Don't you just love it when I can't think of a good title, so I just stick some noun or gerund up there with the preposition "on" in front of it? SO pretentious. But then, that's me, pure pretention...
I've been reading with great interest the various discussions about gender and babies that have been occurring. And just today I read a new angle to the discussion. It's by Shannon of Peter's Cross Station.
I read her essay with delight, because it reflected some of Kristin's and my experiences with the gendering of our daughter. We dress Julia for comfort, practicality, and style. And, with these as our criteria, that means we dress her from both sides of the gender aisle.
When Kristin was pregnant, we bought "gender neutral" clothing that were rarely gender neutral. What they were were boys clothes that girls could get away with wearing. I still remember shopping in TJ Maxx and coming across two very cute Oink Baby newborn outfits. One was a little blue short set. One was a salmon-colored dress. Though I loved the salmon dress, we bought the blue outfit, justifying that we would put a girl in the blue, but that we weren't sure we had the guts to put a boy in the salmon. This hesitation on our part to push gender too far with a boy is part of why I was hoping we'd get a girl.
I am familiar with negotiating the sticky (but necessary) wicket of gender as a girl. I feel confident that I can create a space for Julia to express her gender in whichever way she wants to. I feel confident that I can help her deal with the social repercussions of playing with or violating the social bounds of gender (if she should want to do that). I feel that I have a pretty intimate understanding of how gender expression works as both a limiting and freeing proposition for someone biologically female. I'm comfortable with female masculinity, I'm comfortable with female feminity. I have a lot to learn, but I've got a foundation and a reliable map. I know that we're not going to raise a girl who is afraid of breaking gender rules. We will raise a girl who knows that she is more than her expressed gender.
Yet, when it comes to males... although I know the principals are the same, until recently I've never experienced or had close association with men who consciously played with gender. I was speaking with a friend once about it. I told him that I was worried, not about raising a "sissy-boy" as he suggested, but about raising a boy who didn't know how to move through the world of gender with confidence and grace. Our donor has what I would call a fluid gender expression, and I know that he would be an invaluable resource for us, but still I was worried. I worry that I won't know how to guide a boy through the repercussions of gender backlash. I worry that I won't be able to handle the consequences of putting my boy in a salmon dress. I can handle a stranger thinking my girl is a boy, can I handle that same stranger thinking my boy is a girl?
People sometimes express surprise that Julia wears pink and little dresses. Before our showers, we told people emphatically that we didn't want pink. We were hoping to avoid a deluge of insipid, frilly, Disney treacle. It didn't work. The people who honored our request were the people who wouldn't have given that stuff anyway. So we ended up with pink things -- most of which we returned. But pink is just a color, and it's a pretty one. So Julia wears it. We choose to make her wardrobe choices just that -- choices. What can she move in? What is she comfortable in? What is easy to wash? What looks good on her? We relaxed our stance on pink because not to do so would be taking an element of choice and turning it into a reflex. It wouldn't be bending gender to use, it would be rigidly enforcing gender rules through avoidance.
So, now as we consider adding another child to our family, it's occurred to me that I wouldn't be devastated to find myself pregnant with a boy. I only hope that we'll be able to make our clothing choices on his behalf true choices and not just knee-jerk reactions.
Although, I do have to you, we're not putting him in blue.