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You may know Carrie Fisher for her breakout role in Star Wars, her dedication as a mental health advocate or her close relationship with her equally famous mother, Debbie Reynolds. However, a recently-resurfaced interview of Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, reveals that Fisher was also a trendsetter when it comes to parenting.
“She raised me without gender,” Lourd explained, “She told me to be true, and kind, and confident in yourself…It’s not about being a strong woman – it’s about being a strong person.”
When it comes to gender-neutral parenting though, it seems like Carrie Fisher is – for once – a member of dark side.
It’s true that the trend of gender neutral parenting is no longer new in the realm of Hollywood. Russell Brand famously claimed he would raise his child “gender neutral” and gender-neutral baby names – like Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s new daughter, “James” – are all the rage. However, just because celebrities are doing it doesn’t mean that everyone else should join in. In fact, raising your kid to be gender neutral is one of the most patently absurd measures parents can take!
READ MORE: #WomenThatDid: Carrie Fisher
Gender neutral parenting’s main appeal is that it gives children the freedom to “choose.” Girls aren’t restricted to pink, girly toys; boys can enjoy tutus as much as monster trucks. However, gender neutral parenting often does just the opposite. Case in point? The extreme parenting methods of Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper, who chose to keep their child’s sex a secret for five years. In an attempt to avoid gender stereotyping, they raised “Sasha” in a gender-neutral way. Not only did they use words like “infant” instead of “son” or “daughter,” but they also forbid gendered toys like fire trucks or barbies.
Are you really giving your kids “more choices” if you keep them from making gendered choices at all? Fox New’s resident psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow certainly doesn’t think so. “What’s so bad about kids being able to be masculine and feminine?” he asked (quite controversially on a “Normal or Nuts” segment of Fox & Friends). “Do we have to wrench this into some non-genderness?”
In light of several recent studies, Dr. Keith Ablow’s questions are more than valid: they’re right on target. The truth is, no matter how “gender neutral” you try to raise your child, they’ll always be, well, gendered. In fact, one study has found that children identify with a certain gender as early as nine months old. Keep in mind that this is before children even understand that gender differences exist, which usually happens around the 18-month mark.
Not only that, but children’s toy preferences seem to be innate as well. Girls with CAH, a genetic condition in which the girls were exposed to abnormally high levels of testosterone in the womb, tend to prefer “boy-ish” toys…even if their parents urge them toward dolls or pink unicorns. And while some studies have claimed that male and female brains are identical, an analysis of 126 studies found that men have larger total brain volumes. Men also show more “matter connectivity” from the back to the front of the brain while women exhibit more connections between hemispheres.
I don’t understand ‘gender neutral parenting’. Forcing your son to put down his truck and pick up a doll is not neutral.
— Sky Pirate Wednesday (@Dreysander1) August 31, 2016
@DVATW The trouble with gender neutral parenting is that it screws up children’s minds.
— Charles Carter (@66charlescarter) November 11, 2016
Parents may hope that raising their children gender neutral, they’re giving them more opportunities in life – like girls succeeding in math and boys embracing their artistic side. However, they’re probably just be delaying the appearance of the innately gendered biological traits every child is born with.
Not only that, but you could be hurting your child’s chance at a happy, well-adjusted future. Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine’s UK. edition, isn’t a fan of parents like Sasha’s. “He [Sasha] has been hailed as an experiment in breaking stereotypes, but who would want to expose their child to possible derision for the sake of their political beliefs?” she asks.
And, while it may seem simple to let your son wear dresses and your daughter play with GI Joes at home, “gender neutral” gets a whole lot more complicated when your children leave the house. After Candy’s son turned five and started going to school, Candy and her husband decided to pack up the tutus and encourage him to only wear boy’s clothes instead. “Some may see my decision as pandering to convention,” she says. “[But] allowing my son to continue down his feminine path would only incur ridicule and hurt.”
Sure, maybe gender neutral parenting has noble goals: to increase children’s freedom and let them be whoever they want to be. But maybe focusing on loving our kids – boy or girl – exactly as they are would be just as effective as trying to “neutralize” them into something that they’re not.