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Gender, revisited, a rambling rant. - Lissa's Glade
Beneath the Trees
Gender, revisited, a rambling rant.
Recent conversations in LJ, as well as a conversation with eseme on this sweater and thoughts on my baby boy cousin and my upcoming baby-mystery-gender cousin have me thinking about children and gender.

My dad likes to joke about the wooden truck he gave me as a little girl. Nothing wrong with it, and I had plenty of dolls too. I'm always a little mystified about how I can be as girly as I am, in all the foofy negative sterotypes, and yet equally masculine in just-as-unhelpful ways (I could go on about this one for hours. Maybe later).

Where I'm going today is baby gifts. It's certainly not my job to impose any idea I have on gender roles on someone else's child, and I have none of my own on which to impose or not anything. So no masculine pink for baby boys or lacy blue for baby girls, as much as it might tickle me to knit such a think.

But trucks and dolls? The male friend we had in elementary school who played with My Little Ponies in 5th grade turned out to be Miss Gay Rochester, but where's the causal factors? I don't really think that playing with dolls turned him gay, any more than playing with trucks (and on a construction site) turned me butchy. I'm still not going to give Baby Cousin any little baby-doll toys, but really, at that point, what's acceptable and what's not? I'll note that, while I love his mother, my cousin, I don't think I know her very well. If this was, say, one of my good friends' children, I'd just ask.

And I'm rambling! Every time I think about gender roles, the subversion thereof, and toy trucks for baby girls (so much more acceptable than baby-dolls for baby boys, but that's yet another rant), I run into a loop: Gender roles exist for a reason. But in modern society, subverting them is possible, should be permitted, and may be helpful.

I'm not sure I have a coherent point yet. Just a bit of musing.

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14 thoughts : Have a thought?
lizreay From: lizreay Date: July 13th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I made baby kimonos in black and white Japanese-themed calico for my friend's TBA-gendered baby. (It was a boy.)

As for toys, we had a tendency to play fusion games... the GI Joe Mounted Division on My Little Ponies, for example. Our Barbies also tended more towards wild adventure than domestic bliss.

How did we turn out? Well, frankly, I'd put more merit in the fact that both sides of my family have Teh Gay floating around in them than the toys we played with.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: July 13th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, while I have some mixed feelings - I've read that children learn life roles through play, as well as through imitating mom & Dad & extended family - I don't think a baby doll would hurt my cousin much.

It would, however, probably annoy his grandmother and great-aunt. And I do that enough on my own.

I envy you having a brother. And a sister, really.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 13th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)


I have given gender-neutral baby gifts, and gendered ones. Thinking about how I decide, I believe it's a combination of my read of the mother and my read of the unborn baby. Some folks have a really strong gender identity and I don't mind supporting that. Others don't, so I'll pick something more flexible for them. I often do either a scrapbook with blank baby-themed pages and some poetry; or a no-sew fleece blanket with magical enhancements. Those are easy to customize.
lissa_dora From: lissa_dora Date: July 14th, 2010 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Baby Cousin (She's 29 this year...) insists on not knowing the gender first. First Baby got a yellow hand-knit cardigan and a lot of froggy & jungle-themed layette stuff from her registry. Second Baby will get green and more foresty stuff.

But I don't think there's anything wrong with getting First Baby some cooking gifts when he's old enough, do you?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 14th, 2010 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

>>Baby Cousin (She's 29 this year...) insists on not knowing the gender first.<<

Well, that's cool. Some people like to be surprised.

>>But I don't think there's anything wrong with getting First Baby some cooking gifts when he's old enough, do you?<<

Nothing wrong with that! Children should be vigorously encouraged to explore their skills and interests. Most of what you throw at them won't stick, but if you do it right, you should eventually hit something they'll turn out to be passionately fond of and pretty good at. It's okay if that doesn't match their gender. My partner Doug is a brilliant cook, and we're very happy about that. It doesn't make him less functional as a male.
lissa_dora From: lissa_dora Date: July 14th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

It's cool; my only complaint is frustration - all the lovely little lacy things I could knit if it was a girl!! :-)

Actually, more and more of the couples I know have the man as the primary cook - Sam certainly is, my best friend's boyfriend Kris... it's beginning to seem normal. Thank you, Alton Brown. (And yeah, my mom threw cooking and housework at me early, but it never stuck. Reading... oh, did reading stick. And storytelling).
eseme From: eseme Date: July 16th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Panther will do the cooking, so add me to the list.

Also, for fun food toys, there is a wooden sushi set that I have seen at two different toy stores. Get him started on fish! early.
lissa_dora From: lissa_dora Date: July 17th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Oh, that's brilliant! I've been thinking about knitted food, too.
eseme From: eseme Date: July 17th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Here it is:


From the amazing Melissa and Doug toy company. Lots of independent toy stores carry them.
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: July 14th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dinosaurs are apparently appropriate gifts for children of all sexes!
lissa_dora From: lissa_dora Date: July 15th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep! First Baby got a steggie hat and assorted dino gifts for this past Christmas. I'm loving knitting gifts for him! :-)
eseme From: eseme Date: July 16th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC) (Link)

I do realize that I am unique in thinking that blue is a gender-neutral color, probably because I like it. Pale blue could work, right?

Nature and nurture is one of those debates that will just go on and on. But even when you try to subvert gender norms, it can backfire because people want to assign a gender, and they want to treat the child the way a child of that gender should be treated. Studies have show that people handle and react differently to babies wrapped in blue versus pink (they are more likely to nurture the pink, and leave the blue to cry it out).
lissa_dora From: lissa_dora Date: July 17th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're not unique in thinking it's gender-neutral, just bucking current trend. I *will,* for a friend's baby, do a lacy blue or a manly pink some day.

That's interesting, reacting differently to babies of different genders. So I suppose the edges are safe (things that aren't hardwired m/f but culturally acceptable with some blur) but leave the core of gender alone? ((skip toy soldiers/baby dolls but trucks/cooking stuff safe?))
eseme From: eseme Date: July 17th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would imagine the edges are safe for most parents these days. And Micha has a good point about dinosaurs. Animals are pretty gender neutral too (thus I firmly believe that any stuffed animals work for any child).

I remember the baby blanket study from my one "Gender, Culture, and Knowledge" class sophomore year.
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