The End of Gender? I Wish!
The topic of gender and parenting seems to be trending, did you notice? First there was the manufactured controversy over the decision of two Canadian parents to decline to disclose the sex of their youngest child, Storm. Now there’s a long article at NPR.org called The End of Gender?, which discusses Storm, androgynous fashion models, and unisex bathrooms and dorms, among other topics.
I have friends and acquaintances who resolutely dress their girl children in as gender-unmarked a set of clothing they can find before they head out for the playground. I’ve had an entertaining conversation with another neighborhood mother about sewing tutus for her son. I’ve chronicled some of my own adventures with mistaken gender identity and my two daughters here on this very blog.
And now I have learned, via NPR, that apparently I am trendy in my casual parental gender boundary-crossing. Who would have guessed?
Well, I am sad to report that if I am trendy, I am on the bleeding edge of trendiness — and that there’s a difference between trendy and popular. And trust me, what I am doing is not popular. With anyone.
I am not hardcore enough to give my children gender-neutral names, or keep them out of dresses. I don’t ban princesses or fairies from playtime. Or cheerleaders.
Mostly, I just try not to make a big deal out of gender. I don’t correct my kids when they misuse a pronoun. I offer a wide array of toys to play with and an entirely overstuffed closetful of clothes to wear. When we’re out and about, the men’s room is “the triangle room” and the women’s room is “the circle room.” (And yes, I really would like a whole lot more unisex bathrooms, please. With big stalls and doorways wide enough to fit a double stroller though.)
But even so, I can tell I am going against the societal grain. My children are routinely mistaken for boys simply because I don’t put their hair in bows and pigtails (they won’t let me), and I let them wear pants that aren’t covered in butterflies and daisies, and I watch them climb the monkey bars without hovering nearby. As I discovered recently on the playground, they can be wearing red glitter Mary Janes and other children will chide me for letting them wear “girls’ shoes” when, obviously, they’re a boy. Right?
And if my shopping adventures are any indication, retailers aren’t exactly on board yet with this new trend. Check out the sea of pink on one side of your average department-store children’s clothing section, and the rough-tough-boy’s-stuff collection of trucks and trains and robots and dinosaurs and things on the other side. Capitalistically speaking, I’m pretty sure I’m not a bonafide trend until someone’s trying to market to me, and it isn’t happening yet. Oh well.
By the way, NPR, I don’t want the end of gender. I want the end of gender rigidity. See the difference? Just thought you might like to know.