01 July 2009

Gender bender

Salon blogger Katharine Mieszkowski reports on a Swedish couple who won't tell anyone if their baby is a boy or a girl. Here's a snippet:

A Swedish couple believe so strongly that gender is a social construction that they do not reveal whether their 2.5-year-old is a boy or a girl.

Only those who have changed the toddler's diapers know if "Pop," which is not the child's real name, is male or female. "We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mold from the outset," the tot's 24-year-old mother told the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. "It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead."

Pop's wardrobe includes both pants and dresses, and the child usually gets to decide what to wear. "Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child -- they just say Pop," according to the English-language Swedish site the Local.
An interesting concept, and I'll be curious to see what Pop is like in 10 or so years. (And I'm not being facetious -- I think there's a good chance Pop will be incredibly well-adjusted.)

Growing up on the Iowa farm, gender roles were pretty well-defined, although my parents definitely swapped certain aspects of the typical father-mother divide. My dad doesn't really follow sports or get into competitive stuff much, while my mom follows most professional sports, pushed me to be more athletic, and was the assistant coach of one of my little league teams.

To this day, I generally know what's going on in the sports world, but I'm not the fanatic or religious follower most guys seem to be. I have nothing against sports or the die-hard fans. Not being a typical sports dude is sometimes hard in social situations, where, for guys, sports act like a natural conversation starter. A social commons for men, if you will.

In this way, I feel like I've had to define my own sense of masculinity. I can drink a pink strawberry smoothie (because goddamnit, it just tastes fucking good) and make a fart joke at the same time (because goddamnit, flatulence is just fucking funny).

Right now, society expects gender behavior based on one's nether parts. If you've got a vagina, you should shave excess hair, like the color pink, and think farts are gross. If you've got a penis, you should like cars, never cry, and know Albert Pujols's batting average at all times. It's not wrong to be a boy or a girl. What's wrong is being locked in a mode of behavior because that's what society expects.

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