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Baby Gender Norms

Friday 24th July 2015

We took our baby on a four day mini break to Amsterdam. I know, I know. Some people think that Amsterdam is a more 'grown up' holiday destination. But I think you're never too young to get interested in clogs. So it was fine.

Plus we have a very smiley, social baby who is bored of us already and wants new adventures. Arguably with clogs. Or the Van Gogh Museum.

On the flight, baby Phoebe looked around anxiously trying find people to dazzle with her smile, and struck up a smiling and giggling dialogue with one of the air hostesses.

I should probably mention that Phoebe was dressed in a dinosaur outfit, becasue (a) why not (b) girls can like dinosaurs (c) boys don't own dinosaurs (d) putting gender ideals onto a baby seems insane (e) surely everything for children should be unisex anyway (f) we don't want to feel like we've contributed to an oppressive system that has negative consequences for boys and girls respectively (g) can't we just all get along (h) it's all marketing bullshit anyway (i) yes we are those hippy sounding parents but I don't care, (j) we do put her in pink sometimes; and (k) we just want Phoebe to feel free to be anything she wants.

But I do totally appreciate we had made her look like a boy.

The air hotestess said, 'ooh, he's really flirting with me!'

And I had to say, 'Actually, this is a girl. Um, we just dress in her unisex clothes because we don't want her to feel restricted by gender norms as she grows up.'

To her credit the air hostess tried to style it out and said, 'Oh. Well such a lovely smile!'

I kind of wanted to say, 'It's OK, my baby could be gay for you. I mean even if this was a boy, I don't think he was trying to get lucky. I mean god, what kind of ego do you have? Oooh. Even babies fancy me.' 

But I didn't. The air hostess was lovely. And she was occupying my baby for 30 seconds so I didn't have to.

But it did make me realise how early our responses to babies conform to social expectiations. Boys are active flirters, while girls are passive smilers. And thus the treadmill of repression begins.

It kind of makes me want to dress Phoebe 'as a boy' forever to see what else people will do differently.

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