Be The Change When Jessica and Royce James learned that they were going to have a daughter, they decided to raise her in as gender-neutral a way as possible. It was harder than they could have imagined.
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Can A Child Be Raised Free Of Gender Stereotypes? This Family Tried

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Can A Child Be Raised Free Of Gender Stereotypes? This Family Tried

Can A Child Be Raised Free Of Gender Stereotypes? This Family Tried

Can A Child Be Raised Free Of Gender Stereotypes? This Family Tried

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/555180786/555188393" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Renee Klahr/NPR
Boys climb on monkey bars, but the girl in the pic can't because she's wearing a dress.
Renee Klahr/NPR

Royce and Jessica James with their daughter, Isis James-Carnes, at NPR. Renee Klahr/NPR hide caption

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Royce and Jessica James with their daughter, Isis James-Carnes, at NPR.

Renee Klahr/NPR

Expectant parents often daydream about their children's future. What sports will they play in school? Will they become musicians, or scientists?

Royce and Jessica James had big dreams for their baby, too. But when an ultrasound revealed they were having a daughter, Jessica began to worry about how gender stereotypes would affect their child.

"I remember working at the Boys and Girls Club near our college and seeing the children, watching how they played and how they were able to play based on what they were wearing. And thinking, 'Those girls could also be up at the top of that playscape, swinging upside down, if they weren't wearing sandals and sundresses.'"

Jessica and Royce decided they weren't going to let clothing — or any other gender norms — limit their child's potential. So they said no to dresses given to them by family members and friends. They took the same approach with toys.

"We're not going to be getting her baby dolls and Barbies. We want her to have open-ended free play toys," she says.

This week on Hidden Brain, the story of a couple and the challenges they faced in trying to shield their child from gender stereotypes. And we meet their daughter, now sixteen years old, to hear her take on how she was raised.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Rhaina Cohen, Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.