In a recent (UK) Times article, Robert Crampton wheeled out some metro-phobia, transphobia and general sexism that needed commenting on.
Crampton’s cranky piece questioned the decision by a UK couple to raise their child in a ‘gender neutral’ way. He wrote:
‘I’m struggling to work out quite what Beck Laxton and her partner Kieran Cooper are trying to achieve by bringing their child Sasha up as gender neutral. This kid is now 5 and going to school, so his parents have come clean that he’s a boy. Up until now while they’ve told him and a few close relatives that he’s a he, they’ve kept it secret from everyone else, reffering to Sasha simply as ‘the infant’.
Miss Laxton was a little surprised when she discovered other members of her mother and baby group in Sawston, Cambridgeshire, referred to her as ‘that loony woman who doesn’t know whether her baby is a boy or a girl’.
‘I could never persuade anyone in the group to come round for coffee’ she reveals. ‘They just thought I was mental’. Funny that.
Miss Laxton says she is concerned about stereotyping and Sasha being able to fulfil his potential in his own way. Fair enough. But if ever there was a case of coming up with a potentially catastrophic cure for a problem that doesn’t really exist, this is it. Miss Laxton says she thinks it’s great Sasha likes flowers, for example. And it is. But then so do millions of men who weren’t brought up wearing tutus. Hasn’t miss Laxton noticed that nowadays the man who thinks flowers are cissy is the odd one out?
It’s one thing to take a relaxed attitude when your five year old son raids the dressing up box for a fairy dress and tiara. An Englishman’s home is his castle and so forth; we’re a tolerant nation in these matters. Such dressing up is a phase many parents will recognise, and none with any sense will order the boy back in his cowboy outfit.
But neither will any with any sense plaster the image all over their annual Christmas card and youtube. Or the national press, come to that. Talk about embarrassing parents; young Sasha is going to be absolutely slaughtered for that picture throughout his childhood.’
I find it kind of insulting how the journalist dresses up his prejudice in the language of ‘tolerance’, suggesting generously that it is ok to allow your sons to go through a ‘phase’ of liking fairy outfits but if they don’t grow out of it then you’re a bad parent.
This issue of boys being accepted and encouraged to be ‘gender non-conforming’ reminds me of the brilliant blog about a Pink Boy. Sarah Hoffman’s son loves all things pink, and whilst she is happy to indulge his tastes and forms of self-expression, she realised that many people are not. So she began to write about her experiences of parenting a ‘pink boy’.
Sarah is clear that her child is happy being a boy who happens to like ‘girly’ things. But she is open to anything that may happen in the future regarding his feelings about his gender identity. Maybe he is just going through a ‘phase’ but maybe he isn’t. Crampton’s judgemental article is actually transphobic in my view, because it does not allow for children who grow up to occupy a different gender identity from the one imposed on them as infants.
One of the problems with our culture, that Crampton’s snippy article illustrates, is the double standard that operates for boys and girls, men and women, when it comes to gender expression.
The Times journo writes:
‘Sasha sometimes goes to school in a ruche-sleeved, scallop-collared blouse from the girls’ uniform list. That isn’t the best way for him to fulfil his potential. Rather, it sounds like it’s more about advancing the parents’ not-very-thought-through political agenda than it is about the welfare of the child. He’ll probably be ok for a year or two, with luck. After that things might not go smoothly. What happens the first time he decides to wander into the girls’ loo?’
As a five year old girl I think I would have been horrified if I’d have been expected to wear ‘ruche-sleeved scallop-collared’ blouses! But girls are much more able than boys to be ‘gender non-conforming’ and I turned up at school in cords and sweatshirts without anyone commenting at all (until secondary school where I tried, and failed, to get girls to be allowed to wear trousers. But most schools allow it now).
In contrast, when a UK boy wore a skirt to school recently, in protest at not being allowed to wear shorts in the summer, he made national headlines!
The fact is, times are changing, and fast. The phenomenon of metrosexuality means that boys and men are more free to dress and behave in previously considered ‘feminine’ ways. Pioneering ‘gender non-conforming’ men such as Andrej Pejic and the XY Movement are making it more acceptable for all boys and men to do as they please.
There is bound to be a ‘retro’ backlash. And Robert Crampton’s article is part of that. But I am sure the Pink Boys will prevail.