The Great Pink/Blue Divide

The Great Pink/Blue Divide

I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last nine months, and now here I am several days past my due date finally getting round to it. I’ve already nested the fuck out of my apartment, got the baby capsule fitted, had a nappy bag shipped all the way from Montreal, and had a total meltdown in the Baby Kingdom carpark (don’t EVER go there–those places are just designed to make you feel like an inadequate parent so that you buy your way out of the shop). Next on my list of things I absolutely HAVE to do before this baby is born is write a blog post about one of my big pregnancy pet hates.

It’s driven me mad the amount of times I’ve been asked “do you know what you’re having?” in the last nine months. Usually I say something like, “hopefully a baby”, and cross my fingers that they’ll leave me alone after that. But it’s amazed me how often that question has been followed by, “but what are you hoping for?” This is really a trick question, because if I say “girl” and get a “boy”, then what? Am I supposed to cry and rage and throw my newborn back at the midwife in disappointment? Even weirder to me is the response, “oh it’ll be a surprise then; how lovely!” Should I start practicing my “WOW!” face in preparation for seeing my child’s genitals for the first time? The anticipation is killing me.

Living in the queer community as I do, surrounded by trans and gender-variant friends, I am well aware that what someone has between their legs has no bearing on how they will identify. I usually feel compelled to answer the question “do you know what you’re having?” with an explanation of how sex and gender are two different things, and how I won’t know what I’ve “got” until my child is old enough to talk and tell me themselves. In case you’re confused, sex is determined by the baby’s genitals, whereas gender is how the baby identifies. They’re not the same thing. Furthermore, finding out the sex of my baby tells me very little about my child. It says about as much as whether it is left or right handed. What it DOES tell me is how my child will be treated by the outside world. How it will be effected by sexism, whether or not it will earn less/be more statistically likely to experience sexual assault/be allowed to cry or not based on its sex, and so on. So really the question “do you know what you’re having” should be rephrased as “do you know how the world is going to treat your child?”

I am much more interested in who my child will vote for, or whether or not they’re going to like Mersey Valley pickled onion cheese as much as I do. But I’ve noticed that pregnant people around me seem to need to know the sex of their baby before they can really connect with their unborn child.  I hear things like “it didn’t feel real til I found out it was going to be a girl”, or “now that we know what we’re having we can start buying the right clothes”. I find this really sad.

I also feel really sad that in a few more days (hopefully) my child will be out in the world, being forced into rigid gender boxes. At a mother’s group recently, where there were five children with penises and one child with a vagina, there were endless comments about the child with the vagina being the rose amongst the thorns, and about how the children with penises were set to make the child with the vagina’s life hell as they all got bigger, because of course their penises would automatically make them rowdy, rambunctious little terrors, and because of course every child with a vagina wants to sit quietly and make fairy gardens and plait hair. As soon as someone knows what a child has between their legs, the poor kid doesn’t have a chance. It’s straight into the gender pigeonhole they go.

 

I could go on and on about this topic, but instead I’m going to sign out now, just in case I go into labor tonight (you never know), and I’ll leave you with a link to a friend’s blog where she nails the topic much better than I: https://mostlysnarling.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/gendered-from-birth-our-obsession-with-baby-junk/#comment-614

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6 thoughts on “The Great Pink/Blue Divide

  1. It drives me absolutely mad, all of the gender stereotypes and how people put infants into a box before they’re even born.

    My child with a vagina is your very stereotypical ‘girl’ but I have parented her in a gender neutral way until she started making her preferences very clear. It is a struggle for me to accept that my daughter wishes to be a “princess” when I have pre-conceived negative emotions around that.

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    1. I am absolutely convinced that I will end up with either a stereotypical pink princess “girl” or a wild sporty dirty “boy” too. It’s our children’s first chance to rebel against us 😉 But also they’re surrounded by gendering everywhere but in our homes, so it’s pretty tricky to avoid that stuff once they get past infancy. I read a great article last year about how to deal with that external gender pressure as a parent, and the key thing they kept coming back to was to provide critique/alternatives/alternative opinions, which we of course will continue to do. And hell, as a femme I LOVE makeup and pretty dresses, so as a feminist I am determined to celebrate all corners of gender as equally as possible with my child!

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  2. Oh you just wait – it’s actually WORSE after the baby is born. My little baby (girl, 5 months) is constantly dressed in head-to-toe blue and/or sailor outfits etc (blue is my favourite colour, I’m a professional diver, she can choose to branch out of blue when she’s old enough to talk… but the whale wallpaper is staying. anyway)

    Everyone constantly assumes she’s a boy. Which is totally fine – I don’t care. So after a few minutes of “he’s so pretty, he’s so smiley” when I finally say something like “yeah she’s a very good baby” people will APOLOGISE profusely for thinking she’s a boy. You’d think they had accidentally stabbed her or something. Like it’s a horrible mistake. They then explain “oh it’s because she has a blue hat / jumper / cardigan”. And I always say “it doesn’t matter, I don’t care, it’s a baby, she has no gender”…

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    1. GASP. How awful to call your child the “wrong” pronoun before they’ve learned enough English to pick which pronoun they feel fits! I don’t yet know what genitals my child has, but I’ve been buying dresses and clothes in all colours. My favourite line when someone offers me some clothes with the disclaimer, “they’re boys’ clothes, if that’s ok with you?” is to say “oh, I’ve never been very good at following fashion. Any colour is fine.” Because it wasn’t that long ago baby “boys” were dressed in pink dresses for godssake. It’s SO ridiculous.

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  3. Hey best of luck to you with your little one due! Hope you’re feeling okay (as much as you can at nine months pregnant I imagine). I was just talking to a friend recently about this very topic of gender and children and she suggested that people should just say “they’ll tell me (their gender) when they grow up”. Cordelia Fine wrote some stuff on gender neutral parenting if you haven’t read it already.

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  4. Thanks for the Fine tip–I’ll look them up. I’m so sorry about your latest result. I started reading the post with high hopes and ended with a heavy heart. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling. xxx

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