Why the “Storm” of criticism?

Posted on by wilyliam and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Other than the obvious argument that poor “Storm” is probably going to be pounded into rubble when school starts (“hey I know you’re not supposed to hit girls, but no one will tell what Storm is, so let’s just assume it’s OK to beat “it” up!) there are multiple problems with the idea of keeping the baby’s gender a secret so “it” can explore for “itself,” that would be obvious to these self absorbed parents if they were just a little less … self-absorbed.

1. Mom seems convinced they are doing a wonderful thing by shielding this poor child’s sponge of a mind from outside influence and just letting it be free to develop as it will, and yet she publicly says things such as: “the whole world must know what is between the baby’s legs is unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic. We know — and we’re keeping it clean, safe, healthy and private (not secret!).”

So, just to check in – letting people know whether you’re a boy or a girl and therefore allowing them to make assumptions about your genitalia (since they have them too …) is unsafe, unhealthy and voyeuristic. THAT is what Storm is going to learn in place of “you’re a boy.”

2. While Mommy and Daddy seem to want everyone to see them as non-judgmental and highly respectful of the intellect of a baby, they still seem to take their own child for a fool. Children learn through all five senses people, not just what they are told by their godlike parents. In fairly short order, Storm will most likely know much more about “its” gender than those oh-so-humble-and-progressive parents think, and the lack of guidance will be deafening. This reminds me of the kinds of parents who think that if they never, ever show, speak of or allow their little boys to see a firearm, that somehow those little boys will grow up to be pacifists who are somehow agnostic towards guns. Then one day they see those little pacifists out in the yard pointing sticks at each other yelling “bangbang!!” Hm.

3. If Mommy and Daddy really wanted little Storm to grow up in a perfect freedom-from-information bubble, why are we all reading about this in the paper? Oh, right … 

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33 Responses to Why the “Storm” of criticism?

  1. Hypocrisy Illustrated says:

    ” poor “Storm” is probably going to be pounded into rubble…”

    A Boy Named Sue

    Well, my daddy left home when I was three,
    and he didn’t leave much to Ma and me,
    just this old guitar and a bottle of booze.
    Now I don’t blame him because he run and hid,
    but the meanest thing that he ever did was
    before he left he went and named me Sue.

    Well, he must have thought it was quite a joke,
    and it got lots of laughs from a lot of folks,
    it seems I had to fight my whole life through.
    Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
    and some guy would laugh and I’d bust his head,
    I tell you, life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue.

    Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean.
    My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
    Roamed from town to town to hide my shame,
    but I made me a vow to the moon and the stars,
    I’d search the honky tonks and bars and kill
    that man that gave me that awful name.

    But it was Gatlinburg in mid July and I had
    just hit town and my throat was dry.
    I’d thought i’d stop and have myself a brew.
    At an old saloon in a street of mud
    and at a table dealing stud sat the dirty,
    mangy dog that named me Sue.

    Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
    from a worn-out picture that my mother had
    and I knew the scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
    He was big and bent and gray and old
    and I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
    and I said, “My name is Sue. How do you do?
    Now you’re gonna die.” Yeah, that’s what I told him.

    Well, I hit him right between the eyes and he went down
    but to my surprise he came up with a knife
    and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair
    right across his teeth. And we crashed through
    the wall and into the street kicking and a-gouging
    in the mud and the blood and the beer.

    I tell you I’ve fought tougher men but I really can’t remember when.
    He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.
    I heard him laughin’ and then I heard him cussin’,
    he went for his gun and I pulled mine first.
    He stood there looking at me and I saw him smile.

    And he said, “Son, this world is rough and if
    a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
    and I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.
    So I gave you that name and I said ‘Goodbye’.
    I knew you’d have to get tough or die. And it’s
    that name that helped to make you strong.”

    Yeah, he said, “Now you have just fought one
    helluva fight, and I know you hate me and you’ve
    got the right to kill me now and I wouldn’t blame you
    if you do. But you ought to thank me
    before I die for the gravel in your guts and the spit
    in your eye because I’m the nut that named you Sue.”
    Yeah, what could I do? What could I do?

    I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
    called him pa and he called me a son,
    and I came away with a different point of view
    and I think about him now and then.
    Every time I tried, every time I win and if I
    ever have a son I think I am gonna name him
    Bill or George – anything but Sue.

    Maybe he’ll be a spoiled oversensitive little diva boy…
    maybe he’ll be a tough little bastard.

    It’ll be interesting to see how he turns out when the biology and the hormones assert themselves – or not.

  2. BluegrassJack says:

    That’s going to get you a royalty bill from ASCAP!

  3. girl says:

    this story could’ve used more thoughtful treatment. I didn’t follow all the coverage but it was my understanding that the immediate family knows whether Storm is a girl or a boy. Is there really the idea that anything is going to be kept secret *from Storm*? Or that Storm can’t tell anyone his/her gender as soon as it becomes important/comprehensible to him/her?

    • philtrum says:

      More on this:


      Nothing is going to be kept secret from the baby, and Storm and the other children are allowed to tell anyone they want.

      • cat says:

        Thanks for providing the link to the source story.

        I think the reaction of the OP is exactly what the writer of the article expected and wanted readers to have. It’s written to generate controversy over parental decisions/ attitudes toward the gender expression of their small children, along the same lines as the J Crew ad.

        (For the benefit of those of us for whom North America is neither home nor the centre of the universe – is this a trendy topic among liberal, upper middle class American parents now? If so, why?)

        Look at this quote for example, and what the writer is telling us about the child and his parents:

        Jazz — soft-spoken, with a slight frame and curious brown eyes — keeps his hair long, preferring to wear it in three braids, two in the front and one in the back, even though both his parents have close-cropped hair. His favourite colour is pink, although his parents don’t own a piece of pink clothing between them. He loves to paint his fingernails and wears a sparkly pink stud in one ear, despite the fact his parents wear no nail polish or jewelry.

        And look at the other qualifiers the writer uses to describe the children and the family. We’re told that the family’s older (male) child has a “pink tricycle”, that he “skips” (translation: a girly mode of transport); we’re told that the family traveled to Cuba where they learned about the revolution (translation: they are lefties). Etc etc.

        • philtrum says:

          Well, I cannot speak for all of North America, but here goes:

          – American discourse is often very right-wing, and in that context “liberal” lumps together everyone to the left of the Republican Party. Most Canadians, even conservatives, are left of the Republican Party. So I don’t think your run-of-the-mill North American “liberal” is particularly aerated about this stuff.

          – Incidentally, Canada has no embargo against Cuba. Canadians go to Cuba for vacation all the time. Their decision to go to Cuba and learn about the revolution is much less controversial (and hence less significant) than it would be if they were American.

          – I think trans issues are more prominent among politically engaged lefty types in North America than they were 5-10 years ago (although that may not be saying a whole lot). People with this couple’s background and political leanings probably share at least some of their concerns, but their methods are highly unorthodox.

          I wouldn’t really venture to say why, except that it seems to me to be a fairly natural outgrowth of the focus on gay rights (same-sex marriage and the like), since there tends to be a fair bit of overlap between queer and trans communities, theorists etc. But I suppose that just pushes the “why now?” question back a step.

    • harryh says:

      I agree. This post is beneath the normal standards for this blog. A more interesting post would be an analysis of why so many people (including the author of this post) seem to be so angry at Storm’s parents.

      It’s not your kid, why do you care so much? Is a tiny bit of unconventional-ness that treacherous to your world view? Why is that?

  4. philtrum says:

    In fairly short order, Storm will most likely know much more about “its” gender than those oh-so-humble-and-progressive parents think

    But I don’t think the parents have a problem with that. Their older children are self-declared boys, and they appear to be fine with that.

    I think they are proceeding with this on the assumption that gender identity is innate and doesn’t always correspond to biological sex. They’re not trying to raise a child without a gender identity; they’re trying to make the point that they don’t know what the baby’s gender identity is, just as they don’t know what the baby’s sexual orientation is.

