Monday, November 7, 2011

Babys, Gender, and Spending

A friend of my (actually a former senior that I taught when I was doing my student teaching) is pregnant. I learned some time ago through facebook status updates - she comes up on my news feed once in a while, even if I rarely, if ever, comment on her page. I'm happy for her, but I haven't said anything yet because I'm waiting for the baby to be born before I comment (you know how modern parents are - you people post pictures of your spawn all over the place of FB. I got those things polluting my newsfeed from beginning to end - and I love it, because babies are so damn adorable. So don't stop, no matter what anyone tells you.) Both she and her boyfriend are pretty people; I don't doubt for a minute that her baby will be pretty, too. I'm very happy for them, despite holding my tongue and not having said anything. It's an exciting time for them both.

That said, I'm of the belief that if you want to have a child, you should adopt. There's 6 billion and counting, and soon, we'll have shot well past critical mass and well into a Malthusian catastrophe. This is especially true when you talk about all of the wonderful children - teens and tweens included, even though they repeatedly get overlooked in favor of infants and toddlers - who could use a home with loving parents, but constantly get stiffed by a messed up system. But that's not what someone who's happy they're going to have a child - and who always wanted to have children - wants to hear, so I reserve my opinion. Mothers, especially young ones like her (she's younger than I am - remember, I taught this girl as a senior in HS, 2 years ago, so I'd be shocked if she was 20), have enough problems, without someone they only knew as a student teacher coming in and telling them how to do something.

So, I've been updated about her journey for the last few months. I know she was hoping for a boy; today, she found out that they were having a baby girl. The desire to have a specific child alone is slightly worrisome (I'm a fine one to talk; I'll get into this later), but what really struck me - and it was probably because I was reading something about implicit sexism/misogyny at the same time - was one of her comments on the thread:

"I don't look forward to how expensive girls are compared to boys."

Of course, this kick-started my thinking (literally; it was like a boot to the back of the brain), and I got to thinking: why?

I'm going to be honest. I wouldn't mind having a daughter. I don't know what it's like to have a specific sex of a child only to learn you're going to have the opposite sex - this worries me, because I'm not sure how I would handle having a son. I would love him - it's your child, I'd love to say you don't have much of a choice but damn if I'm not proven wrong every second of every day of the year - but that's not the point. The point is that you're looking forward to a specific sex of child. This is the same line of thinking that leads to an increase in abortions for baby girls in third world countries where abortions are available, regardless whether it's wanting a son or daughter.

I strongly suspect that I want a daughter simply so, like all ignorant and new parents, I could imaging living a life through her. There's plenty of times I think about how much happier I could be if I was a woman but I would never dream of sex reassignment surgery, so I find other ways (if you want to know why I universally role-play female or transsexual - think Zira's current body from HBB - characters, or all of the main characters in my novels and stories are women, this is why. I'm GQ and proud; fuck your binary hetero-normative insanity) Wanting to live your life through your child is a dangerous thing anyway; they're their own individual, but it's a mistake that most parents make. You want to fix all of the mistakes that your parents did, or that you think your parents did, and you want to give them the world, the sun, the stars and the moon - because you never go them. I'm not sure if it's a good thing, or if I should even contemplate adopting. Of course, given how painfully shy I am, I suspect that having progeny of my own is not going to be a worry.

But let's go back to that business about wanting to give your child the earth, sun, moon and stars. Whether it's a boy or girl, shouldn't those things cost the same? I mean, I can't see someone charging more for the sun because you're buying it for a girl, or someone giving you the moon half-off because you're buying it for your son. Why is do some people think that girls are more expensive than boys? Hell, all you really need to be entertained as a kid is a box, pots, and pans. Kids, regardless of sex, love boxes. Cats do too, apparently; my cat loves her box, just like she loves her little stuffed bear (it's tough love; there's times I think she's going to tear that thing's head off, but then she stops and picks it up by the back of the neck and carries it across the room, drops it in her box, or falls asleep with it).

