Ever since Elon Musk and his partner Grimes have announced the birth of their child, their decisions have continued to attract headlines.
As soon as the child was born, Musk revealed the name of the baby as X ? A-12. The name of the child was something that was followed keenly even before it was announced. Grimes was quoted as saying that she wouldn’t be announcing the name as everyone around her hates it. However social media went viral trying to decipher what the name means. Reddit users claimed A-12 is a reference to CIA aircraft codenamed Archangel. With Æ pronounced ‘ash’ in all probability, the child will be called Sasha Archangel.
The couple also announced that they will be adopting a gender-neutral parenting style while raising their child. The parenting concept has gained popularity in recent times and considering the comments made by Grimes while she was pregnant, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the couple has opted to go this way.
Stating in a YouTube Q&A her reasons for not revealing the baby’s gender, she said “I don’t want to say the gender of the baby … because I feel like their privacy should be protected. “And I don’t want to gender them in case that’s not how they feel in their life. I don’t know, I just feel like it doesn’t need to be known.”
So What Is Gender Neutral Parenting?
Gender-neutral parenting refers to a parenting style that doesn’t adhere to any traditional gender norms. Parents try to expose their children to both masculine and feminine activities and traits from a young age. Additionally, the child isn’t exposed to a particular gender beforehand, with many parents choosing to mark “X” on the gender certificates of their children.
This ensures that the child is free to choose their own gender identity when they grow up, and their preferences are driven by themselves rather than their parents, societal norms or existing standards of gender.
Gender parenting also ensures that when the child grows up, they haven’t been exposed to gender stereotypes that are often prevalent in society. Some of these may include an inherent expectation on the male of the household to be the bread earner or the woman to be more sensitive amongst others.
Gender Neutral Parenting is based on the inherent principle that only biological differences exist between men and women. The rest, such as how they dress, how they are supposed to feel and their emotional sensitivity are just by-products of the parenting their subjected to and experiences they encounter during their lives. It results in breaking away from the gender binary and allowing children to explore different gender types, before taking a call on their gender themselves when they’re mature enough to do so.
How Does Gender Neutral Parenting Work?
Gender-neutral parenting begins right from the time the child is born. It involves a lot of careful considerations on the parent’s behalf, from using the right words to choosing the correct toys.
Role of Toys And Colours
Parents should be choosing colours for the child’s nursery, toys and clothes that don’t feed into gender stereotypes. Simply put, parents looking to practice gender-neutral parenting refrain from putting boys in blue clothes and dressing up girls in pink.
Similarly, parents also try to not let their children play with toys that feed into gender stereotypes, rather trying to expose kids to both masculine and feminine hobbies. For example, a young girl shouldn’t naturally be given a kitchen set. Rather it should be played by her if she intrinsically chooses that as her toy.
The kids should not be limited to girls or boys sections while choosing the toys they play with or the clothes they buy. This is because colour coordination and gender role associations begin right from childhood, and such activities go a long way in ensuring that children don’t self-conceptualize gender roles due to traditional biases.
How Parents Act Becomes Important Too
Gender-neutral parents also need to ensure that in addition to giving their child a free hand when it comes to discovery of their gender, they shouldn’t be conforming to traditional gender roles and stereotypes as well.
Parents should make it a point to let their children wear what they want and also try to minimize their exposure to gender stereotypes. This can be done by ensuring that the books they read and the shows they watch to make sure anything they consume isn’t regressive.
Additionally, they could also act as role models by setting their own parental examples. By showing that both the parents indulge in chores like driving the car, cooking dinner and washing the utensils, it can make the child associate such roles equitably. This essentially prevents them from mind mapping specific hobbies or actions to a particular gender.
The Use Of Language
Vocabulary forms another important aspect of gender-neutral parenting. The words you use or the child sees form impression in their minds. This may eventually lead them to conform or move away from gender stereotypes around them.
Using phrases like “Daddy’s little princess” for girls or “Rough and Tough” for boys may lead to children assigning labels to particular genders.
Therefore, gender-neutral parents should refrain from using labels, or binary terminology while addressing their kids as much as they can. Parents should also try not to use phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen”, "boys will be boys".
The importance of language in the quest of gender-neutral parenting was depicted by Sweden, who introduced the word “hen” to their official dictionary in 2015. It refers to a gender-neutral pronoun which is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because it is unknown, or because the user deems the gender to be superfluous information.
However you may look at it, gender-neutral parenting has a solitary aim. To create an atmosphere wherein a child isn’t bound by societal expectations. Since the concept of gender-neutral parenting is in its infancy right now, there’s no way one can surely say how much of an effect it has on a child.
However, the mode of parenting has the potential to raise kids without the burdens and expectations societal gender norms bring with them. That is why Musk and Grimes decision seems to have its heart in the right places.