    IOW they’re trying to protect Storm not only from sexist messages (boys do this, girls do that) but from the frustration and pain transsexual children often experience, being a girl and having everyone insist you’re a boy, or vice versa.

    I don’t think I would choose to raise a child this way, but I think their goals are basically admirable.

  5. heysherri says:

    Oh, I assumed while reading this article that the child must have ambiguous genitalia, and instead of cutting right away to assign a gender they are waiting for hormones to express themselves before making an irrevocable choice. I think that could be the case, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else is making that assumption. Either way, it’s just baby. The gender will out itself before it becomes important.

  6. nick says:

    Self absorbed? What the hell does that even mean? Is it not just another word like ‘narcissism’ that certain North American bloggers use to say ‘not hating yourself in the proper way like I do and therefore you should aswell’?

    I’m sure the author of this post would never condone violence against the kid based on it not adhering to strict gender rules. Of course not, they’d just smugly cast scorn on the ‘progressive parents’ who, because of a desire to be progressive and for no other reason, are not bothering to get angry with this kid when he wears pink clothing. Yeah, it’s because they are too ‘self absorbed’ to not teach the kid to hate itself for not being ‘manly’ enough.

    What if the kid WASN’T beaten up? What if the other kids in school just didn’t care? The author of the post knows this is a possibility and can’t tolerate it, he knows the kids are taught and encouraged to hate anyone who isn’t strictly conforming to normative gender roles, and he probably can’t stand knowing it’s wrong. Maybe because he can’t see an easy way to stand up against it, he feels the need to write this apologia. “Oh of course, I’M not going to beat you up, but other people will, so you better do what I say and stop threatening my own fragile sense of gender identity”. That’s hardly a decent message to want to send to your kids. But I’m sure its easier than trying to explain the complicated ways in which a culture maintains its power over you through strict aesthetic codification of gender.

    Or maybe he really is as ignorant as he wants to come across as in his post, and would happily bully someone else for not being ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ enough.

    • philtrum says:

      I’m sure the author of this post would never condone violence against the kid based on it not adhering to strict gender rules.

      I noticed that too. “It’s not that I would ever physically hurt you for doing this harmless thing that nonetheless makes me uncomfortable, it’s that those other people will do it.” It’s a way to threaten someone with violence without taking responsibility for it, or possibly even being aware that’s what you’re doing.

  7. Comus says:

    And here I was, thinking that this was about Tim Minchins 9 minute epic beat poem “Storm”. Even though it could be? Storm

  8. squid says:

    In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.

    “What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.”

    Indeed, but, where did they notice this? Who cares, but you have already been primed as to where you noticed / did not notice. You’ve been given a dichotomy between the over-involved slave-driving ‘tiger mom’ and the open see-what-happens… wait, no sound-bite?! How are we supposed to discuss this issue properly?

    Because the issue is not gender, gender is not explored ‘abstractly’ in the article until over 1/2 way through. Here, gender is something you can “muck about with”, just a bit of fun for teenage boys and hyper-masculine rock stars in the ’80s.

    The issue is existentialism, the issue is choice, the issue is who you are, who gets to decide that. As the five-year-old called Jazz who has decided that he needs a pseudonym and has freely chosen “gender explorer” puts it: “Let your kid be whoever they are!” Indeed, but… if your kid is not who he is, then who is he? Has this child been tested for VDTs?!

    The assumed answer is Idealism: that there is something that is ‘really who I am’, which is distinct from my body, my experience, my behaviour. The parent’s naivety (at least as it is presented) is that their approach to parenting has allowed for this transcendent self to fully manifest, unaltered by the troublesome contingencies of material reality. That gender (/ self) is something you can “explore”, something that exists elsewhere waiting to be discovered, something that ‘precedes’ that-which-is-gendered (/ -self).

    Well, we could discuss that for another 3,000 years, so I’ll get back on topic and ask, does anyone really believe that these children have made more authentic ‘choices’ than any other? Have the parents really made any fewer un-reversable choices for their children than a tiger mom? (Or even – pushing it, maybe – an actual tiger?) Is it just a coincidence that they weren’t, deep in their souls, really into the colour blue, or dinosaurs killing each other, or wresteling?

