Ex­pec­tant par­ents want to avoid gen­der stereo­types

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - COFFEE BREAK - AMY DICKINSON


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.


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.”

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