Russell Brand’s ‘genderless’ daughter not one of his better ideas
Broadside: to bring up a child without referring to gender is nonsense
“If the part-time activist is to be believed, the child will not be referred to as either male or female and will be brought up as gender neutral.”
Outspoken celebrity with – let’s face it – the reputation of a shameless lothario, Russell Brand has finally decided to settle down. In a relationship with Laura Gallacher since 2015, the English comedian is not only engaged to be married for the second time (he was married to Katy Perry from 2010 to 2012), but has also become a father.
Last week Brand and his partner welcomed their first child – a baby called Mabel. With a sweet name like that you might be fooled into thinking that the happy arrival is a little girl, but if the part-time activist is to be believed, the child will not be referred to as either male or female and will be brought up as gender neutral.
Speaking to Jonathan Ross before the baby was born, he revealed the possibility of adopting this unusual method of parenting.
“We don’t know the gender and I may not even ever impose a gender upon it, let the child grow up and be whatever the hell it is, never tell it there is such a concept,” he said.
Perhaps he was joking but given the current crazy state of the world, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the child is indeed brought up “genderless” and her father adds a rallying call for gender-neutral rights to his next shout-out for publicity.
The official definition of gender neutrality is the idea that “policies, language and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another”.
I totally agree with this and am all for equality for the sexes, particularly as the current trend seems to be for society to impress on young girls that they are better than boys – which is just as untrue as the reverse.
But boys are boys and girls are girls and to bring up a child without referring to gender at all is nonsense. Yes, people decide at certain points in their lives that they are not comfortable living with the gender they were born with and that is fine, they will take the necessary steps – both physically and mentally – to make the transition but they are still transitioning to another gender.
Indeed baby Mabel may feel in later life that the gender people see outside doesn’t match the gender Mabel feels inside, but that will be her choice to make should that arise. To define her as being without a gender at this early stage of her life, even in jest, could be damaging.
She is a girl and should be allowed to develop as one. By this I don’t mean that she has to be dressed in frilly pink tutus and plied with Barbie dolls, but she needs to feel secure in herself and the most basic aspect of self-identity is knowing what gender you are.
Otherwise, how will she fit in with her peers?
How confusing will it be for this child to be referred to as gender neutral? Will her parents demand that she be allowed to use whatever school bathroom she feels appropriate on any given day?
Will she try out for the girls’ rugby team or the boys’ or will she alternate between the two? And what happens when she begins to learn the facts of life – surely she will have to be told that in order to make a baby, two genders are needed at some point of the process?
For the sake of his newborn daughter, Brand should cut out the shock tactics and concentrate on being the best father he can to what is probably his best production to date. He should teach little Mabel to be proud of being a girl and to strive for the stars and know that the world is her oyster. He should raise her to respect herself and her fellow men and women and to strive for equality for everyone – male or female.
But in doing that, he should also cherish her for being what she is, his daughter –not a gender neutral being or a career-boosting opportunity to start a controversial mini-revolution. As parents we all need to remember that our children, much as we need to teach them and guide them onto the right path, are separate beings.
In the future, Mabel may decide entirely of her own free will to become gender neutral, but in the meantime her parents would do well to integrate her into the society she has been born into and allow her a childhood filled with both fairies and dinosaurs, baking and building – but let her live as a girl, because there is no getting away from the fact: that is what she is.