17 December 2014

Why is gender neutral parenting so hard?

The concept of 'gender neutral parenting' has been in the media a lot recently. When I heard the phrase I immediately identified with it and thought "yep, we do that".

Apparently some families have gone so far as to not reveal the gender of their child to anyone, and so refer to their offspring as 'it' rather than 'he' or 'she'. We have not gone that far but I would say that as parents we take a lot of care to avoid gender stereotyping and to promote gender equality to our children. We go out of our way to teach our boys that they can be and do whatever they want and that girls can also be or do whatever they want.

We are raising feminist boys. Boys who believe that people are equal, regardless of their gender. Boys who respect themselves for who they are, whoever that may be. Boys who respect women as equals. Boys who believe that any person can do any job, play any sport, do any hobby, play with any toy they choose.

Before I had children I hadn't had to think about this, but when our son was born my husband and I knew instantly that we would be raising our children with these values. What I didn't know was that this would be a challenge.

I didn't think our beliefs were unusual. I had no idea that instilling these values in our children would be so difficult! 

I never dreamed I'd have to repeatedly and firmly remind people not to openly mock 'feminine' attributes in my toddler son. 

I didn't think anyone would bat an eyelid when my 2 year old boy chose a witches outfit for Halloween, but even people who I thought were totally with me on the gender neutral toys debate raised their eyebrows when he put on a dress. They raised them even further when my husband wore a dress in solidarity. (Best. Dad. Ever.)

I couldn't have imagined how hard it would be to get basic, 'imaginative play' toys, in colours other than pink.

I had no idea how regularly I'd have to ask people to stop gender stereotyping my son. It's so ingrained in people that they don't even realise they're doing it. 

I didn't expect to be disappointed in people I know and love doing things like turning my son's fairy wand into a weapon. (The culprit of this particular heinous crime has been thoroughly reprimanded and knows who he is!).

I didn't think I'd have to change the text in books I read to my children. I actually had to cross out some parts of the Topsy and Tim book we bought recently, just in case anyone else read it to him. I literally could not bear for a book about his favourite characters to be teaching him that boys and girls need different toys.

I hadn't imagined how much people would encourage rough, unkind or disruptive behaviour by laughing or blurting out a phrase like "he's a proper boy". 

I didn't think people would so openly find it amusing when my son dances beautifully or takes brilliant care of his baby doll.

I have been and continue to be shocked at the outrageous sexism displayed in the toy industry. Here's Mickey and Minnie Mouse teaching us that boys can be doctors but girls can only be nurses. (Don't get me started on the phrase I just used... Nursing is a graduate profession that wouldn't be referred to as 'JUST' if it wasn't based on so called 'feminine' attributes. But that's a whole other blog!!!)

I had never had to think about gender stereotyping before the boys were born, but I think I probably encounter some gender biased comment or stereotyping in front of my child every day.

I was amazed when my son wore blue shark board shorts and pink peppa pig arm bands in the swimming pool it caused a man to be so totally flustered that he stammered: "give the ball back to the little, girl, boy, girl, umm... sorry, um, give them their ball back". Maybe we should introduce a gender neutral pronoun like in Sweden, if only to help out poor confused folk who are faced with the boys wearing pink.

Help! That child is wearing pink AND blue. What IS IT?

Don't get me started on people's comments when he had not even shoulder length 'long' hair. He wasn't "starting to look like a girl" and what's it to you if he was??

Even Father Christmas pissed me off last week when he asked my son if he wanted some stupid overtly masculine toy "like all the other boys", rather than just asking "what do you want?". If you'd asked, Father Christmas, he would've told you "some chocolate and a ball".

I didn't think I'd ever be worried about giving my children toys they'll love at Christmas, but this year I have had second thoughts. Both boys are getting new dolls and doll accessories and the older one is getting an amazing dolls house, that happens to be pink. I have no qualms whatsoever as to the suitability of these toys, about how much they'll love them, about how often they'll play with them. What worries me is reactions of other people. I worry that even family members who know how we feel about this, will inadvertently make derogatory comments, raise eyebrows, mock us for choosing those toys, and make 'subtle' remarks which scream "YOU SHOULDN'T BE PLAYING WITH GIRLS TOYS" to my perfect, self assured, nuturing, imaginative, normal little boy.

So yes, I'm a gender neutral parent. Yes, we will give our boys dolls this Christmas, alongside helicopters, balls, bricks and a train set. And yes, I will be sad that I even had to think for a second about whether or not my own friends and family would accept this as normal. 


