26.5.11

Not She, Not He, But It?

If you want to get rid of gender stereotypes must you do away with gender? Would you raise your child as a 'not boy' or 'not girl'? How does it help?

Storm is four months old and the parents have decided that their child will be ‘it’. This defeats the idea of empowering the kid to decide on what gender s/he chooses, for a non-gender is also a gender, as many transgendered will tell you.

Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are a Canadian couple and they want their third-born to not be constricted by social norms. A person’s gender, as much as a body part, is not only about societal norms but also about identity, and more superficially about grooming and self-perception.

They have only revealed the gender to immediate family and a couple of others. They have two children who have been permitted to dress the way they want and choose non-gender clothes. They are both boys and one of them wears braids. Their argument that after Jazz was mistaken for a girl and suffered an “intense” time over it, they decided that Storm will not be given any specific gender.

But while dealing with the child they will know. Storm will also know whether s/he has a vagina or a penis; Storm’s body will respond and later on need specific intervention for gender-related ailments. Will the parents not register a gender in school and medical forms?
This is only confusing the kids because what these parents forget is that more than individuals stereotyping themselves it is society that does. Their own son is an example of making a choice but being berated for it. When the father says, “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” he forgets that when you want to get to know someone you already know what’s between their legs. How people deal with that is upto them.

Storm may not go by people’s perceptions but there is no way in which to escape being influenced, unless they bring the child up in some sort of cocoon where there is absolutely no exposure. So, Storm watches Johny Depp and decides to act pirate-like – what of it? Does that mean s/he is choosing masculinity? Can there not be women pirates? Or if Storm gets excited about Desperate Housewives would it mean that s/he is identifying with one or all of the female characters and is therefore taking a shine to being a woman when there are different kinds of women and it may be the male in her responding to either a typical womanly instinct or a maverick female. Suppose Storm decides to be male and happens to be naturally female, then will the parents opt for surgical intervention and get her a phallus? Or will they think she is a butch?

This is a most facile and dangerous manner in which to promote choice. What if Black/White/Brown/Yellow parents decide to leave the choice of colour/race to their child? This is something you are born with – it is in the DNA, the genes. The only option is to provide an upbringing with an open mind to accept what others are and have while not denying one’s own. And most certainly not be trapped within the confines of such ‘spaces’.

The only area where I would root for parents’ leaving the choice to children is religion, but then again every single society – and I mean every society – has some religious moorings. Some bloke is announcing the end of the world in a liberal country based on a certain religious idea. So let’s not fool ourselves. And, as I had mentioned in an earlier piece, it is the armed forces in America that are fighting to get rights as atheists. Therefore, children will be taught, whether by parents or by switching on the TV or just walking down the street and being handed over holy books and religious literature. If the atmosphere at home is truly not narrow-minded, then kids learn to sift and see what suits them. Or if nothing does.
As for gender, the child will know and will behave according to such a natural selection. If it is a girl and gets attracted to girls, then she won’t be going against type but merely making a sexual, rather than a gender, choice.

I think the parents should stop calling themselves ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, instead of experimenting with their children because they are stuck in some groove where blue and pink are male and female colours and length of hair determines gender choice.

In a world where unisex clothes and styles are common and with historical and artistic references to androgyny, I am not too sure about the liberal agenda here.

(c) Farzana Versey
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Images: Gaugin's 'Marquesan Man in a Red Cape'; Hindu portrayal of 'Ardhnarishwara', a meeting of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti

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