Sunday, 15 January 2012

Boys and girls and Lego and Barbie

Great to see the Lego magazine debacle provoking so much comment - and so much of it witty and well argued: I feel no real need to contribute anything more than this.

Our three (11, 9 and 5, mixed sexes) were playing some kind of mash-up of Star Wars, Ninjago, Pirates of the Caribbean and Creator which often seems to involve everyone being in a classroom where the teacher keeps swearing but this is represented by saying "BLEEP!". Anyway, the catchphrase for this is uttered in a sort of sinister slightly lecherous tone and goes:

"Hi... I'm Anakin Deweddawend... Nice to [sniff] *smell* you..."

The sniff is a real sniff and you have to sniff the other person at that point - Sasha tells me. I'm not sure whether it's a skit on the fact that I like to take deep breaths inhaling Sasha's scent (back of the neck is lovely) - Sash has got used to it but we're all rightly treating it as a bit of parental eccentricity - or just a fart joke.

The older kids are one of each sex and so got both copies of the magazine and saw immediately what had happened. I'm told there were shrieks of outrage. In our house there are all sorts of toys for all sorts of children to play with. (Barbie is banned, but when someone brought back a few from a jumble sale recently, I didn't make much fuss. The eldest used to make a big thing of chasing me with a pretend Barbie -"Grrr.... I've got a Barbie! Beck doesn't like Barbie! Watch out, Beck, here comes Barbie!" which was a cute way of subverting the whole thing. With not much encouragement, the kids are extremely good at subverting such things as dubious marketing tropes, and songs you get taught at Sunday School.) In fact, I'm being interviewed for Woman magazine tomorrow about it all, and it sounds as though they've got a positive and sensible take on things, so fingers crossed that we can make some progress here! (And that I do make it into print.)

On that subject, I've also been interviewed by Emma Higginbotham for the Cambridge News about that thing I did of not telling anyone whether Sasha was a boy or a girl - and I completely forgot to tell her about this blog, where I tried to go on writing about Sash without ever mentioning it - a good chance to combine my political views with my writing and editing principles, which have always included gender-free writing. (The only time anyone has ever been annoyed was over my use of 'Chair' rather than Chairman or Chairwoman in Sawston Scene, but I've had some good discussions over the years.) This will be a feature but not online, so I'll post here when I know which issue it will be in - Emma reckons Thursday or Friday this week. Though I've just realised that this blog never revealed the secret, but if I say any more about the article it will, so I'll stop there. They should have some nice stereotype-subverting photographs of Sash and me too! (One thing that doesn't seem to have changed is that nobody's has expressed any interest in talking to Sasha's father - the kind of thing we were trying to fix at the Fatherhood Institute, where I worked for a year (before being made redundant, to continue that them! My sixth and most recent time.)_ And yes, as their web editor I did try to persuade them that you can't update a website once a month. Let me know (becklaxton, the at sign, gmail, a dot, com) if they say anything about this - I would so love them to run with it.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you should be ashamed of yourself. Childhood and growing up are hard enough without turning your child into a spectacle to make a "statement." It takes a profound and truly disturbing level of narcissism to decide that your political views are important enough to override common sense. It's one thing to want your child to have the opportunity to decide their sexual identity for themselves, but wholly another to tacitly decide it for them by foisting "ambiguity" on them publicly, and then speaking about it to every news outlet that cares. If you truly wanted your child to have the freedom to decide their identities for themselves, it would have be far more considerate to give them a strong sense of internal strength, a sense that clothes and toys and all these material things just don't mean anything to your identity, that you can decide these things for yourself internally. And that you would love him regardless of what he chose. You've put him into a much smaller and lonelier box than anything that "society" could put him in.

Jillise said...

I just discovered you, and your blog. Amazing things you are doing in your household. Nay-sayers just can't comprehend. But I love it! Thanks for the insight into your life.

kkf60 said...

Hi - I'm curious, why would you have "masuline" shirts a no-no since you feel they are gender bias but a pink swimsuit was fine... You can't deny that a pink sparkle swimsuit is distinctly a female bias and you say 'if people want to think he's a girl, who cares" but why not allow shirts with skulls or any other "masculine" style whenever he wished? "Skulls" can be biased as "male" but I like them and use them in jewlery and I'm a heterosexual female. It sounds like you didn't mind people thinking he was a girl but you were determined for him tonot be thought of as a boy... Also, I realize you will disagree, but him wearing a blouse uniform, you are setting him up for severe teasing and potential bullying. Yes, in a perfect world, schools and teachers should ot allow that, but it isn't wholely unavoidable when your actions to the contrary are deliberate. Unless, of course, your son identifies as a female then, you're looking at natural transgender issues, not just "mommy's choice" of what to dress him in since birth. thank you, Karen

not noam said...