    Quite down, we’ve got a dichotemy going on here.

    One last over-analysis:

    “… the gender-free baby …”

    Or, if no one knows about it, then of it you are free.

  9. rapscallione says:

    How lovely that the woman with the “Princess Boy” son wrote a book about it.

    That’s not showing the world how “with it” she is, oh no sir.

    I can’t speak for the parents directly, but the same thing applies to the fact that this is a news story.

    • Yes. It’s almsot as if… oh, I don’t know, they didn’t have their kid’s interests at heart, but rather thought of him as an object they could use to define themselves. “We’re the parents that don’t…”

      And I wonder what the message to Storm is: “gender roles: bad. Making sure everyone on Earth knows about your lack of gender roles: good.”

      • Tiburon. says:

        It’s good to know that “kids as status symbols” is not relegated to any one demographic.

  10. I’m somewhat of the belief that left to their own, a child will find himself. But in this case, it’s pretty certain the child isn’t being left to his own, i.e. the absence of any gender influences is actually a big influence.

    The parents clearly are operating under the assumption that parental influence shapes gender, which is why they’re opting to offer none– but the kid is going to know what he is genetically, so I wonder if (following the hypothesis of the parents) this isn’t going to be an influence that convinces him his genetic sex is “bad.” e.g. “I’m a boy. My parents seem to want me to play with dolls, unlike the other boys’ parents who get all uptight. Do they want me to be a girl?”

    I’m not saying the parents can influence gender, or not, I am saying that if the parents believe the can, then this whole exercise is bad faith.

    • xylokopos says:

      The parents are also operating under the assumption that these kids are going to spend their life mingling with progressive types in Toronto and attending dinner parties with aging hippies. Outside of this type of bubble people tend to consider the boy/girl distinction a big deal.

      for the remaing parenting awards this month:

      Can anyone else see a south park episode in the making?

      • philtrum says:

        The parents are also operating under the assumption that these kids are going to spend their life mingling with progressive types in Toronto and attending dinner parties with aging hippies.

        Yeah, and they’re probably not teaching the baby to drive either. Slackers!

        Parents shelter small children all the time, and we don’t assume that they want the kids to be as ignorant at 14 or 24 as they are at 4. Why is this different?

        • xylokopos says:

          not a parent, are you?

        • xylokopos says:

          Why do you care? You are not a parent. Am I somehow obliged by internet etiquette to acknowledge that we can have this conversation as equals? Why would I answer any question of yours? You have no idea what it’s like to raise a child and you presume you can argue effectively just because you think that a couple of idiots that decided to bring up kids by experimenting on them are somehow brave or progressive or whatever? You think this is about making a point? That you have an opinion that somehow matters?

          • philtrum says:

            Wow, that was very defensive. And oddly personal. I don’t know how many kids you have, but what does it matter? Lots of people have kids. Not all of them are good parents. You make this emotional appeal to some kind of parent love as if that shuts down the discussion, as if parents who love their kids don’t disagree on the correct way of raising children all the damn time. What is that about?

          • cat says:

            What’s making you react so angrily?

            And how do you know whether Philtrum is a parent in his/her offline life?

            And yes, adults who are not parents do have opinions that matter about how you raise your children. Because we live in a society, and your children are part of that, and the way you raise them affects them too.

            But yes, he/she raises an interesting point – how is this different from, say, a devout Christian couple who raise their child within their strict beliefs, expressing (perhaps) their personal belief that homosexuality is a mortal sin? They are also presuming the child will spend their life mingling with other Christian types.

    • JohnJ says:

      Whether parents can influence gender or not, they can certainly influence whether the child feels shamed.

      I’m of the opinion that we’re all dealt certain cards in life. The point isn’t to pretend that all hands are equal, but to for each of us to play the cards we’re dealt as best we can, and that means having an understanding of the cards.

