I was recently interviewed for an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about gender-neutral parenting:
Ariel Meadow Stallings, 35, who runs a blog called offbeatmama.com, has observed that gender-neutral parenting has become a hot topic of discussion among parents. In February, a reader posed a question about whether or not to wait to find out the sex of her baby. In two days, more than 150 comments came in, many favoring a stereotype-free environment.
Stallings, who has a 17-month-old boy named Octavian Fetz Stallings, has strong feelings against “handing down an identity” to children, in her case shaped partially by the fact that her mother and mother-in-law are both in same-sex relationships. Stallings is determined to give her son a “gender-neutral start-off.”
“So many assumptions about gender roles are just entrenched in our culture,” said Stallings. “Being gender neutral encourages people to pause and think about their perceptions.”
In the discussions that have come from the article, commenters have fretted about how gender-neutrality is somehow denying a child from having a gender identity. I see this as people confusing gender-neutral with genderless.
Sure: a very few parents do get into truly genderless parenting (see Baby Pop or Baby Storm). For me, however, I’m not trying to raise an androgynous child — I’m just looking to raise a little boy who understands that he can play with a firetruck or a My Little Pony. (And no, I’m not going to force him play with a pony or deny him a firetruck. I provide options and let him make his own choices.) I’m aiming to raise a son who doesn’t blink twice when he sees a little girl who loves Star Wars.
For me, I’m not interested in removing gender from the equation — my goal is to support my son making his own decisions about his identity. When he wants to play with his firetruck, lemme tell ya: dude plays with his firetruck!
That said, this is one of those issues people LOVE to argue about, and I just can’t muster up the energy to debate. If gender-neutrality isn’t your thing, that’s cool by me. I’m not here to convince anyone that my thinking on the subject is correct. One of Offbeat Mama’s core values is that “Every parent, every kid, and every situation is different. We do not believe in dogmatic parenting philosophies or judging those who make different decisions.”
Different perspectives on this topic: