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The weight of gender November 13, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Fashion, Observations, Personal, Uncategorized.
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Is it a boy or a girl?

It’s the first question someone asks when you have a baby – or even before. These days the gender question might be answered well before birth. It goes along with “do you have a preference for what you have?”

It must be so common to find out the sex of the baby that we had to ask what we’d had in the delivery room because no-one told us.

But since the moment they said “It’s a girl”, I’ve felt the weight of responsibility for bringing up a child of the female sex.

If you had asked me in my younger years whether I wanted a boy or a girl, I probably would have strongly preferred a girl. There are a number of reasons for this – I only have a sister, I went to an all girls school. I didn’t really grow up with boys and I think for a long time I didn’t really ‘get’ boys.

But when it came to realising that we were actually having a child, it mattered less and less. My only reason for preferring a girl was that we could agree on a name – something that eluded us for a boy.

Unlike many other cultures, it seems the preference for girls in western nations is quite common. I was surprised at the number of people who expressed a hope that I’d have a girl and I’ve heard parents almost defending why it’s good to have boys.

The marketing of baby goods is strongly skewed towards girls – go to any clothing department or baby market and the products for girls outnumber those for boys many times over.

I feel real pressure in bringing up a girl child. How do I instill in her the strength she’ll need to stand up for herself in this world where men still have so much of the power and influence? How do I help her to avoid the crippling problems of self-esteem and body image that I suffered? Can I let her know that being intelligent is a good thing for a girl and playing dumb isn’t a way to get through your teenage years?

Perhaps these are all problems that I’d have to teach a boy as well, but having a girl, I directly relate it to my own experience.

But the first issue I have to face is dressing this little being – I’ve never been a ‘girly-girl’. I remember loathing pink throughout my childhood and now I eschew anything that is overly feminine or that might cast me in a role of femininity that is contrary to how I’d like to be perceived.

During my pregnancy I was quite outspoken about my feelings about pink and haven’t been given much in that particular hue. But within me there is still a battle in my mind as to how we dress her.

When she was in hospital, she wore mostly gender neutral suits but on the day we brought her home, I put her in a dress for the first time and it shocked me to have her put so clearly into the gender box. Do I just accept that I dress differently from Chris and that’s the way the world is, or should I avoid the fripperies of so much female clothing? And then there’s the aesthetic part of me that wants her to look good – anyone who’s seen my wardrobe would understand that it’s something I care about and enjoy.

I suppose the only thing I have to fall back on is my own upbringing  In my recollection, my parents never tried to strongly put us in the girly camp. My dad took my sister and I hiking and surfing, and we requested and received more lego, car tracks and sporting equipment than we did dolls – or at least I recall preferring those toys.

Perhaps that’s the model I need to take with my daughter – don’t ask her to be feminine or not, just let her be what she is.

 

 

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