Buying for babies

My wife and I have found out that we’re having a girl.  (Three weeks till the due date, by the way.)  This is important to know so that we can buy the right stuff.  Even in this androgynist-feminist age, the baby industry is quite up front about its gender-specific products.  Do you want a boy crib set or a girl crib set?  The Wal Mart web page will let you search them separately.  There are boy and girl car seats and boy and girl baby clothes.  The pregnancy books list the advantages of determining the child’s sex before birth; the main one is that you can buy gender-appropriate baby stuff.  They don’t qualify it by saying “things our homophobic, patriarchal culture regards as gender-appropriate” or anything like that.  In the pregnancy world, there are boyish boys and girlie girls.

This is actually an area where I would have been willing to compromise with the feminists, because I doubt that having blue vs. pink crib sheets has much to do with inculcating appropriate gender roles.  Since we don’t have to, though, my wife and I are getting pink things to prepare for the arrival of our little princess.

The most obvious lesson here is that the feminists are smart enough to defer to consumer sentimentality when challenging it wouldn’t be worth the cost.  Attacking the pink care bears on my daughter’s crib might provoke backlash, and it would do very little for their efforts to turn her into a lesbian later in life.

I think there is more going on here, though.  It is interesting that parents are most insistant about gender distinctions at this time in life when they really do matter least.  After all, without the cues from colored clothes, we would hardly be able to tell the difference between a baby girl and a baby boy.  And perhaps this is the issue.  For us, being manifestly gendered is a part of being human.  If what you’re carrying in your stomach or your arms isn’t a “he” or a “she”, it must be an “it”, a thing.  It was a real relief for my wife and I when the ultrasound technician told us we had a girl.  At last we knew what pronoun to use, and this allowed us to relate to our baby much more vividly.  We could only really think of her as a person when we knew her as not just a person, but as a girl.  All deep relationships are “gendered”.  Only in the impersonal workforce are people just “people”, rather than being the rich realities of men and women.

When we dress a baby girl in girlish clothes, or surround her with girlish toys, we are attempting to complete the manifestation of her humanity.  “This is not an ‘it'”, we say, “This is a ‘she'”.  As children mature, sex differences become more obvious, and there is less need for color cues.  The battle switches inward.  Then we must resist the capitalist-feminist complex that is ever-eager to reduce our “he”s and “she”s into “it”s.

6 Responses

  1. This post reminds me of a documentary about gender roles that aired on Norwegian TV last year. They interviewed several Gender Studies people as well as a pediatrician. The pediatrician cited some research showing that infants have a “gendered” preference in toys from a very young age (i.e. the girls mostly go for the Barbie doll and the boys mostly go for the toy trucks), to which the Gender Studies people replied that the infants had obviously already been fully indoctrinated into the patriarchy at the age of three weeks – presumably through the wicked influence of color-coded cots. Just some choice feminist craziness for your day. Oh, and congratulations on the girl!

  2. Ah ha! Then I am striking a blow for patriarchy after all.

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  4. Congratulations! We found out recently that we are having a boy! Is it not absolutely wonderful to look forward to holding that infant in your arms?! Hope and pray your wife’s birth goes well!

    I have to say having had two girls and than the boy (presumably more will come in time) it is convenient to have a certain percentage of purely white or yellow and green items…not that we have any – this is all in hindsight! I figured out every single one of our multiple sheet sets, burp cloths, baby towels, etc. had some sort of female or feminine decal or decoration on them. So, it is back to the baby closet drawing board for us – as I contemplate throwing another baby shower b.c having to restock a brand new wardrobe for a baby’s first year in a different gender color is going to be expensive!

  5. Thank you, trent13, and congratulations to you too!

    Yeah, actually my wife has been the real pusher for all this pink stuff. I sure hope the ultrasound technician didn’t make a mistake, and we actually have a boy in there!

  6. […] I’ve noted, gender roles facilitate our relationships with children, even before they’re born: The pregnancy books list the advantages of determining the child’s sex before birth; the main […]

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