Books / Culture / Family / Kids

Book Review | Chasing Rainbows: Exploring Gender Fluid Parenting Practices

Dezhou ChasingRainbowsChasing Rainbows: Exploring Gender Fluid Parenting Practices (Fiona J. Green and May Friedman, eds. Demeter Press, 2013) was a thoroughly enjoyable book, featuring a mix of articles ranging from academic studies to personal reflections on parenting practices surrounding gender self-determination. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it also includes a beautiful piece from VillageQ’s very own Susan Goldberg.

While the more academic pieces were certainly interesting, the essays rooted in sharing experiences of parenting practices meant to encourage gender self-determination were the ones I pondered long after I finished reading. My main criticism of the book is that I wanted to read more practical parenting strategies. Arguably, as a book published by an academic press, the point is not to be a parenting manual but an addition to the discussion around feminist parenting.

I loved seeing the ways parents held conversations with their kids around their children’s explorations of gender. Yes, conversations with kids emerge organically and having a predetermined script isn’t going to necessarily be effective. However, I would love to hear verbatim how other parents are talking about concepts like multinational corporations, gender-targeted marketing, classism, engaging critically with societal assumptions, and so forth. Sort of like how I can’t wait to hear actual examples of how to talk to kids about sex in VQ Sex Ed!

The book  affirmed many of the parenting practices we utilize in our family,  at the same time pushing me to look at how some of my knee-jerk internal responses are informed by my life experiences. Little Bear currently loves wearing tights and a sweater and does not want to wear shorts or a dress with her tights. I have had several reactions to this. Namely I sort of irrationally freak out inside about heteronormativity and gender and “Dear gawd she’s going to turn into a Disney princess monster!” All the while trying to not externally limit or shame her wardrobe choices. And this isn’t fair to her. As contributor Jane Ward says in her essay (entitled “Get your Gender Binary Off My Childhood! Towards a Movement for Children’s Self- Determination “), “all children need to be able to like pink, tutus, and beads without this signaling a fixed or core gender,” unless the kid says it means something about their gender. If anything, my reaction is more about my own complicated emotions around the tools I had (and didn’t have) to navigate gender as a child.

Even though I wanted even more examples of actual conversations with kids, I strongly recommend this book. Even as a trans parent who feels mostly competent around providing my kid with a lot of tools to engage with gender, I still found myself challenged on some of the ways I think about parenting and gender.

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