I'm sure this has been tricky and I applaud your efforts to be gender neutral!
I hope you let the child decide what he wanted to wear. It really shouldn't be such a big deal!
Have you listened to the travails of Bertie, the 6 year old in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith? His mother is an example you would not want to emulate, though she has similar goals, perhaps. Of course, she's a construct of a man!

MindsetMusic said...

just fyi, in the future of your son, he will really feel hated when his peers start making fun of him, even if you as a parent lets them know its not what the kids want, is what he wants. He will be distant with the kids around him, and develop no social skills needed to provide a healthy lifestyle and future.

Crash said...

Karen said it right, no skulls but a pink sparkly girls bathing suit? That doesn't sound like non gender bias. Hope you didn't wreck your child with your little experiment...

NoFaceWriting said...

So, I agree with Karen. I actually sought out your blog after reading a news article. However, reading the summary under your blog name makes sense of everything. All I had to read was "radical feminist" to understand why you would refuse your son the choice to wear overly-masculine clothes but encourage overly-feminine clothing. "You wanted a daughter" is exactly what he will think as he gets older and endures hardship over your actions. Most of the people that read your story feel sad for your son.

NoFaceWriting said...

Sorry to bombarding you with a second comment. If you want to see a real woman standing up for whatever her child wants read this woman's story: http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/the-controversial-costume-that-outraged-moms-made-boy-happy-2407091.html
There aren't any "no-no's" against being overly masculine or feminine. He made a choice and she stood up for him. And after that choice she didn't send him to school in girls clothing. Fight FOR your child, stop using him to fight the system.

Phil Palmer said...

Poor Sasha will suffer from these ignorant parents.

Bugsy said...

I'd like to echo the above sentiment, there is an assumption you wouldn't have gone ahead with this social experiment if Sasha were born a girl. How would you respond to that?

Mkabug28 said...

I was heart broken when I read your story. It's almost like you want your son to be a girl. My son is the same age as yours. He loves playing house, and digging for bugs. School is already a challenge for kids - so when I read you let him wear girl clothing (sadly children know what a girl wears and boy wears)...it's like your putting him up for bullying/torture. The one thing mothers strive to do is PROTECT our child. I don't understand the hate for Barbie either. Does that mean no Ken doll? Army guy? I'm confused. I wish your son the best.

ryancmmusic said...

As a strict non conformist I can see what you are trying to do, but I must say that you get a fail on execution.
I am a fan of heavy metal, and MMA, things considered to be very masculine. On the other hand I also love classical music, and musicals. Music in general for that matter. I am a straight male, but despise alpha male behavior.
Point being that banning anything from your kids is enforcing your own conformity on them, you are stereotyping certain clothes and behaviors, which makes you no better than they people you profess to be trying to defeat.
I was not restricted in anyway during my development. I was allowed to like what I wanted to like, and was never put into any boxes. So I have to ask how you putting the child(ren) into your own box is any better than putting them into societies boxes?
Unless of course the media is once again miss representing the facts to make a more sensational story, in which case apologize.

MissToni Lauren said...

""Grrr.... I've got a Barbie! Beck doesn't like Barbie! Watch out, Beck, here comes Barbie!" which was a cute way of subverting the whole thing"

Just out of curiosity do your children call you Beck and not mum?

I have read the article about your whole keeping your child's gender a secret. I'm slightly boggled by it I must admit. Whilst I completely support that children should be given a range of toys to choose from regardless of what gender they may be considered for, I see no reason why you would need to keep your child's gender secret to do so. Gender isn't a stereotype, you either have a penis or vagina unless your a hermaphrodite. The only thing that is a stereotype is how you as a parent choose to treat them according to their sex seeing as parents are the single biggest influence in a young child's life.

One last question, is your son aware that he is a boy and the difference between male and female (not stereotypical roles)

iamchristian said...

I recently read an article, in Parently, about you revealing the sex of your youngest child at age 5. The last part of that article sent chills down my spine and my heart went out to your children and you.. incase you're not sure of the comment I am referencing, I've copied it here:

As for Laxton, she says she's open to her son pursing any career or sexual preference he chooses as he matures. "As long as he has good relationships and good friends," she says, "then nothing else matters, does it?"

