Entry from May 29, 2011

As with the “Slut Walkers” mentioned in two previous posts here and here, the story about the Canadian couple who are raising their child to be “genderless” is one that has resounded throughout the English-speaking world but not, for some reason, in the U.S. There was a report on Fox News about it, but if the story found its way into the rest of the stateside media, I’ve missed their coverage. As I noticed earlier, the seeming lack of interest in such examples of the loonier sort of feminism could perhaps be taken as a tribute to the comparative good sense of the American media. On the other hand, the fact that the story was picked up by Fox but not more mainstream outlets may betoken nothing more than a sense of embarrassment — like that of the right-wing media about the “birther” fanatics — among the latter at the kind of craziness their fellow liberals can be guilty of.

According to the Fox report,

Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are raising their third child, Storm, to be free of societal [sic] norms regarding gender. Is Storm male or female? The parents won’t say, so no one knows except Storm’s older brothers, Jazz and Kio, as well as a close family friend and two midwives who helped deliver the baby, according to the Toronto Star.

The most extraordinary part of the story comes here:

Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association”s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, told FoxNews.com that while the organization supports gender nondiscrimination, there is no research available regarding potential harms or benefits to raising a so-called genderless child. “I don”t think the APA has any basis for concluding one way or the other on that issue,” Anderson said. “In the short term, in the long term, there’s really just no basis for saying. This is not an area of research that exists, to my knowledge.”

Another shrink is quoted as saying: “I don”t think there’s any question that this is going to do severe harm to this child,” but Mr Anderson’s agnosticism in itself suggests the uselessness of psychological “research.”

Mr Stocker and Miss Witterick presumably agree with the self-proclaimed radical feminist, Julie Bindel, who writes in The Guardian that “I want to rid the world of gender. I am sick and tired of the way people insist on socialising little girls into pink-fluffy doll-lovers, and encourage boys to adopt the worst excesses of masculinity.” Like her, too, they make the astonishing leap from this statement of ideology to saying “Let change begin with me.” Or rather, let it begin with poor innocent Storm who anyone less foolish than Ms Bindel can see is in for a stormy time of it indeed throughout the years when everyone of his or her own age that he or she meets will care very much more than his or her parents do about his or her “gender.” As Allison Pearson writes in The Daily Telegraph,

I suppose common sense is not to be expected from a mother and father who named their other children Jazz and Kio. . .Storm’s parents will soon learn the hard way that liberal ideals cut no ice in the fundamentalist regime of the small child. My own attempt to protect my little girl from the toxic, sexist influence of evil Barbie did not go well. The Daughter, rarely out of her tiara and Princess-wear, beheaded the wholesome Social Democrat dolls I offered as a Barbie substitute. We ended up with a fabulously slutty collection — Flamenco Barbie, AC Milan Barbie, Thai Barbie (a flexible minx who could suck her own toes), and the terrifying uber-blonde one in jodphurs and black boots that we christened Klaus Barbie. Girls will generally be girls and boys will be boys. Whichever one Storm turns out to be.

To me what’s interesting about people like Mr Stocker and the Mses Witterick and Bindel is their automatic assumption that socialization into traditional gender roles is wrong just because it is socialization. As Ms Bindel puts it, “differences between the behaviour of boys and girls are not biological truths, but modern versions of old sexist ideas about how women should behave.” But they never get around to telling us why “truths” must be “biological” ones. Her calling the once generally accepted conventions of socially and culturally constructed gender roles “sexist” doesn’t by itself make such conventions any less true — in the sense of corresponding to reality — than the truths of biology.

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