It’s Pop! Swedish Parents Raise “Genderless Child”

200px-ItispatThis is just too bizarre to pass up. A Swedish couple has long opposed “the artificial construct of gender.” So, they have refused to disclose the gender of their child, who is being called Pop in the Swedish media. They are dressing Pop with dresses as well as non-dresses — and have given the child feminine and non-feminine hair styles alternatively. Only a few close relatives know the child’s true gender.

Pop’s mother insists “[w]e want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset. It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.” She insists that Pop is currently “genderless.”

The parents have announced that they are going to have another genderless child so Pop will be either a brother or a sister. It appears the parents were able to overcome their own artificial constructs of gender.

I must confess that I find this all to be unmitigated bunk. As the father of four children (three boys and a girl), I have been most struck by how hard-wired gender preferences are from playing with pretend weapons to playing dress up. For an earlier column on raising boys, click here. There is nothing, in my view, artificial in this construct. Rather, there is no reason not to relish the difference between boys and girls. Since Skinner, parents have been treating their kids like experiments in social engineering rather than allow kids to develop naturally.

To be sure, society creates many negative stereotypes for children, particularly girls. Anorexia nervosa is one such outgrowth of such socially reinforced images. However, there is no such thing as a genderless child absent a physical anomaly.

With the exception of watching It’s Pat, the child will have few movie options for Friday night.t33229v35di

For the full story, click here.

53 thoughts on “It’s Pop! Swedish Parents Raise “Genderless Child”

  1. Pink and blue used to be reversed. This according to wiki.answers.com:
    “Pink is not just for girls. If you went back in time to just before World War II (the 1939-1945 war) and found a girl wearing pink then that girl would have been thought of as dressing butch. For most of history pink was the boys colour (because it’s an offshoot of angry red) and blue was the girls colour (because it was thought to be calming and serene). People of that age would have had problems with boys wearing blue and girls wearing pink.
    In the war (WWII) the Nazi German government issued pink triangles to homosexual men in concentration camps to indicate that they liked the same sex, that is boys (pink). This negative association lasted past WWII and so today we have blue for boys and pink for girls. Because we let what the Nazi’s thought about people influence how we saw pink!!
    …So, the short answer is, pink is not a girls colour and only worn today as one because of the Nazis. ”

    Jill said, “Check out a costumes of the world..” and mentioned, “sex defined uniforms”. I checked and, turning to the southern hemisphere, if I may, here is a traditional man going to church in Irian Jaya. Definitely blue stamped.
    WARNING– damn near complete male nudity
    http://www.lukimpng.com/images/Baliem_Valley_-_Irian_Jaya_-_Traditional_costume.jpg

    More tradition, and I love the facial expression:

    Please forgive me if I’ve offended.

  2. Here’s an arrangement of Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children” by the wonderful acappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.
    [audio src="http://prof.chicanas.com/es147docs/OnChildren.mp3" /]

  3. GWLM,

    I’m pretty bad at picking up on sarcasm, but I’ll hope you’re just being “ironic” again and leave it at that.🙂

    Mike,

    If my comments were the supercilious smugness to which you refer, I guess I have failed in using this imperfect medium to convey my true thoughts, and I apologize. I have not intended with my comments to demean anyone.

    Now, on to your own comments. I think I have misrepresented myself in my past statements. I did not at all intend to suggest that the commenters on this blog were themselves rigidly conforming to gender stereotypes. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true. But I think commenters on this blog are an exception. From what I can tell over the last nine months or so that I’ve been following this blog, the readership (or the commentership) tends to be very well-educated liberals or staunch libertarians who enjoy learning and thinking critically about the world. As the Palin campaign has made clear, most people are not well-educated and do not enjoy learning or thinking critically about anything. So, in asserting the prevalence of narrow conceptions of gender in our society, I was referring predominantly to the masses, not the readers of this blog.

