I mentioned in our 'Half way there' post that we didn't find out the sex of the baby, and promised i'd explain more in another post. It took a while (forgive me, sleeping, eating and obsessive baby relating Pinterest activity took precedence...) but here we go. I find the
obsession with my babies genitals odd. The sex is often the first question people ask when they discover I'm pregnant. Some love that we're keeping it a surprise but for others, the ambiguity of the gender seems to cause anxiety- almost as if without knowing the gender, they don't know how to react 'properly' to it, so the
sooner its born and the sooner the sex is announced the
sooner everyone can put it neatly into its little box. We're acquiring most of the clothes for our baby second hand, and on the odd occasion that I have wondered into baby shops, I have found it perplexing and annoying when they are divided into 'girls' and 'boys' clothes. Does anyone else find it odd that we force gender stereotypes onto even new born babies? Pink cards with teddies and
princesses, blue balloons with tractors and trains. And people so quickly fall into saying 'isnt she cute/pretty/gorgeous!' to baby girls and 'Isnt he big/strong/a little bruiser!' to baby boys. Its so ingrained in our culture that I'm sure we don't even recognise ourselves doing it sometimes, I know that I've been guilty of doing this in the past, but now try very hard not too.
So why does this matter? Me and my mister decided not to find out the gender because we think it will help us to prepare for the baby in a less stereotypical Pink or Blue way (and because there are very few things in life that are genuine surprises and this has got to be the best, no?!) I don't question that girls and boys are
inherently different. I believe that they are. But I do know that those gender differences are
exaggerated by societal norms that tend to push both to their extremes with very little room for anything in between. If little girls are constantly told how pretty, cute and gorgeous they are, its no wonder that so many grow up thinking that the way they look is the most, and sometimes only, valuable thing about them. In my experience (and the experiences of those around me) its gender stereotypes that contribute to men feeling unable to express emotion or display an interest in appearance without being labelled as 'Gay' (don't get me started on the use of 'Gay' as an insult...) They lead to men feeling 'unmasculine' if they aren't the breadwinners. Its gender stereotypes that lead to so many women hating their bodies, that lead to women doing the majority of the housework and caring - meaning they are less able to develop their own interests and careers and far more likely to earn less money than men. Its also gender stereotypes that lead to women being blamed for wearing short skirts in rape cases, rather than men being blamed for raping them. I'm not saying that all gender inequality stems from what colour cardigan you put your baby in when its born! Its just that this particular issue threw some interesting stuff up for me and my mister, and our friends, that I thought i'd elaborate on here.
The strongest, but by no means only, influence on the way that children understand gender comes from the parents, who either overtly or covertly pass
on to their children their own beliefs about
gender. My mister and I have
chosen to challenge traditional gender roles as much as possible in our marriage, sharing housework (crucial, in our opinion), (future) childcare, and money
earning. But we are inherently different. He is much stronger than me physically. I enjoy wearing pretty
dresses and he likes woodwork and doesn't care as much as me about his appearance. And I think that whilst many of these differences should be challenged, others should be celebrated. So I know that our baby will probably
conform eventually to one or the other, because 'monkey see, monkey do'.
But, even if my sons are car obsessed football lovers, I would dearly like them to feel comfortable with expressing emotion, to do an equal share of housework and childcare. To become equality-loving men. And I'd dearly like to raise my daughters, even if they do end up loving all things Pink plastic Princess, to be strong leaders, understand that their identity and value does not reside solely in their body shapes, know that its not true that just because they are female that they'll never be any good at maths or be intrinsically better at nurturing. As a family, I hope that my daughters and I will be building stuff,
learning to make fires and climbing trees, that my mister and sons can be excited about what they wear, feel confident in being caring and sensitive and enjoy whipping up extraordinary concoctions in the kitchen.
We have no problem with other parents discovering the sex, we just think that for us this will really help us to continue on the path that we've tried to walk with this gender malarkey. And I'll let you know how it goes, who knows, I may well be back here in a couple of months/years eating my words, but as naive new parents-to-be we are going to have a damn good go at it. I'd love to hear the thoughts of parents and non parents alike too.
P.P.S Pop day is getting frighteningly close now. Eek!
P.P.S I am over the moon, smitten, and already completely loved up about the fact that I am going to be an auntie! Ray is having a baby, which means our babies will only be 6 months apart. I put a great deal of importance on the role of auntie's and cousins as both are so important to me, so I cant tell you how excited I am!