Tuesday, April 9, 2013

While They're Young: Part 1

I published this story on April 9th, 2013 as a stand alone story, but realized that when it comes to "getting them while they're young" I absolutely must talk about religious indoctrination and how that ties in with gender socialization.  So stick around, this is only the beginning.

The phenomenon of "gender reveal" baby showers is an irritating, heteronormative trend that just needs to stop.  Whenever I hear a new mom gushing over "finding out what color to paint the nursery," I just let it go.  Because that isn't the appropriate moment to fight abouts gender norms.  But will I rant about it here?  Oh you better believe it.
Blue bow ties for boy, pink pearls for girl.
For those of you who have no idea what the hell a "gender reveal" baby shower is (obviously you don't have a Pinterest account), I'll fill you in.  It functions like any other baby shower, except the party is themed around the guests attempting to guess the baby's gender.  The guests are given a pink or blue gender-specific party favor of some sort in order to show their team spirit.  Then at the end of the party, the couple reveals the baby's gender, also through the use of a pink or blue gender-specific prop.  I've included some examples throughout this article.

Frankly, I would be concerned if my baby was born with a mustache.
I understand that parents-to-be are excited and want to know as much about their child as they can before it's born.  But if there's one thing that's true of all children it's that they will grow up to disappoint you.  By that, I mean children are never who you wish for them to be.  They may fulfill some of the daydreams you have about them, but if they didn't surprise you by being their own individuals, they wouldn't be half as fun.  It's perfectly natural to imagine who they might grow up to be, it's another thing all together to start shoving gender norms down their throat before they're even born.
Baby genitals.  Classy.
That being said, I will play devil's advocate and say that, yes, chances are vastly in your favor if you predict your baby's gender based on it's genitalia.  About 97% to 99% in your favor, depending on who you ask.  But having that assumption, there's nothing else you can assume about them based on their gender.  Why would you assume a baby is likely to play football strictly because of a penis?  Why would assume a baby is more likely to be a ballerina because of a vagina?  The only possible answer can be because society will place pressure on them to participate in those activities because of their assigned gender.  So your prediction odds get even worse.  There are plenty of boys who don't like sports.  There are plenty of girls who don't like dancing.  And there are plenty of both who pretend to enjoy those activities because it's expected of them.  I could go on and on about assumed professions, personalities, fashion sense, sexual practices, role models, and more.
It's A...bunch of balloons and a confused sibling!
Even I'm guilty of this to some degree.  Chris and I are nowhere near the point of adoption yet, but we've discussed what names we'd like for our kids.  And are they gender-neutral?  No.  We've picked out Zoe Kathryn (named after Firefly and Voyager characters) for our future daughter and Leonard Jake (named after our friend Jake and many nerdy references) for our future son.  That being said, I do plan on having gender-neutral nurseries (I'm thinking Star Trek for Zoe and Winnie the Pooh for Leonard) and I want to have as many options for toys and clothing, gendered and neutral, as they want when they're older.  Will I have dresses for my future daughter?  Absolutely.  Have you seen how damn cute some of those baby dresses are?!  But I'll have plenty of neutral clothes that are less complicated as well.  I don't plan on cutting either of my kids' hair until they express a desire to.  I'll do my best to keep the pinks and blues to a minimum.  And once my kids are old enough to tell me their gender, they will have full control over how they express it.
A shower of heteronormative expectations.
I guess my point is it's okay to engage in a few gendered practices with your infant (it's damn near impossible not to), so long as you do so with the full understanding that your kid may look back on their baby pictures and be absolutely mortified.  Even if you do end up having a female baby who identifies as a girl, she may still want to burn that picture of her third birthday in the pink tutu.  And even if you do end up having a male baby who identifies as a boy, he may still have more fun with Barbie than with Superman.  Just something to consider.
Look at that happy wee one!  Who says toy selection can be predicted at birth?

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