    I also am not suggesting that the personal anecdotes you shared are irrelevant or thought the opinions you derived from them are unreasonable. I am not at all denying that many (if not most) girls like dolls and feminine clothing. It’s just that there are a great many who don’t, yet those choices are forced upon them by parents, teachers, friends, and television. Your sarcastic suggestion that the hours you spent playing with Barbies on the floor with your daughters might have given them a message about gender rigidity misses my point. My point is not that you should force your children to conform to non-traditional gender stereotypes. My point was that you shouldn’t force your children into *anything*. If they gravitate towards Barbies, wonderful. If they don’t, don’t force it upon them. (Of course, the “you” I’m referring to here isn’t literally you. You have already stated that you haven’t done that.) As I said in an earlier post, I completely agree with everyone that what was done in the article above was wrong. I agree that those parents should not have messed with their child like that. That is precisely my point: they should not have chosen anything for their child. The child should have done the choosing.

    You said: “Even when I generally agree with someone I dislike when due to supercilious smugness, generalizations are put forth and agendas detailed.” I am not sure if this means you thought I had an agenda. If I have an agenda it is this: I am a gay male who grew up in the rural south. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are alive and well in my hometown. I have many gay and transgender friends who were disowned by their parents. I have gay friends who were kicked out of the military. I have many gay male friends who were formerly married to women because they were so afraid of being who they were. These people are not just some random people that you might see on a Dateline special. They are my personal friends, and when I see people I care about get hurt, that hurts me and makes me want to do something about it. Gender stereotypes and homophobia go hand in hand, and my goal is to show people that just because gender stereotypes don’t harm *you* (because you yourself conform to those stereotypes), that doesn’t mean that they don’t harm other people. The “other people” happen to be me and all of my friends, so I freely admit I’m a little biased. So, I do have a stake in undoing harmful gender stereotypes. That is my agenda.

  4. Mike (and to a lesser extent et al),

    I personally prefer to think of myself as a humanist, but I realize we don’t always get to choose labels for the movements we support.

  5. We must challenge our own ideas of what it means to be male and female, it’s the only way change will occur. It hasn’t been that long ago that jobs were advertized for “men” or for “women”. Most of us now believe that is unacceptable. But at one time it was not only acceptable but unremarkable. The idea that there are “man” jobs, both inside and outside the home and “woman” jobs doesn’t make sense. All people have their own interests and abilities. Sometimes these line up with what our culture believes is “normal” and other times it doesn’t. It’s not really being “butch” for a woman to like activities such as working on cars or looking a certain way. It just means this girl likes a certain look or certain activities. We label this “butch” because we are wedded to gender norms.

    Mike, in my experience, school isn’t the only place children are bullied for being different. They can be bullied, abused and treated quite cruelly in the home for their crime of non-conformity to gender norms or other non-conformity, (say to a parent’s desires). It would be really nice if parents paid close attention to who their child actually was, what they valued, and as you have pointed out on a prior thread, nourished that. To me, the best protection children have against being bullied is being loved and having strong people around them who will stand up for them should they be bullied either at school or at home.

    We have to realize that many things we believe are self evident truths, aren’t. In Saudi Arabia many people believe women can’t drive. In the US, insurance companies give men higher costs on their policies because they ran the numbers and men get in more accidents.

    Some religions believe women may not be priests or ministers. Some believe the same of LBGT people. We know this isn’t true because people from each of these groups function as ministers and priests. If someone is doing something they’re not “supposed” to be able to do, we can’t let ideology stand in place of reality.

    I’m strongly with Deborah and Lolo on this one. We really have no idea of what men and women are capable of doing. We have so many strictures on this from the beginning it would be hard to know. We can look at other cultures and time periods where the exact opposite of what we believe, was turned on it’s head and believed just as fervently. That tells us that we’ve made a mistake in assuming a biologically based set of characteristics or clothing based on sex.

  6. Just to give the parents the benefit of the doubt there:

    Their child could have been born with an uncertain gender, for example, both a penis and a vagina. This is not that uncommon and in the USA gender assignment surgery is then discretely performed on the infant almost immediately. The parents may have decided however to let this child develop and choose its own gender preference. This is fact may be the best course of action in these kinds of situations, because it could prevent a later identity crisis.

  7. “Your sarcastic suggestion that the hours you spent playing with Barbies on the floor with your daughters might have given them a message about gender rigidity misses my point.”

    Lolo,
    My point wasn’t meant in sarcasm, but in trying to show (poorly it seems), that their Daddy a large masculine looking kind of guy could play with doll and enjoy it. I had to discuss mixing and matching Barbie outfits with them and play a role in dialogues between Barbies of different hairstyles and cuts.