      C.K. Louis would, rightly I think, mock these people for not having any real problems to deal with and just making up new ones so they can glorify themselves for being so open-minded, intellectual, and misunderstood. These parents are clearly just doing it for themselves, hence all the news stories. It’s just like that article you wrote about the couple bragging about finding each other while cheating on their former spouses.

      I do feel sorry for their kids, but not too much. I’ve seen parents do far, far worse things to their children.

      • philtrum says:

        You mean Louis C.K.? You’re probably right, and I agree that this is a yuppie affectation, but at the same time…

        The point isn’t to pretend that all hands are equal, but to for each of us to play the cards we’re dealt as best we can, and that means having an understanding of the cards.

        But what is “understanding of the cards”? The baby is too young to understand concepts like “boy” or “girl”. The older kids know they’re boys. What in “the cards” do they not understand (that they should understand at preschool age and younger)? That boys don’t wear pink? How important is that?

        • JohnJ says:

          Well, there are two separate issues. I think it’s pretty clear, given how the two older boys have turned out, that the parents aren’t trying to shield their kids from society’s ideas of gender roles so much as encouraging their kids to be as ambiguous as possible. So they’re still teaching their kids to behave a certain way, just in a way that’s different from most others.

          Second, I think there is probably utility in socially-enforced gender roles. Biology is a fact of life, despite the marvel of modern medicine. In my opinion, both society and the individual benefit when there are clear indications of gender. Nature didn’t make men and women the same; it doesn’t make sense to me for society to have the same rules. I’m fine with having separate restrooms, and I like being able to relax with the guys when there aren’t any women around. Unlike race, gender is not a social construct. I think people have to be able to take reality into consideration when deciding how to treat people.

          That’s just what I believe, since you asked.

          • philtrum says:

            But how can you say a preschooler has “turned out” to be anything? He’s still a small child.

          • JohnJ says:

            I only mentioned how the two older boys have turned out, according to the article. Regardless, you can say the child has turned out to have bad parents, at least.

          • philtrum says:

            Their oldest child is 5 years old, and their second child is 2 years old. They haven’t “turned out” to be anything. I’m not even convinced that they have particularly bad parents.

            But then I don’t agree with you about enforcement of gender roles; I don’t think any valid purpose is served by forcing a small child to act more masculine or feminine than he or she wants to be (and I am not at all convinced that these parents are pushing their boys to be feminine).

          • JohnJ says:

            It’s almost like the “if you could predict” thread in the other post. You can’t predict anything with 100% accuracy, but some things can be predicted with a great deal of accuracy.

          • philtrum says:

            Which, in this context, means…?

  11. DJames says:

    FYI—the Onion preempted these silly Canadians last year: http://www.theonion.com/articles/progressive-parents-refuse-to-tell-child-its-sex,18395/


    TLP hits it right on the head. Wilyliam may have rushed this one out a bit, but I wonder how often PO posts get compared with the epic TLP (original site) posts.

    Some of the recent comments seemed rather unfair, especially toward wilyliam. Let’s look at what we know:

    1) The poor kids’ parents ARE utterly narcissistic. Hilariously so. It would be just as funny if we switched the narcissistic identities to, say, a gun-loving NASCAR-obsessed Alabama redneck. DAY DUN TOOK UR JERBS!

    2) The parents think they are providing a significant developmental benefit to their kids. But they aren’t. They aren’t hurting them, but what if lil Storm and Jazz grow up to be the redneck we just mentioned? Will Mommy and Daddy feel like they failed? What’s really going on?

    What’s going on, of course, is what TLP said. The parents have made their kids into a fashion accessory, only they’re accessorizing their own identities. But is that what’s so damn annoying about them?

    What’s annoying is that they’ve made a public circus about it—they are looking for a public validation of their identity choices. These silly Canadians aren’t the only people I’ve witnessed doing the gender-free thing, but they are the only ones who permitted (hmm, encouraged?) such wide-scale objectifying. Heh.

    (The others I’ve known doing the gender-free thing don’t care what your opinion is. They don’t need newspapers and CNN. They are fully content and at rest in themselves, and they totally don’t need the public’s validation of their choices.)