By Jennifer Johnson
If you missed it, a Canadian family recently named their new baby “Storm” and announced to the world that they’ve opted not to share the baby’s sex
with anyone other than their immediate family. There seem to be a few different takes on the story: People down for gender neutral parenting seem to totally get it and applaud the parents for being brave enough to take a stand against gender stereotypes; others find the parents’ move an outrageous social experiment with dangerous implications for the child.
Then there are people like me. “Big woop,” is what I think about it. I don’t know who this lady or her kid is. I don’t care if she wants to share or not, nor do I care which her child has a penis or a vagina. It’s none of my business and quite frankly, I don’t know why anyone else cares so much. Some parents do things I think are weird, but thankfully they aren’t my parents. The end.
As for others who can’t seem to get past this, I think it’s because they’re caught off guard by the “strangeness” of it all. I mean, it’s not every day you meet a boygirl kid that’s not a hermaphrodite. This is pushing social boundaries. People are going to react, and I imagine that’s partly their intention. After all, social change (which I assume they’re hoping for) requires some boundaries to be pushed. But this whole idea that gender stereotypes are so terrible and prevalent and completely damaging our society I’m not buying.
I’m not going to harp on this belief because everyone grows up with different experiences that shape who they are and what they believe. Perhaps this family had a bad experience that made them want to push back against gender stereotypes. And it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out they are doing this partly to raise attention to her “gender neutral” beliefs and to show that girls don’t have to wear pink dresses and be homemakers, and boys don’t have to be rough and play sports to be “real boys.”
My job is full of hard working successful women, so maybe I’m just in the wrong industry for seeing gender stereotypes at it’s core. I don’t see it. Or maybe it’s overshadowed by bigger stereotypes I’ve had to face as a black woman.
It must be nice. You know, to be able to shield your child from stereotypes by simply not telling people what they are. Wouldn’t it have been nice for my mother to have decided that no one would know I’m black so no one could judge me right off the bat? It’s not so easy with looks that’s clear. My mother couldn’t just put a pair of pants on me and tell others not to worry about my race when kids on the playground were asking me why I looked the way I did. Maybe I could have avoided the lifetime of remarks like, “Well you don’t talk black,” or “Why isn’t your name LeQuisha?” (or anything else that ends in “isha”), “What’s your favorite rapper?” or jokes about fried chicken.
My mother couldn’t hide my skin to protect me from stereotypes, but what was worse was that she couldn’t protect me from the remarks that really hurt, either. She couldn’t tell the kid who called me “a brownie” that it was none of his business what color I was. My parents couldn’t cover up my skin or give me a trans-racial name to stop other kids on the bus from calling me the “N” word.
No, my name, my clothes, and my parents couldn’t hide the fact that I was a black girl growing up in the deep south surrounded by racist families and children. Other kids talked down to me, and made fun of me, not because I was a girl, but because I was black. Because my eyes were dark chocolate brown and not blue. Because my hair was kinky and not straight.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if only my parents, my doctor and siblings knew my racial identity, and I could reveal to the world, when I understood who I was, and when I was ready to share my racial genetic make up?
But no. It’s not that easy. I, like everyone else in the world, had to learn through experience how tough the world can be. How crude and stupid some stereotypes are, and how you can’t let them define you. And that’s ok. Because it made me who I am today. Those experiences positive, negative, happy, painful, forgettable, memorable each of them contribute to who we all are. Who we all become.
And no matter how much hiding Storm’s parents do, inevitably, their child will bump up against stereotypes, too. The question isn’t what’s between that baby’s legs; the question is how will those parents help their child deal with the inevitable with life. Full of pain. Full of stereotypes. Full of lessons that will color the kind of person Storm grows up to be. That, more than anything, will help Storm become the kind of human his/her parents want him/her to be.
