PARENTS

Achtung Baby Or He, She Or It? The Gender Stereotype

05/06/2011 17:10 | Updated 22 May 2015
Achtung Baby or He, she or it? The gender stereotypeCorbis

There's been a lot of media interest in baby Storm recently, the child being raised in Toronto by parents who refuse to reveal it's gender. Going by the amount of comments posted, there seem to be strong opinions about this controversial parenting method. I remain ambivalent. But I do find it disturbing having to use the neuter pronoun when talking about it.

I'm convinced, whatever approach we take to bringing up our kids, they will, at some point in their adult life, probably end up spilling it to a psychologist on a chaise lounge. And, whilst I have been criticised for being too strict, quite honestly, if Finje is still alive at the end of each day, I consider that a success.

As a baby, Finje was often mistaken for a boy as she was bald as a coot and I refused to compensate by tying a bow onto her naked scalp or by dressing her in pink. When people asked what 'he' was called, I politely corrected them. Often people were embarrassed, shuffling their feet uncomfortably and apologising.

But it hadn't bothered me, or Finje, so why the red faces?

Finje now has long blond hair. This is not an attempt to make obvious her gender, but because those are locks I always longed for and never got. Exemplary parenting I know. But she couldn't care less. She wears whatever clothes I give her and shows no leaning towards girly, frilly things but similarly no preference for any other style either.

Here, deep in the German countryside, where many children are growing up on farms and can drive a tractor by their 10th birthday, there are few gender stereotypes. In our village, there is a seven year old boy who has beautiful long white-blond hair. Definitely masculine in his demeanor, he doesn't seem to bother when people think him a girl. It's an understandable mistake. Similarly, there are two girls who, with their closely cropped hair and very boyish clothing, are constantly mistaken for boys. Their mothers insist it's what their daughters want.

Finje plays with these girls often. She has never mentioned how they look until just recently. 'Ellie looks bit like a boy mama, but she's a girl isn't she? She's got a girl's name, so she must be.' I confirmed her suspicions and with that she was more than satisfied and they continued their game of football.

The kids don't care.

So why do we?

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