  1. Surely nursery junior school and relentless present buying from the unenlightened will undo all of your hard work? Gutsy, obvious and commendable choice but not easy to sustain without going crazy?

    1. Thank you! I know the world will repeatedly contradict what we're trying to show them but that's no reason to give up! :)

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, we perhaps aren't as headstrong about it but in my eyes my boy can play with whatever he want. If he wants to push a doll around in a buggy then so what, likewise when he's playing with his garage. At the end of the day I'm teaching him to be him, whatever that may be x

    1. Thanks for your comment :) yes that's how I feel too, I have only become a bit more headstrong about it since coming across so many barriers to him "just being him"!

  3. Great post lovely. As you know, I too am baffled by the response to our parenting. Milin met Santa the other day and he asked for a mermaid doll. So that's what he got. But the Santa was so confused and looked at me as if to say, is that ok? OF COURSE IT'S OK. HE'S A TWO YEAR OLD WHO JUST WANTS A TOY - I wanted to say. I had to hold back. Regrettably. Santa's grotto was hardly the scene for a lecture on gender conditioning. I've blogged about this too today, funny. SO much love for this post Amy. Well done x

  4. Great post! I try hard to make sure both Jenson and Evie (and the others) play with what they want to when they want to, our toy cupboards are full of toys they can both enjoy! It's getting harder though a Jenson is picking up form ad's etc the whole 'Boys' 'Girls' thing. Its upsetting but at the same time i know that if he wants to play with dolls he will play with them, because I have raised him to be comfortable in said situation.

    Couple of other points:
    a) I love your husband....what an ace daddy! I don't think dean would ever dress in a dress for the kids (though he would quite happily dress up as a woman for his friends on a night out a few years ago...don't get me started on this!!!)
    b) That book....why has it made such a point of setting them apart? Weird!
    c) Those doctor/nurses set...Wow. Just Wow! I actually have no words for this. None.
    d) Your boy baby wearing in the first pic...BLIMMING ADORABLE!

    And finally because it would seem you don't get the support from your family (sorry if you do and i have read it wrong)....YOU ROCK MAMMA!!

  5. We have bought our fifteen month old son a kitchen for Christmas which provoked someone to ask if we wanted him to be a puff. Can't believe it, because it's okay for girls to play with "boys" toys in fact it's almost celebrated, but for boys it's shameful.
    Why do toys have to have a gender anyway? It's insane

    1. Try calling some of the top MALE chefs poofs! I'm sure they would have something to say about it! I think things like kitchens, cookers, washing machines, ironing boards and irons, babies and buggies etc are unisex toys full stop. These are all toys that you will later on in life have to use in everyday life. It sets them up for a good wholesome non stereotypical future. My 2 year old son at this moment has his sisters dressing up shoes on. All children like to dress up too x

  6. It's really interesting seeing it from the perspective of a parent of boys - with girls you spend your time trying to make sure that there's balance in among the pink and princesses which is hard enough but at least people don't think it unnatural that we have a Duplo fire station as well as Cinderella's castle!

  7. I think children should be allowed to play with what they want, but N mostly has stereotypical boys toys because that's what he likes to play with...although he does have my retro brown dolls pushchair, and loves playing with his playfood/baking set.(neutral colours thankfully), and wouldn't let me give away my rag dolly Annie when we cleared out my mum's loft.

    But he's not fussed about dolls (male or female), and isn't keen on pink (although does walk towards the pink girls section in Next over the boys side). Instead he uses his teddies as his 'babies' to feed and look after.

    At nursery he can have any toy to play with - they're quite openly neutral. In fact, most Fridays I turn up to see N and his friend (a boy) dressed up in the princess dresses. I'm not sure how long that will last because another boy there is very vocal as not playing with girls toys or dressing up in dresses. However most of the time he chooses to play with the cars, tractors etc. I think when I turn up and see what the children are playing with, at the age of 3-4, the girls congregate together, with maybe one in the dirt on the floor playing cars with the boys. The boys are always playing together digging or playing cars/vehicles. I think a lot of the time it can be natural that that's what they're drawn to.

    I was surprised that his dad didn't flip when I showed him the photos of them in dresses, he's very traditional and would hate for his son not to be a masculine boy. So it was great that he didn't comment. He also lets N do his hair (probably because he likes a head massage).

    I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying I'm promoting gender neutral behaviour, I'm just letting my son choose what he wants to play with, as well as correcting him when he says that women aren't farmers etc.

