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Grimes and Elon Musk are raising their baby X Æ A-12 as gender-neutral. What does it mean?

By Bianca Borissova

May 19, 2020


A few days ago, Grimes and Elon Musk welcomed their firstborn child named X Æ A-12. After the internet was done making memes about the newborn’s name and searching for its hidden meaning, people were quick to pick up on a significant detail about the child’s future upbringing: Grimes and Musk have decided to raise X Æ A-12 through gender-neutral parenting. What exactly is gender-neutral parenting and why should parents start considering it for their own kids?

In a live broadcast in February, Grimes explained that she and Musk wanted to adopt a gender-neutral parenting style in case their child doesn’t identify with their biological sex: “I don’t want to gender them in case that’s not how they feel in their life.” The pair is not the first celebrity couple to embrace this—Brangelina were openly supportive of their oldest child John (named Shiloh at birth) exploring their gender identity after saying they wished to be a boy. In 2017, Megan Fox was criticised by the media for allowing her two sons to wear dresses.

Grimes and Elon Musk are raising their baby X Æ A-12 as gender-neutral. What does it mean?

Although gender-neutral parenting is still frowned upon by most conservative and religious news outlets, more and more parents are ditching gender reveal parties in exchange for gender-neutral baby showers. Some countries are now allowing parents the option of labelling their children’s gender as ‘X’ on their birth certificates, and Sweden has even incorporated a gender-neutral pronoun, ‘hen’, into its vocabulary.

Gender-neutral parenting is about breaking away from the binary and allowing the youngest members of our society to explore their gender identity without any social restrictions. Because it is still new to our society, this parenting style comes in different forms. What exactly are the benefits of being a gender-neutral parent?

While ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are synonymous, they are not equivalent to one another. Sex is biological, whereas gender is social, performative and arguably, limiting. Philosopher Judith Butler first coined the term ‘gender performance’ in 1988, which defines gender as something learned and performed in our daily activities, purely based on the constructed notions of femininity or masculinity.

For instance in children, activities such as playing dress-up are seen as ‘girly’, whereas playing with toy cars is considered ‘boyish’—in the same way, the colour pink is exclusively associated with baby girls, and blue with boys.

Picking activities for your children depending on their assigned gender limits their self-expression. People who shamed Megan Fox for letting her sons wear dresses did exactly that. Many experts argue that this also negatively impacts the child’s personal growth and ability to reach their full potential later in life, as our childhood experiences and upbringing are formative to our development.

A 2016 study published in The Guardian article Gendered toys could deter girls from career in engineering, report says found that only 11 per cent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) toys were listed for girls, which was directly linked to the gender gap within the tech industry heavily dominated by men. There has since been a spike in marketing STEM-related products to girls, as well as in the representation of women in STEM as role models for young girls, but it is still important for us to ensure that it does not stop at that.

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Here's me trying to make Yuvraaj Aatm Nirbhar! Jokes apart, I have been getting him to help me in his own small way in household chores like cooking, laundry, cleaning up etc and teaching him basic life skills in the process. Here are quite a few ways in which you too can get your child to help you with laundry and #sharetheload, while making sure they have fun: 🩳Get them to gather the clothes & sort them according to color or material. 👔Get them to load the washing machine. If you have two or more children in the house, you can even turn this into a fun game. 👖If the children are slightly older, tell them you are giving them a huge privilege by letting them use the washing machine and teaching them how to do it - just make sure you hide that devil smile 🤪. They will be quite impressed and excited. While at it, don't forget to teach them the importance of water & sustainable living. 👚Once the clothes are washed, get them to help you arrange them on the rack & dry it (like me in the picture). 👕Once dry, get them to take it out from the stand and put it together. 🥻Now, take their help in sorting & folding them. Start by teaching them to fold small things like handkerchiefs and then move on to the bigger clothes. Here's the thing. Laundry is not just about helping the mom. When you get your kids involved in laundry, or any chores for that matter, they get a sense of responsibility and achievement at accomplishing it and helping out the family as an important member. On top of all that, laundry is a simple, yet important life skill that everyone should know how to do. I have heard so many girls complain about how their husbands don't know how to do laundry or other basic household chores. Whenever I hear that, it strengths my resolve to not do that to my children's partners and make them truly aatm nirbhar. #aatmanirbharbharatpackage #aatmanirbharbharat #aatmanirbharbharatabhiyan #aatmnirbharbharat #aatmnirbhar #selfreliantindia #selfreliant #selfreliantliving #genderneutralparenting #parentinggoal #indianmombloggerstribe #a2yparenting #stutiagarwal #backtothe90s #90slove #momblogger #mominfluencer #sustainablelivingtips

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Stuti Agarwal, perhaps better known as @mombae.blogger on Instagram is a Mumbai-based parent blogger who frequently talks about the importance of gender-neutral parenting on her account. The mother to a two and a half year old boy and a six month old girl was also raised in a non gender-biased household.

Speaking to Screen Shot about how she has conversations around gender equality with her son, Agarwal says: “I try to make him learn to do all the housework, which is still traditionally taken as a woman’s job. Even though he is young, I keep telling him that he has to learn all of the skills because later on in life he will face problems if he doesn’t know the general basic skills like cooking.”

At the moment, Agarwal is teaching her son how to make roti from Play-Doh and has even bought him a kitchen set he loves playing with. Speaking about how their neighbours ridiculed the kitchen set as being a ‘girly’ activity, Agarwal responded: “Please don’t say things like that because I want to teach him that cooking is not a girl’s job—not just a girl’s job.” She explains that her children are “free to do what they want to do. My son can be a chef, my daughter can be a policewoman, whatever they want to be.”

While for many parents gender-neutral parenting is about removing gender stereotypes and fighting inequality, some parents are choosing to ditch the concept of gender altogether by keeping their child’s biological sex private from the public until the child makes a decision on how they identify.

Gen Zers are most familiar with non-binary pronouns and expressions, and more and more new gens are rejecting the gender binary themselves. Raising children as gender-neutral can provide them with a safe space and allow them freedom of expression without any restrictions.