Often, society dictates a child's predilection toward "boy stuff" or "girl stuff" even before birth. Attend most any baby shower across the country and you'll find that parents expecting boys are likely to end up with lots of blue clothing and accessories with sports or automotive themes while parents expecting girls are bombarded with pink and yellow clothing and accessories with floral or princess themes.
Some social scientists believe these gender-specific colors and themes can limit a child's imagination and, ultimately, his or her options. You end up with hyper-masculine men and hyper-feminine women who often can't get along, theorizes biologist Lise Eliot, a critic of traditional pink and blue parenting.
She and other gender-neutral advocates suggest that parents toss gender-geared clothes and provide gender-agnostic toys. The approach, they say, expands both girls' and boys' horizons; girls, for example, can practice competitiveness and assertiveness through activities like remote-control-car racing or rough-and-tumble play. Boys, meanwhile, can play with kitchen sets and dolls to hone nurturing and people skills.
Eliot acknowledges that gender-neutral parenting takes effort and can be challenging because we don't live in a gender-free world. Women are still expected to be the primary nurturers. And "feminine-boys" are made fun of in school. The gender-free movement hopes to change all that.