Mothering Forum banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
148 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About a year ago, I read the book, "Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes" by Christia Spears-Brown. It changed my life. Not only did the book change my outlook on gender stereotypes in children, but it changed the language I use (around adults and children alike) and my interactions with children. It changed even small things, like how I choose a gift for a child, what activities I'll prepare for a child in my care (I'm a godparent/nanny/older cousin/babysitter/teacher), and the assumptions I'll make (or choose not to make) about any child I meet (i.e. catching myself when I assume a child is a girl because they have long hair; or that the child won't want to play dolls because he's a boy). So, for those who've read the book (or those similar to it, such as "Pink Brain, Blue Brain), how has it changed the way you interact with the children in your life? For parents, how has it changed how you're raising your children? Would you, for instance, having read the book buy a pink day gown for your newborn boy? Or make sure your toddler girl has blocks and trains in her life? Or hold back on cutting your little boy's hair? Do you pay more attention to numbers and math around your girls? Do you emphasise emotional awareness around your boys?

I loved this book and would love to hear other peoples' take on it. I know it changed my life - did it change yours?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
148 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I suppose an addendum to my original post would be a mention of the recent parenting style called "gender neutral parenting." Since reading "Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue" (or, PBPB for short), I've sort of come up with my own GNP style, which I use around all children (I don't have children of my own, so to speak, but I'm around them on a daily basis, between work, volunteering, and family). I started researching GNP to see how other parents were doing things. I suppose the most "extreme" style, if you want to call it extreme would be that of the Toronto family who had a baby called Storm a few years back, refusing to reveal Storm's gender until such a time when s/he identified with one gender or another. They have two other children, who have been raised similarly (minus having their biological gender kept a secret from all by immediate family).

Others' GNP styles includes offering from birth an equal variety of toys and clothes from both gender markets. I saw a news reel featuring an English family, who were raising their baby gender neutral. In the video, one could see him wearing, at different times, trousers, a tutu, and a pinafore dress; one could also see him playing with a variety of toys. He had very short hair, but sometimes had barrettes in it (for ornamentation - not practical use).

Some parents go to lesser extremes, simply making sure that their children play with a large variety of toys aimed at both genders, and are generally accepted for who they are when their children present their preferences, interests, and talents (i.e. supporting their daughter who's interested in bmx; or their son who's into musical theatre), but don't go as far as to shop in the boys' department for their daughter or the girls' department for their son, unless specifically asked to by their child.

A main goal I've seen behind GNP has been for parents to offer a supportive environment from the get go, should their child present as transgender or gender non-conforming. Another goal seems to be giving the child freedom to explore, without being cut off from something because the child identifies it as belonging to the opposite gender, and thus has no interest in it. ("Pink is for girls." "Sports are for boys." Dolls are for girls." "Only boys like to get dirty.") But an equally important goal, in my view, is to send the message to children that there is no superiour gender - that both genders, though different, are valued equally; that there is no shame in being called a girl. If this was truly how we raised our children, how the world raised our children, I have no doubt that the rate of violence against women and girls would decrease dramatically. I also believe we'd see many more involved fathers, far fewer infringements on feminist rights, and less overall violence (because men would no longer feel they had to prove their masculinity)...obviously, all of this is not happening any time soon, but I believe the way to improve things in these areas starts with how we raise our children.

In PBPB, one of the major things the author focuses on is the constant identifying of gender - instead of saying adult, child, elder, baby, youth, teenager, kid, grown-up, person, etc., we are constantly saying, man, woman, boy, girl, guy, gal, lady, gentleman, etc. When recounting a story, if I don't reveal the gender in context, I'm almost always asked for it. ("We were at the library and this baby - who doesn't even know me - just came and sat in my lap." "Was it a boy or a girl?" How is that a relevant piece of information? Why does it matter?) Once we know the gender of a person, we can categorize them (something the human brain loves to do) and match them to whatever our understanding of male or female is. If we think women talk too much, we gravitate towards scenarios where this is proved true, and discard in our brain the scenarios where men talk to much or where women speak very little. So, having learned this fact through the research in PBPB, I decided to eliminate nearly all gendered language from my vocabulary. This especially goes for gendered vocations (policeman, fireman, postman, etc.), because every time you include man/woman at the end of a vocation, you're essentially telling that child that only men (or women, as the case might be) do those jobs. Only men fight fires, deliver mail, or fight crime, and that simply is not true. Instead, I always use words like "police officer," "fire fighter," post carrier/postal worker," "server," "player," "repair person," "house cleaner," or "doorkeeper." I no longer say boy/girl, man/woman; I only ever say lady if I'm referring to the title (not just any old adult female). The only instances I use these words are if the gender of the person is actually relevant (you'd be surprised how seldom it actually is), if they're printed in classic literature (I'm not going to mess with the classics; no matter how sexist Shakespeare may have been, I draw a line), or if man/woman/girl/boy is part of a person's name (Batman, Catwoman, Hoffman, Goldman) - again, no matter how much I wish super hero names were never tied to gender, that's their name, and I haven't seen a way around it (my 3 y/o charge would scream if I tried to change his favourite super heroes' names).

Another thing I've done, when reading to children, is switch the gender of characters who's gender isn't physically obvious (most animals and children) - not going to say a cow utters showing is male, nor am I going to say a man is female, but a frog, fox, baby, etc. I'll switch. I do this to balance out the abhorrent prevalence of male characters in literature (seriously, I estimate 90% of all children's literary characters are male). Since I'm pretty sure I'm the only one doing this in my kiddos' lives, I figure it's alright if, with me, 80% of book characters are female; they'll get 90% male characters with every other person in their life who's reading to them. If I knew more people were doing this the kids, I'd probably just randomly rotate characters, making it so that every other character was male (unless it was obviously depicted as female).

