I’ve mentioned already that my family added some new family members recently: a step-sister and her manpanion had twin boys just before Xmas (about 2 months premature; still in the NICU but doing very well, I’m happy to say), and my SIL and BroDork had a big juicy healthy baby girl about a week later.
After Marie Anelle’s and guest Wingstaff’s recent posts on raising kids amidst a sea of gender-coded crap, and SarahMC’s on Fine’s neurosexism book (and the redonkulous protests in comments: MASTODONS!) I wanted to weigh in on something I noticed in the discourse surrounding these babies.
A brief reminder: these are tiny little neonates, less than a month old. They sleep, they eat, they poo. They’re all bald and pink and have the requisite number of digits. That’s about it. But the comments I hear about them show how these kiddos don’t have a chance of escaping gendered expectations.
My new step-nephews (I guess), despite being born just shy of three pounds (~1.36 kg) each are “so big,” “strong boys,” and “little fighters!” My 8+ pound (~3.63 kg) niece? “A precious little thing” who is “gorgeous!”
And, my least favorite–posted as a comment to a photo of my brother and his daughter taken maybe an hour after her birth–”that’s how the girls draw you in though. You get all gooey when they are little and then they get a bit older and you are wrapped so tight around those little fingers…”
Those little minxes, skillfully manipulating their daddies before they can even focus their eyes! Girls is like that, I tells ya! We men don’t stand a chance against their wiles!
Crap comments like this (to be clear, it was not a statement BroDork made, or with which he expressed agreement) just make it clearer to me that what “men don’t stand a chance against” is their own heavily gendered expectations of themselves, projected onto women and girls, and even girl babies. Every time I hear or read comment about how a girl’s beauty “isn’t fair” to men, or a woman’s tears are manufactured to manipulate them, or their anger scares the poor dears into submission, I think “there’s a dude who has the emotional maturity of a Trans-fucking-former.”
For these dudes, to respond with deep feeling for another (even if that feeling is as pleasant as desire) is a sign that the other person is cheating. To operate in an emotional vacuum that allows them to act only on their best self-interest? That’s fair.
Although I’m not personally crazy about babies or kids, I’m deeply interested in how we talk about them, because that talk reveals so much about what we (as a culture) want to be so. Boys are little fighters, from birth. (They have to be, to fend off the predations of the laydeez.) Girls are gorgeous and emotionally labile, those heart-breakers. Men actually don’t like or want women, but they have pussy-magic and bewitching beauty, to which men are but slaves. Thank heaven for the Patriarchy, which institutionalizes protections against these injustices!
Anyway, the next time you hear this sort of comment–and I guarantee you will hear it–think about the assumptions that lay behind the assumptions about gender and children. We’re rarely actually talking about kids.