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Direct Engagement Q #8


Since William is a boy, people around him including his parents want him to act like a "male". This song has a sexist issue, and William's grandma solves the problem. People think he should not play with a doll, because it's a girl/female thing. They think since he is "Physically" a boy, he cannot play like girls do. This is a sexist idea. I remember that when I was young, I did not just play with dolls like other girls; I also played with toy robots and legos, and played sports with my boy friends and girl friends. I have not been grown as a girlie girl. I guess my parents wanted me to be grown as a girl who can learn both males' roles and females' roles like William's grandma. In this song, William's grandma wants him to play with a doll so he can learn how to be a father who can take care and support his kids like his future wife. Females and males only have physical differences. This song is trying to say, no matter whether you are a female or a male; you all have similar roles and responsibilities, so don't separate two different genders to divide their roles.

William's Doll

This clip I found on You Tube is related to the lyrics, "William's Doll". Check it out if you are interested!

Question 8: Transparent


My interest in the transparent was a more than any other articles that we read thus far. The most interesting thing about this article was the fact that the mother gave her daughter the freedom of choice. She let her daughter explore what she wanted to be. By the mother letting her daughter, dress in the way she was comfortable with, made me curious to know if the mother thought about the later situations. As shown in the article, the mother is a great parent but at the same time, she shows that her daughter would have been as strong willed as she is no matter how she is parented. Is the mothers playful parenting responsible for this girls confusion on conforming to a gender and Isn't it ironic that the mother is concerned about what her daughter would be but at the same time encourages her to do what she wants? " her seventh year when Nora began to ask for a short haircut. I discouraged this saying she would be mistaken for a boy.... A week after she turned seven, Nora got her wish" (pg. 273). There are many girls around the world who are tomboys, who don't do the normal girls stuff that we see in society. I remember when I was little I was never interested in the games the girls were playing. I used to love to play with the boys, for example playing soccer and fighting with them to show who was stronger. Does that mean I didn't know my gender? Even though the article was interesting it was a little bit confusing. There were times where she talked about how her daughter changed her gender and in the end, she says her daughter did not change gender but she did conform to gender stereotype. Through the end reading, the mother threw me off when she said, "Ah, she is transitioning again" (277). I am curious to know what people who read this article think.

Direct Engagement


One of the experiences I had that opened my eyes to the idea of children and transgender was when I watch a documentary on the national geographic channel. There was story about a young boy by the name of Josie who knew from a very young age that he is a girl. He loved dresses, enjoyed playing dress up. His parents by no means pushed him to be a girl, he chose it for himself. The idea of child and transgender is something that did not come to mind at all. After reading the Transparent, it helped me understand something as well as reassure my feelings on certain issues. We have, or at least me, assumed that gender is black and white. You are either a girl or a boy. Of course that is not the case. Gender is something that is very ambiguous. What really makes you a boy or a girl? The fact that Nora's' mother allowed her to experiment with gender was okay until a certain point. Trying to break the stereotype of "Some people say a boy is someone with short hair. But Mimi has short hair. And she's a girl." Is a good idea and allows for experimentation but showing picture to young children and explaining the biological aspect of gender is a bit considering to me. The mother had good intention by allowing Nora to get her hair cut and wear swimming trucks rather than a suit. However, it seems to me that it almost did more harm than good. By letting Nora know or get a feel for what she thought she is, is a lot better than sitting down with a five year old and explain the concept of gender, in my opinion. What I took from the reading is that, Nora decided that gender is what she feels like at a given moment and switches to the other. The difference between her and a transgendered is that, they have a fixed or a chosen gender, while she is still confused about what gender she chooses to be. To what extant should nurture have an effect on gender?

I am writing this Direct Engagement in response to Sara's question regarding gender/sexuality in terms of child rearing and the development of gender identities. Karin A. Martin defines her argument through the following key ideas from her article "William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender Neutral Child Rearing".

[It is] through socialization (and the management, negotiation, and resistance of it) that children learn
• how to operate in gendered structures (Lorber 1994)
• the repetitive stylized performances that constitute gender (Butler 1990)
• how to do gender in interaction and how to avoid sanctions for doing it wrong (West and Zimmerman 1987)


Child rearing, when concurrently identified as "parenting", can be defined as the process for promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Many other species in the animal kingdom exhibit characteristics of parenting, and is a trait that is passed on "naturally" in a biological sense. What feminism and Karin acknowledge is that many of the things that make us who we are as people is brought onto us from the way in which we were raised, including our notions of gender and sexuality. The sort of structures that Karin and is referring to in her argument are those setup around a white privileged patriarchy, which actively enforces gender binaries and narratives. Those who first sought to challenge these norms in child rearing saw it as a way to "open up possibilities for girls and to remove limitation on their lives" (458). A more complete feminist look at child rearing would, however, not limit itself to the advantage of women, but also open up possibilities and remove limitations for boys. Martin says that the progression towards a gender-neutral child rearing is stalled by the fear of homosexuality, and how boys (and girls, too) may become homosexual by "queering" these heteronormative binaries of child rearing.

I find this to be a compelling argument, both for her complete look at socialization of gender and sexuality in terms of parenting, and that a child's access is limited by their gender. It is also important to acknowledge that we are all active participants in these social system of constructing what gender and sexuality mean.



