Gender Neutral Parenting
What is Gender Neutral Parenting
Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP) simply allows room for exploration of gender without judgement. It means allowing kids to gender-bend, i.e., play with toys and wear clothes regardless of whether they fit traditional gender norms. It means paying attention to our own implicit biases as parents and helping children think critically about gender. For example, if a kid insists that pink is a girls color, this is the perfect moment to open up a dialogue about gender binaries. They'll be fascinated to know that pink used to be a boys color, and blue a girl's revealing just how socially constructed these binaries are.
The concept of associating individual colors with genders didn’t really start to happen until the mid-19th century. Before that, kids -- whether male or female -- typically wore white dresses until age six, making it easy to change diapers and clothing and bleach dirty items. Parents were encouraged to put their sons in pink so they'd grow up feeling strong and manly and their daughters in blue so they'd be dainty and feminine. Theories to explain this have varied over the years, but it’s generally believed that blue was associated with the Virgin Mary, hence its more feminine connotations, while pink was linked to red, which was seen as a strong and masculine color.
Feminist parents believe gender is a continuum so allowing your child to figure out where they feel most at-home on that spectrum is essential. It does not demand that a child fit into a gender stereotype and it does not demand that they don't. In other words, your child does not have to dress in a beige potato sack with the goal of attaining androgyny. Demanding androgyny is just another way of limiting a child's gender expression which is very, well, Un-GNP. Some parents may attempt to dress their children in gender neutral colors and not disclose the sex of their child in order to avoid all the limitations and assumptions that get placed on people due to gender.
For a good discussion, read Paige Lucas-Stannard's article on the Myths of Gender Neutral Parenting.
Here are a few of the takeaways:
No, GNP will not contribute to your children being gay. There is a strong genetic component to homosexuality. Even children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers aren’t more likely to be gay themselves.
No, GNP is not anti-masculinity or anti-femininity, it's simply about trying to remove the artificial limits our kids run into in the world. If we stop a girl from playing with dolls and stop a boy from playing soccer, then we would be replacing one set of artificial limits for another.
No, GNP is not ONLY useful for trans and gender non-conforming kids. Sure, it would certainly help those children overcome the pain of being different, but it also has value for cisgender kids. It allows all kids to appreciate the diversity of gender. and, as Lucas-Stannard says: "without strict gender rules children tend to find their place on the spectrum that is not so extreme as hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine but instead represent a spectrum of expression that allows children to find their own strengths and weaknesses."
No, GNP is not using your child for a social experiment. It is consciously trying to raise your child to have options and to demand equality and social justice. If we uphold the conventional notion that gender is binary...that girls wear pink, play with dolls and grow up to work with children and shouldn't expect to make much money, and that boys wear blue, play sports and grow up to make a lot of money, are only indoctrinating them. another way. Stannard says, "GNP is trying to break down that narrow definition of what a child can be. If that is a political statement then it is one I’m proud to make.