In one of my favorite podcast Channels, “The Hidden Brain”, they featured about a couple who raised their children “gender neutral”.
Gender–male and female–is a social construct. Meaning, what we deem to be feminine and masculine, or what is for males and females (pink and dolls are for girls/females, blue and robots are for boys/males) is constructed by what society dictates as normal, based on culture and history. In this modern age of deconstructionism, various ideologies are challenging these notions. Gender, for many decades, had always been a subject of argument and debates.
Read more on that Hidden Brain episode content through this article: http://www.mamamia.com.au/gender-neutral-parenting/
This episode definitely made me think and look back about my own choices and preferences growing up, based on gender preferences.
When I was young, I loved playing with Barbie dolls and pretend kitchen play toys, either by myself or with my cousins. However, I also enjoyed playing with my older brother’s robot toys, and we definitely bonded over video games and wrestling. Aside from that, I honestly found my older brother’s fashion cool (when I was in primary school), and I wanted to emulate it, instead of simply finding it fashionable or handsome on him or other boys. At the same time, I was fine wearing dresses and blouses my parents bought for me, and for a time, I really liked pink and yellow. Eventually, my fashion became much more masculine, like my older brother and my elementary best friends (who were mostly boys, but I also had a lot of female friends), and for a time I thought I was lesbian because I started emulating the way a boy should be because I was wearing boys fashion! However, eventually, I realized, I wasn’t! I began wearing more gender neutral fashion with just pants and shirts that fit my body shape just right (everything was oversized for boys in the 90s), my favorite colors settled into green, orange, and red (to add, blue, up to this day). When I became more feminine in fashion, got more attracted to men, I also realized that I was also attracted to women. So at present, I identify myself as bisexual, I like gender neutral colors of green, orange, red, and blue, and I am most comfortable wearing just pants, shirt, sneakers, and a lipstick.
In the podcast, Isis, the 16-year-old girl who was raised gender-neutral by her parents, was asked if she would be able to identify herself honestly if the influence of her parents’ idealism about gender-neutrality be removed. She answered that her being is a combination of her dad, mom, and herself, all in one-thirds. This answer and question taps to the age old debate about the making of a person: nature or nurture?
The story of Isis can be easily regarded as a story or nurture, as there were incidences when Isis’ preferences fell on a feminine taste, her parents had to convince her to subscribe to a more gender-neutral design for a bike, for example. For an eight-year-old, it might have been traumatic to be rejected on the basis of one’s preference of colors and design, but as any eight-year-old have to, she needed to follow her parents. At 16, she said she understands better the point of her parents’ upbringing, however, in my opinion, she was at the mercy of her parents’ ideology growing up.
In my case, my story is a story of nature, as my parents had never influenced us with preferences. Sure, my parents bought me dresses and dolls because I’m a girl, but that’s because that’s what they know and that I also showed interest in them. When I played toys for boys like guns, walkie-talkies, video games, basketball, or wrestling, they never stopped me and questioned why I was “acting like a boy”. I believe that what mattered most to my parents was that I was happy and learning from my decisions. This freedom in preferences and decisions allowed us to pursue studies and jobs of our own choices which basically molded a great deal of my consciousness and beliefs at present.
I don’t completely understand the effects of being raised gender-neutral, I’d probably have to read more about it when I have the time, but I think I’m not very different from Isis. In a way, we decide for ourselves. I don’t identify colors or design as gender-neutral, but I have long made an effort to see the balance or neutrality in most things, as best as I could. This way, I’m also avoiding making a double-standard for both men and women, for myself and others.
Really, it all boils down to respecting others’ decision and choices. Accepting the fact that not everyone has the same opinion as ours, and that’s fine. We don’t ignore differences, we accept it. And then, my friends, we achieve peace.