Friday, May 27, 2011

This Whole Baby Gender Thing Is Getting Out Of Hand


When I saw the story earlier this week about the Canadian couple who had a child they named Storm, but did not want to share the gender of the baby, for what they said were freedom and choice, I thought the story would flame out pretty quickly. I mean, what is the big deal about one couple in the entire world who did not want to identify the gender of the baby to the world. Were they doing it for publicity? I kind of think so. It was interesting to me that within a day or two of the announcement they sent friends, a reporter from the Toronto Star had a story ready to go about the decision of the couple. They had no problems identifying their other children as male or female.

I also think it is not really any of our business what they do in their house as long as it does not harm the child. Does it really matter at four months old, if the baby is wearing pink or blue? How is that going to affect their future? I don't think their argument is necessarily valid though. I think society might try and put limits once a gender is established, but ultimately it is up to the parents to allow their child the freedom to explore and if they provide no limits because of gender, then I don't think the child will have any. When a baby is four months old, or a year old, it is not society who is imposing the gender stereotypes, it is the parents.

48 comments:

Patty said...

Gender doesn't make a difference as an infant, except for how you manage the diaper changes (look-out). However, it will matter as the child grows and becomes aware of self as compared to others.

Ida Blankenship said...

As a former dress-hating tomboy who spent more time pretending to be a knight than she EVER did a princess, I applaud these people. This kid will have an understanding of his/her bits and pieces soon enough. Ever seen a bunch of toddlers interact? The gender demarcations aren't really there yet. The parents are the ones daydreaming about which children will grow up to play football, be a prom queen, which kids will date each other someday, etc.

I don't have children, but I plan on making everything pretty gender neutral if I ever do -- lots of greens, browns, unisex clothing, etc. And once the kid gets older, he can wear or decorate his surroundings however the hell he sees fit. Within reason, I mean.

That said, if I ever give birth to a daughter who loves pink, Barbies, and aspires to be a cheerleader, I guess I'll roll with it. ;-)

RocketQueen said...

I think they're trying to make the point that gender is a social construct, and it's a pretty good point. They said they decided to do it after their second child displayed some gender identification behaviours that other people thought was abnormal. I think it's an interesting idea that is provoking thought, and I don't see how it will do any harm to the child in the long run. It'll be pretty obvious whether the child is a female or male soon enough.

MISCH said...

But the gender is on the birth certificate isn't it ?
So at that point I guess it doesn't matter..

Rose said...

I think keeping the secret is a lot too put on their other child. I also don't think the baby is old enough to gain much from this experience.

Panda said...

When I first heard, I was wondering if this child might have been born a hermaphrodite and this is why they were going to let it decide what it wanted to be.

(How odd it feels to refer to a baby as "it".)

I hadn't heard previously that they had other children.

AR-HR.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AR-HR.com said...

It is entirely possible that the child is intersex (formerly termed hermaphrodite)

Its recommended now not to impose a gender identity on these children due to the potential for conflict with the child's eventual emergent gender identity. Attempts to do so in the past have gone quite horribly wrong in numerous documented instances

The intersex theory is also backed up by the name being an 'X-men' reference to genetic mutation

Panda said...

ARHR, thanks for the terminology update!

Is 'hermaphrodite' considered derogatory now or just outdated?

AR-HR.com said...

I think more outdated than anything.

Intersex seems more representative of the 'in-between' nature than the 'all the bits and more!' mental image most people have of the term hermaphrodite. :)

james said...

I was thinking the same thing, about the baby being born with both sex organs. It would make the most sense, but doesn't explain why the parents are being so public about it. If they were really that concerned about doing the right thing, I'd think they'd keep this more private.

AR-HR.com said...

BTW, I'm by no means an expert, just a bit of a science geek with a whacky memory.

mikey said...

You know there is more to the story! They have 2 boys and at least one of their boys has been ridiculed for having long hair and wearing girls clothing out in public. I don't think it has anything to do with the new baby having an issue - I think it's the parent's having some sort of issue. Face it - if the baby has red hair people react to the cute little red head. They are making more of an issue than it really needs to be - the baby doesn't care. "It" needs to be loved and taken care of in spite of what is or is not between it's legs.

Yes, I spend too much time behind a computer reading.

Mooshki said...

From what I read about them, I think the reason their older son has gender identity issues is because they pushed their agenda on both of their boys. They are just like the pageant mommies who say "but she wants to do it!" They aren't allowing their kids freedom of choice, they are making a political statement.

Jasmine said...

This reminds me of one of the social tests that were conducted that we learned about in one of my Sociology classes.

