Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue

Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue
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This is a great book for anyone interested in gender equality and how stereotypes can affect kids. It carefully balances readability with research to provide a fascinating view into this complex subject. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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This is a revised version of a review I published here a year ago. 

For both of our children, we’ve found out their sex at the 20 week scan and then kept it a secret until their birth. The main reason for this is that we don’t think it is an important distinction. Knowing the sex is unlikely to accurately predict personality. 

(We found out ourselves because it seemed weird to us, as information junkies, to deliberately avoid learning something about our unborn child. Hypocritical perhaps, but that’s what we did)

More superficially, we didn’t want to end up with only blue stuff for the Little Monkey and pink stuff for our Night Owl. 

I heard about Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue when the Little Monkey had just turned one, and it appealed to this obnoxious and superficial objective, so I immediately bought the Kindle version. I expected (in that terrible, smug, way we have when we want to be proven right) that because we consider ourselves progressive on gender issues that it would be an interesting reinforcement of our views. And I thought it would be way more relevant for parents of girls, which wasn’t us at that point.

I grossly underestimated it.

The book has three sections. The first covers how we use gender to sort and label people, and how that changes how we think about them. The second section works to identify the real differences between boys and girls, versus those which appear through stereotype reinforcement. And the final section looks at how using gender as a category affects children, and how we can use what we know to become better parents.

The book covers many effects of gender categorisations, and some of these stunned me. It seems that a lot of the time we don’t realise that we’re using gender to influence our language or attitude, but kids, from a very young age, pick up on subtle signals and work to conform to what they think is the right thing to do.

One of the more poignant realisations for me was that the stereotypes are just as damaging for boys, as they learn at a young age to hide emotions. This is no great secret, but I hadn’t thought deeply about the potential impact of that before, so I found it quite sobering.

Although initially the author, Christia Spears Brown, seems quite extreme, she has a pragmatic approach to dealing with the pressures and stereotypes discussed. She’s not into making a big fuss in public, but encourages thoughtful discussion of the stereotypes as appropriate. 

It’s a very readable book – though it’s thought-provoking and packs a lot of solid science in (the reference section at the back is substantial!), it’s also enjoyable and relatable.

The main point I took away was that gender, as a sorting mechanism, is far less valuable than many other characteristics, so we now try to avoid boy/girl labels and instead rely on personality traits where possible. Like most parents, we just want to enable our children to be the best version of themselves that they can. It seems to me that avoiding unnecessary stereotypes is a small but important part of that.

Though I’m sure having read this book won’t make us perfect parents, hopefully the minor changes we’ve made to our parenting as a result will help support our children as they grow. If you’re a parent, or are interested in gender issues it’s a fascinating read.

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