June 26, 2009

Is It Okay to Do This To Your Kid?

Have you read this article? A todler named Pop in Sweden is being raised with its biological sex kept a mystery. The aim is to raise Pop outside of gender norms. Not sure how possible it is to raise a child entirely outside of gender norms - when Pop gets to school after all, Pop will be told by other students what Pop is and how to act based on these kids' expectations of sex-based gender norms; however, just because that's pretty inevitable, that doesn't mean what this couple is doing isn't the right way to go. I do still think this experiment is a bit problematic, however.

I have thought about how to address the gender binary when bringing children into the world. I'm a feminist, but I'd also like to be a mother - preferably a good mother. How do I raise a child who isn't mired in damaging gender norms that can make people feel abject who still doesn't feel abject because of being placed outside these norms?

I kind of dig post-structuralist theory. I'm all about the Judith Butler and ideas of gender performativity. I don't want to naturalise a gender binary or a two-sex model in my house with my kids, but do I really want to send them out into the mean streets of Kindergarten not realizing that all the other little kids will expect them to have a gender and perform it properly. So, will I be sentenced to home-schooling, because I think that shit's just wrong. Plus, I'll probably have to work.

I don't want my kid to be the class freak, but I also don't want gender norms to make my kid FEEL like a freak when she/he internalizes them and has experiences with failing to perform them in the "proper" way. Kids aren't experiments, but if we don't start deconstructing the gender binary in the home with actual children, where will massive anti-categorical change come from? Probably nowhere.

I know if I have a baby with a vagina and then give her a traditional "girl" name and let them swaddle her in pink at the hospital, that I'll be reifying gender. At the same time, if I call her something like "Snap" or "Crackle", never tell anyone her biological sex and raise her without gender norms, will she be considered too much of a freak to function? Will this fate befall Pop?

Pop's parents aren't my heroes and they aren't my enemies. They are taking a big risk - and what they are risking is their child's life and happiness. The risk might yield great rewards, however, and let's really hope it does, because this social experiment could also go tremendously and tragically wrong...

1 comment:

Lux said...

Didn't we read a fictional story about this in History of Feminist Thought with Justyna?

I always thought the happy ending was naive.

I'm inclined to agree with you on this one, Rants. Completely.