Basically 10 babies were given blue and pink blankets and arbitrarily distributed the blankets, so some boy babies got pink and some girl's got blue.
Then the researchers presented the babies in public and noticed that when a baby raised his or her fist or cried or even yawned, people already were social constructing these babies by gender.
For instance, the child in the blue blanket who raised his or her fist was said by the public to posses strength, while the pink blanket baby whose fist was raised was 'so dainty and petite' seeming. The cryer in blue got adjectives like 'lusty' 'robust' and pink blanket criers got something opposite.

It just goes to explain further that people consistantly are being imposed by these rigid social constructs that from day ONE we are subconciously forced to fit into- or not.
I applaud these parents for going against the stream of consciousness. I swear when I have a kid things will be gender neutral until THEY decide which colors they like.
I remember we had a discussion in a Sociology of Sexualities class and so many students said if their male child came home with nail polish on they would immediately take it off and I just shook my head. And we wonder why there are so many sexually confused and uphappy people out there :/

AR-HR.com said...

http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/babies/article/995112

Original article.
Never mind, the parents are nuts

Ida Blankenship said...

Hmmm. My first reaction was to side with the parents here, but now I'm honestly not sure. If hermaphroditism IS involved, that would sure make everything a hell of a lot more complicated. I thought we were talking about parents who want to give their kids MORE freedom with self-expression, not parents who want to restrict it.

Anyone else here read Middlesex? This whole situation kind of reminds me of that (UH-MAY-ZING) book.

Mooshki said...

They explicitly said the baby is not a hermaphrodite. Of course, they could be lying, but given what they did with their older boys, I think this is just a continuation of their master plan.

Kid Sis said...

What a terrific discussion...thanks everyone! And Happy Friday!

anita_mark said...

I'm more upset that they named their kids Storm, Jazz and Koi.

Robert said...

@Ida: Thanks for the UH-MAY-ZING memory jog!

Fredrick VonBearson said...

There is a difference between sex and gender. The sex of the child doesn't have to have anything to do with his/her gender. Why not just say we have a female child, please don't buy her pink frilly dresses and baby dolls? It will come out naturally what gender role she is.

Ida Blankenship said...

Okay. I just read a few more articles about this couple, and now I'm back to supporting them. ;-)

@Mooshki -- If their two older children have already been, um, "outed" as boys, and said boys are happy with themselves, their bodies, and the world at large, I *truly* don't see what the big deal is. Gender constructs ARE annoying as hell. I still encounter men who imply that I'm somehow less of a female because I hate shoes, shopping, and manicures. Among other "girly" things.

I've got a little goddaughter who is a heartbreakingly beautiful child -- ringlets, long lashes, rosy cheeks, etc -- but she loves to wear clothes with dinosaurs, lions, and airplanes on them. She gets strange looks in public sometimes, as if she should be more concerned with mythical creatures and some nebulous prince charming than interested in actual concrete earthly things. She just dresses to make herself happy. And she IS happy, and has a balanced amount of boy/girl friends.

It's kinda weird to keep the gender from the grandparents, though. And there's pressure on the other two kids to keep everything a secret. That would bother me, personally. :-/

mikey said...

I don't get the neutral clothes thing until the child can pick. Whatever you choose to dress baby in won't matter once the child is a toddler and can form an opinion about colors/outfits. What do you dress the baby in? All white outfits?

I have 3 boys/1 girl (youngest). All the boys wanted t-shirts with whatever pleased them - Thomas the train, etc. and sweat pants/shorts. One child only wore blue for a year. DD wore a lot of hand me downs, but when she had a choice she headed to pink tights and velvet dresses. She didn't get that from me.

RocketQueen said...

Ida - I read that book. Interesting topic, but I didn't get all the hoopla. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Something about the writing style....dunno.

Ida Blankenship said...

@Rocket Queen -- it IS crazy-detailed, sometimes cryptic, and often longwinded, but that's how I like my books. And my friends. And myself...

You don't like Jeffery Eugenides' writing style? You're insane. I still love you, but you're BONKERS.

It's cool. He probably kisses his Pulitzer before he goes to bed each night. ;-)

nancer said...

this kid will most likely be whatever 'it' is. i wouldn't worry about it now. it will all sort itself out and he will be a he or she will be a she. a lot of that is hardwired.

Jasmine said...

For some of you who persist in thinking things will just 'naturally' work themselves out and children will be 'whatever THEY want to be' I'd like to direct your attention to tribes that are dominated by women in places of power, or cultures where the men live with the wife's family and take HER last name....
In short, its all relative and if we can agree on that then the way Western cultures serve women is so unequal and bias its just sick.
When we show how fluid gender can be it just helps to reiterate that there are rigid roles for men and women set up HERE that we have the power to topple down.

