Gender stereotypes are pretty much everywhere all the time and, for parents, it’s hard to fight back against the flood of pink and blue that invades your life once you get pregnant. But not all parents are into the idea that “only girls like pink, and all boys like blue.” In a recent interview for the cover of Women’s Health, Dominican-Puerto Rican actress Zoe Saldana, talks about the importance of raising her sons in a gender-neutral household — and I applaud her for it.
Recently, you’ve probably seen the rise in popularity of gender reveal parties. That’s when expectant parents gather all of their friends and family for a party, during which they cut open a cake or open a box filled with balloons or do something else that “reveals” either pink or blue — to reveal the gender of the baby as being female or male. But there’s one seriously problematic issue with these parties: Before your child is even born, you are putting them into a gendered box full of stereotypes. But, thankfully, parents like Saldana are now fighting back against the sexist proposition that little girls and little boys need to be separated into pink or blue, scoffing at the old idea that a child’s biological gender determines their personality or color preferences or, even more importantly, their gender identity.
In the interview, the actress opens up about “always pushing really hard” to keep growing. She’s turning 40 on June 19th and you can currently see her reprising her role as Gamora in Avengers: Infinity Wars, all while raising her sons (1-year-old Zen and 3-year-old twins Cy and Bowie).
“My boys are a constant source of strength for me,” said Saldana. “They keep me on my toes, reminding me how much I still have to learn and grow as a person.”
Raising her sons the right way, alongside her artist-husband Marco Perego Saldana, is really important to her. Equality is a big theme for her family and Zoe talks about why it’s important for her and Marco to raise their sons in a gender-neutral household.
“That ‘Mom’s the boss’ thing is not going to happen in our family, because that means he’s the fun one, the good guy, while I’m the disciplinarian,” she told Women’s Health. “I don’t want my kids to look at women like, ‘Oh, god, they’re so annoying! They always come with structure.'”
I for one would like to applaud Saldana on making a commitment to not be a stereotypical Latina mommy who bosses her kids around or raises her boys to view women as the disciplinarians only. It’s something that I personally have been struggling with ever since my husband and I began to talk about having kids. The conversation of how to raise them is a long one, even before getting pregnant, because (as Zoe and Marco demonstrate) it’s important to be on the same page about how you want to raise your kids and the ideals you hope to instill in them from a young age, like not viewing mommy as the one with the rules and daddy as the one who has fun.
Raising kids in a gender neutral household has a lot of advantages, such as teaching your kids that they can wear whatever they want (real men wear pink!) and that women aren’t just relegated to all of the cooking and cleaning while the men have to do the heavy yard work. I know that, as Latinas, this can be a real struggle. I grew up in a household where I was taught to clean the bathrooms and do the dishes early on, and had to do all of it perfectly every week or else I didn’t get an allowance. Meanwhile, my baby brother did none of that. Is it any surprise that now, when we’re adults, his house is a constant mess and mine is generally pretty tidy?
Although I somewhat benefitted from gender stereotypes in that learning to cook and clean early on made me a more self-sufficient adult, that is not the kind of childhood I want to provide for my kids. Whether they are male or female, kids should learn the value of hard work and doing chores, but they should also learn that men and women have equal value early on — just as Zoe Saldana’s sons are learning thanks to the hard work put in by both mom and dad.
As for her part, Zoe credits Marco with providing the support she needs in all of her pursuits, acting and mommying included.
“I have the most perfect partner in my life,” she said. “I’ve never met a male like my husband, who [believes] any woman is naturally his equal.”
Here’s hoping that the two of them are able to raise little boys who are just like her husband: Who naturally believe in the equality of men and women. Certainly, bringing them up in a gender-neutral household where mom and dad are equals — and nobody is the disciplinarian or the fun one exclusively — is a great way to start.