pop.  The idea of a genderless utopia is tempting, and an admirable wish, but can it be forced in this way? Is it healthy for Pop?

I think what I find really worrisome about this situation, is not the fact they are raising Pop in a free and open environment…I think that’s admirable. What worries me is the lack of knowledge being given to this child. Children are curious, particularly about their own bodies. What are they going to reply with when Pop comes asking about his or her body? At some point, Pop is going to need answers that, unfortunately, in our world entail gender restrictions.

This leads me to my second issue. Do you think they can even succeed? What is it that are even attempting to accomplish here really? I, personally, don’t believe that you can just de-sexyfy someone. At least not without confusing them, and failing to prepare them for the world they are going to face.

I’m also curious as to how they expect to raise a child in a genderless home, when they themselves are gendered. Unless they two have undergone this stripping of gender…which is not the impression I got from the article. Pop has gendered parents. Pop has gendered babysitters. Everything in Pops world is gendered. How can this work? More importantly how is this going to affect Pop?

As a feminist, I love the theory behind this. Yes, why not just raise our children genderless? Defeat sexism before it can begin, stop our children from ever even having knowledge of it.

But as a person, who was once a child, and who looks forward to maybe having kids in the future…

I can’t agree with this decision. Children are not experiments. You can’t just remove them from the workings of the world. Change, when it comes, ( and I hope it will) will come slowly, as all great changes do. Not abruptly, at the whim of a parent.

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~ by definitelygendered on April 23, 2010.

3 Responses to “Good old nature/nurture…”

  1. I think that if they were raising Pop in a genderless environment I would agree, and they may be attempting that. But the impression I got (the wishful impression, maybe, because I do love this on a very visceral level) is that it’s not “genderless” so much as “gender-open.” It’s not a world of grey blocks and unisex outfits – there are gendered elements to the environment, but Pop can choose which gender-representative elements s/he chooses.

    If someone says “you are a girl” and then proceeds to put all of the restrictions that go along with the gendering in place, I think that sucks! But if someone says “you are a person,” even if they are uncomfortable with not being able to put a gender there, I think that’s better. Kids can be very cruel and unaccepting, it’s true, but kids also often do look gender-ambiguous when they’re young. I don’t think it’s necessarily problematic to just run with that.

  2. I see that the parents mean well, but I agree with you in that it wouldn’t necessarily be the best thing for the child. For one, it would lead to a lot of confusion on the child’s part, especially when he/she first goes to school and meets other little boys and girls who are, obviously, gendered. I think a child needs to know his/her sex, so that the child can identify himself/herself physically. If the parents left it open as to what the child wanted to wear or do, I think that would be just as effective; not having to tell Pop that he/she should be wearing dresses or that his/her toys should be Tonka trucks – that, to me, is being open about gender without being extremist about it.

  3. […] Definitelygendered wrote earlier on the subject of Pop, the Swedish child whose gender identity is not being revealed until […]

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