The new word for he is ne and the new word for she is ne, too. Because we should not assume gender identification just from looking at someone.
This was my introduction to the idea of raising kids in a gender-neutral environment. My first instinct would have been to write this idea off as completely stupid. After all, I have seen experiments where parents didn’t let girls play with dolls. And I read about a boy who was raised as a girl. And experiments like those are always colossal failures—the kids are messed up.
But the person I was talking with is a professor of gender studies at Butler University, so I decided she is too smart to be saying stupid stuff; I need to understand better.
I read selections from her syllabus in The Radical Reader and Psychoanalytic Politics. And I learned new words like Lysistrata Protest. I end up pretty convinced that masculine and feminine are a spectrum rather than binary.
It’s an interesting idea to assume nothing about gender. And it’s very similar to not assuming anything about learning. Sometimes this is as simple as not painting a pretend-oven pink. Or giving kids shirts to tie-dye without gendered instructions. Other times it’s more complicated. But not assuming anything about gender is, at the core, about respecting the child’s ability to discover what’s best for the child.
See? I could have used him or her, but I didn’t. It’s tiring to think that way, but it’s probably like unlearning anything, which is what we do all the time as homeschoolers. You get used to it.
The core conundrum to all these issues is language. Once you call a kid a boy instead of a kid, then the kid starts thinking about what boy means. And then the kid thinks about social expectations instead of what the kid wants.
I am becoming more aware of ways we tell kids what we expect of them, based on their gender. Toddler tops could be neutral, or not, but dresses are gender determinant. Why do girls need to dress up in dresses? And why can’t boys wear skirts? These questions are becoming more common, because GQ has declared gender-neutral fashion the new norm.
The more I read, the more gender-neutral makes sense to me. Which is a little scary because this is how I felt about homeschooling—at first it was absurd to me, but the more I read the more it made complete sense. Gender-neutral living and homeschooling are both ways to give kids control over their lives.
I’ve been tracking the arguments about what kids can go to which bathrooms in school, and I’ve always thought it was sort of absurd that schools have become the focal point of gender rights in the US. But now that I understand more about gender it makes total sense: School is the place where parents have surrendered their authority to the adults running the school, and those adults are the most invested in not letting kids control their own lives.