Last month I wrote about a couple in Canada who are raising their child as “genderless.” Well the issue seems to have been taken a step further in a preschool in Sweden. While searching for something else entirely, I came upon this article from WTFNews. The preschool staff at Egalia will not use the words “boy,” “girl,” “he,” “she,” “him” or “her.” Instead, they will use the word “friends.”
WTF pretty much sums it up!
I wouldn’t say that I’m as far left as they come, but I am pretty far to the left – a bleeding heart liberal, if you will . . . and quite proud of it. This, however, is over the top even for me. Here, I thought we had made progress with anatomically correct baby dolls!
Not acknowledging a child’s gender makes as much sense as not acknowledging that child’s hair color, eye color or height.
I do agree with the center’s dedication to organizing a classroom environment that does not place children into perceived gender roles, but I also think most of their efforts are unnecessary. According to WTFNews, “From the colour and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.”
I used to teach preschool (as I have stated before). I did make efforts to create a very eclectic classroom environment. We had a play kitchen, baby dolls, dress-up clothes, blocks, cars, an art center, a library and countless other toys. I never made any effort to make children play with certain toys, but I will say that almost all of the boys liked to play with the “girl” toys and most of the girls liked to play with the “boy” toys . . . and vice versa.
I did have a few dads and one mom who balked if they saw their sons playing with baby dolls. I tried to explain that it was completely normal. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Regardless, the next day the boys would go back to playing with dolls.
The point is, gender roles are taught and the only thing you have to do to keep kids from falling into those gender roles is to not teach them. You do not have to take away a child’s gender.
I’ll make the same argument I made with the “genderless” baby — Denying a child’s gender does nothing to break gender stereotypes. In fact, it perpetuates them. Claiming that you shouldn’t call a child a boy or girl or use him or her is like admitting that using those terms will define the child.
Break the gender stereotypes. Don’t ignore the gender.