Klondyke said...

i'll have to ride in the front seat with mooshki with her viewpoints.

RocketQueen said...

lol Ida - I'm sure there are some books we can agree on? Got another Eugenides book you can recommend? Maybe I'll give him another shot. I just found it so desperately trying to tug at my heartstrings. Did not likie.

msgirl said...

THis is the old argument of nuture vs nature. Personally I think it's both, but some people will start arguments that it's all nurture. That's how I felt too until I had a boy and he started using a banana as a gun at 9 months, used a doll as a battering ram - and the only TV he watched was PBS. Still, there are a ton of cultural references out there that we don't notice that even a baby will. If you even go to a toy store, all the dolls are in the pink girl aisles, etc. It's kind of like all the fuss over Shiloh growing up to be a lesbian, but if it were a boy there's be no problem. I too think the parents might be pushing their agenda as with the oldest, but as long as this doesn't go on too long I think it's fine.

Panda said...

THANK YOU for the link, AR-HR.

After reading it, I feel the parents are only doing this because their older son Jazz is tending toward the feminine side and they're trying to stop additional comments about him.

But they need to look at the ADORABLE Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, who is 5 today!

I know Angelina dressed her in pretty, girly things when she was a baby because I saw photos!

Yet, in spite of this "Western Culture Domination" (which I assume includes the wearing of gender-specific clothing), Shiloh has overcome this domination and has been choosing her own clothes (tomboyish, much like Ida) since she was 3.

The fact they're not saying if it's a boy or a girl is not going to make one whit of difference in a few years.

The child's true self will come through despite what they do or don't do.

Miss X said...

I think our gender identity is a huge part of who we are. And it starts younger than most people realize. When working with babies, I've noticed how the norm is for the boys to gravitate towards trucks/things that move whereas most baby girls gravitate towards "quieter" toys (like dolls). And all before they are a year old.

I'm all for not forcing a child into gender roles but I think ignoring the child's gender could set him/her up for a severe identity crisis later in life. Look at the case of Bruce/Brenda/David Reimer. I realize this isn't a perfect example -- these parents forced their child to become the opposite gender. But it shows how important gender is to our identities (and that it's more nature than nurture).

msgirl said...

Well, by the time the baby is only 18 mos (or less!) it will be clear if it's a boy - his hand will be constantly holding his peen! And that is definitely nature.

pegd said...

Agree Mikey and Mooshki! There is an agenda going on with the parents that has nothing to do with this child.

feraltart said...

I am fascinated with how stereotypically children can act. My friends children are so male and so female in what is considered a typical sense of the word. My godsons are into fighting, wrestling, running around, pretending to shoot at things, and all of this is part of their nature. My goddaughter is the girliest girl you have ever met, and would wear pink fairy dresses every day if she could. And it was her dad who was her primary carer while her mum worked. I take my friends kids out for play dates. When I ask them what they would like to do, and give them options, the girls have chosen more passive activities, I certainly don't influence them one way or the other. And they have seen me wrestle with the boys, know that I have taken them to laser tag or sand boarding, but the girls just aren't interested.

Michelle said...

I have a 5 year old girly, princess who wants to be a dancing zombie (too much 'Thriller') when she grows up. Her 3 year old brother wants to be a policeman who wears nailpolish. It's really only as much of a big deal as the parents make of it.

Why all the secrecy? Why can't the grandparents know? The parents sound like control freaks to me.

Jeri said...

I hope by the time the child is interacting with others and has friends he/she is not confused and feeling like an oddity.

What am I??

If it ends before the child is made to feel different fine.

HannahPalindrome said...

I hate these people.

So weird!
I'm surprised they didn't give their kid a weird name.

Mooshki said...

Ida, from what I understand, at least one of the boys is very UNhappy with himself because of this. :(

GoGo said...

Uh, HannahPalindrome, as cool as I think it is (I have a friend named Wind), Storm is a weird name -- unless it's an X-Man. I wonder what's going to get "it" (who would want people referring to their kid as "it?") bullied more -- the name or the gender neutrality?
Is the child a hermaphrodite or something or are the parents just "choosing" not to tell anyone? Do they tell the baby or call it "it? Do the other children e'en know the sex of their sibling? I hadn't heard this story and MUST google it; I'm intrigued.
And, Hannah, I also hate this couple. This has NOTHING to do with gender-based roles... Something to get them in the papers for a few cycles? My daughter Isabella (girly name) was a tomboy through and through (which we ne'er discouraged) but now (she's 21) she's into hair and makeup and clothing, and all those "girly" things (didn't get it from me!).
Poor baby...

studio gulag -- said...

