NPR Trumpets 'Gender Neutrality' Advocates, Wonders 'Do We Really Need to Know' Gender
On Thursday, NPR's Linton Weeks spotlighted several extreme proponents of eliminating gender differences and hinted at support for such an endeavor: "In a country with the ideal of treating everyone fairly and equitably, do we really need to know if someone is a boy or a girl?" Weeks portrayed the cause as just part of the normal progression of society: "As history shows, one enterprise in which Americans excel is the breaking down of divisions."
The correspondent began his article for NPR.com, "The End of Gender?" (which was the most viewed article on the website on Thursday), with three "signposts" which supposedly pointed at an end of the concept of gender:
• Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising their 4-month-old child, Storm, without revealing the child's gender. According to the birth announcement from the Toronto couple: "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?)"
• Andrej Pejic, an androgynous Australian model, worked both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows earlier this year.
• A recent J. Crew catalog drew national attention when it featured a young boy with his toenails painted pink.
Weeks then quoted his first expert, Lise Eliot of the Chicago Medical School (who penned a book titled "Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gap and What We Can Do About It"), who acknowledged initially that "sex differences are real and some are probably present at birth," but also added that "social factors magnify them" and issued her conclusion: "So if we, as a society, feel that gender divisions do more harm than good, it would be valuable to break them down."
After hinting at his support for gender neutrality, the journalist cited even more examples of gender blurring, including a school adapting its prom court so it would be gender-neutral, the push by several colleges to implement "gender-neutral housing" for students, and how even
the State Department "began using gender-neutral language on U.S. passports — replacing 'father' and 'mother' with 'Parent One' and 'Parent Two.'" Weeks then noted that "everywhere you turn, it seems, there is talk of gender-neutral this and gender-free that: baby bedding (Wild Safari by Carousel); fashion (Kanye West in a Celine women's shirt); Bibles (the New International Version). Gender neutrality, writes one blogging parent, is the new black."
The NPR correspondent's second expert, Seattle University School of Law's Dean Spade, a "female-to-male transsexual and advocate for transgender rights," revealed her radical proposals for government documents:
Spade makes a passionate pitch for the elimination of gender categorization in most government record-keeping. "I really don't think that data needs to be on our IDs or gathered by most agencies and institutions," Spade says. Tagging someone as female or male "enforces binary gender norms and it pretends that gender is a more stable category of identity than it actually is."
Spade says, "I can see why we might want institutions to be aware of gender at a general level in order to engage in remediation of the sexism and transphobia that shape our world."
Weeks devoted the last part of his article to a parent who has a blog bizarrely titled, "Raising My Boychick:
[Arwyn Daemyir] describes herself as "a walking contradiction: knitting feminist fulltime parent, Wiccan science-minded woowoo massage therapist, queer-identified male-partnered monogamist, body-loving healthy-eating fat chick, unmedicated mostly-stable bipolar."
She describes her boychick, born in March 2007, as a "male-assigned at birth — and so far apparently comfortable with that assignment, white, currently able-bodied, congenitally hypothyroid, cosleeper, former breastfed toddler, elimination communication graduate, sling baby and early walker, trial and terror, cliched light of our life, and impetus for the blog. Odds are good he will be the most privileged of persons: a middle class, able bodied...straight, white male."
For Daemyir, gender-neutral parenting is not an attempt to eliminate gender, "because the 70s'-era gender neutral parenting movement proved that's not possible."
But, she adds, she has concerns about the ways we designate and segregate gender in public, "starting with the idea that there are two-and-only-two genders — a construction, and a myth, in our society that excludes many."
To that end, Daemyir supports, among other changes, non-gender-designated single-stall bathrooms and an option for unisex washrooms and locker rooms....Daemyir does not think that eliminating all single-gender areas "is beneficial or safe either, necessarily, but ... we over-designate many of these things when it's simply not necessary, and actively harms a particularly marginalized population — people with non-binary genders."
The NPR correspondent did include a sidebar where physician Leonard Sax of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education offered a "lively defense of gender distinctions," but also warned that "ignoring gender has the ironic consequence of exacerbating gender stereotypes." But Weeks did not quote from one person who explicitly opposed the "gender neutrality" cause.