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A Genderless Preschool

Earlier today, I read about Egalia, a Swedish preschool that aims to break down gender stereotypes.

At this taxpayer-funded preschool located in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm, staff avoid using pronouns such as “him” or “her” and address the 33 children as “friends” rather than boys and girls. Every little detail — from the color and placement of toys to the selection of literature (which mostly consists of books dealing with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children) — has been carefully planned to ensure that the children do not fall into gender stereotypes from a young age.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Canadian parents who are hiding the gender of their baby. Upon reading that article, I remember asking J if he would mind if Claire plays with toy guns, swords, robots, and cars — traditionally all toys that are associated with boys — and he replied no.

But then I asked him, “What if we have a boy and he wants to play with Barbies? And wants to wear tutus and tiaras and makeup? Would you let him?”

He said that he probably will not past a certain age. And I found myself agreeing with him. But we couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. It is not because we believe a boy playing with traditionally feminine toys or dressing in traditionally feminine colors or pieces will turn him gay or into a transsexual. Nor is it because we believe these things will make a boy “sissy.” The only theory that seemed plausible was our society and culture’s influence on our views on gender roles.

It’s funny, because neither of us would have a problem with our boy playing with a kitchen set. Where would we draw the line?

And why is it more socially acceptable for girls to play with traditionally boy toys, but not the other way around?

One thing I do know is that we probably wouldn’t want our kids enrolled in a school like Egalia, and we both agree that the Canadian couple who are raising their baby to be genderless is treading on dangerous grounds, i.e. conducting a social experiment on their own child. J and I both believe that men and women are different for a reason, and that different gender roles are not problematic as long as they are equally valued. For example, J’s job at his company is equally important to our family as my job as a mother.

What do you think of the idea of a genderless preschool, or raising your children to be genderless?

Do you, or would you allow your boy(s) to play with dolls, wear dresses and makeup?