Gender essentialism is at play here. For those who don't know, gender essentialism (hereby called GE) is the noisome belief that because there's biological differences between men and women, they deserve different treatment. This is ingrained in society at a very basic level, and there's a lot of pig-headed individuals who promote it; people who really shouldn't be talking about sex and gender because they have a very bipolar view of how this works (very bipolar and very wrong). There's a very real question over where gender as biological determinism ends and gender as a social construct beings. I'm pretty sure that liking pink or blue, that wearing dresses or pants, and being more talkative or less talkative is not biological. In fact, most of your stereotypes that separate women and men, playing into the GE distinction, are not biological. This notion that men are more violent than women is bullshit - I've said it before: I will step in to break up two boys fighting. I will call security and watch from a safe distance, while keeping everyone else away, when two girls start fighting. Men are not inherently more violent. Not by any kind of a long shot. The idea that men are designated by nature - evopsyche - to go out and hunt while women stay back and pick berries and shit isn't accurate either - there's a tribe in, Papua New Guinea I believe - where the women do the hunting and men stay at home. Matriarchal cultures are the norm in a lot of creatures - bonobos, for instance, who are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, along with a few social rodent colonies and things like meerkats. The evopsyche stuff used to justify different treatment of men and women is garbage.

There's this notion that girls need a lot more than boys. I should think, with the largest audience of gamers being boys and how expensive those systems can be, this pernicious myth from the 1950s would go away (there are a lot of gamer girls, too, but it doesn't defy the stereotype that girls are more expensive; those systems cost a lot). There's this idea that you should treat girls differently from boys because they're girls - they get cute little dresses, they get pink toys and ponies and dolls. Boys get sticks, stones, and action figures. Boys get all the active stuff, girls get all the stuff about homemaking. E-Z bake oven, for instance. About the only toy I can think of that's marketed towards both sexes and all genders is Lego, and that's because Lego is cool like that.

And that's before we get into clothing. I haven't checked - is girls clothing more expensive than boys clothing? Why? Is it the frills, is it the pretty colors? What's the point if it is?

This stuff is ingrained very deeply in our society. We want a society of binaries; male and female, right and wrong, light and dark, love and hate, yin and yang - and it's all wrong. There's no such thing as binaries. There never was. We want these things because binaries are easier to accept than the multitude of gray in between. It's easy to accept one and Other the other. This is part of human psychology, I appear - while MRAs will use evopsyche to justify their own inbuilt misogyny (and then get into semantics arguments over sexism vs. misogyny), I'm going to use evopsyche to try and get a handle on what's going on here and why humans evolved with a preference towards binaries, and why it takes a higher level of thinking to accept that the world is more complex than that.

And when I get there, I'll let you know. For the moment, though, this world of ingrained binaries is so pernicious it even affects me, who is well outside of the binary - it shouldn't matter which I have, whether it's a boy or girl. But it does, it just affects me in the opposite way that it affects most everyone else, that's all. My psychology is still based on this; would it matter if I had a son who was like me? (I would never, ever want to inflict on anyone what I experience. I wasn't assigned the wrong gender or sex, because I'm both. I was assigned the wrong body, and there's no amount of surgery that can fix that). How would it feel? Or if I had a girl who felt like she was a boy instead?

I don't know the answer to these questions.

There's a lot of problems in our culture. Fighting racism isn't easy, but racism as we recognize it hasn't been ingrained in human society since, arguably, it's inception. Romans didn't have a concept of "racism" as we would recognize it - they were civilized and everyone else was barbarians. Every culture was like that, but it was more a cultural thing than a racial thing. No, racism is a relatively new invention (new in terms of human society; 1500s, maybe a little earlier, once people started trying to take the Bible literally and applied the Ham, Shep, and Jeph to the human race). Sexism is much older. And it's ingrained in almost every culture regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. Genderism, and heternormativity is likewise - I won't go so far as to say that it's the core of the human experience, but given how hard people fight back against it, men and women, you'd think that it was a core element of their humanity.

And that's disturbing, to say the absolute least.

Humanity shouldn't be defined by the fact you spend more on baby girls than on baby boys.

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