Saturday, April 26, 2008
Gender bender babies
We've sent Junior to bed in pink pyjamas.
Before the babies arrived, I was determined not to gender stereotype them. What a ridiculous social construction, that girls only wear pink and boys get to choose from an array of drab military colours. I had visions of dressing them in gender-neutral clothes, in a range of funkily bright patterns.
Then the flood of hand-me-down and gift clothing began to arrive. Grandma sent a lovely little white jumpsuit with pink ruffles on it, decorated with a ballerina with a genuine tulle skirt. Junior has an array of tuff little overalls embellished with trucks. There's a world of pink and a world of blue and actually it's quite difficult to find much in other colours.
I have found it surprisingly challenging to dress Lucky and Junior in each other's clothes. Lucky, of course, can go into Junior's outfits. She looks like a cute little private schoolboy. It doesn't look bad but I don't want people getting her gender wrong. Why not? I mean, she's too young to have any sense of gender so why is it important to me?
Junior, on the other hand, looks silly in pink. The plain pink is okay, and the pink stripes, like tonight's pyjamas, look sweet. But put a flower print anywhere near him and he suddenly looks like a truckie in drag.
I'm disappointed in myself. My gender role socialisation runs deep. Obviously he only looks silly to me because to be mistaken for a girl is still an insult. I feel I should be challenging this, for his sake and Lucky's sake and for the sake of our whole society (don't tell me I'm not grandiose!). To be a girl is perfect, as is to be a boy. It's no big deal if you confuse the genders of my babies. And when he's able to express a preference, if Junior wants to wear pink, of course he can.
But I don't think I can dress Junior in pink. Life's hard enough for a boychild of lesbians without coaching him to be a cross-dresser as well. And it's what sort of boy he is on the inside that will confront stereotypes. He doesn't have to take on the world of social signifiers as well.