Tuesday, March 31, 2009


So, tomorrow's the big day. We find out if it's a baby Anderson or a baby me. And I'm very excited about it, but also a bit ambivalent. I mean, why is it that I want to know the baby's sex? What difference will it make whether it's a boy or a girl? I feel like knowing the sex will be nice because it makes me feel like I can start getting to know the baby better and bonding with it. But what is it about having its sex clearly defined that is so linked to me knowing its identity?

And now I'm back in undergrad, in my women's studies class, or in a discussion about gay rights, or in a movie about a transgendered person, and I start to wonder how much is biological and how much is sociological? How are identity and sex intertwined? Will I treat my child different based on its sex? This concerns me particularly when it comes to buying things for the baby - clothing, bedding, toys. My mother-in-law wants to know the sex so she'll know what color things to buy for it, and she's not the only one who has made this sort of comment. I definitely don't want to dress my girl all in pink and lace, nor do I want my boy in all blue; I prefer greens and yellows and browns. But at the same time, if it is a girl, it's going to have some pink dresses, cause it's hella cute. And if it's a boy, I probably won't put him in pink. Is this wrong? Have I been so well-trained by society's customs that I'll go along with them even if I disagree or don't understand them? What colors do babies wear in other countries?

My other argument for finding out the sex is to be able to pick out its name sooner, which will make him/her seem more like a real person. But again the issue of gender arises, as the majority of names out there are not gender-neutral. Why is that? Why are there certain labels that we can apply to girls and others to boys? In some languages it might make more sense, when every word has a gender attached to it, sometimes regardless of the gender that the person or animal actually has. But English words have no gender, so why do we apply gender restrictions to naming? Why are we so concerned with being able to identify someone's gender immediately? This is part of the reason for the blue-pink designation. Everyone wants to be able to immediately identify the baby as one sex or the other. Is this because of our fear of sexual ambiguity? Or maybe it has nothing to do with gender or sex and instead is a feature of our language. We want to know whether to say "he" or "she," and there is no in between or neutral term that is not demeaning like "it" would be. Or perhaps it's our brain's natural tendency to categorize everything we come in contact with.

But whether we find out the sex tomorrow or at birth (oh, we're finding out tomorrow, don't worry), I'm going to face the same problems with colors and names. And as my child gets older, will I unconsciously (or consciously) reinforce gender stereotypes regarding what kind of toys he/she should play with or what kind of emotions (or lack thereof) he/she should express? I would hope not. But at the same time I wonder, should boys and girls be treated differently? I mean, after all, they are different. Or are they? Different but equal? Different and complementary? Or only different because we socialize them to be so?

Honestly, I think it's a combination of both. I think many of the attributes that each gender is socialized toward (or was socialized toward in the past) are manufactured by society. For instance, boys don't cry or talk about their feelings. That's clearly dumb. Or that girls don't like to rough-house and only want to play dolls and have a pretend kitchen. Girls and boys should both engage in all sorts of play and all sorts of modeling of adult roles. I think it would be great to have girls grow up wanting to be pro atheletes and boys playing house.

But I do think there are some fundamental differences, whether biological or socialized, that are important to the success of our society. I'm not sure that I could label or define these differences, but I get the sense that they exist. For instance, being pregnant and nursing are two things that obviously only women can do, and they are both crucial to the continuation of the species. I can't help but think that this physical difference corresponds to emotional/mental/spiritual/whatever you want to call it differences that allow women to carry out this task. I think our biology is intimately linked with our psychology in ways that we are most often unaware of. I mean, there are hormones released during and after labor that actually make women forget about the pain they just went through. Our biology messes with our mind.

And like I said, this is all hard for me to define, but part of the reason why I feel that there are differences that are good and natural and should be encouraged is just based on my own feelings about being pregnant. Honestly, there were times throughout life where I thought, it would just be easier if I were a man (periods, leadership roles, practical jokes, hitchhiking with safety), and at the beginning of the pregnancy when I was so sick all the time, that thought flashed through my head a couple times as well. But then (and here's the part where I get sappy cause I'm full of hormones), when I started feeling my baby move, everything was worth it and I felt I could be sick for a year and I wouldn't care. Those little kicks and flutters are probably the best feeling in the world. I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to carry this child, and I feel bad - almost guilty - that Anderson can't feel what I feel and have this same experience.

So anyway. Tomorrow the baby will stop being an "it," and we will know whether to buy it trucks or dolls.

No comments:

Post a Comment