At the moment Bear Cub is obsessed with the word ‘Booby’! A few months ago it was ‘Poo’ and it lasted a good 2/3 months before he got bored with it.
Before I had children I was very much of the view that children are nurtured into the gender stereotypes we are all familiar with and that if it was encouraged enough a boy could have an equal love for dolls and pushchairs and girls for cars and planes. Whereas I certainly still hold to this in part, I have had to rethink my theory since becoming a mum to a true ‘boy’s’ boy! Although I have to say my son owns a pushchair, loves cooking and loves to pretend he is pregnant with his teddies (!) he also loves everything ‘rude’ or ‘disgusting’, adores planes, cars and trains and will wrestle at any opportunity. Now Bear Cub definitely has friends who challenge these preconditioned gender roles (in fact Munchkin is one of his favourite wrestling partners) but, on the whole in my group of mum friends we have all identified the girls being ‘girly’ and liking all things pink and the boys well, being boys!!!
Whether this is down to the subliminal advertising in between Milkshake, in toy stores and clothing stores or comments from well-meaning parents, friends and families i.e. ‘What a pretty girl!’ ‘What a strong boy!’ It is there and seems to exist in even the most pc friendly family!
Earlier this year a couple revealed the sex of their ‘gender neutral’ child as he turned five. The couple had brought him up without referring to his sex at all. Apparently they simply called him ‘the infant’ and kept his gender a secret from all but a few close friends and relatives. As he grew older, he was encouraged to play with dolls as much as Lego, slept in a neutral yellow room and was allowed to wear both boys’ and girls’ clothes. I admire and agree with these parents notion that, ‘Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?’ But, I would also question whether this is healthy for a child or merely confusing. Last year, Canadians Kathy Witterick and David Stocker insisted that they would raise their baby Storm as a gender-neutral child and of that case, Dr Harold Koplewicz, a U.S. child psychiatrist, said he was ‘disturbed’ that well-meaning parents could be so misguided. ‘When children are born, they’re not a blank slate,’ he said. ‘We do have male brains and female brains. There’s a reason why boys do more rough and tumble play; there’s a reason why girls have better language development skills.’
I would say I allow my son to play with what are traditionally called ‘girls’ toys, dress up – even as a girl if he wishes, and wear any colour he likes, but, I feel it is very important that he has a sense of what sex he is if only for identifying with role models and also for learning how to deal with the opposite sex. I actually think this is important for children to understand that men and women are different and that different can still mean equal.
What are your thoughts?