Okay, not the whole country, but the Swedes continue to kick the rest of the world’s ass in terms of making gender equality a central issue. On the extreme edge of a wholly worthwhile effort comes news of a young Swedish couple who have raised their child, “Pop”, gender-free, refusing to reveal the sex of the two-and-a-half-year-old. Pop is allowed to wear dresses or pants, play with whatever toys Pop chooses, and is not referred to by either masculine or feminine pronouns. As AOL reports:
Back in March, the parents gave an interview to the Svenska Dagbladet
newspaper, saying they decided not to reveal their child’s sex because they believe gender is a social construction.
“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mold from the outset,” said the child’s mother, “Nora.” (The paper used fake names for the entire family to protect their privacy.)
“It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead,” the mother said.
Predictably, a lot of people think this is a terrible idea and potentially long-term damaging to the child. I’m not so sure. First off, Pop’s well-meaning parents say that Pop’s sex will be revealed when Pop decides that it is time, and seem to accept that this will likely be at school-age when social pressures dictate. They’re not enforcing a gender-free lifestyle on a kid going through puberty.
Secondly, they are not forcing their child to select “gender-inappropriate” clothing or toys, but apparently offering their child a range of options. In my mind, this is not really comparable to the situation of David Reimer
, the boy whose botched circumcision led doctors to fully amputate his penis and instruct his parents to raise him as a girl, with devastating consequences (David’s tragic, fascinating story was documented in the book, As Nature Made Him
). In fact, I think Pop’s parents’ approach seems logical in genderless toddlerhood, and only sounds extreme in the face of overriding social mores that enforce gender-based play and dress from infancy.
From a very early age, even children of parents with the best of intentions are subjected to socially-accepted gender programming, encouraged to identify with male or female characters and the attendent norms prescribed to identifiable sex. Commenters on the original article
were mixed, saying:
“The kid is too young to decide anything on its own. Someone please rescue the kid from its crazy parents,” wrote one poster on The Local’s comment boards.
But others thought the parents were doing the right thing.
“They’re actually thinking about how they’re raising their child rather than just going along with what society expects, which, in my opinion, is much better than the majority of people who raise their kids to fit their own vision of what they think their kids should be,” another poster wrote.
Personally, I applaud these parents and their own resistance to societal pressure. I think they’ve made a brave choice, given the shock and criticism they could exect to encounter. Although we don’t have a great deal of information as to how they manage the day-to-day burdens of explaining their decision to others, they seem pragmatic in their approach and I don’t see their “ideological point” doing any harm to Pop, who is free to be Pop, however Pop defines it.