  8. This is an excellent post. Why can't children just be allowed to grow as they are without having people shove gender roles down their throats? Toy manufacturers are absolute sods for this in my opinion.

    Its such a struggle attempting to be even a little gender neutral in your parenting! I do my best. My son has always been allowed to choose whatever he wants. He's five, has a lovely play kitchen and shop in his room, we bought him a doll when I was pregnant with his sister to help teach him about the baby (he has ASD, which makes the whole gender roles nonsense even harder), the last one definitely got my FiL raising eyebrows, but the husband is brilliant and totally on board. He even let me dress him in the christening gown I wore for his christening.

    He's also totally on board with me that if a two comes in two versions, a boy (ahem, those bright colours are unisex toy industry!) and a pink girl's version... well ANYONE who buys the pink version will be taking it back and exchanging it for the other. I have no issue with the toy. I have an issue with the message 'girls must love pink' being shoved down my daughter's throat. I have a an issue with my FiL's not so subtle hints that I am not raising my daughter girly enough (you should have seen the monstrosity of a toy he wanted to buy her for christmas. Thankfully my husband was as vehemently opposed to it as I was.) He wants to shove 'girly' things at her, and I have had to reprimand him for saying things like 'we will give the pink one to Katy because she's a girl'. Not a message I want either of my children learning.

    Its not like I ban pink or girly. Her rocking horse has rosebuds on and a hot pink saddle, and I chose it. She has a mermaid palace, she owns Upsy Daisy dolls. She has them because she likes them. Not because of her gender. BOTH my children do dance classes. My son asked to do dance first! He goes because he wants to. They are as likely to both sit around the duplo box building as they are to be having a picnic indoors. And surely that's the way children are supposed to be. Or is it just me?

  9. This was a fascinating read, especially as a stay at home dad of two girls. I have both the same problem...and the reverse. Attitudes to gender are formed very young, so it's something my wife and I do pay attention to (...and we agonised over whether it was right for our eldest to attend Rainbows or not because of its gender exclusivity). We also reacted in horror when she said she wanted to be "cute" and not "clever". As she has since declared she wishes to be either a scientist or an astronaut I think that message got through.

    On the flip side, and I'm going to go off on a slight tangent here, huge effort is made by Government and other organisations to encourage girls to fulfill their full potential. All manner of campaigns exist to get girls into engineering, sport and business. Where are the campaigns encouraging men to work in healthcare (as your blog pointed out) or in early years education or childcare where the female workforce is a staggering 98%? Essentially I think your boys are a victim of this; it's more acceptable for a girl to wish to do something traditionally masculine and yet the reverse is not encouraged.

    Anyway, I've said enough and probably landed myself in trouble. As a dad, I will be much happier if my daughter becomes a scientist. Astronaut is just too dangerous (and I'd be saying that if I had sons!)

  10. Amy, I love this post. Not because of what it signifies because it also drives me potty that gender-neutral parenting is so hard, and therefore it'd be better if you didn't have to write this at all. But I still love it, you've written it brilliantly. I agree with every point, and I really wish it wasn't so hard too.

    Trying to bring up a boy gender-neutrally in Italy is actually not hard, it's utterly impossible. It's SUCH a patriarchal society it's almost laughable. To cope I often just play the "weird foreigner" card and do exactly what I please. I do get very upset though when friends comment that my son has "girls toys" (a kitchen and a doll). One dad said he would be "worried" if his son had a kitchen (homosexuality is very heavily stigmatised here and of course we all know that having a love for play cooking will turn you gay and WHAT DID I JUST WRITE. But they do think that.). I get upset. I really do. I wish I could stick this post on a t-shirt and wear it.

  11. I have 3 boys and there have been times when they chose girls stuff and wore them but i never had any negative comments about them i think they are all cute whAtever they wear. Is it possible that some of you already a but sensitive to this subject so get offended easily? Also i don't thin you should put too much emphasis to what your children are wearing but you have to accept that if you take them out iyou will get people commenting as to toys my son's christmas present is a doll and all i care is that he likes it.Just go with what your child wants and don't sweat the rest! Happy christmas!

