My darling daughter, at times, is not so darling. She is (for a girl, I hear) an aggressive five year old, so much so that I have to caution and watch her to ensure that she is not bullying. *Sigh* “Nay Boogie”–I call her that–loves lip-gloss and comic books. She’s into legos, Barbies, superheroes, and tea-sets. I pat myself on the back often because she doesn’t, at five, classify the things she does (or who she is) as masculine or feminine–even in a world of Disney princesses and VERY short skirts made for, like, toddlers. It’s a struggle.
Because of my challenges as a parent to raise a child who sees herself as a full human being, worthy of all the rights that entails, I was very happy to click on, and read, this article about a Swedish Preschool that has banned gender from their school, completely. I adore the Swedes: they also allow fathers to take two months of paid paternity leave, and generally, as a whole, support gender equality. At this particular pre-school where “gender pronouns are not used,” boys and girls refer to one another, and are referred to by adults, as friends. I like that. All toys are “gender-neutral” and are not separated. It is not uncommon in the classrooms to see girls playing with toy trucks as boys prepare meals in the kitchen. Also, the director of the school “places special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.” It all sounds euphoric, grand, and very much like an environment I would love for Nay to have access to.
But then I thought, “wait, do I really want to have my child reared in this space of Mana?” Of course, I promote tolerance and equality in all ways and by all means. However, would I be setting my Boogs up for failure by allowing her to believe that gender doesn’t exist–only to be catapulted into a world where it matters so much? My parenting is feminist; by feminist, I mean humanist. I am constantly speaking with my daughter about asserting her rights as a whole person and respecting the rights of others to exist in the same way. I want very much for her to see herself and further to believe herself to be equal to everyone, but I’m not sure sacrificing her gender is the way to bring these ideals into fruition.
I love being a woman, and more so a “girly girl.” I enjoy my pumps, shadow, and lacy things… and magic. Whether one denotes C.G. Jung’s theory of the unconscious assisting in our gender identification or Aristotle’s theories concerning nature and biology determining why we act as male or female, I identify as a woman and do not wish to lose my identity in hopes of somehow gaining supposed “equal footing.” I would prefer that we concentrate, as a collective, on creating spaces of unanimous equality as opposed to ridding ourselves of who we are as individuals. After all, pretending that the world can become genderless is the same as insinuating that it can become post racial–it ain’t happening.
When I hear these theories, I always imagine that the perpetuators are people who are in positions of power and privilege. Power and privilege will have one believing that running an eraser over hundreds (or thousands) of years of socialization can affect real, substantive change. I am also of the opinion that these theories are presented as topical solutions to indoctrinated, institutionalized, and very deep rooted issues that need the same effort put into eradicating them as was put into establishing and continuing them.
I’m all the way down with Nay’s infatuation with X-Men and Tonka-Toys. I won’t tell her that she can’t BE Michael Jackson because she’s a “girl.” And as much as I love dressing her up in pink, frilly dresses and bows, I don’t bat an eyelash at her pulling out sweats and sneakers if that’s what she feels. The key to parenting, I believe, even if we are parenting the world, is to allow people to be who they want to be. I don’t enjoy melting pots being a sea of the same thing. I prefer color–complete with idiosyncrasies–devoid of monolithism. I’d like someone to open the “be whoever the hell you want to be, and I will respect you and treat you fairly” school. I would apply there myself.