Pregnancy isn’t a time you may think about gender issues but it appears that from the moment of conception there is one question that everybody seems to want to know – what sex is it? is it a boy or a girl?
Finding out the sex of a baby has been something that over the last 30-odd years has become more relevant. More and more people are finding out the sex at their 20 week scans. It seems now it is more usual to know the sex rather than leave it as a surprise. My partner and I had lots of discussions about finding out the sex. He really wanted to, whereas I was in two minds, Our families were vehemently against us finding out (which to my rebel mind made me sort of want to find out) but it wasn’t until we were in the scan room that we decided not to find out. In the end I chickened out of it – just being pregnant and getting so far was enough for me – I didn’t want to have to process that information as well. And in a way I wanted to keep this little person a mystery for a bit longer as well. My partner has coped well with not knowing but for him, it is different. He can’t feel the baby like I can, he isn’t growing the baby like I am. Knowing the sex for him, he argued, would help him to bond. But as it has turned out he has just called the baby his little mate, and has bonded just as well not knowing. I don’t have anything against people who find out before, as I said I only decided not to once in the room. But it is the experience I have had since not finding out the sex which has made me think about the issue of gender. Nowadays it appears we need to categorise and tick boxes about people before they are even born.
One question I am getting sick of is – “What do you want, a boy or a girl?” as if that is the only question that concerns me about having a baby. My answer is, I don’t mind. Then they ask “What do you think it is?” To which I reply “I don’t know, and I don’t really think about it”. They look at me as if I am mad. It’s as if I NEED to have a preference, that we need to have some idea in our minds of who we are, or who we want our children to be, from the very beginning. Why would I favour one sex over another? Is a boy worth more than a girl? Surely having any baby is a big enough challenge in itself.
I am a girl (obviously) and I was brought up in a family with 2 other sisters. It was a female household apart from my Dad – even the Dog was a girl. My childhood was not all pink dolls and pretend ironing boards though – I helped my dad build cupboards, carry washing machines, and I even went to football – I still do. I still remember the day when I realised I wouldn’t be able to play in a Football Team – as I was a girl. I still enjoyed Barbie dolls, and music, nail varnish and the like – but I also liked doing other things, seemingly ‘male’ things. I also remember when I requested to do Resistant Materials at school for GCSE – I was put in the Textiles group. Oh yay me. (You should see the cushion I eventually managed to put together – I keep it as a sign of my ability to make applique look like a map of my varicose veins)
What I’m getting back to is that I am not too concerned with sexual stereotypes. I am who I am. I like being a woman, I like who I am. I like the fact that I can give life to another, and give birth and all that shizzle. What I don’t like is the expectations that we can put on ourselves or others, including babies. Interests and personalities shouldn’t be dictated by gender.
It’s quite unnerving how the gender divide is apparent right from the start of pregnancy. Not knowing the sex of the baby, buying anything for the baby that isn’t pink or blue was surprisingly difficult. Moses baskets, babygros, blankets, even car seats are seemingly gender specific. I found it rather annoying to walk into a shop and see boys clothes on one side and girls clothes on the other. A baby is a baby – a babygro is a babygro – why is it any different? I started having arguments with my partner – he felt some things were too ‘boy’ or too ‘girl’ – I just liked the look of them and bought them anyway. I even dislike the way even I find pink or blue selected as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ – why can’t I just see them as colours? And why are boys clothes lots of lovely bright colours and why are girls clothes all pink or purple? And don’t get me started on toys!
I like the fact I don’t know what sex my baby is yet. In a way I find it rather odd that very soon they will have a name (another issue – I have to NAME this baby – a NAME that will stick with them for the REST OF THEIR LIVES) and an identity of their own. They are who they are. And soon enough they will be girl/boy and have a path in life, but it’s up to them what they do in that life, and up to me to provide them with opportunities to broaden their horizons and have experiences – irrespective of their gender. This sometimes rattles me as I realise I have some influence in this and I hope I do a good job. I just don’t want my son/daughter to have to feel they have to be anything or anyone they don’t want to be. It’s fine to be proud of who you are – it’s OK to enjoy being a boy or a girl – but life shouldn’t just boil down to what bits we have, surely?!