The gender issue

This post is in English, for reasons soon to be explained.

A few of my friends have asked me what I think about the family that have been in the news this week, little Storm and his/her parents, who are keeping the baby's sex a secret (I wonder why they thought of me, eh?!). Rather than writing on Facebook in English, and then do it all again here in Swedish, I thought I might as well just write it here in English. Kind of like being my own guest blogger...

Right, Storm. Firstly, I'd like to say that I understand totally where the parents are coming from. Gender is becoming an obsession today that I can not for my life remember from my childhood. Everywhere we look it's pink or blue, princesses or knights, cars or dolls. Girls who like football or rough-and-tumble games are "tomboys" (aka "Not a proper girl"). Boys who display softer qualities or- God Forbid- play with dolls are branded effeminate or "poofs". Children are pressed into one of two very narrow roles- BOY or GIRL, with a complete and rigid set of qualities, colours, toys and attributes that come with the role. Any step away from the pre-set roles, and you are making your child "confused", "gay", "an experiment" etc. Girls are allowed to veer into boy territory slightly, in terms of clothes and activities, but in doing so are branded tomboys.

However, if we go back to little Storm, I think they have gone about it the wrong way. I have read several nasty articles (guess the publication...), followed by even nastier comments around the t'interweb. I even saw one website have a "Guess the gender" poll (Miss the point much?!). Herein lies the problem. With the obsession with gender today, any attempts to full-on hide a child's gender will only add more fuel to the fire. Whilst before people may have been obsessed, now they are OBSESSED. In keeping the gender secret some people will become so focused on trying to guess or figure it out, that they will ignore the child's personality. The child becomes their gender even more than from the beginning. Instead of being known as "Storm, the Awesome little kid", they'll become "Storm, the kid who people spent a lot of time trying to figure out the sex of". They say the road to hell is paved by good intentions, and I think this is a perfect example of it. Stomr's parents mean well, and have a sound attitude to child-rearing, but I think this will backfire.

So what would I do if I were the parent of Storm? Well, first of all, I'd start already during the pregnancy (and this is something I/we will do should we have another child, we've learnt from experience). When the inevitable "Do you know what it is" questions start, I'd simply answer "We think it's a child" or "It looked like a baby" or along those lines. Smiling. Being polite, but firm. If people insist, I'd explain our views. Starting with family and friends already, I'd have a 9 1/2-month advantage then when the baby arrives. Talking about it often, making sure those around us know our views, even if I'd feel like a parrot repeating myself. Making it clear that they don't have to agree with us, but that we want them to respect our views.

When the baby is born, people will ask what is was straight away. I'd answer "It's a *child's name*". Any questions around the gender, I'd answer, but make as little deal of it as possible. Again, if people insist, I'd explain our views again. And again. And again (and again, with some people). We'd show a united front, even if one of us have stronger views on the subject than the other. It would take time, but I sincerely believe this is a better way of going about it than keeping the sex a secret altogether. De-dramatise the gender, rather than over dramatise.

Being gender conscious is a constant work in progress. I find that it's always at the back of my mind, whether it's at dressing time (I dress Eddie in bright, play friendly clothes of ALL colours. I always check both the "boy" and "girl" section of a shop (even if I think it's utterly ridiculous to even have split sections for children) and buy probably 50/50 from the different sections. I prefer shops like P o.P, which sell bright, good quality unisex clothes), play time (Yes, we do have a rough and tumble, something I'd do the same with a girl. However, we also provide cuddly toys, dolls and books. He has a couple of cars, but we don't encourage him to play with those over any others toys he has), comforting (Eddie is allowed to cry if he's sad. He has a lot of cuddles from both me and his pappa. We would never tell him that boys shouldn't cry, and if I heard anyone else tell him that they'd know about it...) or even the way I speak to him (I try to avoid gender specific words as much as possible, like boy, little man (*shudder*), lad etc. Instead he's my darling, the best thing I have, my wonderful baby etc. I also try as much as I can to avoid placing importance in his physical appearence. I allow myself a little more with Eddie than I would with a girl, but as he gets older and becomes more aware, I will make even more of an effort to highlight and focus on his other qualities. I want him to know that it's what on the inside that matters. Placing any importance on physical attributes will come later, with a vengeance, I don't need to make him think looks are important).

I will deny Eddie hundreds, maybe even thousands of things as he grows up, for various reasons. I will however NEVER deny him something on the sole basis of gender. For example, I wouldn't buy him a dress because I don't think it's practical on a pre-walker. I wouldn't NOT buy him a dress because he has a penis. I wouldn't buy a dress for a girl at this age either, there is simply no need. I may very well buy him one when he's walking, either to keep cool in the summer, or for quick removal during potty training. And of course, if he asks for a dress when he's older, I'll damn well buy him one!

I will explain to him that some people are silly and think that certain things are only for girls or for boys, but that this isn't true. I will give him the tools to answer back if such a comment ever comes (I find grown ups are worse for making such comments- shame on you!).

This is becoming very long, so I will end with some myth busting.

1. Raising your child gender consciously is trying to make girls into boys and boys into girls.
No. It is about giving your child more choice. It is about giving them 100 opportunities instead of 2. Eddie is a boy, he has a penis. Nothing, especially not a pink Hello Kitty hat, will ever change that. I'm just widening his field of opportuinities, so that when he is old enough to make his own choices, he will make them because those are the ones he want, not because they are the ones society has told him he SHOULD want. A boy who likes dolss is just as much a boy as a boy who likes cars. A girl who likes getting muddy and climbing trees is NOT a tomboy. She is a girl. But most importantly, they are all children.

2. Raising your child gender consciously is a dangerous social experiment.
Let me get one thing clear. Raising a child FULL STOP is a social experiment. Don't think that just because you're following a norm (which is not that ancient, read up about pink and blue and their history) you're doing everything right.

