Sunday, July 05, 2009

2482 Boy or girl, does it matter?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bertrand Russell: "The trouble with the world is that
the stupid are cocksure
and the intelligent are full of doubt."


There's a couple in Sweden who won't tell anyone whether their toddler is a boy or a girl. My take on it is, "Who cares if it's a boy or a girl? At that age, does it matter? I don't think so."

My daughter was born almost bald, and for her first three years she had a fluff of blond fuzz, no more than an inch long. She was very active, and skirts are difficult to creep and then crawl in, so I rarely put a dress on her. She very early formed opinions, and by six months she showed a definite preference for red and blue, and an absolute antipathy toward pink, so she mostly wore red, blue, or green pants and tops and overalls. I made most of her clothes, so they didn't have cute bows or kittens on them.

The end result was that when we were out, most people assumed she was a boy.

And I let them.

It didn't matter.

I didn't try to hide her gender - I just let people meet her and treat her as she was, without a label.

I noticed that people treated her differently if they assumed she was a boy, different from how they treated her when they discovered she was a girl (usually they found out when I used her name - a very obviously feminine name). As a boy, they treated her more actively, louder, more exciting, more movement and external direction. When they discovered she was a girl, they suddenly backed off, got quieter, less active, more internally directed.

She vastly preferred the boy treatment. She'd often try to keep the high activity level going, but the adults would back off and try to slow her down. All of which annoyed me, and her. Why couldn't she be treated as herself, the way she is, active and external? Why did people insist that she conform to an outmoded gender-defined model of behavior? Why are active girls stomped down right from birth, and passive boys forced to direct outward? Why can't they be what they are? (Yeah, I know most girls are passive and internal, and most boys are active and external, but not ALL! And I wonder how many of those who do fit the mold would have if they hadn't been pushed into it?)

So in my opinion, the Swedish couple are trying to allow their child to develop her/his own personality and mode of dealing with the world, free of preconceived notions of how he/she "should" act, or be interacted with, based on a gender label. They want it to come from inside the child, not imposed from outside expectations.

The vast majority of people who commented on the article think the parents are somehow damaging the child.

I applaud the parents. I think they are trying to protect their child from being forced into a mold. (...although I think perhaps they didn't need to be so strict about it that they got all this publicity. Article here).


I often read some of the comments on online articles. The people who comment on AOL articles (as the above story was) are some of the most vitriolic, nasty, rigid, racist, sexist, zenophobic, homophobic, uneducated, unthinking, poisonous, inconsiderate, downright stupid people I have ever come across. Note that I didn't say opinionated. Opinions are ok, even when they disagree with mine. I simply require that they be reasoned opinions, and respectfully expressed.

I have to wonder about the demographics of AOL users. They scare me.


In my opinion, people who stick pink bows on the top of bald baby girls' heads are putting a sign on the child: "Treat me a certain way". They are requesting that others conspire to force passivity on a child who might not otherwise have naturally grown that way. And that's my opinion.

1 comment:

Becs said...

Conversely, friends of mine went to great extremes to have their son not exposed to guns.

When he was six, he came home with his thumb and forefinger posed like a gun and started going, "Pew! Pew!" at them.

My friend just rolled her eyes, looked at her husband and said, "It must be the testosterone."