25/03/2010 04:57 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Gender Neutrality Experiment Branded A Failure By Daughter

One of the worries of raising girls today is how to bring them up to be strong in a world that increasingly tries to channel them into a girly, pink pigeon-hole.

But it's not a new worry. The parents of Jesse Ellison, who was born in 1978, tried to bring her up in a gender neutral way by dressing her in overalls, having her hair cut in an androgynous bowl style and ditching the television.

Now Ellison has branded their experiment "a total failure".

Ellison, who writes Newsweek's Equality Myth blog, said she wasn't allowed Barbies and had bricks to play with instead. But it seems that nature cannot be thwarted.

"(My) parents' little project in gender neutrality (namely, me) was, from the get-go, a total failure," Ellison writes. "As soon as I could speak, I demanded they replace my overalls with a long, pink, lacy dress. Far from gender-neutral, I was emphatically, defiantly a 'girl.'

In a Newsweek article this week she writes how her mother tried to get her enthusiastic about some nearby lorries but while the neighbourhood boys were fascinated, she was uninterested which was a wake-up call for her mother.

But her parents' efforts have not gone unappreciated: "Ultimately, the whole point was to ensure that I had the freedom, and choice, to be whoever I wanted -- which is, after all, what feminism is all about."

Ellison writes that her mother says they didn't realize gender neutrality wasn't an issue of nurture-over-nature.

"We all thought that the differences had to do with how you were brought up in a sexist culture, and if you gave children the same chances, it would equalize," the writer's mum says. "It took a while to think, 'Maybe men and women really are different from each other, and they're both equally valuable.' "

However, Ellison sounds a note of caution that many with daughters are only all too familiar with: "But maybe my generation is evidence of our having swung too far in the other direction. In the last decade, the reigning role models for young girls included Paris Hilton, swathed in pink and practically bedazzled."

Society's obsession with women's looks has made life more complicated for females, acknowledges gender-studies professor Susan Brownmiller: "There's so much emphasis on appearance that is part of what women have to do [today]. Looking like a sex object but also claiming the rights of women who are not sex objects -- that's tricky."

What do you think -- are girls pushed into being too girly or do you think it's part of their nature? Do you try to avoid pink toys and clothes for your daughters?

Source (Parentdish)
Source (Newsweek)