Ok, so if you think gender nonconformity is a perversion of nature; if you think it is against your God; if you think blue and pink are lovely colors and what’s the big deal anyway; I am not talking to YOU right now. This blog is NOT for you. You can go ahead and STOP reading this. There is lots of reading material in the world that I am sure you would rather be reading right now. It won’t affect your life in anyway to NOT read this blog. I won’t be offended. I won’t hold it against you. I hope you’ll come back when I post on something you care about. Eventually, I promise I will. I try to be inclusive. No hard feelings. Really. Have a great day!
For those of you who value or are advocates for gender nonconformity, please read this very carefully.
STOP HURTING THE CAUSE.
I mean it. Stop doing more harm than good. I can give this advice because I used to be one of you. I used to be pro-gender nonconformity and used to all the time say how things should be gender neutral.
I WAS WRONG.
I can admit that now.
I was using the wrong language all along. You can say “It’s just semantics” but you’d be wrong. At least in this case. I know I was.
So please read this very carefully.
STOP SAYING THE PHRASE “GENDER NEUTRAL.”
Please, please, stop!
“Why should I stop?” you ask.
Because “gender neutral” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Sure the denotation of the phrase means what you think it means:
1. noting or relating to a word or phrase that does not refer to one gender only
2. using words wherever appropriate that are free of reference to gender
3. relating to, intended for, or common to both genders
4. noting or relating to a person of neutral gender, neither male nor female
But that’s not how you are using it. That’s not what you mean when you say it. You may, for example, ask exasperatedly, “Why can’t people be more gender neutral with how they raise their children?” You may say with frustration “I have a right to raise my child in a gender neutral way.” But it’s not “gender neutrality” you want. Really, it’s not.
Gender neutrality means that you will not clothe your child in pink or blue. It means you will not allow your child to watch My Little Pony or GI Joe. Gender neutrality means you don’t believe dresses are for boys OR for girls. Forget about ballerinas, princesses, and fairies. Don’t even think about cars, construction, or robots.
If you want true gender neutral then these things, all of them, should not enter your home. They should not be worn on your child. And your child should never play, watch, or discuss any of these types of objects or ideas. And if they drew them, OMG, it would be a big no no.
Eradicating these things from your home, from your conversations, from, at the extreme, the world would be your intention if you wanted gender neutrality.
I don’t think that is really what you want.
The problem with gender neutrality the way you have been using it is that you presume you can take the gender out of the objects and ideas that exist in the world as if we can remove the gender ideology from ballerinas, princesses, fairies, cars, construction, and robots. We can’t. At least not in the immediate future anyway. Heck, we can’t remove gendered associations even in a single conversation.
Some terms are just gendered terms. Google images of princesses and cars and the contrast is obvious. There is an association you can see and feel in the contrast between these sets of images. These ARE gendered terms.
That association can’t be instantaneously undone.
You might think we can just talk or yell at a person to stop them from thinking of it this way. Actually, it is quite the opposite. “Research has shown that attempts to suppress a thought can cause an increase in the frequency of the thought” according to Abramowitz, Tolin, & Street (2001). Think about it. If you are on a diet, don’t you end up obsessing about all of the things you can’t eat? So we can’t just tell people to stop thinking of these associations. It won’t work.
We also do not yet have the technology to erase gendered associations from people’s memories using a neuralyzer and replace them with other ideas. We do not live in the alternative universe of Men in Black.
“So, what should I do?” you ask.
Make a different semantic choice. In other words, use other words. Specifically, what I think you really want to say is “Why can’t people be more gender INCLUSIVE with how they raise their children?” “I have a right to raise my child in a gender INCLUSIVE way.”
Trust me. It’s “GENDER INCLUSIVITY” you want. Really, it is.
What you want. . . and what I want. . . is for our children to be able to wear whatever they want, play with whatever they want, think whatever they want REGARDLESS Of its gender association.
The denotation of the phrase “gender neutral” isn’t the problem. It’s the connotation of the phrase “gender neutral” which leads people to think that the way to end discrimination is to neutralize our gendered world “to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.”
Unfortunately, gender neutrality doesn’t and cannot exist. More importantly it SHOULDN’T exist. Gender Neutrality really means the eradication of gendered everything.
Can you imagine a world without blue and pink? A world in which everything is green and yellow is no better than a world in which everything is blue and pink.
Besides, eradicating gendered everything does not solve the gendered mindset that exists in the world. Instead, gender inclusivity is the way to go.
The inappropriately named Facebook page, Gender Neutral Parenting, is a case in point. Forget about the unfortunate choice of title, the page with its nearly 5,000 likes talks about gender inclusion! It supports a child’s decision to wear girls clothes and boys clothes regardless of gender! The site advocates that dolls and trucks are for everyone! And its discussion centers around educating others about how gender inclusion is positive and valuable!
Discussing “gender neutrality” like it’s a possibility, like it’s a panacea, like it’s what will end discrimination of and violence against gender-nonconformists or lower their suicide rates does more harm than good.