Are you a gender neutral parent?

The BBC’s Christmas comedy, The Boy in the Dress, posed cultural questions about masculinity.

If you caught the recent photo of Adele’s young son dressed up in a Disney princess costume, you may have nodded approvingly.

Part of a growing movement amongst parents who seek to avoid imposing male and female stereotypes on their children, 41 percent of mothers now claim to parent ‘gender neutrally’, and this means allowing boys to be princesses and girls to be pirates – if they so choose.

The most damaging message to children about their gender is society expecting boys to be tough and girls to be weak

According to the survey, conducted by, almost a third of parents say they now actively ban certain phrases such as ‘don’t cry like a girl’ or ‘man up’ while encouraging all children’s clothes to be gender neutral and ensuring their child plays with toys designed for the opposite sex.

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Tellingly, parents felt the most damaging message to children about their gender is ‘society expecting boys to be tough and girls to be weak’, which was seen as a major problem for 51% of parents quizzed.

The study revealed that children first become aware of gender aged just 23 months, but the effects of gender stereotyping may be felt throughout life: in the gender bias towards certain school subjects such as maths and science; issues of inequality in the workplace; and pressure on men and women to behave a certain way.

Recently, The Guardian, reported on the ‘sexist surcharge’ applied by retailers on equivalent products that are priced differently depending on the gender to which they are being marketed – they cost 37% more for women. Why, it questioned, does a single-blade razor made by the same manufacturer apparently cost more to produce in pink than in blue?

For society to become truly equal, we all have to be treated equally

As part of the backlash against such gender stereotyping, three in five young parents now back retailers changing the way they sell to customers by removing all gender labels from clothes, toys, books and other products, while calling for schools to allow gender neutral school uniforms. founder Siobhan Freegard comments: “For society to become truly equal, we all have to be treated equally, and the new generation of young parents may be the ones who make that breakthrough. There is a real and very relevant change going on, not only for girls to have all the opportunities men have traditionally had – but also for boys to express and embrace their softer side.

“The effects are already influencing, retailers, schools and society at large, and should hopefully allow the next generation to be who they really are, not who they feel they’re expected to be.”


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