University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Raising a genderless baby: The Case of Storm Stocker
Raising a family of three children is no easy feat to begin with, and the Stocker family of Toronto, Ontario has made one decision regarding their new baby that will hardly make it any easier. Mrs. Stocker gave birth to her third child on new years day of 2011, and accompanying the proud new parents e-mail to friends and families announcing the baby’s birth, was a rather controversial statement; “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).” (CTV 1) Mr. & Mrs. Stocker had decided to raise their new baby boy or girl, with out the socially constructed pre-text of masculine or feminine gender traits, regardless of what the physical sex of the baby was. It is important to point this baby is neither a hermaphrodite nor born as a transsexual, but is completely anatomically healthy or ‘normal’ so to speak. The parents are simply keeping the sex of the baby secrete as to deprive society, and in the future its peers, teachers, coaches etc. of influencing it’s formation of gender and self.
This highly controversial decision is however, fulfilling Freud’s notion of removing gender from the realm of biology, thus overcoming biological essentialism, and moving it into society, which he believed was the dominant force influencing how gender develops. In the modern era, however, the decision to keep baby Storms sex a secrete was met with significant controversy from American media, ABC news stating; “While child development experts applaud the family’s efforts to raise their child free of the constraints of gender stereotypes, they say the parents have embarked on a psychological experiment that could be potentially disastrous.” (ABC 1) while in Canada and internationally, especially in European countries such as Sweden and Finland where this is not unheard of, its been more readily accepted.
Finnish people often choose specific diction to speak about themselves and others in a very neutral way which includes gender neutrality; “This rhetoric is based on a kind of moral code: it is highly valued to be seen and treated without particularities, without bodies, as a person in your own right, without gender, without class, without ethnicity, without locality” (Lahelma 8) and in Sweden the government has actually updated the national Encyclopedia to account for the rising trend of parents raising their children genderless, adding the genderless pronoun “hen” to accompany the masculine “han” and feminine “hon”. And the trend isn’t just limited to linguistics. Recently “…the World Economic Forum declared Sweden the most gender-neutral country in the world, and gender neutrality is changing Swedish culture in profound ways. A children’s department store has dissolved its “girls” and “boys” sections…” (Tietal 36). Freud would, however, have to agree with ABC news’ declaration that the results could be “potentially disastrous” as he viewed gender intringently linked to self-identity as well as sexual orientation. It is safe to assume Dr. Freud would view this decision to shelter the child as a psychological experiment destined to end in failure, resulting in a man or women not properly assimilated into society and bound for a miserable existence.
However, as Sandra Harding said “What you see, what you find important, and how you understand the world depends on your ‘standpoint’” and as more recent feminist research has uncovered Freud’s beliefs in a binary set of man or woman is not necessarily true. Feminist Epistemology of society and science exposes how the commonly accept binary couple of male/female or masculine/feminine influences our conception of knowledge and how we come to conclusions, and even in American media it is quite pronounced the male/female roles have began to blend or at least have come to have changed since Freud’s time; “The stereotypes of boys were that they were self-sufficient, non-empathic, tough and good at war, and Girls were trained to be empathic and caring and more nurturing, are all falling apart. You even see tough football players bawling nowadays” (ABC 1). It would not necessarily be harmful for the baby to grow up in-between or with-out the masculine/feminine binary because it is socially constructed anyway and growing up with-out it, or perhaps better put, on the outside of it, simply creates a new paradigm for baby Storm.
Because men have held such a dominant role influencing research and education it has skewed history and research to man’s own advantage, resulting in a unidimensional view of gender and power almost always at the women’s expense (Luecke 138). As Kimmel said in our textbooks, the phenomenon of biasing knowledge is always more pronounced when one group homogeneously controls political and ideological systems, which have up until very recent times been controlled strictly by males, giving them the conceptual power over gender, sexual orientation and almost every other field of research known to man. Though in recent decades much progress has been made on this issue, there is still much bias on part of male dominated research resisting the inclusion of minorities and feminist epistemology which needs to change in order for better research methods and more accurate out comes, especially from a constructionists approach to gender.
As Sharlene Hesse-Biber put it; “If present science is distorted by the predominance of male perspectives, would not science become more objective by the deliberate inclusion of views from women, minorities etc.” The Social Constructionist Approach diverges from Freud’s belief in masculine/feminine binaries in that it acknowledges the contextual importance of gender and sexuality. The time, place, power and culture all play a part in defining what is considered masculine and what is feminine, concluding that gender and sexuality are not constants, but variables in a perpetual flux, resulting from the ebb and flow of societal norms and what social groups are in power influencing those norms.
Storms identity as he grows up will certainty be influenced by his interactions with media, society and his parents but that influence will be minimized because of his immunity to the power of gender and sex stereotypes, living in, presumably, blissful ambiguity. And in many ways this gives him a certain power over us, or at least a power to change or blur the gender norms as he grows up; “It is impossible to explain gender without adequately understanding power – not because power is the consequence of gender difference. But rather because power is what produces those gender differences in the first place” (Kimmel 116).
The case of Storm Stocker, while highly controversial, cannot be declined the notion of fascinating and perhaps highly influential on this centuries gender and sexual norms – thus society itself. This case as analyzed through intersectionality is perfect to highlight the many ways in which race, class, gender and sexuality all come to act as social forces on us as we develop in our given environment (Kennedy & Hellen 36). As we watch Storm mature into whatever Storm aspires to be, Storm will be simultaneously turning back millennia of stereotypes, biases, roles and assumptions that have been entrenched in our global society. The potential for real social change stems from the point where other individuals who have been raised and socialized similarly to storm, organize and create social movements to further awareness and understanding of neo-gendered individuals (Madison & Shaw 435).
In this way Storm and their contemporaries will show us how the binary concepts of man/women have been one of the most pervasive forces locking us within a certain realm of action and understanding dictated strictly by the reproductive organs we were born with. Who we love, how we love are all subject to change as “Our identities are a fluid assemblage of the meanings and behaviors that we construct from values, images and prescriptions we find in the world around us” (Kimmel 112).
“Baby raised without ‘gender’ sets off debate | CTV News .” CTV News | Top Stories – Breaking News – Top News Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. .
“Baby Storm Raised Genderless, or Without a Gender, a Dangerous Experiment, Say Child Development Experts – ABC News.” ABCNews.com – Breaking News, Latest News & Top Video News – ABC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. .
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