Many people take it for granted that firemen, doctors, jeans, and the color blue are an exclusive boys’ domain; while princesses, skirts and dresses, and shades of pink are meant for girls. However, there are some parents who are challenging these fixed beliefs by practicing gender-neutral parenting.
In an interview with the Independent, Megan Perryman from the Let Toys Be Toys campaign said, “Gender-neutral parenting means allowing your children to play with a range of toys and wear the clothes they feel comfortable in.” She explained that this style allows kids to enjoy their childhood. She also clarified that gender-neutral parenting does not mean that girls should not be allowed to play with dolls anymore, saying that they can do so as long as they understand that those are not the only types of toys available to them.
One clear manifestation of gender-neutrality is through clothing. Instead of following the mindset that blue is only for boys and pink is exclusively for girls, gender-neutral parenting provides children with the opportunity to choose what clothes they want to wear. John Lewis made headlines in the UK for removing gendered labels on their children’s clothing line in their stores. Vogue mentioned that it was part of their bid to reduce gender stereotyping. However, the department store is far from being the first clothing retailer to create and/or promote unisex clothes for children. An article by Gurgle featured Kate Pietrasik, who is the sole founder of unisex kids’ clothing label Tootsa. She said that dressing children in gendered clothing not only affects the way other people see kids, but also the way they see themselves. She surmised that the gender divide in terms of clothes is nothing more than a marketing ploy to make money off of customers. They may be unconsciously forced to purchase different sets of clothes for children of different genders. She explained that children’s apparel must take their active lifestyle into consideration, as well as their love of color without leaning towards either sex.
Beyond letting kids enjoy their childhood, the aim of gender-neutral parenting is to open more doors to children. In effect, parents are allowing their kids to follow their own paths, instead of letting society’s pre-conceived notions to dictate what they can and can’t do. This also means teaching kids to have a more open mind in terms of societal roles. For instance, Lisa Cohn told Parents.com that they avoid gender stereotyping through instilling an idea that any task can be accomplished by anyone in the family. For instance, she and her husband do not say that women are the ones bearing the responsibility of cleaning up in the kitchen, while the men should mow the lawn. In doing so, she and her spouse are preventing their children from believing that some tasks can only be performed by one gender.
In the future, it can have implications on what sort of career they would want to pursue, as well as what lives they will lead as adults. Instead of letting society tell them who they should be, they will likely make choices based on who they really are and who they want to be.
AUTHOR BIO: MilkForMom_RJ is a first-time mom who believes that all children should be given equal opportunities, regardless of their gender or race. When she is not writing, she makes crafts and up cycled toys for her baby.