Expectant parents want to avoid gender stereotypes
My husband and I are expecting our first baby. We would prefer to avoid all hypergendered baby trappings.
For us, this goes beyond the usual pink and blue, as we’ve seen baby clothing with incredibly sexist language
-- e.g. “Future trophy wife” for girls, and “Lock up your daughters” for boys.
Our goal is to minimize sexism in our parenting — e.g. to talk to boys about their feelings, and tell girls they are smart and capable. How can we best communicate this to our families?
So far, we’ve feigned ignorance of our baby’s sex, which we know from genetic testing. We’ll soon have the mid-pregnancy ultrasound where sex is usually discovered. Also, we could slip up and accidentally use a gendered pronoun.
Would it be best to simply let everyone know our preference for gender-neutral items? Could we tell them we’re keeping the sex a secret for now, and why? Or would it be best to just tell the sex, try our best to say thank you for all gifts (no matter how awful) and quietly discard or donate the ones we find to be overly gendered?
How should we handle any sexism issues that may arise later — e.g. if grandma tends to tell a girl that she looks pretty, but never asks about her interests or hobbies? While it will be easy to toss sexist gifts, it will be much harder to ignore sexist attitudes.
— MODERN PARENTS
DEAR MODERN PARENTS: As a society, we are currently in the process of rethinking the binary understanding of gender. And so your baby may be assigned a sex at birth, but may develop anywhere along a gender spectrum.
When people ask you the baby’s gender, you can say, quite truthfully, “We’ll see!” If people want some direction regarding gifts, you could say, “We’re painting the room yellow. Anything with animals on it might be fun.”
I applaud your desire to keep your unborn child’s sex private. I loathe those “gender-reveal” videos that couples post on social media, showing their unborn child’s sex in a variety of “cute” ways.
In the grand tick-tock leading up to a baby’s birth, it is both natural and wise to talk about these important issues, but I hope you will also absorb this truism: Life might be perfect, if it weren’t for other people.
You could create a completely non-sexist household, and your young child might introduce gender-norms into your lives, anyway. Sometimes boys really do prefer trucks to dolls. Many a 4-year-old girl has busted her feminist mother’s assumptions through energetic princess-play. Old-fashioned grandmothers will always tell their little granddaughters that they are pretty, and granddads might tell their grandsons to “buck up.” Your primary role in your child’s life is to explain the world. And sometimes the best explanation is, “It’s complicated.”