Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gender Bender

Probably due to this couple who are trying to raise their 5 month old as genderless, I have been thinking about gender a lot lately. While I want to be sympathetic to the parents of this child, I think rather than making it not about gender, they are making it ALL about gender by withholding the information of whether their baby is a boy or girl.

I agree there is so much more to know about a person rather than boy or girl and as a society we are too focused on boy or girl behaviors, but by not telling people what the baby is it makes it all about the gender issue. When you a meet a baby you typically know the gender either by name or dress or other parental clue-in and once that is out of the way, then you have the opportunity to learn their favorite toy, how they like to be held and whether or not they like applesauce. By withholding that gender identity, the focus is totally on boy or girl because as humans we like to compartmentalize.

With Milo we've tried to walk a middle line in the gender issue. We didn't find out his gender before birth so for the first several months of his life he wore a lot of green and yellow, but he is now rocking out golf shirts and little boy shorts. He is allowed to pick out his toys and activities. So blocks, cooking things, tea sets all get a thumbs up from him. Cars, trucks and army men not so much. Recently at a store with a giant display of backyard play balls, he picked out pink as the one he wanted to take home. I hesitated briefly and then went with it. We now also have a purple ball. Both are typically girl colors, but a boy toy. Regardless, we have plenty of fun chasing then around the grass.

It's sometimes a tightrope walk this bringing up a child in a gender-crazed society. As parents we want to allow for freedom, nurture a healthy identity and provide the message that boys and girls are equal. We also want to make sure our children are happy, well-adjusted and accepted for who they are. Whoever that turns out to be, because there is more to a person than gender.


TheKate said...

We seem to be following the same general gender path with our boys. I find that our extended family (primarily my mom and one brother) are the only ones that want to make fun of his choices. "Your issues are not his issues. Please stop." The one thing that

I have recently noticed about my unfortunate habits regarding gender is that I tend to talk about baby and toddler girls in terms of pretty. "Oh, look at the pretty girl" sort of stuff. Even if it is true, I don't talk about the appearance of boys in nearly so prominent fashion. Odd.

Thank you for being so thoughtful - it encourages me to do the same.
Mama of 2 boys wearing nailpolish

Monica said...

Great blog. I enjoyed reading it. I think I get a pass cause my boy had an older sister, so the dolls are "hers" but he still plays with the babies just as much as she does. And, of all people, my mom bought him a pink polo. I was slightly shocked at first and not sure if he would wear it, but it looks *great* on him. Go figure. I do think the parents in that article are taking it too far, but to each their own.