Query from a Reader

I’m teaching a course on procreation and parenthood soon and need readings on whether and how parents should instill gender roles. I thought I might use the Canadian couple who are concealing their child’s gender as an entry point, but need one or two readings–by philosophers, preferably contemporary, and at least one with a feminist outlook. Any help much appreciated.

7 thoughts on “Query from a Reader

  1. Anita Allen’s paper, “Do Children Have a Right to a Certain Identity?”, takes race as its focus but you might think that some of the issues are similar. I’d also teach the issue along with discussions of the ‘open future’ argument. The argument is Joel Feinberg’s but it’s been critically discussed by Claudia Mills here, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9833.00197/pdf.

  2. Judith Lorber is a sociologist rather than a philosopher, but some of what she’s written is sufficiently theoretical to find a good place in a philosophy syllabus. She argues strongly for the abolition of gender and for not gendering children. Students find her ideas challenging. I’ve used selections from her 2005 book “Breaking the Bowls.”

  3. Note a philosophical reading, but Lois Gould’s classic short story “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” is directly on point. I believe the Canadian couple you’re talking about might have mentioned this story at some point in connection with their decision.

  4. See also Ellen Feder on intersexed children; she wrote (and at my last institution, spoke excellently, thanks Ellen!) on parents’ stated motivations of ‘just wanting their kids to be happy’ in the course of anxiously enforcing sometimes excessive masculine or feminine roles so that they’d be ‘normal.’ Gee, she’s written several pieces, so perhaps see “Doctor’s Orders”, or “Imperatives of Normality”?

  5. Jender, Thanks so much for posting this. I appreciate the suggestions, and any more that might come in.

  6. I have had much success teaching Judith Butler’s essay, “Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality.” I sometimes have them read this article along with John Colapinto’s essay on Joan/John that was published in Rolling Stone Magazine.

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