Posts Tagged ‘ identity ’

No “Boys” or “Girls” At Swedish Preschool

Monday, June 27th, 2011

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Many of you read and responded to our previous blog post about a Canadian couple raising their child “genderless.” Yesterday another report brought the gender-neutral trend back into the media spotlight.

So you give toy trucks to boys and baby dolls to girls, right?

That’s what we typically buy for young children, often unconsciously aligning with the unspoken gender norms that form our world. It’s just second nature.

But inside the Swedish “Egalia” preschool, children play with toys and read books specifically designed to slash gender stereotypes. Even language, like the pronouns for “him” and “her” have been altered, with students addressing each other as “friends” instead of girls or boys.

It can be assumed you won’t find any Disney princesses in this establishment.

Some parents are thrilled at the prospect of having a child unaltered by     what they believe are society’s biased beliefs. Others are unsupportive of the taxpayer-funded preschool, located in a liberal district of Stockholm.

But what’s wrong with boys who play with trucks and girls who play with dolls?

One article quotes a teacher explaining that girls are expected to be “nice and pretty” while boys are meant to be “manly, rough and outgoing.” The Egalia preschool is supposed to give children a chance to find their own sexuality, without the reinforcement of stereotypes. Some also commented that they have no problem with stereotypical behavior exhibited in children, as long as their actions are treated with equality.

But what do you think? Do you believe Egalia is setting children up for real-life or has this school gone too far?

Photo by Jim Franco

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Is Your Baby a Boy or Girl? (Try: Either…or Neither)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

gender-symbolsThe first question new parents are asked when they’re expecting a baby is: Boy or girl?

A Canadian couple is challenging society’s idea of gender identity by keeping the gender of their new baby a secret…even after birth.  At four months, Storm is the third child for Kathy Witterick and David Stocker (a teacher at a small, alternative school that focuses on social justice issues), who have two other sons, Jazz (5) and Kio (2).  Despite being boys, both Jazz and Kio were raised without assigned gender expectations or limitations, meaning they’re encouraged to play with boys and girls toys, wear boys and girls clothes (in “girly” colors of pink and purple), and grow their hair long if they choose. 

The immediate family (including grandparents), a few close friends, and midwives know Storm’s true gender, but the parents have decided to keep the baby genderless by avoiding the use of male or female pronouns.  Inspired by a book published in 1978, “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” by Lois Gould, about a child raised without gender roles, the couple hoped to give Storm a chance to grow and decide on what gender to identify with, without society’s pressure.

While the couple’s decision has caused confusion and criticism (Will Storm feel marginalized later in life? Which public restroom will Storm use? Are the parents pushing their own political and social agendas on Storm?), the debate around gender identity comes hot on the heels of more recent news.  Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity Bono, just released a memoir and a documentary about his decision to become a man through a sex-change operation.  Cheryl Kilodavis, a mother of a little boy who loves wearing tutus and tiaras, was on national news earlier this year after writing “The Princess Boy.”

In a world that delineates between the power of princesses and the strength of superheroes, could the couple’s unique parenting decision succeed in helping society get rid of gender labels and stereotypes?

Read more about gender identity on Parents.com

What do you think of keeping your child’s gender a secret? Would you do the same?

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