Can A Child Be Raised Free Of Gender Stereotypes?
Royce and Jessica James had big dreams for their baby.But when an ultrasound revealed they were having a daughter, Jessica began to worry about how gender stereotypes would affect their child.
“I remember working at the Boys and Girls Club near our college and seeing the children, watching how they played and how they were able to play based on what they were wearing. And thinking, ‘Those girls could also be up at the top of that playscape, swinging upside down, if they weren’t wearing sandals and sundresses.'”
essica and Royce decided they weren’t going to let clothing — or any other gender norms — limit their child’s potential. So they said no to dresses given to them by family members and friends. They took the same approach with toys.
“We’re not going to be getting her baby dolls and Barbies. We want her to have open-ended free play toys,” she says.
Their daughter, Isis (named for the Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and wisdom), was born two months premature. Despite her parents firmly deciding to dress her in gender neutral colours like yellow, green and white, one day while still in the newborn intensive care unit, the nurses dressed Isis up in pastel pinks with frilly ribbons in her hair as a surprise for her parents – who were horrified.
“Somebody nearby turned and looked at my baby in my arms, my little pink baby doll and said, ‘Oh, she’s so precious and delicate and dainty,’ and I was enraged,” Jessica said, explaining that in trying to get their tiny daughter out of the intensive care unit, she needed to be strong and healthy – the opposite of how she was being perceived.
“We’re not going for precious and dainty and delicate. I noticed from that moment how other people would talk to her. And I felt words are powerful. And right now, we want all of our energy to be towards growth and strength and power.”
“We had family who were sending us dresses for Isis [that we weren’t using] and the family members’ feelings became were really hurt,” Jessica admitted.
“They said that they were not sure if they could have a relationship with our daughter if they were not going to be able to understand how to relate to her.”
“A little boy wanted her to take her clothes off and prove that she’s a girl on the playground because she has short hair and she’s wearing primary colours and doesn’t look like a girl,” they said.
“Of course, she wasn’t going to do that. That was horrifying and so there are those moments that we think, ‘OK is this something that we created.’”
There was silence for a moment when Isis was asked whether she felt her parents went too far. Then she said, “I think that they gave me the freedom that I needed.
“They’ve never said, believably, ‘No you can not wear this,’ or, ‘No you can absolutely not do this.’”
Isis says her pronouns are she, her, and hers, and that she identifies as bisexual. How much of this was a result of her parent’s parenting style? Isis says she is made up of both of them, but there is still Isis, who would have existed in whatever house she was raised.
“I believe that everyone has something that is totally your own. I say is one third I got from my dad, one third I got from my mum and one third is al