This past weekend, The New York Times published an article about the gender identity/gender confusion debate that has been an ongoing national focus this year.
While it’s nothing new that little boys (particularly toddlers and preschoolers) “cross” gender stereotypes by wearing dresses, playing with dolls, and wearing neon pink nail polish, what’s new is how parents are handling their kids’ interests.
Instead of forcing boys to conform to gender stereotypes, more parents are supportive and letting their kids express themselves. Whether a child really is gay or not or just exploring different interests, parents are keeping an open mind and letting kids grow up confident in their own interests and choices.
The 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?
Like most young girls, I was obsessed with pink and princesses from age 3-10. Almost everything I was given or that I picked out was pink, and I was a princess (with a pink dress and silver pipe cleaner tiara, natch) for Halloween twice. At some point, I even owned the board game “Pretty Pretty Princess,” which entitled me to wear a silver plastic tiara and plastic jewelry. And, of course, I dreamed of being either Cinderella or Ariel.
As the years have gone by, I have grown out of pink and princesses (for the most part), but the world has exploded with pink and princesses in recent years. Even at this year’s Toy Fair, pink and purple princess toys, costumes, games, and more were everywhere I turned.
An editor at Parents magazine recently interviewed Peggy Orenstein, whose book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” addresses how pink and princesses have become an enduring trend and an identity that may potentially be harmful to a little girl’s perception of her self-image and self-esteem. She shares, “Princesses are a way for girls to assert what’s feminine about themselves. But princesses are also defining girls by telling them that how you look is who you are.”
On the other hand, Cheryl Kilodavis, the author of “My Princess Boy,” shares how her younger son “is a happy and healthy little boy who just likes pretty things and likes to dress up.” For Kilodavis’s son, being a princess boy gave him confidence and an unique identity.
As a parent, does your own child love pink and princesses? Do you encourage or discourage the love for all things pink and princess-related?
Below is a clip from Monday’s segment of the ”Today Show” in New York City, where Cheryl and her son (Dyson, now 5-years-old) speak about the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and embracing every child’s uniqueness. Plus, stay tuned for our own upcoming interview with Cheryl Kilodavis!
A hot debate is brewing among parents and among our readers: Would you let your little boy dress in girls’ clothing?
Cheryl Kilodavis is the mother of a 4-year-old boy who loves wearing sparkly and pink dresses, skirts, tiaras, and jewelry. She wrote and self-published a children’s picture book titled “My Princess Boy,” based on her son, to create a dialogue about traditional gender roles, acceptance of differences, and unique self-expression. Another mom named Sarah blogged about her son’s choice to wear a “female” Halloween costume.
As an educator with a master’s degree in education, a former preschool teacher of 7 years, and a mother to a toddler, it is perfectly normal for a child to play in a way that may not be classified as “gender appropriate.” Children learn the most by playing with other children, especially in the early years…It is all part of their development. Pretend play is a good way for children to model behaviors they see in their world. - Tracy Seng Wren
I do not approve or encourage my son to dress like a girl or act effeminate. As a father, my role is to teach him the appropriate male gender roles. I would have no problem with my son cooking, helping with household chores, etc. There is a big difference with that and a boy dressing up as a girl. - Jose Tadeo
What do you think? Take our poll below and read more comments after the jump.