Jun. 16th, 2009

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I originally wrote this when I was in my second trimester of pregnancy.
My partner and I had deliberately decided not to find out the sex of our baby because... well, he didn't care, and despite my preference I didn't really, either. I figured if Splodge was a boy I'd always have at least another child and was already deep into that strange "bonding" thing many pregnant women talk about.

It's been eighteen months since I wrote the piece, and I now have a baby son.
I love him very much, but his future frightens me terribly. The crap started from the moment of his birth announcement and the comments about 'lazy boys' have not yet stopped.
I still don't know the answers to most of the things that scared me back when I was pregnant. Thanks to the blogosphere though, I have a few guides to light some of the possible pathways ahead. I hope Splodge and I can figure out a good way for us to continue, but truthfully I often still feel paralysed by the enormity of some of these things.


-----
Everybody wants to know what gender Splodge is.
New-made acquaintances at this Christmas past thought nothing of swanking up five minutes after introduction and asking "So do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
An old friend from highschool asked me early on 'What do you want?"
When I confessed to desiring a daughter she turned on me an incredulous look "But what if it's a boy?"
The hormones urged me to snap "I'll shove it back in and demand a refund!" but I was ever so controlled. And thus she is still a friend.

What irks me even more are those that follow up the question on gender with "as long as it's healthy."
Again, my hormones whisper away. Have you ever HEARD an expectant mother or father say "Oh, we want a special needs baby! One with lots of health issues!"?
It makes me want to shake them.

The common refrain seems to be "better a boy than a girl" as people contemplate the looming Armageddon of puberty in their child's life. Frequent remarks about "locking my daughter up when she's sixteen" are passed, chuckling amongst men I know (Yes, because if a girl has sex it's The End Of the World, and getting pregnant and/or raped is All Her Fault and nothing to do with how their sons and his friends are raised). This stuff seems so asinine I don't even respond to it anymore.

And I know, should I have a daughter, that even early on I can say "Stop telling my little girl that she SHOULD wear pink, it's sexist. She can wear whatever colour she wants." I know people will get this. I know I won't have to justify and explain it in depth, although I'll probably have to put up with sniggers and whispered comments and possibly a tanty from one of the traditionalist grandparents. If I have a girl, I'll know some of the issues and things she'll come up against, having gone through it all myself.
But with a son I worry, terribly, about stuff like this, from Persephone's Box:
My son is having serious anxiety attacks that have been keeping him home lately. Mainly he just feels the uncontrollable need to cry for extended periods, and he's terrified this will happen to him at school. I wasn't too concerned because the same thing happened to my daughter when she was in grade 6 - the hormones kick in and everything goes for a shit. Except she never missed school because of it. She wasn't worried about losing it in front of people, much less terrified of the possibility.

I'm afraid of the first time a cooing little old lady in the street bends over and says "He's such a big, strong boy."
I'm afraid of the first time a grandfather says to my son "Big boys don't cry".
I'm worried about my son playing games with other neighbourhood kids, hitting them and screeching, and having other parents say "He's such a boy".
I'm worried about my son being taught by the words and behaviour of the adults and other children around him that it's not okay to cry or show emotions, it's okay to declare "books suck!" and that to be a Real Man he should develop an interest in physics and chemistry over art and music, that it's his right to treat women like objects, that it's his right to express his anger violently.

My partner, now in his 30s, is a good man, and a feminist ally - but he had to find his own way to where he is. I don't want that for my son. But if we teach him it's okay to cry, how do we protect him in the playground, from the other boys whose parents have taught them differently? Apart from his Daddy, who will he have to be a role model?
In our wider social circle we know women IT professionals, women mothers, women administrators, women teachers, women scientists, women lawyers, women social workers. We know women who are good at maths, women who write well, women artists and women who enjoy sports - including various martial arts.
We don't really know any male artists or writers. We don't know any male dancers. We don't really know any gentle men, men who have cried in public, who have expressed hurt first, before anger.

In some ways it's easier to think about raising a daughter who can challenge gender roles. But I worry about a future son.

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