Boys Will Be Boys?
July 8, 2009
Anyone who has taken a Women’s Studies course in college learns that gender is a social construct -- that from Day One, girls are dressed in pink, handed dolls, and expected to be sweet and pretty. Boys are wrapped in blue, given toy cars, and taught to be tough.
But anyone who has kids knows that that’s a big blue truck full of crap. My sons can stare at pictures of tractors, monster trucks, diggers, excavators, concrete crushers, fire engines, police cars, mobile cranes (you get the idea) in a book for hours. Sure, they’ll accept a baby doll and pretend to feed it a bottle…for about half a minute. Then they club the poor thing on the head with a truck. Every parent I know has something similar to say about the gender-based leanings of their kids.
But still. This story about a Swedish couple who refuses to identify their toddler’s sex, in hopes of letting the child grow up without the limits of either gender, gave me pause. Only a few people who have changed Pop’s diaper (yes, the child’s name is “Pop”) know the truth. “We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother has said, according to The Local, a Swedish news site.
The ethics of this “experiment” aside, it reminded that me every parent has a different agenda when it comes to nurturing (or not) their child’s gender identification. This family has taken an extreme stance against what they believe to be stereotypical socialization, but many parents I know also go out of their way to steer clear of the whole pink-blue juxtaposition, disavowing anything princess-y for their girls and enrolling their boys in dance classes.
And as much as it seems obvious to me that my sons are “boy boys,” this story made me own up to my own weird ideologies. My wife, Emily, and I are raising our twin sons as two moms. Ever conscious that there still remains a degree of bias against our family in this country, I often (and this is the first time I’ve even admitted this to myself!) dress them super boyish, so as not to give anyone any ammunition against the idea of two women raising boys. I think I’m unconsciously afraid that people will think we’re “turning” our sons gay if I dress them in pink or if they’re seen playing with a doll in public. Ridiculous, right? Right or wrong, I think we all have our fears and prejudices that influence our parenting decisions.
Not sure where I’m going with this, but I’d love to hear what everyone thinks and how you handle you encourage or discourage or ignore gender stereotypes. Maybe Pop’s parents have a point?