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Thread: Swedish parents keeping their 2 year old child's gender a secret

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    Elite Member MoodyJenny86's Avatar
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    Question Swedish parents keeping their 2 year old child's gender a secret



    Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret

    Published: 23 Jun 09 16:24 CET
    Online: Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret - The Local
    A couple of Swedish parents have stirred up debate in the country by refusing to reveal whether their two-and-a-half-year-old child is a boy or a girl.

    Pop’s parents [see footnote], both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.

    In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

    “We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

    The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

    Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.

    Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.

    "I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime," said Pop's mother.

    But while Pop’s parents say they have received supportive feedback from many of their peers, not everyone agrees that their chosen course of action will have a positive outcome.

    “Ignoring children's natures simply doesn’t work,” says Susan Pinker, a psychologist and newspaper columnist from Toronto, Canada, who wrote the book The Sexual Paradox, which focuses on sex differences in the workplace.

    “Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual,” Pinker tells The Local.

    “It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep this a secret for long. Children are curious about their own identity, and are likely to gravitate towards others of the same sex during free play time in early childhood.”

    Pinker says there are many ways that males and females differ from birth; even if gender is kept ‘secret,’ prenatal hormones developed in the second trimester of pregnancy already alter the way the child behaves and feels.

    She says once children can speak, males tell aggressive stories 87 per cent of the time, while females only 17 per cent. In a study, children aged two to four were given a task to work together for a reward, and boys used physical tactics 50 times more than girls, she says.

    But Swedish gender equality consultant Kristina Henkel says Pop’s parents' experiment might have positive results.

    “If the parents are doing this because they want to create a discussion with other adults about why gender is important, then I think they can make a point of it,” Henkel says in a telephone interview with The Local.

    “You can talk about there being a non-stereotypical gender; if you are a girl you can do the same as a boy, and if you’re a boy you can do the same as a girl.”

    Henkel also says a child's sex can deeply affect how they are treated growing up, and distract them from simply being a human being.

    “If the child is dressed up as a girl or boy, it affects them because people see and treat them in a more gender-typical way,” Henkel explains.

    “Girls are told they are cute in their dresses, and boys are told they are cool with their car toys. But if you give them no gender they will be seen more as a human or not a stereotype as a boy or girl.”

    She says that without these gender stereotypes, children can build character as individuals, not hindered by preconceived notions of what they should be as males or females.

    “I think that can make these kids stronger,” Henkel says.

    Anna Nordenström, a paediatric endocrinologist at Karolinska Institutet, says it’s hard to know what effects the parents' decision will have on Pop.

    “It will affect the child, but it’s hard to say if it will hurt the child,” says Nordenström, who studies hormonal influences on gender development.

    “I don’t know what they are trying to achieve. It’s going to make the child different, make them very special.”

    She says if Pop is still ‘genderless’ by the time he or she starts school, Pop will certainly receive a lot of attention from classmates.

    “We don’t know exactly what determines sexual identity, but it’s not only sexual upbringing,” says Nordenström. “Gender-typical behaviour, sexual preferences and sexual identity usually go together. There are hormonal and other influences that we don’t know that will determine the gender of the child.”

    Both Nordenström and Pinker refer to a controversial case from 1967 when a circumcision left one of two twin brothers without a penis. Dr. John Money, who asserted that gender was learned rather than innate, convinced the parents to raise 'David' as 'Brenda' and the child had cosmetic genitalia reconstruction surgery.

    She was raised as a female, with girls’ clothes, games and codes of behaviour. The parents never told Brenda the secret until she was a teenager and rebelled against femininity. She then started receiving testosterone injections and underwent another genetic reconstruction process to become David again. David Reimer denounced the experiment as a crushing failure before committing suicide at the age of 38.

    “I don’t think that trying to keep a child’s sex a secret will fool anyone, nor do I think it’s wise or ethical,” says Pinker. “As with any family secret, when we try to keep an elemental truth from children, it usually blows up in the parent’s face, via psychosomatic illness or rebellious behaviour.”

    But with a second child on the way, Pop's parents have no plans to change what they see as a winning formula. As for Pop, they say they will only reveal the child's sex when Pop thinks it's time.

    Footnote: Pop is not the child's real name but is the name used in Svenska Dagbladet's interview with the child's parents from March 6th.

    Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret - The Local

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    Elite Member FierceKiten's Avatar
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    “We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”
    I understand the defiyance of not using gender specific colors but, the child is going to be screw up by not having "some" destinction of it's gender, period. There are people whom like doing the whole gender bender thing, I have no prob with but I think the younger he/she is, it's going to be a struggle. I may be wrong...

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    Elite Member Shelly's Avatar
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    Oh yeah I remember this... I think it might mess with the childs head.
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    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    This would only work if the child grew up in a purely genderless society. They'll still be exposed to gender stereotypes via television, the people around them, basically the whole world we live in, even if they're not directed at them specifically. Sexism and gender constructions are societal/institutional, and those people are treating them as if they only exist at the personal level.

    And is that child not going to be having sex ed? I'm fairly certain that once they learn about penises and vaginas they'll connect the dots-you try to keep them quiet about it afterwards. Like when I gave my goddaughter The Talk when she was five and she spent weeks talking to random people about penises, vaginas, and their function.

    Won't that child have any friends? Don't these people know about 'playing doctor'? And let's not get into what will happen when they start school.

    Rejecting gender stereotypes and attempting to raise a kid as free of them as our sexist society will allow is great, but these people are basically treating their own kid as some sort of social experiment.
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

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    Elite Member MoodyJenny86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shelly View Post
    I think it might mess with the childs head.
    ^Pretty much this sums up my views.

    The brain doesn't need blood. It just needs to be kept wet.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    Basic rule of Gossip Rocks: Don't be a dick.Tati
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    Elite Member shedevilang's Avatar
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    ^^fahahahhahahahahah That is the first thing I thought of when I read this article
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Oh for heavens sake... Why not just give the kid both dolls and cars to play with, set a good example of equality between the sexes in the home and let him/her make up their own mind about who they are as they grow?

    I am female. I was raised as female, given dolls to play with, dressed in pretty dresses and given cute litte girly hairstyles. Which worked fine until I was big enough to give my own views on how I wanted to dress, what I wanted to play with and how I wore my hair, at which point dresses were a thing of the past (unless under dire threats for special occassions or as part of my school uniform), dolls went largely ignored in favour of climbing trees and riding my bike and my hair was usually tied back and tucked up under a baseball cap. I became, and still am to a fair extent, a tomboy, and no amount of pink-clad dolls and tea sets from my despairing grandmother could change that. Children will choose their own path as they grow and their personalities develop. Some girls stay very girly, others become tomboys and some fall in the middle, and the same goes for the equivilent behaviour in boys.

    I wonder what is going to happen to Pop when s/he discovers the difference in genders? Will s/he know where they fit in with it all, or will the confusion be something that will cause them problems for years to come? I really do feel uncomfortable with the idea of parents using their own child as a lab rat in a social engineering experiment.

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    Elite Member lurkur's Avatar
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    Every parent experiments what they've determined is "right" for their kid, these parents are nothing new in that.

    The article blends "gender" and "sex" in a few areas, when they are not identical. Sex is having a vagina. Gender is wearing frilly dresses, etc.

    Kids don't make dresses (or any other clothing, really), it's the adults who do, and it's the adults who decide what to clothe the children in. At that age, the kid's sex doesn't necessarily matter unless it's in the bathroom. A kid isn't going to be messed up just because someone else looking at them can't tell if they have a penis or vagina. Maybe the kid has both, or maybe they think the kid is entitled to privacy regarding the status of their genitalia. The parents seem to have decided not to influence whatever natural characteristics emerge.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    God, I love the Swedes. I gaurantee this will lead to Swedes having discussions over dinner tables for weeks on end. They're so bloody sensible that few will get worked up about it. Love 'em.
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    Gold Member Pippin69's Avatar
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    I dunno, by not discussing gender issues with the kid, I would think it would be emotional and mentally behind when it finally does come in contact with gender issues.
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    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    Crazy. This kid will end up screwed up.

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    Elite Member Rondette's Avatar
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    oooh, it's a 'nature v. nuture' debate! I'll be interested to follow this one. I'm Team Nature personally.

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    Elite Member yanna's Avatar
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    So they are basically experimenting on their child? Nice!

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    Elite Member katerpillar's Avatar
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    “It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep this a secret for long. Children... are likely to gravitate towards others of the same sex during free play time in early childhood.”
    Then what the heck was wrong with me?

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