Sandra Lipsitz Bem:
An Unconventional Family (2001)
I came across this book in the notes to Delusions of Gender (and bought it – bad strategy for getting through the unread books lurking on the shelves). I often hear parents describe how their offspring as if by magic are attracted to pink-glittery-princessy things in the case of girls, and blue-mechanical-rough-and-tumble things in the case of boys without them encouraging this in any way. And without any hands-on experience at parenting I find it difficult to argue my both intuitively and rationally based disagreement.
Anyway, An Unconventional Family is the autobiography of Sandra Bem about her hands-on experience with an egalitarian, heterosexual relationship and with gender-blind child rearing. The latter is enforced in a very practical way (among others) by drawing breasts and long hair on the, say, policeman in the childrens’ books, moustache on the milkmaid, and generally refraining from using the gender-specific pronouns (“the little piggy went to get his-or-her dinner”). It may sound comical and definitely radical, but it’s extremely interesting to hear this story in retrospect, especially because the book ends with interviews with the children, now in their early 20′es.
The egalitarian relashionship-aspect is much less exotic, but interesting in another way: Much of what Sandra Bem and her husband did was considered outrageous and provoking in the US in the middle of the 60′es and the 70′es. Things like being (truly) equally responsible for cooking dinner, buying groceries, remembering to buy said groceries, cleaning, raising the children and so on. But to a Scandinavian in this day and age this doesn’t seem exotic at first glance, and I kept having to remind myself how unusual this arrangement was in those days. And second glance, though, feminism in Denmark has suffered a gigantic backlash, and I bet quite few families actually verbalise the need – or wish – for the relationship to be truly egalitarian. But that’s a whole different story. Thought provoking book indeed.