When I give gifts, I try to centre the choice around the interests/needs of the child. If a child doesn't have a certain toy (and s/he's unlikely to get it from someone else), that might be an option. Or if I'm certain a child has a specific interest area, I'll try and pick something that will reflect that interest. If I don't know the child well (like relatives whom I might not even have met, or haven't seen in a long time), I try to centre my choice around age/development only, instead of assuming what the child will like based on gender. (I ask myself, "If I don't know a thing about this child, aside from their name, age, and gender, how would I have any idea whether she'd prefer a train set or a set of fairy wings?") Sometimes, I'll even write the age-appropriate options on slips of paper and blindly choose one, just because I don't trust my own very gender biased brain sometimes. I think if I had my own children and was the one providing most of their playthings, I would try to include as much variety as possible, and then let them direct their own play...kind of like how one does at meals (you provide the food, the child decides what/how much to eat). I think the same would go for activities (making sure both girls and boys did sports, dance, woodwork, cooking, etc.).

With boys, I'm more conscious of teaching them emotional awareness, remembering to be gentle with them (especially the little ones), and giving them the freedom to be pretty (something my own brother wishes boys were allowed to be more often). With girls, I find myself telling them often how strong they are, encouraging them to test their physical prowess on the playground, and making them aware of all the numbers around them (counting, identifying, simple addition/subtraction). I do these things because I know I'll automatically be gentle with my girls, and I'll automatically tell my boys that they're strong. I don't have to work at it because society has done the work for me.

Anyway, those are some things that I've discovered/noticed/implemented, regarding GNP. I never would have embarked upon any of this had I not read PBPB (because before that, I didn't believe all of that "hogwash," about gender stereotypes being a societal construct). Do you practice any form of GNP? How do you gender neutral parent and what are some of the lessons you've learned along the way?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,705 Posts
I haven't read anything on the subject, but came into a similar mindset naturally. I was always a real tomboy, one of the guys, growing up. To the point that people reacted so shocked if I did anything feminine (like wear a dress to a dance) that I felt severely embarrassed. When my mom sat me down for the sex talk, it included how to unhook a girl's bra...because obviously, if I preferred "boy" clothes and activities, I must by a lesbian. =/

Over time, I became more comfortable dressing femininely when I want or engaging in "girl" activities. When I started having kids, I had a real chip on my shoulder about gender stereotypes, though. My boys cook and clean and play with dolls and wear pink if they feel like it. Even my 17 year old. He enjoys skateboarding and martial arts, and is a total ladies man...but loves to cook, play with babies, likes romantic comedies and boy bands, and just got both his ears pierced. I think he's come out pretty balanced, and far less burdened by gender stereotypes than his peers. My daughter drove me nuts being all girly and princesses when she was little. She picked up the expectation from people around her, and ran with it. Around 8-10, she became anti-girly...rejecting even things she really did love because she was rebelling against societal expectation. At 15, she's finally starting to find a balance. She even got excited over the formal prom style dress and accessories she wore to a friend's sweet 16. But, she still loves to hunt and read comic books. ;)

I tend to think all kids should have baby dolls, blocks, cars, trains, cooking toys, etc. Kids should climb trees and get messy, and skin their knees. They should also play dress up and learn empathy, and develop the skills they need to take care of themselves and their families when they grow up. I never really grasped the "boy" toys and "girl" toys thing. Maybe it's the homeschooler in me, but it feels like intentionally stunting their development to deny a child the opportunity to develop skills and ideas that are the foundation of future learning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13 Posts
Same as the previous post - I have not read the book but I try my best to teach my sons about life as a human person, not necessarily as boys or men. Anyway times are changing and dads are a lot more involved than they used to. Even toys are now are becoming more unisex : You can find vacuum cleaners and tool boxes for both sexes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
As the previous posters, I have not read the book, but still prefer to avoid stereotyping. Our Rabbit likes cooking with his dad and gardening and building furniture with me, chooses his own toys, colors, clothes and hairstyles (he wants a purple mohawk for this summer, oh dear:grin:) and does not care if something that he likes is from the "girls" aisle. I hope with my whole heart that he will grow up into a wholesome, balanced person who will do whatever makes him happy, unperturbed by society's expectations.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
60 Posts
I call my Daughter Monkey or bug. I never wanted to promote Disney because of the outlook for the princesses (whos mothers all are dead) and still ended up with her calling herself a princess and wearing princess costumes and shes now 4. So slowly Disney movies are going in to her head. (Not by me but friends homes ect.) So she has it stuck that girls have to have long hair and look pretty. While my son is all boy. He wears nail polish once in awhile he will be 6 years old in May. I got him a mohawk with batman on one side desighn and shooting star on the other.i have tattoos of stars on my side of my face so he likes stars. Either way his boyish style i perfer. It just is cool and not caring. Nothing i can do about my monkey either let her know anything can happen with human beings and not be black and white thinker.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
9,674 Posts
I didn't care for the way people talked to my kids based on their assumed gender so I purposely muddled their clothing a bit so that folks had to be more general in their speech towards my children. I go so tired of people treating my girl like she's break or that she was "so pretty". I got very frustrated with people telling my petite son he'd be bruiser someday. Ick-o-rama. So, my daughter wore trains, dinosaurs and superhero t's... all of her own choosing. My son reveled in polka dots and Hawaiin shirts with mardi gras beads draped around his neck. This forced folks to at least slow down, look at my child and frame a question directed at them personally. Worked like a charm.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top