Paloma Faith welcomed her first child in December last year and though she kept quiet about the name, or even the sex of her baby, it seems there was a good reason for that.
For the singer has now revealed that she is raising her little one as gender neutral.
Speaking at the Q Awards in London this weekend, the new mum opened up about her motherhood journey so far and her decision to bring up her baby free from gender stereotypes.
“I’m loving being a mum,” Paloma told The Mirror. “I want two or three kids in all and they’ll be gender neutral.” Insisting she won’t be dressing her children in colours associated with sex – such as pink for girls and blue for boys – she added: “I just want them to be who they want to be.”
Paloma is by no means the only celebrity to advocate a gender-free upbringing for their offspring. Russell Brand and his model girlfriend, Laura Gallacher recently announced they would be raising their firstborn daughter, Mabel, gender neutral.
The 41-year-old comedian and actor says he doesn’t want his daughter to be restricted by male or female labels.
Speaking on ‘The Jonathan Ross Show’ before the birth of their first child, he said: “We don’t know the gender I may not even ever impose a gender upon it, let the child grow up and be the whatever the hell it is, never tell it there is such a concept.”
And earlier this year it was also revealed that the late Carrie Fisher had raised her daughter Billie Lourd without a defined gender.
“She told me to be true, and kind, and confident in yourself,” she told Teen Vogue in an interview. “She raised me to not think of men and women as different. She raised me without gender. It’s kind of the reason she named me Billie. It’s not about being a strong woman — it’s about being a strong person. She once told me, “I never sat you down with a credo. It was more about leading by example.”
There’s no doubt gender-neutral parenting has been creating quite the buzz of late, but what exactly does it mean to raise a child gender-free?
In basic terms the parenting practice is about breaking away from traditional gender stereotypes children are often exposed to and instead allowing them to explore what they like to do, play with, wear.
But there are different degrees of gender-neutral parenting.
Some parents take the extreme approach by raising their child completely ‘genderless’.
Earlier this year, an eight-month-old baby made headlines by becoming the first known person in the world to have their gender marked as ‘unknown’ on their health card.
Searyl Atli’s gender has marked with a ‘U’ on her Canadian health card, standing for ‘undetermined’ or ‘unassigned’.
The baby’s parent, Kori Doty, does not identify as male or female and prefers to use the pronoun ‘they’, and wants to raise Searyl’s genderless until the baby has a “sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are”.
And last year, a Swedish couple made headlines after announcing that they had decided to keep the gender of their young child, Pop, a secret from all but their closest family members.
There was a similar case back in Canada with a baby called Storm.
But many parents choose to adopt a more relaxed form of gender-neutral parenting which see’s them moving away from the traditional ‘pink’ for a girl ‘blue’ for a boy mentality, encouraging children to play with all types of toys and allowing their child to dress themselves even if that means their little boy heads out for the day dressed in a Frozen-dress, just like Meghan Fox’s son Noah.
Some advocates of the practice explain that raising children gender neutral isn’t about pushing them to wear or play with something based on their gender. Or trying to make them be more like the opposite gender. Instead, it’s more about resisting the push of gender stereotypes.
Seems to make sense but the parenting practice is not without its critics. Some experts argue that children shouldn’t be treated as blank slates with no predetermined characteristics because biology has a role to play.
Some previous studies have revealed that toy preferences could be innate and not in fact a product of societal pressures. Girls tend to gravitate towards socially interesting toys like dolls, while boys gravitate towards toys that are mechanically interesting, like cars.
One recent study, published in Infant and Child Development, revealed that these gender preferences can emerge as early as nine months of age — before children are developmentally aware of gender differences.
Other critics argue that raising your child gender neutral could open them up to teasing from peers and classmates.
But some countries are trying to introduce changes to combat these issues. France has imposed sex equality lessons in primary schools and gender equality training for all student teachers.
And some parents are also calling for uniforms to be gender-neutral. Earlier this year a mum has turned to the Internet to ask why in 2017 school uniform is still gendered.
Lucy Rycroft-Smith, a former maths teacher and now a full-time writer/researcher penned a blog for TES asking why girls’ uniforms must be “less practical and less comfortable simply because they have a vagina?”
“Boys have strong, waterproof shoes and girls have diamante ballet flats. It’s time to tackle the ridiculous gender divide in school uniform,” the mum-of-two wrote.
The gender-less fight is also going strong when it comes to toys too. A UK campaign called Let Toys Be Toys is urging all retailers to stop categorising toys and books for one gender only.
“Toys are for fun, for learning, for stoking imagination and encouraging creativity,” their website reads. “Children should feel free to play with the toys that most interest them. Isn’t it time that shops stopped limiting children’s imagination by telling them what they ought to play with?”
Whether you’re in favour of or totally against the practice of gender neutral parenting, there’s little doubt parents have the right to raise their children in the way they feel is best for their child. And if that means growing up in a home free from gender stereotypes and expectations, then it’s difficult to argue against that.
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