    “If my comments were the supercilious smugness to which you refer,”

    I actually have to apologize to you for the snark, it was uncalled for and while I try to pride myself on my equanimity of temperament, as you can see I’m far from perfectly evolved.
    Further truth be told when I though of “supercilious smugness”
    I liked the alliteration so much I put it in, but then felt that I had perhaps gone to far.

    “As the Palin campaign has made clear, most people are not well-educated and do not enjoy learning or thinking critically about anything. So, in asserting the prevalence of narrow conceptions of gender in our society, I was referring predominantly to the masses, not the readers of this blog.”

    Where we might disagree on this is that I think the majority of Americans today are much more accepting of being Gay, than let’s say 20 years ago. However, there is still a substantial minority that are stupidly prejudiced against what is a normal
    part of humanity.

    However, from your perspective of being a Gay man, growing up in the rural south I would expect and see the justification in your skepticism. I have been a supporter of Gay rights since long before Stonewall. In public school through the
    Junior year in High School I got into many fights because people saw me as different. I had a large vocabulary, an inordinately pretty face (who could believe it now) and while I would always fight back I would do so crying at having to fight at all. Many times Jocks called me Fag or Faggot of Fairy after having beaten me up, many times two or three of them attacking me at once because I was big. Those times in the 50’s and early 60’s that was the worst anathema you could put on another boy.

    People in that situation always have the choice of identifying with the oppressed, or the oppressors. I identified with the oppressed and so became interested in how this society mistreated gay people. Why were police raiding bars for instance? Why weren’t two adults allowed to have consensual sex? Who were they hurting? when I became older and actually began to meet, become friends with and to work with and for gay men and lesbian women, I saw clearly the evil of stereotypes. I also saw that when guys knew I was straight, they ceased to hit on me, but quite frankly their hitting on me was flattering and not obnoxious. Men who are most fearful of gay men are in my opinion fearful of their own sexuality.

    I further agree with you that many parents try to impose straightness on their children, grievously harming them in the process. It is all really so silly,if it wasn’t so tragic,
    because being gay is just another part of nature.

    “So, I do have a stake in undoing harmful gender stereotypes. That is my agenda.”

    I’m with you in solidarity and emotional commitment.

  8. “Mike, in my experience, school isn’t the only place children are bullied for being different. They can be bullied, abused and treated quite cruelly in the home for their crime of non-conformity to gender norms or other non-conformity, (say to a parent’s desires). It would be really nice if parents paid close attention to who their child actually was, what they valued, and as you have pointed out on a prior thread, nourished that. To me, the best protection children have against being bullied is being loved and having strong people around them who will stand up for them should they be bullied either at school or at home.”

    Jill,
    I couldn’t have said it better.

  9. I encourage you to watch the movie Ma Vie En Rose, a story about a transgendered boy and his struggle with his family forcing him into his male gender role solely for the purpose of avoiding public embarrassment.

  10. I’m Swedish, so I know about this case (through the papers). The child is not intersexed. The child itself knows its gender.

    I still think this is very bad. Gender identity is extremely important to a person, and you need to develop one in peace. That is a completely different topic from gender sterotypes.

    I think the parents should have focused on giving options to their child; i.e. say, like my parents did, “You are a girl and a girl can do everything a boy can do.”

    Also; it bothers me that the view is that you need to be genderless in order to be equal.

  11. I think, Jonathan, that Pop will express hir gender preferences naturally is the idea. We save cord blood for those one-in-a-hundred occurances, so why not make it easier for Pop to either cement what would have otherwise been hir assigned gender, or express differently from it? If Pop is cis, then hir upbringing won’t be much more genderqueer than Humphrey Bogart’s. If ze’s trans, then it’ll be a lot less heartache.

    Really it’s an excellent expression of one’s 4th amendment rights, or speaking as a Canadian, one’s section 7 rights.

  12. This is not stupid or absurd, as some are quick to point out from their moral high-horse. True, the majority of people will in fact be comfortable with the gender identity that matches their genitalia. However, I would love to have had these parents as a child! Because being told by society that I was a particular gender that I did not feel, has created much confusion and heartbreak in my life – trying to pretend I was something that I wasn’t.

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