Reading Bernstein's "Transparent" convinced me that gender-neutral child rearing is indeed possible. I always thought that children cannot be reared in a gender-neutral way because "gender-neutral" seems to always end up as opposite gender child rearing. In other words, girls end up becoming more masculine and boys feminine, as defined by the norms. However, in the case of Nora, she freely explored both genders and did not commit herself to one specific gender, which may be the closest definition of the phrase "gender-neutral." Although Bernstein was sometimes worried that she may be confusing her daughter's sense of gender identity, I think there is no reason to worry because as described in the reading, Nora appears to be confident and secure about herself. Nora freely changes gender roles through her appearance. I think that Nora emphasizes the fact that gender should not be defined by a set of norms that tell you how you should look, dress, act, etc. She shows us that gender is part of your identity, which means it should be shaped by you in order to demonstrate who you really are.

Do you think gender-neutralization is possible? I think that complete gender-neutralization is not possible because of the inevitable differences between men and women such as differences in chromosomes. Nevertheless, allowing individuals to shape the way they are and to form their own definitions of "being female" or "being male" is what gender-neutralization means to me.

One part that caught my attention was when Nora said "It's a man's world." This made me think about whether she had short hair and wore boy clothing to have more power and freedom or is she did that because that was what she truly wanted. Throughout the reading, I had a sense that Nora acted and dressed the way she did because she wanted to, but unless we tap into her deep emotions and thoughts, we cannot exactly find out her true motivation for gender exploration.

Direct Engagement Entry, Q. 8: Sexuality


I have two cousins who have recently had children, both boys; one has just started school and is absolutely obsessed with baseball (specifically, he's obsessed with the Brewers), the other will be starting school in a year and loves toy cars and hunting-related things. Neither of my cousins are trying to force their children to be manly in the stereotypical sense, they learned this behavior because they have always wanted to do whatever daddy does, "monkey see, monkey do" that occurs as a natural learning behavior. Because of this, I don't see how it's a bad thing when kids are raised to be stereotyped into a certain gender. Both of these children, I am more than sure will grow up just fine and be whoever they want to be. I highly doubt it will even come close to affecting their sexuality.
One of the main parts of Martin's article that made me think about how raising children with specific gender roles affects them in the future is when Martin talks about (on page 5) how liberal feminists wanted gender neutral child rearing to become a common practice so that parents don't raise their child in fear of that child becoming homosexual. Pogrebin is one of Martin's sources, and she specifically tells the reader that one of the "erroneous assumptions of our culture" is that sex roles determine sexuality. I agree with her completely, children barely remember their childhood when they grow up, and they definitely don't remember enough to shape their perceptions of the world, not through toys or colors anyway; even more, those toys and gender-specific colors are not going to interfere with sexuality~sexuality won't begin to shape until they hit puberty.
Futhermore, I disagree with Martin's introduction to Greenberg's book, for the same reasons. Sexuality isn't something a child experiences, and until any child reaches puberty, that is the only time that will matter in shaping who they are. Gender roles are unfair because we say they're stereotypical, sexuality is a huge deal to some parents and that topic is very important, however, I'm not quite sure they do any harm to a child. If William got his doll and the rest of the world followed, how would that change anything?

Question 8: 3/30-4/1

Here are two options for your direct engagement:

OPTION 1: As I mentioned in last week's question, several of you indicated that the question prompts were too restrictive and didn't enable you to engage with the readings in the ways that you wanted to. Therefore, I am opening up the direct engagements by asking one broad question in terms of the readings: How do the readings (Martin, Berstein) make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:

  • Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
  • Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
  • You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be  explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
  • You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers
large_f2b.jpgIn discussing how the readings make you curious, you could think about these questions--Were there terms or concepts that didn't make sense or that you weren't familiar with? Are there certain issues that you would like to know more about? Were any aspects of the readings confusing? Are there certain claims that you strongly agree/disagree with and that you would like to read how others feel/think about them? What issues did the readings fail to address that you think are very important for discussing family values, feminism and child-rearing strategies?

OPTION TWO: Does this approach seem too broad for you? Does it make it difficult for you to engage with the readings? Here's another option for your direct engagement: you can respond to one of the ways in which these readings make me curious:

  • What does it mean to engage in gender-neutral child rearing? How can we compare/contrast gender-neutral, as it is defined by Karin Martin in "William Wants a Doll, Can He Have One?," with Riki Wilchin's idea (remember her discussions about the history of sex a few weeks ago?) that we should focus on gender similarities instead of differences?
  • How are gender and sexuality connected in terms of child rearing and the development of gender identities? This is a key part of Martin's argument--I am curious about what you all think she is saying with this argument and if you agree with it or not.
  • We will be watching the clip from Free to and me, "William Wants a Doll" in class on Tuesday (I couldn't find it on youtube to post it, but you can check out the lyrics here). What sorts of strategies (theories of gender, etc) are going on in this song? What do you think about how this song frames William's behavior in terms of his role as a father? 
  • In her essay, Martin describes one of the critiques made against socialization theory, that it offers an "exaggerated view of children as unagentic, blank slates" (457). (How) are children active participants in their gendering process? How do they process and reflect on their own gender performances (their practices, actions, etc)? Are they just products of socialization? Or, are they both projects of socialization and agents who negotiate their gender identities/roles/expectations?
  • How can we apply Martin's/Bernstein's readings to the recent uproar over Brangelina's daughter, Shiloh? Check out what feministing says about it here.

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