Since you asked, "nothing else matters, does it?" I feel obliged to give an answer: "First it would depend on how one defines "good" and second, " are you providing your children with all information to allow them to truly make their own opinions of things as they mature into adults, or are you simply filling them with your opinions and molding them into what you hoped your life could or could have been?" Don't get me wrong, as parents, I agree we do tend to raise our children instilling our own beliefs into them.. well, because, that's what we know.. However, instead of "hiding" ones sex from the public to avoid stereotyping.. why can't you just simply allow your children to dress how they choose while at the same time educating them on, let's say, the worlds view on how a boy should dress... blah blah blah, but, we (childs parents) want to encourage you to dress how you want to... this truly is raising your child to learn he/she has the freedom to make his/her own choices.. but, not sending them out into the world to be "blind sided" with reality beyond the four walls of their home". You're not really giving him free choice if you allow him to wear a pink bathing suit but not a t-shirt with a skull on it now are you?
Back to your question about "nothing else matters, does it?", Alot more matters! Your children can have "good" friends and "good" relationships and be lost,lonely, confused and just plain miserable inside. All these things are quite possible already so why would you want to start them out with such confusion and "secrecy". I thought I read somewhere that you, or your partner, or both, were atheist.. and my prayer for you is to open your mind and heart to the truth...what do you have to lose? You have salvation to gain and wouldn't you rather believe and be wrong than not believe and be wrong? If not for your own sake, for the sake of your children, which are a gift from God! If you are at all interested in "researching" this for yourself, a great book to read is "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel.

A Place To Dream said...

I can't stand the skull print shirts. They sell them for boys & girls. I also don't like the shirts that have snotty coments on them or words like princess or Diva. I have 2 boys & a girl and they don't wear any of that.

Nothing wrong with letting your child wear boy or girl clothes. My daughter's fav clothes happen to be her brother's hand-me-downs.

Kaitlin said...

I'm not saying what your doing is wrong, but I think you may be setting him up for sexuality issues, I mean because of all the "girly" things your exposing him to and all of the "boyish" things you aren't letting him do or wear he may have issues figuring out his sexuality, it does seem like your trying to only show him "girly" things I am not against showing them both but that's the thing you have to teach them both you can't have it one sided and show him mainly female things, he is a boy and he needs to know what boys do as well as what girls do, if your going to allow barbie, maybe you should allow skulls.

Phoenix said...

I've also just come across your bog and wanted to say I see nothing wrong with what you are doing. Not that you need my - or anyone elses - approval. It is your decision how you raise your child. And in all honesty, even with restrictions such as certain clothing (if this is true), to me it sounds like your kids will grow up with much more freedom to be who they want to be and dress how they want to dress, than the rest of society.

I plan to follow a similar path myself. I was first introduced to this a while back when a couple were in the news over keeping their child (Storm)'s gender hidden from all but close friends and family. It made so much sense to me.

In fact, having two daughters already, it makes even more sense to me to raise my next baby free from gender stereotyping and 'outside' imput. Not least to save the child from hearing comments about being the third girl or first boy.

That said, I'd also be interested to hear your reasoning behind making certain clothes (cargo pants? Skull symbols?) 'off limits', and also, what is the fifference between the girls' shirts and the boys? In some primary schools, boys wear blue polo shirts and girls wear white. That is the only difference. If that is the case I can't see the harm. I'm really not sure how a blouse for 5 year olds differes for genders other than that. When I was in high school, uniform makers started making fitted stiff-collar blouses for girls, but I wouldnt have thought you could buy these aimed at 5 year olds.

Mommy101Coast said...

I showed my 3 yr old daughter pictures of Sasha in pinnk & purple & fairy wings etc from Yahoo News. I asked her, "is this a boy or girl?" Emphatically she said, "GIRL!" Then I asked, "is Sasha a boy's name, or girl's name?" This time, she looked at the pictures, and at me like I was an idiot and said "GIRL'S name."

So, what I am wondering is... if you had dressed & named a DAUGHTER the same as you have your son Sasha, would it be considered a "gender neutral" upbringing? I think not. You've dressed and trained him as a typical girl. Nothing NEUTRAL about it. I prefer to let my son CHOOSE to be a cross-dresser and a fem if he wants to. Good luck to your poor BOY.

Odgen said...

Exactly what kkf60 said! You come off as being very hypocritical and you're reasoning is extremely unbalanced. So you dress him in a girl's swimsuit but won't let him wear distinctly masculine clothes? How can you say you are allowing him free choice? It's almost as if you wished he was a girl. It's gonna be hell for that kid growing up. Shame on you for using your son for a social experiment and should seriously be considered child abuse. Don't believe me? Look it up online you are being blasted on every forum and it's not even close. In one blog 7557 people think this should be considered child abuse and only 197 disagree.

Unknown said...

