It was a simple question posed by a co-worker interested in knitting my then unborn daughter a blanket. “What color do you think she’ll like?” she said. Hmmm. I thought pink, then purple, but said green. “Green will be the color of her nursery,” I said.
My co-worker, a former hippie who was the politically vocal and liberal one around the office approved. “I hate it when parents assume that their girls will like girly colors like pink or purple, she said.” “Me too! Me too! I thought hesitantly at the time and went on to praise the virtues of gender neutral parenting. “Children should have the choice!” She said, and I agreed with an “Mmm hmmm.”
I didn’t really feel that passionate about the issue, but during my pregnancy, I did make a mental note that I’d make an effort to practice gender neutral parenting.
In my third trimester, I avoided cute pink rompers with flowers and princess themed crib bedding. It was an experiment that I was attempting to commit then with my unborn child, an experiment that had the potential, I imagined, of changing the world, my one child at a time.
And, it was an experiment that was successful, well, until a trip to Target where I realized in spending thirty minutes debating whether to buy a pretty receiving blanket with pink flowers that it was all ridiculous.
It was ridiculous of me to assume that the colors of my daughter’s clothing, her blankets, and toys really mattered.
I could no longer see the good or worth in essentially resisting the other, more frilly path, the traditional path for the sake of my principles. It wasn’t that serious.
And, as she’s matured, and formed more opinions of her own, things just naturally continued on that more traditionally “feminine” path. With no encouragement on my part, she’s indicated her interest in some of mommy’s world of cleaning, make-up, earrings, high heels, cooking, and purses, and baby dolls rather than daddy’s world of soccer balls, cars, and things that make a lot of noises.
I, as her mother, have watched this and supported her on her path because it is her path.
Because I didn’t resist that path, that traditionally feminine path, does that mean that I am influencing or somehow sabotaging other possibilities for her gender identity?
I would argue, no.
After all, and as the story on Oprah yesterday of the former daughter turned son of Cher, Chasity/Chaz (and my experience in being mom with a daughter) would seem to suggest, gender is “hard-wired,” and has little to do with whether a child is given a brown nursery and orange educational toys by their parents.
As a parent, I can’t force my daughter in to a gender. Can I?
I know gender re-assignment is a controversial issue so I’d rather not get into a debate about whether it’s right or wrong. I would more like to begin a conversation on what role parents play in helping their children form gender identities? Is, as the story of Chaz Bono would seem to suggest, gender hard-wired? Or, is their room for parents to assert their parenting wills?