MMM: Is it a Girl or Boy?

I’ve been saying now for the past few months that I’d get around to posting about gender, and finally that day is here. It’s a subject that I have very specific feelings about, and I find it interesting to discuss.  I first started thinking about it back in my Purchase College days, when I was studying psychology. One of the courses I was taking, The Psychology of Gender, introduced me to new ideas and ways of thinking about gender. After a semester of talking about what it means to us as a society, someone in class asked, “is it a girl or a boy?” referring to one of our pregnant classmates, after hearing the news that she had given birth. The teacher responded in a disappointed voice, “you just proved what I’ve been saying all along about how we think as a society.”  What did she mean by that?  Well, she was trying to show how we are overly concerned with the sex of a baby. Rather than ask about the health of the mother or newborn child, something that could very well have been comprimised during childbirth, the first things out of our mouths are related to the baby’s genitals.

When anyone mentions they are pregnant, the first thing a person wants to know is if they have found out whether it’s a girl or boy. And usually the expectant mother knows the answer to that question, because she’s made it her top priority to find out at the earliest scan. Why is that so important? Ask anyone and they’ll tell you it’s because it makes it “easier for them to decorate a nursery”, or “buy what the baby needs (i.e. clothes)”.  Really? Wow, what did our parents and generations before them do when there wasn’t that type of ultrasound technology?  I don’t buy these explanations, and the simple reason behind that is that ALL babies need the same things. What the person really wants to say is, “we want to know whether to buy pink or blue.”  How 2 dimensional we are. Here’s my interpretation: it’s very important for us to categorize things; black/white, girl/boy. The whole notion of what it means to be a boy or girl is formulated in our minds from an early age. We even have a way of relating to and communicating with people based on their gender.  It’s not necessarily a conscious thought, but it exits. Rather than let him/her explore their identity on their own, we’ve already decided how that will be. My son will have a blue room, decorated with cars. We won’t buy a doll for him because that’s what girls play with, etc.

Ever since Violeta was born, everyone wants to know why we haven’t pierced her ears, a common Spanish practice. We always say that it’s because we want her to choose when she’s older. However, I have to say that what I’d really like to respond with is, “Why did you get your daughters ears pierced at birth?  Don’t tell me it’s because you honestly think it’s cute. It’s nothing more than another thing to worry about. It’s basically your way of branding the baby-GIRL! Now everyone knows what sex it is, because after all, we really need to know that.” That’s probably why people still refer to Violeta as a boy, even if she’s wearing a dress. She doesn’t have the classic gender signal.

When we decided not to find out the gender of the baby people wanted to know why. Apart from my immediate family who agreed with our decision, the only other people who were on our side were my midwife, and the technician who performed the scan. The first thing I told him when I entered the room was that we didn’t’ want to know, so don’t tell us. His response was, “I love that.  Good for you.”  The rest of the people responded like this: “How will you know what to buy?” “You’ll bond better with the baby if you know what it is.” If I know what it is? It’s a baby, a person whose only characteristic I care about is its health. I don’t need to know if it’s a girl or a boy to feel close to it. Don’t get me wrong, I was very curious throughout the nine months. My intention isn’t to sound above it all. I do understand the curiosity and why people want to know. After all, I too have been brainwashed by this classification system we have. So my advice is to wait. Ask yourself why it matters so much and start to be aware of the superficiality of it all. It IS after all, the greatest surprise ever!

 - Nicole

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