  12. We're probably not as single-minded (not offence intended - I just couldn't think of a better way to phrase it!), but we are trying to raise our 3yo son more or less neutrally. We haven't bought him dolls or pink things because neither of us had any interest in those as a child, but otherwise he has the full range of toys. He's a live wire, but also gentle, fastidious (hates getting mucky!) and physically quite cautious. We genuinely haven't had many comments. We have to shop around a bit more for toys and have managed to 'lose' one or two dodgy books gifted us, but that's it. My family (working class Irish) are great about letting him be himself, as they were with me back in the day. A few friends and some family on my husband's side stereotype their own children but seem happy to let us go our own way. It certainly isn't a daily or even weekly issue. I realise it will get a lot tougher once peer pressure kicks in, but so far it just hasn't been a big deal. I guess we're lucky.

  13. I enjoyed this post Amy. It's interesting to me, both my boys are VERY typical boys so into um, cars and that's about it. I would love to watch Frozen with them but it's never gonna happen.
    I believe there are fundamental differences between boys and girls and that hose differences are fundamental to our survival as a species However as parents i think it's about going giving your kids the freedom to play with and do whatever they like and finding their own way.
    If my boys wanted to dress as a witch and wear pink or play with dolls then they would and i would teach them to never feel bad about that. In fact they should feel awesome about that and your husband is extra awesome too! x

  14. I love this blog - well said! I think there's a danger that feminists can get so caught up telling girls that they can be engineers and scientists and footballers if they want to that we sometimes forget about the girls and boys who love pretty dresses and have so-called 'feminine' interests. We do no good to those boys and girls if we imply that the traditionally 'masculine' interests are in some way superior. And I hate it when lovely, nurturing little boys show a spontaneous interest in playing with a doll or imitating their mum (or dad) in any number of 'girly' activities and are made to feel like they've done something shameful or ridiculous. Shame on anyone who makes them feel like that! Thanks for a great post.

  15. I totally get you. My daughter is 6 and was teased at school for wearing her spiderman wellies. As she gets older, gender bias is creeping in as she is influenced by her peers. I can't prevent it but she still knows what I believe and she knows she has my support if or when she chooses to fight her battles. She still loves football, despite being one of just 2 girls to play in the after school team. She also loves frozen and her baby dolls.
    As does my 3 yr old son! Who was bought dinosaurs and spiderman for his birthday, along with an Anna doll from Frozen.
    With one of each I was interested to see how much was nature or nurture. My son has been exposed to all types of toys and he has naturally gravitated towards fighting, spiderman, dinosaurs, cars but he also has zero interest in lego and they both love their dollies.

    When I see shops advertising boys toys and girls toys I get cross. My partner, whilst supporting gender equality thinks I get way too wound up about it. My son wanted to go to his nursery party dressed as rapunzel the other day but changed his mind at the last minute as 'girls wear dresses'. I don't know where he got that from, not home.
    Onwards and upwards. Schools have a major influence and all we can do is equip our kids to believe in themselves

  16. Such a fantastic post. I am currently expecting my first child, and we chose not to know the gender ahead of time as it makes absolutely no difference to the way he or she will be raised, or how their bedroom would be decorated. I also have an 8-year old step-daughter who isn't "girly" in any way, and I never was growing up. My partner is the more sensitive and emotional of the two of us, and I hope that this whole combination of personalities will make for a very neutral and positive household for our new arrival!

    As a feminist this is the parenting style I will be adopting from Day 1, and I work in a male-dominated creative industry already, where I am in the minority of women with my job.

    We've already encountered comments from people when we've mentioned packing a Batman outfit as the baby's "coming home" outfit from the hospital. "But what if it's a girl?" - I actually couldn't believe someone who KNEW me thought to even ask the question...

  17. I'm so with you on this — my boys ARE proper boys (they have the anatomy to prove it!) but they can be sensitive, wear hand-me-downs from their female cousin and they like prams and baby dolls. We also have pink Peppa plates and I often dress them in leggings; much to the horror of my brother-in-law who thinks I should dress them in PROPER boy clothes. It's exhausting having to even think about this!! It's something that should be standard practice — why people are so obsessed with bringing children up to fit a stereotype.

    Granted, I'm not going to push them to be something they're not but, equally, I'm not going to give them solely cars and lego or dress them in 'boys' clothes. It's ridiculous.

    Thankfully, they're going to have the best role model EVER!! Their amazing daddy does all the cooking — and ironing — in our house, plus often can be seen sporting a pink tie or flowery shirt. And he is 100% the Alpha Male. He just doesn't need to wear blue or stay out of the kitchen to prove it.

