Gender Matters

In the spring of 2011, articles began popping up about a couple in Toronto who were refusing to publicly reveal the gender of their baby. They named the child “Storm” and committed themselves to raising Storm without the oppressive expectations of gender. They sought to foster a context within which Storm could decide for Storm’s self what Storm would be. As the previous sentences indicate, there are practical problems that go beyond pink or blue jumpers. Storm’s parents lament the “tyranny of pronouns” that serves to limit Storm’s choices even before Storm realizes the possibilities afforded by such an upbringing.

Storm’s older brother, Jazz, is a boy who enjoys wearing dresses and prefers his hair long with three braids. Sometimes he is mistaken for a girl. According to the article,

One of his favourite books is 10,000 Dresses, the story of a boy who loves to dress up. But he doesn’t like being called a girl. Recently, he asked his mom to write a note on his application to the High Park Nature Centre because he likes the group leaders and wants them to know he’s a boy.

Jazz was old enough for school last September, but chose to stay home. “When we would go and visit programs, people — children and adults — would immediately react with Jazz over his gender,” says Witterick, adding the conversation would gravitate to his choice of pink or his hairstyle.

That’s mostly why he doesn’t want to go to school. When asked if it upsets him, he nods, but doesn’t say more.

Instead he grabs a handmade portfolio filled with his drawings and poems. In its pages is a booklet written under his pseudonym, the “Gender Explorer.” In purple and pink lettering, adorned with butterflies, it reads: “Help girls do boy things. Help boys do girl things. Let your kid be whoever they are!”

For parents who seek to avoid imposing anything upon their children, it does strike one as odd that a 5 year old, boy or girl, would create such a pseudonym or trot out such politically correct sentiments. One might even be tempted to suspect that the parents have imposed plenty upon their children all in the name of liberation. The boy’s mute sadness speaks volumes.

Parents here or there who attempt to make their children into subjects of a social experiment offer perhaps a curious side show. But what happens when an entire society seeks to do the same? This is, apparently, what is happening in Sweden, that putative utopia of happiness and Nordic sanity.

According to a piece recently published at Slate,

For many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don’t identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

Here are some of the various ways Swedes are pursuing this program of eradication.

 Activists are lobbying for parents to be able to choose any name for their children (there are currently just 170 legally recognized unisex names in Sweden). The idea is that names should not be at all tied to gender, so it would be acceptable for parents to, say, name a girl Jack or a boy Lisa. A Swedish children’s clothes company has removed the “boys” and “girls” sections in its stores, and the idea of dressing children in a gender-neutral manner has been widely discussed on parenting blogs. This Swedish toy catalog recently decided to switch things around, showing a boy in a Spider-Man costume pushing a pink pram, while a girl in denim rides a yellow tractor.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page