Saturday, 28 May 2011

The 'Genderless' Baby

A couple in Canada have stirred a big stick into the ever-controversial hornet’s nest that is the “nature versus nurture” debate. It was reported that they are raising their baby without a gender.  So, unisex clothes, and toys (maybe no big deal for the first few months) and not even close friends know whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
I understand that they want to give their child the freedom from societal stereotypes, but it does seem to me that potentially they are storing up far more problems for him or her than if they just dressed him in pink or blue from now.
Whatever path ‘it’ follows, he or she will face gender stereotypes.  Like it or not, that’s how the world is, and always has been. Men are expected to behave one way and women, often, in a completely different way.  Sometimes there’s a biological reason for that, and even this Canadian family can’t change that.  How awful to be referring to a child as ‘it’ – immediately removing an identity, in my view.
The parents will allow the baby the choices when he/she is older about when to cut its hair, or how to dress.  All well and good, but what about when he/she has to start interacting with the rest of the world, say, by starting school.  Children can be very cruel at times.  Bullies target people for being different – don’t give them an obvious opportunity.  It can be very difficult for the gifted child, or the one who wear glasses, or even the one who wears the wrong brand of trainers, so it would be near impossible for a child who is uncertain of their own identity or somewhat out of the ordinary.
I have a boy cousin and a girl cousin, both raised by the same parents in the same house.  They play together with the same toys.  At this age, they don’t understand the gender stereotypes so if the boy cousin wants to wear pink, he does, but he does so while he’s wrestling with the dogs, while his sister, who wouldn’t dream of getting so dirty, plays quietly in the corner with her doll and her brother’s digger.
Children do start expressing opinions early on and understanding what they like.  Mummy often lets me pick clothes in the shop – she’ll hold up a couple of things in my size and I choose the one I like.  That seems to me the best way of letting me find my own identity.  Some days, I look like I conform to gender stereotypes, other days I don’t, but I’m confident in myself.
My mummy’s friend has a daughter that she is scared will become too traditionally ‘girly’ so she very rarely wears pink.  The little girl wanted some pink shoes but her mummy said no because they had too much diamante decoration on them.  What message does that give her – that she’s not worth pretty things?  That her opinion doesn’t count?
Going back to the Canadian family, they’re saying they’re doing it so the child has permission to make choices for him or herself, but in a way, they’re taking away its right to choice by forcing their thoughts on to the baby.
 To me it feels that ultimately, it is the child who will suffer for an ideological experiment.

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