  18. Amy you've written an excellent article here, and I agree with everything you've said. I'm a dad and have one son (2) and one daughter (4) and we're dealing with this with both kids. It's fascinating really, but at the moment I'm finding it more of a challenge to 'permit' stereotypically male behaviours in my daughter than to encourage stereotypically female behaviours in my son. He really is happy to dress in a nurses costume and to play with dolls alongside his diggers and other toys, he just gets on with whatever takes his fancy. With my daughter she seems to set her own barriers which must be based on influences she's either seen on TV or picked up from friends - like the classic 'doctor for boys, nurse for girls' thing - I keep telling her she can be a doctor too and she says she knows, but would prefer to be a nurse. That's cool too, just confusing for me as I'm probably trying too hard to remove any barriers she sets to herself !

  19. For gender neutral pronouns I use:
    Xe (for he/she)
    Hir (for him/her)
    Hes (for his/hers)

  20. a brilliant post. thanks. its sad we even have to actively be gender neutral, or even use that phrase. I think the homogenized culture we live in where pink and blue have taken over, is the fault mainly of retailers. and most people want to conform and therefore fall in line. We have our wee 8 month old girl in a blue snow suit recently. "ooooh he looks lovely". You know the rest.

  21. Great post, my son also wore a witches dress for Hallowe'en and has an array of dresses and toys that a lot of people would find inappropriate for a boy. Recently he chose to wear said witches dress over his jean and under his christmas jumper to the panto, I was so proud of him because, even at 4, he is well aware of people's reaction to seeing a boy in a dress. It's hard to let kids be themselves in this world but keep it up! Got to go as he wants to be Tinkerbell...

  22. An excellent article. My seven year old boy loves making craft things including necklaces and asked for beads to make them with. I found it really hard to find a craft set that wasn't overtly feminine in its design. Why can't there just be coloured beads - why do they all have to be pink, sparkly princess beads? At seven he is conscious that his school friends might laugh at him making necklaces and I heard him telling a boy who came around for tea recently that the beads belonged to his little sister.... sigh

  23. This is such a fascinating article. I deal with this issue every day as a school teacher. My class is virtually split into 3 big divides, there are the typical "girly girls" who have been brought up to believe that girls should be girls and like pink and princesses :( , there are the "boys boys" who have been brought up to believe boys should be boys and like blue and football :( and there is also a number of children whos parents have celebrated gender equality and some of these boys often wear cardigans to school instead of a jumper (some of the boys commented on this at first but were put right by us teachers that anyone can wear a cardigan whether they are a boy or a girl!) and do ballet club after school etc and equally lots of girls who are more towards the masculine spectrum and come to school in trousers and like batman/spiderman/football and never wear dresses (which equally is perfectly fine and great)
    It's a very interesting job to watch the children who are in the stereotypical groups to be baffled by this new concept when we explain to them that anyone can wear what they choose to wear and like what they choose to like. It's obviously a concept that their parents aren't teaching them, but thank god, luckily we are!

  24. Perfect post. I'm so sick of people telling me what my yes MY children should and shouldn't do. I have a now 6 year old son & toddler twins and the difference between what they play with is incredible. No one says a word when my girls play with cars yet 5 years ago at playground when he was playing with a pushchair people were disgusted and actually tried to discourage it. It's ridiculous that boys are taught to be SO anti "girl" toys. However at the grand old age of 6 the boys themselves are being "lads" and are horrified by Frozen as it's "for girls" so I don't know. All I do know is - let them play with whatever they feel comfortable with. Grrrrr

