Feminism,  Speak Up

The Gender Identity Debate

If you are a follower on my social media platforms, you may have seen my children. I have a daughter, who is nearly 5 and a son, who is nearly 2.

Both, I guess, are very gender stereotypical. Cora loves pink, glitter, dresses and “putting on shows” and Cassi, well, he loves anything with wheels, wings, an engine and a siren. My husband and I had a recent chat about the children’s preferred play things and questioned if maybe we had a part in the choices they were making.

In today’s modern world, we see nearly daily in the media of the recently birthed celeb’s declaring that they will not be raising their child with a gender until the child is old enough to decide for themselves.

I find this all very confusing and I am sure I am not the only one. Growing up I was told that girls have vaginas and boys have penises and now I am learning at the age of 33 that gender is in fact an ever growing spectrum.

The topic of gender neutral is a pretty hot one at the moment with the whole concept evoking cheers of triumph or a very clear eye roll. We are being preached too that we shouldn’t tell our children what sex they are, discourage the gender stereo typical toys they may want and only dress them in a neutral pallet of grey, black and white. It’s hard not to roll your eyes when you have been brought up to understand that there are two genders in this world, male and female and now we are being told that this can be confusing for young children…it’s confusing for me and I am a grown woman.

When I was in high school, I was the only girl in my year to pick Physics. Girls just didn’t do physics, they did biology. Home Ec was mostly girls and the odd boy who thought it was a skive class and not a single boy was on the trampolining team. In gym, the boys played football and the girls preferred gymnastics or tennis.

I would say despite this new movement, many still believe that men and women are different. They are physically different for a start, that much is very clear. So shouldn’t that be enough to determine at birth that a child is in fact a girl or a boy. I have no problem if someone does not relate to the gender they were born with and wish to change; I would say I encourage it as why pretend to be something you’re not when it can make you desperately unhappy?

Beliefs about sex differences and gender roles remain very much in the headlines in Britain; such as the nature-nurture debate on gender identity.

The nature vs. nurture debate is one theory that has been discussed but never seems to provide us with any answers. Were we born this way or has our environment and lifestyle played a part in how we “turn out”? It starts with the sperm and the egg in the womb, the foetus becomes male or female through the development of sex organs, sex hormones cause permanent changes in the body, that come alive again at the start of puberty. Once born, many believe gender identity develops through social interactions, that society helps mold a person’s gender and the stereotypes that come with it. With the most obvious being that boys wear blue and that girls wear pink.

Brands are homing in on this, with John Lewis announcing that they will no longer be using gender specific layout of clothing and heading towards a more gender neutral style. A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “At the beginning of 2016 we introduced non-gender specific labels in our own brand children’s clothing, and this was followed by the removal of ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signage in our shops which was replaced with photos of children modelling our clothes. In our shops, girls and boys clothing are still positioned in the same way as the have always been and online customers can search by ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ if they choose to.

Why?

Well they want to make it clear that girl’s can like cars as well and that if a boy wears pink, the World doesn’t automatically stop and stare.

Cora may like pink, sparkles and all things glitter but she isn’t into dolls or barbies. Her favourite movie is Cars and she would rather be a super hero than a princess. I have never forced gender stereotypes on either of my children and my daughter and my son have naturally found their way to the things they like.


When Cora was little, we were lucky that we could provide her with toys that she wanted, when she was the same age as Cassi, she loved trains and would spend ages building tracks but she also wanted to wear make up just like Mama. I feel I have provided a safe place for my children to explore and learn their own likes and dislikes without them feeling judged if they have ” unconventional choices “. My role as their Mother is to support the children in their choices, encourage them even.

As time has gone on, Cora is more into crafting but when her brother leaves his garage unattended for 5 minutes, Cora is right on there. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to play with them? After all, I’m sure one day she will drive a car.

I often challenge gender stereotypes when I hear them in my children, ‘Why can’t a boy wear pink? Daddy does.’ ‘Why can’t a girl like football? Your friend plays for a local girl’s team.’ I find I set an example by questioning them and try and offer examples of when these stereotypes are broken.

I may not have a complete grasp on new idea of gender identity. I believe I do have a long way to go in educating myself with this important social factor but I believe that I have teaching my children that they can be who ever they want to be and as they grow I am sure they will teach me.

photo credit: Lisa Zins Together via photopin (license)
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