Gender Benders

In the TTC (trying to conceive) world, there is plenty of chatter about sex selection and some family planning books devote a few pages to the topic. In Stephanie Brill’s book, The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth, the section on sex selection did not provide any “how to” advice. Instead, Brill advises would be parents to answer a few questions, like ‘What does having a girl mean to me?’ or ‘What is it about having a boy that appeals to me?’ Hers was the only book I read that asked thought provoking questions where most others dole out advice. She cautions the reader against confusing sex with gender, noting that a child of the desired sex may not fit the mothers’ gendered ideal. The questions made me think a lot about the cultural imperative to define a child’s gender from infancy. I have a friend who just gave birth last week, and she did not learn the sex of her baby until he was born. Keeping the baby’s sex a surprise was one way she shielded him from gendered expectations (and the clothes that go with it).

Apparently sex specific clothes (pink for girls, blue for boys) are a relatively new phenomenon that began when marketers realized they could get affluent parents to buy twice as much stuff by distinguishing girls’ and boys’ clothing and furniture. No matter how much I want to opt out of this prescription for gender appropriate clothing, toys, and behavior, I’ve been socialized to fit it and it’s really hard to fight! Before I knew his sex,  I went shopping for a gift for my friend’s baby. I left the store empty-handed because I was afraid the clothes I liked would be too boyish for a girl or too girlish for a boy. Now, I could blame this failure on the clothing manufacturers for dichotomizing the options, but the truth is that I am the one who chose to conform. Not everyone does, and bucking tradition can have major consequences for mother and child, as this blogger surely knows.

I love that Cop’s Wife stood up for her son, and I hope I’ll be just as fierce an advocate for Bean. (I also hope I’ll read as many books as Cop’s Wife does…better get crackin’!)

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3 responses to “Gender Benders

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