There are two schools of thought regarding gender-neutral parenting. The first says you can’t do it. The second says you can’t do it, either, but you might as well die trying.
There are variations on this, of course. There’s “look, I tried it but found my daughter to be magically hardwired to like glitter unicorns and my son to like machine guns, so there’s nothing I can do about it”. Then there’s “I’m raising my son in a man-cave because I read something about testosterone, spatial rotation and monkeys – or was it rats? – written in 1997 and you can’t argue with science”. There’s also “none shall ever know the sex of my child and I’ll change their nappies with my eyes closed, avoiding unconscious bias even if it means spreading poo everywhere”.
All of these options have their pros and cons, although personally I find the defeatist ones most tempting. Gender-neutral parenting is gardening in a gale; whatever your good intentions, the environment is against you. And as soon as you slip up there will then be people around you (elderly uncles, usually) who sweep in to inform you that “boys will be boys” (an early precursor to “Brexit means Brexit”, two phrases as destructive as they are utterly meaningless). If only there was a way of telling them “but I knew this would happen! And I’d do it again, dammit! THIS DOESN’T MEAN I’M WRONG!”
Thankfully Ros Ball and James Millar, who run the @GenderDiary twitter account, have written a book that just might help. Parents of one girl and one boy, the pair have been keeping a record of discrepancies in how their children are treated since 2012. The Gender Agenda, published on Friday, is part testimony, part how-to guide for any parent thinking of taking on that big, bad pink/blue world out there.