Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis, Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, John Legend & Chrissy Teigen are all doing it, but is this a celebrity fad or a prominent and permanent change in the way we see gender in our world. Gender neutral is likely a term you’ve heard before, around intimate dinner circles, on various social media platforms or even through your activist friend who always seems as if she’s had one too many Red Bulls. Love it, hate it or don’t quite understand it gender neutral parenting is a movement that is quickly sweeping the globe, but what exactly IS gender-neutral parenting and what exactly does it involve.
Gender neutral parenting involves trying to raise your child without preconceived notions, assumptions or expectations based on the assigned sex of the child. It seeks to minimize dogmatic ideas of what your child should, do, say or learn. To dispel notions that certain things are only for one gender or that one sex is greater than the other. Parenting gender neutral is about raising your children based on feelings and lifestyle choices that reflect their identity rather than something that is tied to their anatomy. It’s about giving your child the greatest freedom to be themselves without the social and stereotypical constraints put on them by society but it’s easier to break free from the stigma of pink-is-for-girls and blue-is-for-boys than you might think.
Many neurologists and psychologists argue that the two genders are more alike than they are different, yet from the moment they are born they are treated as if they are different. Boys are encouraged to be outgoing and sporty, girls to be patient and soft. Girls get more comments on their attire, hair, accessories this places excessive value on their appearance as they grow up. Boys are discouraged from playing with dolls, but this could hinder their natural nurturing instincts. In this instant, both genders miss out both boys and girls need a chance to develop in all areas. But it’s not enough to have traditional sports of combat simulation be played by girls or for boys to be inclined to paint or draw. But the gender-neutral parenting train has got parents; cutting the labels off their kid’s clothing, giving their children gender-neutral names. Even seen some of America’s most prestigious universities threaten to banish labels such as ‘boy,’ ‘girls’ and pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘she,’ some countries have gone as far to add the unisex pronoun ‘hen’ to their countries national dictionary. Although the gender-neutral movement is gaining momentum, there are some people who think that the movement is one that will run the risk of losing our gender identity, but isn’t that exactly the whole point?
Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen a professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and author of the confrontational and highly influential book ‘ The Essential Difference’ delves into the theory that men and women are inherently different. Arguing that the female brain is built for empathy whereas the male brain is hardwired for understanding and building systems, that the anatomy of males and females is different thus, their subsequent development need are different. The difference in which genders are treated is because their development requires them to be treated as such. But is it nature or nurture, which is a question that’s been asked since at least the Elizabethan period, and is one of the oldest debates in the history of psychology. The debates argues whether a person’s development is predisposed to his DNA or is it influenced by their experiences and their environment. With still no conclusion or final answer we have to assume that both have equal measure and should be dealt with caution and care.
However other renowned psychologist believe that the stereotypes we see in children’s toy marketing connect with the inequalities we see in adult life, suggesting that many of these so called ‘differences’ are wildly overstated, and that where they exist they are learned rather than innate. The world is adapting and changing and new concepts of gender are making their way to the surface and although it may be new and parents are somewhat scrutinized for their decision to raise their child genderless, the history of world shows that liberation doesn’t happen overnight, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all the movement needs is time and a little more patience and understanding.
There is no denying the gender fluidity trends is growing momentum but it still has a long way to go in its plight against the established social norms, but raising your kids gender neutral isn’t about erasing difference between the two genders, it isn’t about banning pink or blue, but rather about taking the focus off your child’s gender. It’s about counteracting the assumptions given to them based on their sexuality allowing them a wider freedom and giving them a variety of gender types to explore when creating their self-identity. That the focus on their happiness not their sexuality, it about changing the way we see our children and in turn how they see themselves. It’s about the hope for a future free of prejudice and discrimination, a future of peace, acceptance and understanding. It’s about building a better future today for tomorrow.