Again, there’s been a spot of gender neutral parenting hitting the headlines.
This time UK parents, who’ve decided to let their child grow up gender neutral, so letting him wear both ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ clothes, play with any type of toy and the like. They’re planning to home school, although I don’t really see their argument in doing that apart from avoiding the child coming up against gender stereotypes early on. I have to say that compared with the previous article I’d seen about an American family, this doesn’t seem that extreme. No neutral name, no neutral haircut etc.
The mum made the decision because she believes that forcing boys to be ‘boys’ encourages essentially chauvinistic behaviour and hatred towards women. Hmm, personally I know a lot of boys who were brought up only wearing boys clothes, having short haircuts and not playing with dolls, and now they’re grown up they’re in successful evenly matched relationships, and are nice people. Seems a bit of a 2+2=5 equation.
Also, how many children realistically only play with toys that are for their own gender? Many toys are neutral, and even if their home environment is only focused on one type of toys, many children have friends or siblings toys to play with, and/or go to nurseries where they can choose any toy.
I did feel for an older baby the other day at softplay though. He’d picked up one the of toy hoovers, and made to push it around before his dad grabbed the toy away from him saying ‘let’s find a boys toy to play with’. A shame, but I’m sure the majority of parents are quite open minded when it comes down to what toys their children play with.
N is very definitely a boyish boy. He loves wheels (always has, even as a baby when he loved playing around his pram’s wheels), loves tractors (although I’m sure if we’d had a girl, being on a farm, they’d have had no choice), and isn’t really fussed with dolls. I had a couple of dolls which he scorned, but he always liked putting his soft toys (and tractors) in my old retro pushchair to push around. But otherwise, he’ll quite happily spend time in the kitchen with me, helping me cook, helping me put the washing in the machine or hanging it up to dry. He likes to make ‘tea’ for people with his play food, and likes to ‘clean’ the bath while I’m in the shower. We’ve not forced anything in particular, although obviously buy toys that we know he’ll like because he’s shown a preference towards it before.
On the clothes side of things, I think it’s a bit of a loony idea. N’s quite a pretty boy, but however much he enjoys wearing the princess outfits at nursery, he just doesn’t look quite as good in those colours or outfits, as he does in more ‘boyish’ colours and outfits. Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing him in trousers, jumpers and t-shirts, but if he was wearing a skirt, he’d just look silly. Plus of course, his dad would hit the roof.
My view is, a bit of dressing up is fine. All kids do it, and it’s their creativity and role playing, just the same as driving a train round a trainset is, whether they’re a boy or girl. If clothes are neutral colours (jeans, t-shirts etc), then go ahead, but personally I want to see a boy dressed like a boy. If you look there are more creative and colourful boys clothes available away from the standard high street stores.
If the child really legitimately wants to wear a mishmash of clothing then let them (you should see what N’s been wearing this week – in the house only, I must add!) if it avoids a tantrum, but I wouldn’t want children to feel forced into becoming ‘neutral’, where they might not understand who they are underneath. I guess only the family will know if the child’s confused when older, or whether it works out as planned.
Much as I’d have loved to have had a girl to take to ballet classes or do girly things with, I’m glad we’ve got a boy who’s into wheels and farms, trains and reading, and wearing blues.
What do you think about dressing children in both boys and girls clothes, and raising them gender neutral? Is it just another label for something that a lot of parents do anyway?