Children can be the nastiest people in society. You can understand why dictators are d*cks because they become power-hungry and take advantage of their control. But kids literally have no responsibility; they should be leading an insouciant life, free from woes like student finance, and whether they’ll afford to eat that week. Yet, kids are harsh bullies. They pick on other kids for the most immaterial reasons, like nose shape or that their clothes aren’t ‘in fashion’. Nelson from The Simpsons was a bully because of parental neglect: his dad had gone AWOL and his mum, well, was a whore.
I saw earlier this week that Russell Brand is considering to raise his child as gender-neutral. Now, Brand is one of those guys that utters a load of rubbish to then surrender last minute and cast a different opinion. Anyone recall him explaining his protest not to vote in the 2015 general election, then his swift departure to support Miliband at last minute? I agree with his views that democracy is achieved not from simply a ballot in a box, but this is what Brand succumbed to. A hypocrite, or someone with a baseless opinion? – take your pick.
But hey, this is not a political rant. I am just gravely concerned about the welfare of Mabel, the child with no gender.
Gender isn’t attributed to your sexual organs. Just because Mabel is biologically a girl, does not mean she has a female gender. Gender is simply a social construction. For instance, in feudal times, women would be enslaved to the men because masculinity is seen as more important. Why else would a younger prince have more chance of becoming king over his older princess sisters? Why else would Chinese parents throw out their female newborns during the One Child Policy like a disposable wrapper, instead in hope of a Little Emperor to pamper and smother?
Throughout my lifespan, I’ve already seen an immensity of positive, social change related to gender. The viral video of a girl complaining about how simply the colours of toys lead to gender stereotypes was a prime example.
But the issue runs deeper than for imposing social stigmas upon children. GQ, a traditional ‘man’s man’ magazine, not only showcases their men looking professional and businesslike in suits, but this contrasts horrifically with the exhibition of the women on the cover, emphasising their assets and bodies as if that is on par with a man in a suit. I’m all up for body empowerment. Kim Kardashian releasing her own nudes may have been attention-worthy, as she is a reality TV star, but such acts show a woman who is in control and comfortable with their bodies. But only allowing a woman to feature on the cover of a magazine if she flaunts some flesh is for a sales-basis, knowing it targets weak men who can’t resist a 2D bosom. Now that’s not empowering.
But, toy companies are becoming more open-minded to gender-neutral toys. Basically, these are regular toys but do not state ‘for girls/boys’ or coordinate their colour to the gender. Every toy should be gender-neutral, whether that be LEGO or Barbie. Companies market toy babies to girls, yet not to boys, which of course will lead a susceptible, impressionable child to believe that the role of care-giving is strictly for women, while the men prance about in their suits, earning the only income.
I agree that some products do need to become and remain gender-neutral. But, to allow your child to choose its own gender is questionable. As a baby or toddler who can’t yet communicate, how does the parent know what its child wants? Baby Mabel might start gurgling when a TV advert for a lawnmower appears but that doesn’t necessitate Mabel associating herself as male. This is because females can also like mowing the lawn and tending for their garden. What if Mabel, who is now 7 years old, moves to a new school but can’t decide which gendered toilets to use? A lot of places including universities, have introduced gender-neutral toilets which I think is great. I doubt this is a scheme which primary schools are likely to impose, however.
Gender is certainly on a sliding scale. Our society has become increasingly more accepting of gender fluid individuals, but as to whether this is merely a ‘fashionable’ statement due to the likes of Ruby Rose and Miley Cyrus may not be the best influence on a child who is confused about their identity.
Your identity is one thing you should always retain control over, and for it to be ascertained by another should not be acceptable. Brand’s bold move could be described as forward-thinking, whereas I simply think he is limiting Mabel in the sense that perhaps she is 99% female and in fact loves pink frilly dresses not because of influence from advertising, but because that’s the way she is. Mabel’s parental influence may not help when making friends. If gender boundaries still haven’t changed much in the next 10 years or so, Mabel may not receive the best response when claiming she’s ‘gender neutral’ as an excuse to play football with the boys as ‘girls aren’t allowed’.
Then again, your own child is your own experiment to some degree. Deciding how to punish your kid for eating all the sweets to deciding who they can’t hang out with. After all, once a parent claims they don’t like one of your friends, you better listen to that parent.
I am intrigued, however, out of all the names that Brand and his girlfriend could have given to their daughter, they chose Mabel. The same beloved Aunty Mabel who other 90’s kids may remember in her spotty aeroplane with her dog Pippin. To be fair, Mabel was a badass, strong, independent woman who didn’t need a man. I guess that’s some good inspiration to name your daughter who you don’t want to be sheathed by the limits of gender roles.