Gender Neutral

How much is our gender determined by nature versus nurture?



In a poll printed in the February issue of Parents, they list the top obsessions of two- to nine-year-old girls to be princesses (22%), dolls (16%), and fairies (8%); for boys it is cars, trucks, or trains (30%), and superheroes (15%). How does that happen? I found myself thinking. A more interesting statistic — as far as I’m concerned — would be how many little girls were obsessed with Tonka trucks and boys with the domestic arts? (I know a four-year-old who swoons at cleaning. Seriously.)

I think about gender a lot. It’s hard not to when you have a little girl (or a little boy, I’m sure). After discovering that I was having a girl, I made it my mission to deter everyone from bombarding me with pink, ruffles, and hearts. I’m a girl, and I don’t wear pink. Instead of pink and pastels, I chose to dress Coraline mostly in greys, reds, olives, and blues (much to the chagrin of many, many strangers who mistook her for a boy and were embarrassed with their error, despite my nonchalance). Of course she wore dresses in the summer, and Mary Janes, and her long hair has required a barrette for at least half her life. I don’t deny the fact she is a girl — I just want to give her the room right off the bat to decide what that means for her.

And, already at the ripe old age of 18 months, she’s started to decide just that. At 12 months she became obsessed with baby dolls (even though she has a well-rounded arsenal of toys that includes cars, fire trucks, blocks, and animals). A few months ago she began insisting, most days, on wearing a dress over her clothes. In Target one day, she bee-lined for the clothing section and picked out a magenta hoodie covered in rainbow stars which she now insists on wearing whenever she sees it. She loves shoes, putting on lip balm, and carrying oversized purses. She now likes to pick out her outfit (often a completely purple ensemble) and pajamas, and strongly protests if you suggest anything else. She has an opinion, with undeniably feminine undertones. Which is sort of amazing if you think about it — with relatively no poking or prodding in either direction, she gravitates towards those things that are “girly.” Still I wonder, How does that happen?!

What do you think, readers? How much is our gender determined by nature versus nurture?


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About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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