Born in a society where gender stereotypes and biases run rampant, children learn at a very young age how they should act and what they should like. From pink and blue toys, to cartoons, billboards, (and yes, even mom and dad)—our children are exposed to things on a daily basis that strongly influence their attitudes and behaviors regarding gender roles.
It all starts at home. The moment you announce the sex of your child to family and friends, you’ll find yourself faced with a mountain of pink and blue clothing and toys. You’ll have to choose a name and of course, a color theme for the baby’s room.
We know all too well, the classic nursery rhyme, What are little girls made of? “Sugar and spice and everything nice that’s what little girls are made of…” But what if we wanted to be made of “Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails” like the boys?
It’s worth asking: did we even have a choice when we were growing up?
Like any loving parent you want the very best for your child and you love them unconditionally, without question. In your quest for their happiness, you want them to develop into the unique individuals they were born to be. Unfortunately, you also end up passing on to them the gender roles that you know and expect—whether you realize it or not.
Yes, it’s none other than mom and dad who are the strongest influencers on their children’s gender role development. Still, you can take comfort knowing that studies suggest children will eventually identify and understand gender roles, regardless of how their parents raise them. So what happens then when mom and dad ignore gender altogether? One fascinating Canadian couple have chosen to do just that…
After making the decision not to reveal the gender of their 5-month old baby, Storm, Kathy Witteric and David Stoker have received everything from praise and support, to harsh criticism.
According to news reports, the parents maintain that their goal is to promote freedom of choice for their child. They say it all started with “Hey, what if we just didn’t tell?” Then one day Mr. Stocker came across a book titled X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. The book, published in 1978, is a story about raising X genderless, not as a boy or as a girl, but as whatever X was to be. In the end, little X, who loved to play football and weave baskets, turns out to be the most well-adjusted child ever examined by “an impartial team of Xperts.”
Kathy Witteric and David Stoker are not the first to try and raise their child free of gender stereotypes. A family in Sweden earned its share of media attention when news broke in 2009 that they were raising their two-and-a-half year old, Pop, to be genderless.
Still, what the outcome may be for little Storm and Pop is uncertain. Many are worried that the decision to keep their sex a secret will ultimately hinder Storm and Pop more than help.
Kids at school will surely tease, and then there is the question of which bathroom the children would use—the boys’ or girls’ room? Still we are left with so many unanswered questions…. Perhaps society makes raising genderless children virtually impossible? Or perhaps, we should stop and consider: besides procreation, what makes gender so important anyways?