  25. Just carry on! Sadly many people are insecure in aspects of their identity but it is their problem. I have a son and a daughter. My son was very chunky as a toddler and then aged 7 grew taller, slimmer and rather beautiful. A bad experience at a men's barbers with his Grandad made him decide to grow his hair and not have it cut. So for about 6 years he had a pony tail. He did ballet from age 5 to almost 8 too even appearing on stage as a child extra with the European Ballet on tour. Once after ballet we were in the local Morrisons and went to the loos - as he was 5 or 6 he usually used the ladies with me. But the ladies was shut due to a flood and a queue built up. After almost ten minutes I suggested that he use the gents - as he did when his father took him to ballet or anywhere. He went into the gents and the ladies in the queue behind me - a mother and adult daughter - started huffing and puffing with outrage. It dawned on me that they really thought that I had sent my young daughter alone into the Gents whilst staying on the queue for the ladies myself! I was laughing so much that I had difficulty speaking when I reassured them that my child was a boy...He was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and trainers - the only thing about him that said 'girl' was his tied back long hair. When he reemerged I tried to keep a straight face and addressing him by his (boy's) name suggested we meet in the shop when I eventually got to go! It was their ridiculous 'logic' that was so amazing.
    I agree with Beth above - just support their explorations and discuss any queries as they arise. If we parents do not have hangups but, at a suitable age and ideally when these behaviours arise, explain that some people do have 'issues'.
    I will mention one more serious incident. My MIL had long disliked my son's ponytail. When my FIL died and we were preparing to attend his funeral - he was ten at the time - my MIL asked outright if we would get his hair cut short as she would be upset if she found that people were assuming that he was a girl.
    After discussing it with my husband - who had had long hippie hair when we first met -we agreed that it was for our DS to decide. I spoke to him as the 'neutral' parent and told him of Gran's request. He thought for about 30s and I stayed quiet. Then he looked at me and asked 'do you think that I ought to for Gran?' He is very sensitive and was obviously willing to for her sake. But I said, well let's think about it - who will be coming to the funeral? They would all know about her grandchildren for sure! I mooted that if he was in a suit as we planned and was introduced as 'My grandson/son 'Bob' then it would be very unlikely that anyone would be confused. So this is what happened. We reassured her and indeed it passed without incident. That was a very positive 'empowerment' exercise - though with such an intelligent, sensitive and observant child it is easy! Everyone is different so I only offer this as an example not a prescription.
    (PS now at 18 he is very good looking still but has a decidedly masculine nose which means that no-one confuses his gender! His friend has a full beard and shoulder length hair and does fancy dress as Cat Woman complete with size 12 high heeled shoes! Eccentricity is both common and accepted where we live which is a lovely feature of our rural community).

  26. This is such an awesome post!! Yes, your boy can have dolls, can play cooking, cleaning and washing up and aspire to be a nurse just like girls can play digging, driving and building and aspire to be an astronaut! What is wrong with people!? I feel like that is quite a lot of angst that has built up and come out in a blog post! High 5 to Daddy too for wearing the dress - in the Summer we'll have to get together, would be great to meet him properly x

  27. Totally agree! We do this naturally with our boys, yet my oldest (four years old) keeps coming back to me asking if boys REALLY can do such-and-such, or if girls CAN play with cars, etc. Evidently there is some poor child getting the total opposite of our parenting and projecting it onto our son.

    All three of our boys have dolls (which they chose with no suggestion whatsoever), argue over who has the pink bibs/bowls/cups EVERY FRIGGIN DAY (I have now purchased 3 of each thing in pink to stop arguments!) and love playing with dolls houses and pushchairs just as much as they do trains, helicopters, and cars (which, trust me, is a LOT).

    It drives me up the wall that some people just can't get their heads around it. The colour thing is the most stupid - years ago pink used to be for boys (child version of red) and blue for girls (based on Virgin Mary I think), for a start!

  28. Hi Amy,

    Great post. FYI I have 2 kids and I don't gender them. I use "they" for both children, which is a perfectly fine single pronoun with attested use in English for at least 600 years (see here for a more detailed breakdown with references: http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-they-and-the-many-reasons-why-its-correct/

  29. very interesting post. I've got 2 boys - one is as stereotypically male as it is possible to be, the other is pretty gender neutral in that he's open to playing with "girl's toys", likes pink as much as he likes blue, has friends of both genders without thinking it's odd, etc...
    We haven't treated them differently, it's just how they are. I'm not sure that being "deliberately" gender neutral is necessary or even desirable, but letting children develop their own personalities without fear of being ridiculed certainly is. So our "laddish" boy is welcome to be competitive, physical, play with "boy's stuff" and hang out with boys, whilst our other lad is welcome to do the opposite!

  30. I completely agree with your approach. I have a daughter, which perhaps makes it easier to challenge gender stereotypes, because traditionally 'male' items and activities are higher-status than 'female' ones. So 'of course' a girl would want to be a doctor rather than a nurse, but a boy who'd rather be a nurse is 'ridiculous'. It's hard to encourage your son to follow 'feminine' pursuits that he enjoys because of these kind of attitudes, and the risk of ridicule and bullying, and I have huge respect for those who do.
    Even though our daughter's only 5 months old we've had some plum comments - LOTS of people tell my husband that he shouldn't 'let' her have boyfriends when she's older, and that she's got him 'wrapped round her little finger' - not comments you'd get with boys. And don't even get me started with the word 'ladylike' . . .