3. But girls and boys ARE different, it's just the way it is.
Boys and girls have different physicalities, no one is denying that. It's important here to differentiate between sex and gender. Sex is biological, gender is sociological. If you look around you, you'll find there are more differences within a sex than between them. Boys and girls are not automatically each others' opposites.

Can you imagine a school having a Chinese vs White British football tournament? Or placing children in a classroom alternating black children and white children? No? It'd be a scandal, wouldn't it? Yet, it's perfectly ok to have girls against boys, and placing them in the classroom every other boy and girl. You wouldn't look at a child of African origin dancing and say "it's because they have the rhythm in their blood, you know" (well, unless you're Richard Littlejohn...), yet people watch a boy fight or disrupt and say "Aw, but boys will be boys". Yet girls who fight are instantly split (and branded tomboys, or "ladettes" if they're older).

This is getting very long, so I will end now. But I would like to open up for discussion, I can talk about this for ever.

I will leave you with my standard reply when people mistake Eddie for a girl.

"Yes, we've decided to raise him gay"

Helena säger:

Vad kan jag säga annat än att jag verkligen håller med? Själv tycker jag att det är svårt att hålla inne med kommentarer om att vår Thea är söt, för jag tycker ju verkligen att hon är helt underbar, jag har dock hela tiden tanken i bakhuvudet att vi inte får fokusera på utseende för mycket. Men som jag konstaterade igår, det faktum att hon är så otroligt glad, busig och charmig gör henne så vacker i mina ögon.

Vad gäller kommentaren "vet ni vad det blir" körde jag ofta med "vi hoppas på att det blir ett barn, men jag misstänker att det kan vara en kalv så som det sparkar". Det var verkligen inte viktigt för oss vad det blev och det skär i hjärtat på mig när jag hör folk säga att de önskar sig det ena eller det andra. Kan man inte bara glädjas åt att det är ett barn? Ska man önska nåt räcker det att önska att det är friskt.

Oops, det blev lite långt det här :-)

2011-05-30 | 13:56:59
Daeminimon säger:

haha, jag får banna mig själv där lite. Jag måste erkänna att jag faktiskt hoppades på en pojke. inte för att de på något vis är "bättre" än flickor, utan för att jag inte vet hur jag skulle hantera hela "princess"-hetsen man förväntas haka på med en tjej. Sen visade det sig att pojkar innebar en helt annan nivå av hinder (ROSA MÖSSA PÅ EN POKKE OMFG HAN BLIR JU BÖÖÖÖÖG!!! osv), men på något vis kändes det ändå "rätt" att mitt första barn var en kille.

Jag brukade alltid säga att jag misstänkte att det var en kull hundvalpar! :)

Och ja, det är skitsvårt att inte överösa honom med komplimanger för hur j-a söt han är. (Vilken tur vi haft som båda fick så vackra barn, eller hur?! ;P). Ju äldre han blir ska jag dock verkligen anstränga mig för att hålla kommentarer om hans utseende till ett absolut minimum!!!

2011-05-30 | 14:54:58
Helena säger:

Äsch, det är klart man kan få hoppas åt ena eller andra hållet :-) Jag hoppades t ex lite på att det skulle bli en tjej, framför allt tror jag det var för att jag bara har systrar och helt enkelt kände att jag liksom inte vet hur killar funkar, om du förstår hur jag menar. Det jag tänkte på är de som säger att de exempelvis vill ha en pojke och uttrycker det på ett sätt så det låter som att det är det enda som duger.

Ja, visst har vi haft tur som fått sådana skönheter ;-) Man får passa sig så man inte skapar odrägliga narcissistiska monster... Men jag passar på att kalla henne söt nu, så har jag liksom fått ur mig det tills hon blir lite större :-)

2011-05-31 | 13:51:11
Daeminimon säger:

Haha, precis så gör jag också! Passar på nu liksom med "MENGUUUUUVASÖTDUÄÄÄR" :D

2011-05-31 | 21:29:04
Mia säger:


Först måste jag bara säga att du är grym, ska favorita din blogg.

Började tänka lite efter jag läst alla inlägg om kläder osv (rosa=flicka blå=pojke)

Så idag köpte jag ett par rosa brallor åt min son, och en blå body med ljusblå hjärtan o en chockrosa katt på. Får se hur folk reagerar..

Min käre mor sa "men hallå rosa byxor kan han väl inte ha!" , Joho då, sa jag, för han tyckte dom var fina!

=) så hädanefter ska jag köpa kläder i ALLA färger.

(kan även tillägga att på MVC trodde receptionisten att han var en tjej för han hade en RÖD tröja med glitterstenar på..)

2011-06-20 | 23:51:27
Daeminimon säger:

Tack tack!

Härligt att höra! Alltid lika kul att ha den färggladaste onga i stan! :D

2011-06-21 | 22:45:08
Sara säger:

Fantastiskt bra skrivet, och jag håller med om 100% av det! Det kunde ha varit jag som skrev det, och det kunde ha varit år son det handlade om. Lite skoj att ni också har det sköna motsvaret om att "vi vill att han ska bli bög". Detta kan även alterneras med, om man får höra t.ex. att "det är konstigt att han får ha röda kläder": "Det är ju för att han är bög förstås!".

2011-06-22 | 22:19:21
Brent säger:

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm not sure I'd go as far as buying my 2 year old boy a dress, but I definitely like to dress him in pinks, oranges, reds and yellows (as well as blues, greens, and purples). I just finished a mural in his room that's those 3 "boy" colors, but it's a fun, swirly undersea motif — gender neutral if you ask me — and he loves it!

2011-11-12 | 21:57:08

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