There has been significant debate on this blog about the pursuit of gender equality and the dismantling of the gender binary. In particular, Drizzle highlighted the possible detriment of raising children to be gender aschematic in contemporary society (here). Several bloggers strongly disagreed with Drizzle’s views, and explained that it is worthwhile and beneficial to raise a child in this manner. Country Girl explains that to raise a child without gender stratification may be a difficult task, but that we must try nonetheless (here). I agree that there is significant gender inequality in our society, and that it must be changed. However, I wish to discuss the consequences of some of the tactics that Country Girl and Lazy Lazarus suggest in their previous posts. Although neither author mentioned specific methods of raising children without gender, I believe that certain methods may inadvertently harm children.
Country Girl speaks to the broader implications of raising children without gender when she writes, “Children who have been exposed to gender aschematic ideas might be better equipped to become independent thinkers. They would be less inclined to simply accept the usual gendered explanations about how the world is supposed to work, and they will grow up having experienced what a world might look like if all people were equal and not stratified by gender.” Although I feel that many of these points may be accurate, I would like to acknowledge that dressing children in a sexually androgynous manner is a tactic by which many parents may raise there children without gender boundaries. I feel that this may actually do more harm to children. Since most children at school and in public are raised in a system of gender binaries, the tactic of dressing children androgynously may ultimately alienate them.
I would like to know what Country Girl is doing in her own life to challenge the gender binary. Judging by her pseudonym, it appears she identifies herself by her gender above all else. I question whether Country Girl lives a life that is completely autonomous of gender norms. If she does not already, I suggest that she tries dressing in a sexually androgynous manner. That way she can experience what it’s actually like to go against our society’s intolerant gender norms. I would hope that she knows what its like, considering she is suggesting we raise our children this way.
Raising children to fight your battles is not the answer to eliminating gender and social inequality. Consider the writings of Betsy Lucal, who is a woman that has a body type and style of dress that is not characterized as archetypically feminine in our society. Lucal has many experiences with people who put significant amounts of energy into assigning her a gender. In Lucal’s “What it Means to be Gendered Me,” She uses this social phenomenon of people “doing” gender for her to highlight how fixated we are on the gender binary. Although Lucal was born within a cultural system that operated by that binary, she eventually chose the brave path of living outside the gender binary. Dressing your child in this manner and forcing them outside the gender binary may result in serious consequences for them, including alienation, loneliness and serious confidence problems. Remember that Lucal chose that brave path; it was not assigned to her as a child.
Alternatively, I suggest that we focus on finding realistic approaches to fighting injustice and inequality in our society. Raising your child to be gender aschematic will not help people in need and will not improve our society. Nor will it cause the gender binary to come crashing down. More successful and proven ways of fighting sexism include forming community groups and organizations, such as shelters for battered women or supporting organizations which protect and promote the rights of women. We should work in our communities to combat real problems ourselves, instead of forcing our children to bear the repercussions of challenging gender norms.
The Class Blog Project, or CBP, is a blog featuring undergraduate students forming a critical dialogue with each other around ideas related to the sociology of gender.