Monday, March 17, 2008

Gender Issues

Now, I'm not that concerned about trying to present Limelet as super-masculine.

In fact I'm a bit annoyed with a lot of children's clothing (and toys, etc.), as it seems to fall either into the "trucks, dinosaurs, military, and [American] footballs" category or the "sparkly pink and purple marabou princess" category, with little in between. Since I buy his clothing second-hand, I may limit my choices somewhat further; I don't know for sure. Why can't they have more stuff that's broadly applicable, like planets, animals, atoms, musical instruments, and smiley faces? (And why are dinosaurs supposed to be "for boys"? Weren't at least half of all dinosaurs likely female?)

Anyway, I try to get basic, solid-solor (hopefully) cotton items that are not specifically "girl" items. So most of his clothes end up being some form of blue, green, red, and white, with some orange, brown, and black here and there. His little coat with the zip-out liner is navy and dark green camo-print (the alternative? Pink, of course). He has little brown hiking boots.

So why, why WHY, given that he's not wearing pink and sparkly clothes, does everyone refer to him as "she"? Always! Even if they have a sparkly pink-clad toddler in tow themselves!

Granted, part of it may be because I haven't been able to bring myself to cut off the shiny curls at the back of his neck yet, but it's not like he has a huge mane of hair or something. And with his hat on, you can't even really see his hair anyway. I don't think it's really the hair: I think it's because he has such big, pretty eyes and (his dad's) pouty lips.

But it does make me think people are pretty narrow-minded. (I'm trying to avoid the word "dumb".) For gender clues, you look at a child's clothing, as their bodies aren't very differentiated yet physically (which is why our gender-anxious society came up with the whole monster-trucks-versus-mermaids toddler clothing dichotomy in the first place).

But basic politeness suggests: if you can't tell, then use gender-neutral pronouns. Duh! How much harder is it to say "How old is your baby?" than "How old is she?" Of course, this all goes to the whole gender-sex discussion, in which those things are social constructs anyway.

But I just can't figure out why people apparently must specifically say "girl" if they're not sure. I guess it's lucky Limelet has a gender-confident same-sex parent.


Blogger argotnaut said...

No one would have to worry about this if we spoke Chinese. He/she/it are all "ta." They used to be the same character, too, until they needed to translate texts containing gender-specific pronouns.

I remember that my parents bought me dolls AND trucks. And I specifically asked for (and received) the toy doctor's kit, not the nurse's kit! They must have been trying very hard and making a conscious effort, because it seems odd to me now, considering what a conservative and strict-gender-role'd place I grew up in. In fact, they must have read it in some parenting book, because my parents do not grok anything besides binary gender.

Arrrrgh, which also reminds me -- for some reason, I recently looked at the website of the church I went to when I was a kid. On their statement of beliefs, they feel compelled to declare "one man/one woman" marriage as divinely ordained. It makes my head blow clean off that this is one of the most important things in the universe to them. Honestly, I don't know how I ever survived in that place, and I wish I had known when I was growing up that the problem was not that I was a freak!

Oops, it appears that you've pushed one of my buttons. :)

12:10 PM  

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