Gender Neutral Parenting

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New parenting methods are constantly being created as time passes and childhood developmental research furthers. One of the most controversial and widely debated parenting methods in the current day is gender-neutral parenting. This parenting method focuses on trying to prevent societal gender norms and stereotypes from negatively influencing the development of the child’s forming identity by not assigning gender pronouns or using gendered language around the child at birth and throughout childhood. This parenting method is particularly controversial due to its recent development and the amount of false information being produced in the media. Although the gender-neutral parenting method is a relatively new method and has yet to see proven results, the potential positive results greatly outweigh the potential negative results at both the individual and societal levels.

Gender-neutral parenting has become more popular in recent years and is aimed at breaking down the societal gender norms that impact an individual’s life on a daily basis. Parents aim to raise their children without forcing these societal gender expectations that are normally introduced to children at an extremely young age due to their biological sex (Bryant 2018). In order to do so, parents choose to not learn their child’s sex until birth, they aim to break away from the pink-blue binary in dressing their child, try to remove gendered words in their language, try to give their child a wide variety of toys that are advertised to both genders, and try to let their child decide their own gender and pronouns whenever the child feels ready to do so. Instead of focusing on the gender of the child and how to get the child to fit into society, the main goals of this parenting style are to view the child as a holistic human being with unique traits that are may or may not be correlated to their biological sex as well as to ensure the child knows that the parents will love and care for them regardless of who they choose to be in life or if that matches up with what society says the child should be according to their biological sex’s stereotypes (Kearl 2019). Mary Kearl (1019), a guest writer for the Huffington Post, best explains the overarching reason that parents, including herself, choose a gender-neutral parenting method when she quotes,

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“I want my little one to know that all people deserve to be loved – to be whoever they are – no matter what colors they like, outfits they wear or hobbies they enjoy. That looks, attitudes, interests, feelings, and identities can be fluid and evolve over time, regardless of one’s biological sex. That no one should ever experience limitations on their ambitions, discrimination, bullying or violence because of their gender”. (para. 12)

Kearl’s explanation shows that parents who are using the gender-neutral parenting method are not attempting to use their children to further liberal views or force them to be gender fluid. Rather, the parents using this method are typically aiming to teach their children to be more accepting of those around them and to not make assumptions about an individual’s intelligence, personality, or interests simply based on their assumed biological sex. Parents using this method are attempting to choose the best way to raise their children and encourage their growth and development in today’s society just as parents who choose differing parenting styles are trying to. Gender-neutral method parents are simply choosing to focus on protecting their children from the oppression of gender norms with the goal of promoting their child’s identity development and helping their child reach their fullest potential without limitations due to gender or biological sex.

From what clothes to wear, to sports to play, or what careers to pursue, society is constantly telling people how to live their lives based upon what is deemed to be the ‘norm’ for people of their gender. Starting at a noticeably young age, girls are told they should wear makeup and be caregivers while boys are told to be emotionless and work with their hands. Despite it being proven that forcing societal gender norms on individuals is harmful to both individual and societal health, these norms are continuing to oppress individuals through more complex and disguised routes. While workplaces are much more common to aim for diversity of employees today compared to fifty years ago, they often continue to have “workplace sex segregation” due to underlying societal gender biases that permeate the ability to find a job opening in the first place (Kmec 2010). More than a third of individuals find their job through the “non-search process”, which is when an individual is offered unsolicited information about a job opening (Kmec 2010). Often the biases of the “job informant”, the individual who offers the unsolicited information about a job opening, are shown by who they mention the opening to (Kmec 2010). Job informants are much less likely to seek after women for labor-intensive jobs and more likely to offer them child-related occupations. Underlying gender biases such as these put men who want to be childcare workers and women who want to work in construction at a direct disadvantage compared to their more traditional peers. In addition to this, males who break from the traditional gender role occupations are more likely to be rewarded and rewarded more quickly at their new job in comparison to women. Julie Kmec calls this the “correcting of gender misfits” and explains how this is causing significant harm in the lives of the individuals who experience it (2010). If men and women have occupations assigned to them simply based on sex or gender, this will leave no room for individuals who are gender fluid or intersex in the workplace. Additionally, if these individuals who break the traditional gender binary norms are punished, undervalued, oppressed, or altogether not allowed in the workplace, they will continue to be punished, undervalued, and oppressed throughout the rest of society. 


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