June 10, 2021

"And nearly 13 percent — 20 percent of the lesbian couples and 5 percent of the gay couples — participated in some version of 'undoing gender.'"

"Many do this by taking parental names from their native cultures or religions that strip away the binary in this cultural context, collapsing the dichotomy between terms by merging them, such as 'Mather,' a fusion of mother and father, or creating nicknames ('Muzzie,' in one instance).... Ellen Kahn, the director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign, said the gender binary that underlies 'mother' and 'father' doesn’t jibe with some parents’ self-understanding and self-presentation: 'For queer parents who don’t think of themselves as gender conforming, "mommy" and "daddy" may be a little discordant with the way they think about themselves.'"

From "Some L.G.B.T. Parents Reject the Names ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’" (NYT).

1. Hello? NYT? "Muzzie" is a slur against Muslims! How can you just print that? Was someone pulling a prank on you — were you swingin' on the flippity-flop again?   

2. "Mather," that's an interesting idea. I wonder how it would be pronounced. Just about exactly like "mother," but slightly weird and affected. Good luck, little child of "mather" and "fother." 

3. You're going to give a child the task of expressing its parents' nonconformity? Be careful! You might create a longing for conformity.

4. It's an old idea, but worth considering — "parental units":

5. The NYT article has a correction noted: "An earlier version of this article misstated the percentage of parents in a study who were 'undoing gender' by creating new names. It is nearly 13 percent, not a quarter." I read the comments over there and saw how the mistake was made. As you see in the quote in my post title, they had "20 percent of the lesbian couples and 5 percent of the gay couples." They added 20% and 5% to get 25% ("a quarter"). That's some embarrassing innumeracy. 

6. I remember the days of "Heather Has 2 Mommies." Apparently, we're regressing to the notion that there can't be 2 mommies. Even more regressive is the idea that to be a mother or a father is to follow stereotypical gender roles. How can this man be a father if he stays home with young children while this other person — how can we call her a mother?? — goes out to work for pay?!


Ann Althouse said...

policraticus writes:

It speaks volumes about our society's general wealth, security, and comfort that this, of all things, is considered worthy of an article in the NYT. There was a time when these column inches would have been filled with the latest famine in India, or closer to home, the rising number cholera cases in Five Points and what to do about Labor unrest and calls for revolution.

Now, it's "Muzzie" or "Mather." I'm sorry, but I can't take it seriously. The obviously shoddy reporting and smug argot filled writing reveal this as another article meant to épater la bourgeoisie. Very well..Consider my well fed conservative sensibilities and unreflective traditional moral shibboleths duly shocked and offended. Good job, NYT! Thanks for reminding me that I'm hopelessly out of touch.

There has to be a corollary for the conceit to "épater" that means to comfort or sooth the avant garde. Probably a polysyllabic German word found deep down in Nietzsche


ps: Also, shouldn't "Mather" instantly conjure the image of a Puritan Divine sitting in terrible judgement of us poor lost sinners, destined to the Wrath of the Almighty?

Ann Althouse said...

Alex writes:

This is horrifying in so many ways that I don't know where to start, so I'll go with "children need structure." They need guidance and ritual and forms which they can rely on to understand the world. By removing these labels these parents are doing harm to their kids, by creating confusion and separation from their peers. The notion of changing language because such words "may be a little discordant with the way they think about themselves" is the height of selfishness and the polar opposite of parenting, which should be about setting aside your personal desires in order to ensure the wellbeing of your children. Not only is it selfish, it's also fundamentally dishonest. You can't fuse "mother" and "father" because those are two distinct entities, and one can never become the other. Mom might do things associated traditionally with dads, but she's still mom. If Dad decides that he is really a woman and surgically mutilates himself, he doesn't become "mom."

The bitter cynic in me might suggest that this is deliberate, with the goal of making it easier to push transgenderism and "alternative" family arrangements (read: polyamory). As the article notes, "Mom" and "dad" have certain binary implications. "Parental Unit," on the other hand, doesn't. Sure you have "Parental Unit 1" and "Parental Unit 2", but there's nothing stopping you from having a "Parental Unit 3" or "Parental Unit 4." Yes, you could theoretically apply that to step-parents, but.. it's not the same. I can't explain it, but it's not. I say that as someone who has two wonderful stepparents. My step-mother is a good woman, but she is not my mother. The relationship is different.

Ann Althouse said...

Cheryl writes:

“[S]elf-understanding” and “self-presentation” and “they way they think about themselves…”

It’s hard to come up with a less self-centered and more sacrificial activity than good parenting. I’d advise all of them to quit thinking of themselves quite so much and think of these little ones who just want a mama or a daddy.

I’m angrier than I expected at this article. I surely hope someone speaks up on these children’s behalf.

Ann Althouse said...

gsgodfrey writes:

"NYT writers who conclude that a quarter of LGBT parents participate in "undoing gender" are disqualified from being a "Math-er"."

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe a "mather" is like a "truther" — in the area of math/truth but screwing it up big time.

Ann Althouse said...

Bart writes:

"Personally, I find it rather odd, and quite unnecessary. Call your parents by their names. My three children simply developed the habit from hearing everyone else call me "Bart", and I had no objections, so that's what it became. In some religious groups it's actually the norm. What amazes me are the convolutions people go through to avoid using assorted terms, and I don't mean slurs, just for the satisfaction of believing they're "with it" or "down for the struggle" against ... well nobody's quite sure what, exactly. IMO it's as insecure as it is sad. Certainly it's not doing the children any favor."

Yes, this is the biggest gap in the article. The answer for all of these people is really just to us the parents' actual first names.