Boy or Girl-- looks like Swee'Pea to me.

Camigobu said...

Hermaphroditism is still medically used to describe a "disagreement" between physical appearance and genetic sex. But, true hermaphroditism (where both ovaries and testicular tissue is present) is rare--even rarer is the public/commonly thought notion of hermaphroditism, where both external female and male parts are present. More commonly, pseudohermaphroditism is due to deficiencies/absences in one or more of various enzymes/hormones/receptors needed to fully develop and mature into one sex or the other, which leads to a difference in external appearance and internal presence or absence of ovaries or testes.

I read Middlesex (and loved it), too. Although it's been a few years ago, I think that the protagonist had 5-alpha reductase deficiency, although I think it was never explicitly said. With 5-alpha reductase deficiency, you're unable to convert testosterone into DHT, which is needed to develop the male external genitalia. Therefore, you have ambiguous female-looking external genitalia and appearance (with internal testes) until enough testosterone comes about in puberty to force some masculine development of external genitalia.

As you can see, unfortunately, it is often not as clear cut as Male or Female (or even a clear-cut Both) but shades of gray that make it difficult to discern what is going on. Understandably, it can be a confusing and scary time for parents when they cannot be told with certainty the gender of their baby at birth. I mean, what is the first question anyone is ever asked when a baby is born, "boy or girl?" I'm not saying that is what is going on here, but if it is, it could be the case that the parents haven't yet decided how to proceed. Probably more information than you ever wanted to know, but I couldn't help but jump in. :)

Enjoy your weekend!

Rose said...

msgirl, your post made me think about something.

Do the grandparents, close friends, or other family members never even get to watch the baby? Do they ever need their parents to babysit? Are the parents the only two people changing Storm's diaper? It just seems like a very elaborate situation when I think there are other ways to explore the gender roles.

Does the baby never get to wear pink/blue? Just neutrals? That would seem to be the opposite of exploring who you are not what your sex it.

I will have to read the article for some details.

MCH said...

It's not everyday I read a celeb/gossip blog & think: Damn, there are some smart people reading this stuff & make me really think about things but CDAN never fails to do that for me.

I'd have to hear more before I can form an opinion but to me if the kids are happy & well adjusted than they are doing better than the majority of kids out there.

Thea said...

@ HannahPalindrome and GoGo: Really? Without knowing anything more about David Stocker and Kathy Witterick except for what the media has written about them, you "hate" these people?? You know nothing else about them, have never met them or spoken to them, they just happen to have a different parenting philosophy and perspective that may have been distorted by the media and from such little information, you conclude that you hate them? I wonder if you were ever judged so harshly as parents or as people based on your views which others didn't agree with.

Here is e-mail that Kathy Witterick sent to the Toronto Star to clarify things:
http://www.thestar.com/news/article/998960--genderless-baby-s-mother-responds-to-media-frenzy?bn=1

It is a very thoughtful and gracious response to all the vitriol that has been heaped on them. What gives us the right to judge them? It's their lives and their children. Their decision has no great impact on anyone outside their little family and yet everyone is screaming bloody murder over this as if they are personally offended. Their decision has provoked reflection and discussion on the strong gender expectations imposed by society, which could make us more accepting of those who are intersex, transsexual or transgender, but it doesn't warrant our disdain and condemnation.

lunabelle said...

They are not the first to do this. A couple in Norway, Sweden or Finland had a child, gave the child an ambiguous name and never told anyone the gender. I am not sure how far along that "social experiment" is.

The thing about children is they mimic and are really inky interested in what they are closed to. My kids have never seen guns or gun play in video games etc so do not pdefend to shoof
When my son was around two we had Construction on our street, he was riveted and stared out the window.
Both my som and daughter love tools because either their grandpa or ,hself are always using them.
My daughter was given dolls and ig ores them j til sne was a out 2, as soon as she started playing with a "baby" my son decided he wanted one too.
They are who they are and it is my job to give them to tools to successfully survive and enjoy our society.
If they want to bring about change I am all for it. I am going to teach them everything I can, lay it all out there and they will do with it as they will.
I think parents forget that their children are individuals, just as they are, not mini versions of them, or experiments or even people they can protect from the world that damaged them. Kids grow up and live and eventually are adults and all I can hope is that my kids want to hang out with me when they are older.

crila16 said...

The kid is a boy. It's obvious it's a boy. I think the parents are PC liberals and extremely annoying. I don't know if they realize this, but people are going to figure out the gender of the child the older it gets. Once the kid goes thru puberty, it's going to be pretty hard to hide it. This whole thing is ridiculous.