When attempting gender neutral parenting, how far are you willing to go?
Delusions of Gender has an example of parents who went to great lengths to raise their child independent of the constraints of birth assigned gender. Then the child goes to school and they are faced with the stereotypes that other kids were raised with and it starts to slip away.
What length are you willing to go to? Are you willing to alter children’s books to give an equitable picture of people? Are you willing to do the dishes? Are you willing to take out the trash?
A correlation has been made between dads who do the dishes and daughters who are more ambitious. It is posited that these daughters aren’t anticipating the “second shift” and can afford to be more ambitious about what they want for themselves. They aren’t being taught to set aside their ambitions to support their husbands. Of course, there must be a son’s correlation too, right? I’m going to suggest that perhaps a son who sees mom take out the trash or squash the roach that made it’s way in might be more inclined to believe that they are worth more than doing the dirty work. Maybe a son who sees mom mow the lawn may be more inclined to believe that he exists to do more than manual labor. This kind of thing must work both ways, but I haven’t come across a study on that one. That doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist, I just may not have seen it. Also, there were no studies that I found about how any of this impacts trans, intersex or non-binary children or the children of people outside the binary. As far as I can tell, when we remove the gender or allow for the spectrum of gender to be a part of our world, everyone concerned can just be people. So the must also mean that non-binary children could feel more secure to be themselves and not trapped by stereotypical roles too, right? I suppose we will have to wait for that study as well (or conduct one ourselves one day).
There is only so much we can do to not teach our children gender stereotypes, but there’s a lot that we can do to not model them. It has been proven that children learn more from seeing what we do than from what we say, anyway. Everyone makes the decision for themselves just how neutral or not they want to raise their children and just how prepared for stereotypes they want their children to be. In my family, we just try not to model traditional gender roles or stereotypes, but we aren’t perfect. We notice all the time that the core reason for something actually comes from preconceived notions of what I or my husband should be doing and occasionally from overcompensating for those other things. It has helped to be aware, though. The policy that we try to keep up with comes from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.
What’s obvious to you is obvious to you.
We took this idea and ran with it. If it is obvious to you that something needs to be done, just do it. That means that if I am the one that sees the trash needs taken out, I’m the one that takes it out. If I start to feel taken advantage of, it’s my responsibility to say something about it because it is apparently not obvious to my husband that it is happening. If he realizes that the rise of dishes have gotten out of hand first, he loads the dishwasher. And when he starts to feel taken advantage of, he tells me too. There is no one thing that our son can say “mommy’s do” or “daddy’s do”. Everybody takes care of the problem they see. He gets to see both of us doing all of it, though at different times.
I don’t want my son to grow up thinking he has to mow the lawn because he’s a boy. I want him to do what’s obvious to him. He will find his own niche in the cleaning scheme. He will find his own niche in everything. He will still see gender stereotypes played out in school and church and books, there’s nothing we can do about that yet. He can see at home, though, that there is no one thing that a gender is more or less responsible for. That’s what gender neutral parenting is for us.
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