given half a chance.
But some parents are determined to bring children up in a so-called “gender free” manner.
We know sex is determined biologically but gender is a bit trickier.
It seems that families that have only girls tend to produce more feminine girls and families which have only boys produce more masculine boys.
So it’s probably no surprise then to learn that in families which have both boys and girls the differences are less clearly defined.
And society seems more tolerant of girls who act like tomboys than they are of boys dressing up in girls’ clothes. So what’s the issue?
The Times (21/12/10) reported on three families that are determined to bring up their children without gender stereotypes. So in one family the 11-year-old son is learning to crochet, has dolls, a pram, and fairy dresses – as well as cars, planes and trains. The article is illustrated with a large photo of him with long blonde hair, quite androgynous as is his name.
Now I learned to darn from my grandmother, my boys had dolls called action figures, my oldest was once mistaken for a girl because he had longish hair, I turned an old pram into a trolley, and enjoyed dressing up as a knight, cowboy, spaceman etc, but fairy dresses? Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that he hides his dresses under the bed when some visitors call.
He’s been home-tutored so not had contact with other kids at school (probably as well if they read the article). And it turns out his tutor is a feminist with a library of feminist books who has taught him yoga ( and that’s a good thing), how to crochet, and how to make dresses. Why would a young boy need to learn how to make dresses?
I know there are problems with role models for boys (see “Superheroes not good role models”) but this family seem to going to the other extreme. His mother has been encouraging him to think about sexism and the recent project she did on international feminist subvertising ie stickering sexist posters.
He has been encouraged to meet like-mined, free-thinking non-conformist people who are also home-educators, feminists, and from a range of sexual orientation and races. He has to do his share of household jobs (something I agree with) and is encouraged to challenge people when they say “he” rather than “he or she”. How irritating would that be from an 11-year-old?
His mother admits she gets criticised about her parenting skills. She works in gene therapy and I can’t help wondering if she sees bringing up her son as some kind of extreme social engineering experiment because it hardly seems a balanced way of looking at childhood.
Her husband is a business consultant and has two other sons who mainly live with their mothers (suggesting it must be his third marriage or relationship). He isn’t quoted in the article and I’m curious to know what he really thinks and how this son gets on with his other boys who are 14 and 7 years of age.
And as a colleague of mine said when we discussed this article; ” Why?“