On the air, Jennifer Johnson delivers the news to the great people of the Lone Star State. Off the air, she's a new mom and wanna-be Domestic Diva. She started documenting her journey through motherhood long before the baby was in the picture and has since blogged for Conceive Magazine, Parenting.com˜s Project Pregnancy, and Bravado Design's Breastfeeding Diaries. Her journey began and continues on her blog Baby Making Machine.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
Bravo! As a Black woman I pretty much felt the same way when hearing this story, that despite the parents desire for gender free parenting, it must be real sweet to have that level of privilege.
I keep thinking “but why?” I could see if they were royalty or some famous family that ppl stalk. The things ppl do for attention. I think they are making things worst for their child in the long. A few years down the line if they were applying for a job with me and I came to realize that this is the child from that “crazy family,” I probably would not hire him or her.
I will admit that when the hubby and I decide to procreate that I don’t want to reveal the sex to the family until after the birth because I don’t want all pink or all blue gift. That is the furthest extent my silliness will go.
I’ve been so out of the news loop lately, this is my first time hearing about this story. I feel the same way you do about its news-worthiness, but I think I view it in the same light as any other parenting style that parents employ to protect their children from the world. I’m also one of the one’s who views a strategy of gender neutral parenting as a win, but not to the point of completely sheltering a child from the world, because unless you plan to keep your kid locked in the basement its entire life, completely being sheltered from the world and all of the world’s many different ideologies and actions just isn’t a reality, not a healthy reality at least.
I think that, within households, there is always some form of protective parenting going on where identity is concerned. Mother’s of black boys protective parent by prepping and grilling their son’s about what awaits them in the world as future black men, and, as Denene showcased with her response to that disgusting Psych Today article, mother’s protective parent their daughters by preparing them for what awaits them in this society. Like you pointed out, at the end of the day, no matter how we try to protect our children from the ugliness that’s out there, if there are to go out there, they will indeed encounter it.
I really couldn’t get behind this, because as a parent you can make sure your child get the opportunity to do the same things boys do or girls do. Seems that today boys and girls play sports,ride bikes, play with dolls, play house, attach themselves to video games and even like to cook! Mine did all that over 30 years ago (no video games – didn’t exist) with out keeping their gender a secret. Today, real men where PINK!
I am adding this because the article was written as coming from a AF/AM woman’s point of view – and that I could not answer, just like I keep telling people I can’t share the experience of being black, because I am white, but I can do my best to understand when you write articles or post comments. I always come at things from a Jewish point of view, just the way it is! Wow, that would have been a problem, briss (boy), baby naming boy or girl, etc. Nope wouldn’t have worked for my family!
I could care less about how this family chooses to raise their kid, Storm. I only care about how I raise my child. This baby girl boy is about 4 months old, and my little Princess is 9 months. What if they were in the same school and/or the same class. How would I explain something like this to her. Even though I don’t know this particular family, it’s not impossible for a family like this one to exist in my area. To be honest, I would just explain to my daughter that this family chooses to raise their child this way. I’m sure my little Angel would have tons of questions that I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to answer. I would just have to try my best, and be as honest as possible. I would also let her know the importance of treating this little girl/boy with love and respect. I think that’s the overall message here. Maybe this family should focus more on that. I know, I plan on doing that. Great post!:)
Weather Anchor Mama
My reaction to this story was “you know people are cruel” raising your child like this dosen’t mean they arn’t going to be made fun of, or sterotyped in some othe way”, and “yes we need to push past gender sterotypes, but really I can’t believe that this child’s immediate family is so superior to the rest of us that they don’t even subconsisly push this child in one direction or another. Even if it’s more towards the activities that are “opposite their gender.”
When I read this article I was glad that you pointed out there are things a mother can’t hide, rather it’s how you teach your children to cope w/ the horrible comments and labels that matters. It’s about teaching your child how to love themselves, and embrace what they love no matter what anyone else thinks, but also to accept the differences of other….There’s a social expeiement that get’s over looked, and would fix the world that much more “parent chooses to raise their child teaching them how to accept everyone’s differences!” If everyone did this, what a place this would be. 🙂