Gender Neutral Childhood Possibilities

This article discusses how a Swedish toy company has reversed gender roles in their holiday catalog. Girls are playing with action figures and boys are playing with doll houses. Also, Sweden has proposed using the pronoun “hen” to replace “he” or “she”. This reminds me of the story of X, and how X got to have twice as fun since X wasn’t limited by the gendered nature of toys. Also, by seeing X play with all toys, the other children followed suit. Judith Butler quotes Simone de Beauvoir: “One is not born a woman, but, rather, becomes one” (12). Our gender is shaped by societal expectations and conventions; my gender is that of a woman because I was brought up in all the trappings of womanhood and I accepted those trappings. What happens when those traditional gendered trappings (dollhouses, Disney princesses and tea parties for girls, and action figures, water guns and laser tag for boys) are gone? According to de Beauvoir, gender would be less predetermined and more flexible. These children in Sweden have more free will than other children, in my opinion, because their likes and activities are less predetermined through Top Toy’s subversion of the typical genders associated with certain toys. Further, gender is less of a defining attribute to these children’s ideas of personhood with the introduction of the pronoun “hen”. X would not have to be an “it,” an unknown object, if such an adjective existed for X. I can imagine that intersexual children in Sweden will also have less of a struggle to belong in a society that removes traditional, rigid notions of gender performance for children.


Lois Gould’s “X”: A Fabulous Child’s Story
Judith Butler’s The Compulsory Order of Sex/Gender/Desire

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