2 Giraffe Dads, A Crocodile Egg, and A Preschool Full of ‘Its’

Back in May, a Canadian couple ignited a news firestorm when word got out that they were raising one of their children, Storm (pictured right, with older brother, Jazz ), as “genderless.” They believed that gender is unimportant when it comes to getting to know a person and gives them the right to choice.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or boy?'” Kathy Witterick, the mother said, “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”

Raising children without “gender bias'” is becoming quite the rage worldwide. Now a preschool in Stockhom, Sweden is being marked on the maps in the gender debate. At the “Egalia” preschool, the staff avoids using words like “him” or “her” and addresses the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys. Instead, they’ve adopted the genderless word “hen,” which doesn’t exist in Swedish but is used in some feminist and gay circles.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. “Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase, she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless – until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.

Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he’s not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go. “The kind of things that boys like to do – run around and turn sticks into swords – will soon be disapproved of,” he said. “So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”

Egalia school does not however deny the biological differences between boys and girls but they hope children will understand that these differences “don’t mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities,” Director Rajalin says. “This is about democracy. About human equality.”

So readers, what do you think about the “genderless” debate issue? Is gender an important part of a child’s identity, or can it be discarded? Is this the ultimate expression of free will and equality or will this lead to confused children? Does gender matter?

We want to know what you think!

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9 thoughts on “2 Giraffe Dads, A Crocodile Egg, and A Preschool Full of ‘Its’

  1. I fully admit that I am no where near ready to be a parent or would ever dream of being one. When this topic came up and I clicked on it ( as I do with all my cousin’s posts) I was intrigued by the thought of raising a baby as genderless. On one hand I thought it to be a very ingenious idea. No more “Girls/Boys have cooties,” no more “You cant do this because you’re a girl!,” and no more ” Girls should just stay inside and play with dolls.” As for boys there would be no more “boys can’t cry” or “boys cant play with dolls.” Basically I think raising your child genderless would end a lot of discrimination…

    But then there is the fact that if only you are raising your child genderless your child is bound to get picked on for going against the “social norm.” Society views anything that is “different” as weird. Generally they don’t try to understand or even attempt to tolerate anything that is “different.” In fact, most of the time, they are ostracized for it. I think that it is required of humans to accept others, no matter what they wear. In some ways, I completely agree with the ideas that are being used from the genderless side. IN others, I don’t. What little girl does not want to be “daddy’s little princess?” Or what little boy doesn’t want to be a power ranger growing up? I think gender has a huge effect on how we are raised. In America, there is a mentality that boys are tough and girls are weak. At least in some senses.

    As a Teenager who has grown up “all girl” with a little bit of a “guys grit,” I think that ideally it would be a good idea to grow up genderless. But that is only if we can get past our stubborn prides and see that there is nothing wrong with a boy wearing dresses or a girl wearing a formal tuxedo. It truly does not matter what you dress like, or how you are raised. You are you. That is all that I can say. But then we move onto the question of how the environment you are raised in is affecting your character. Yes I do believe that how you are raised affects your character. Greatly in fact. If we must dive into this discussion I think it necessary to bring up the fact that, as our paths in life all differ we are all put into different situations. There are some who are blessed with talents that you or I may not have, but it is our individuality that makes us all who we are. As we grow up in the different situations that we have been put into and more importantly, our reactions to those situations, they shape the way that we grow. Say, for instance, someone was born into a wealthy family, they may not have to strive for ever penny to pay the bills, and they may grow up privileged, but they also may or may not be able to experience the little things in life, such as a close family or all sitting at the dinner table together. I think the paths that we put ourselves on is the one that allows us to showcase where we are going in our lives.

    So back to the issue on hand. Should parents raise their children genderless? Well. I think it is really up to the parents. It is not something that I myself can decide. I am not a parent and I don’t plan on being one for a long while. Whatever is right for “you” personally is what I think is best. If you are willing to go ahead and raise a child genderless then go for it. If not the don’t. After all a parent’s decision will affect the child for the rest of their lives. Choose carefully.

  2. Oddly enough I find the idea quite unique and amusing. Most comments seem to think that they are taking away what makes children male or female. But that isn’t the case. Never once in the article did it say if the boys wanted to roughhouse that they weren’t allowed to, or if the girls wanted to play house they couldn’t. Instead, they are allowing the children to make the choices. Is it more emasculating for a guy to want to play house and being chided for it or for him to be allowed to play house and learn that its okay for him to like things that are usually “Girls only”. They aren’t trying to make all the boys and girls the same, but rather treating them the same. they are being allowed a chance to choose their identity and learning to be proud of that.

  3. Excellent. Now we add gender confusion and politically-correct agendas to the backs of children, and can start threatening and punishing parents who are “intolerant” of this new “diversity.” Just the thing to add to the sexualization of our children, who are already depressed, anorexic, bulemic, trafficked, etc. Great idea.

  4. I think boys and girls are very different not just physically, but emotionally as well. They like different things, respond to events differently and are wonderful in their own unique and separate ways. While this school and parents who raise their kids in this manner are trying to celebrate their child’s diversity are really creating a system that molds kids together to be the same. I also believe it is extremely dangerous to experiment with children, which is what this school and many parents are doing. They are trying new methods to parenting that have not shown themselves to be effective and they are trusting in something that they believe will have a positive effect when it can very easily ruin these children’s lives.

  5. I read a similar article saying how one of Storm’s older brothers chose not to go to school because the chance he might be teased for being a boy and wearing dresses. The parents want to raise their children to decide what they want to be? Doesn’t that include confidence and self-assurance in this identity? Apparently not. Instead they have three children, two of which are already experiencing ostracization at an early age because they have no idea who they are.

  6. In Genesis it says that God created them both male and female. God did not create “its.” Boys and girls are different, but those differences make them unique. I believe that this alarming new way of parenting and also education will have a negative effect on those children and instead of helping them find their “identities,” it will confuse them even more. Also instead of helping children be who they want to be we should help children become what God created them to be. Obviously not many parents are concerned about that though.

  7. I bet anyone who has spent five minutes with Storm knows whether he’s a boy or girl.

    I don’t care for “hen” but it would be useful to have a third person singular pronoun for he/she so you can discuss him/her without having to know his/her sex.

  8. It is oddly extremist, appears to be some desperate means to fight unhealthy boredom which is usually common in wealthy societies.

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