I agree 100% with comment above. I think that labeling the ones who disagree with your parenting choices as unable to "comprehend" is setting yourself up for failure because it means you are disregarding any other points of view which makes your opinion extremely closed-minded. Consider this: my nephew is allowed to do whatever the hell he wants when it comes to wearing makeup, nail polish, or pink sparkly fairy wings. But would it be ok if my niece were banned from doing these things as well? It seems that by allowing him to wear pink and ruffly skirts you are allowing him to identify only with being feminine, whether or not that is his natural choice. The fact is, he is not given a choice if you ban cargo pants and skulls(which don't seem ultra masculine to me but whatever). I suggest you ask yourself why you are pushing your male child to be feminine?

cavmed said...

I feel so sorry for your son. He'll be SO damaged from your years of subjecting him to the ridicule of others. I'm sure he won't understand the vaunted blessings of gender neutrality as he's forced into this hyperfeminine role which has robbed him of any free will when it comes to his own identity. When he's grown, he may not even be able to put a finger on exactly why he resents you so much...he'll just know that he does. I hope and pray he can recover from all of this passive abuse and heal before gender confusion and bullying create another misguided and suicidal teen. Congratulations on your innovative ideas with parenting...I hope your son survives it.

Unknown said...

Cheers kkf60~ I also had the same thought when I read about the skulls vs. pink sparkly bathing suit. It would appear as though you are using your child for an experiment. He isnt a guinea pig. I sincerely hope that this "identity freedom" doesnt cause him confusion in his adult years leading to psychological counseling. I do feel sorry about it. I would imagine that if you would allow him to wear such feminine clothing items you would allow him to also choose if he would like to wear "masculine" clothing items as well. It appears as though you are the one molding him like modeling clay to become what you want, and not actually allowing him to be the one choosing his own destiny.

Yvonne said...

Since you have taken it upon yourself to use your child as a social experiment without any sense of empathy for the situation you have placed him in, I doubt you will have the guys to publish this comment. That's ok, I have the satisfaction of knowing you saw it. You should read this blogger, she totally nailed the pair of you for the hypocritical imbeciles you are. And fyi? Nobody cares what your kid has between his legs. You and his dad have made gender more of an issue than anyone else.

http://becausemotherhoodsucks.com/2012/01/new-addition-to-my-shit-list.html?showComment=1327211056119&m=1#c5495472276583645357

Kay said...

I have recently read your story in the paper , and think it is completley immoral what you are putting your child which you refer to as the " the infant". You are constanly confusing your child by telling him that he his able to chose whether he wants to wear female clothes or male clothes. When the infant goes to school and looks around everyday life and see's male and female children is he aware of the difference between them as you claim your child is gender netural. Also you have two other childern , are they aware of there sex? If so why have you only decided that you will put your third child through what i can only call mental torture. I personally think that your choice for doing is so is to make yourself famous as a "radical feminast" you claim to be , your child will injure terrible criticism throughout there whole life for you selfishness. I feel that you claim your child is unaware of its gender however you are bias in the style of clothing you have your child wearing as it has been photgraphed in pink tutus ? Which are for girls.... Also it wears school uniforms from the girls uniform section. It almost feels like you wanted a girl child but didnt get what you wanted so you will brain wash your own child into being a girl. You claim you child is unaware of his gender so this mean he believes that his mother and father are the same gender? You clearly have not thought of the long term effect your selfishness will have on your child in later life he will grow to be confused. Living a normal life in the society we live in today is hard enough without your mother making you believe you are a natural gender and different to everyone else. There can not be any such thing as a natural gender as our sex is decided whilst we are in the whom and are genitals tell us what we are. Therefore no one should be able to tell us any differnt and ecspeaclly not for there own fame and fourtune. I will look forward for your reply.

sun said...

I feel a bit sad that an otherwise (I presume) intelligent person would allow their own insecurities and ignorance to allow their ego to take ownership of a part of their childs life of which they have no right to take ownership. I don't believe you're helping anyone, and are simply re-enforcing a failed cold-war psy-ops programme of social disintergration based on 'male-bashing', though the various layers of your indoctrination will inevitably prevent you from accepting this.Please allow your son to be the biological entity he is, and leave his psyche alone, it doesn't belong to you, it never will belong to you, no matter how hard your ego screams otherwise. And Yes I do talk from exprience in this specific area, anyway as a male i must rush off now to start a war or whine about 'man-flu'. I hope one day you can break free from your own ignorance and prejudice, you are not ahead of your time, your behaviour is in my view a retardation of society, which incidently, you also do not own....lol.

Beck said...

That's a very good question, Karen - and I will answer it as soon as things are less manic around here.

cam said...

In conjunction with Karen's comment above (I imagine she was also directed here by the yahoo news article) what if the kid does not want to wear anything at all? we all have to conform to society in one way or another. Making certain things off limits in a way stereotypes your children as well and to a certain degree undermines their intelligence (imo at least)