August 14th, 2008

Summer Hat

Guessing Games

I don't typically think much about gender identity, mostly because my feeling is I don't have a problem with it. I am the proud owner of two X chromosomes and female reproductive parts, and I am not too bothered about all the weird cultural trappings that people hang around that. Thus I can like feminine clothing and physics both and my reaction to people being surprised that I'd rather take a tour of an aircraft carrier than attend a tea party is mild amusement. Other people's expectation of my behavior based on my gender is their own problem, not mine.

These days I can't help but think about it because I keep getting handed data. Every day I take Margaret for a walk. Nearly every day at least one person comments on what a cute baby I have. This is only natural because I do have an exceedingly cute baby. What is less natural is the result of the gender guessing game.

When Margaret was born the nurse in attendance commented that I should slap anyone who asked 'how old is he' because she looked so much like a girl. While I am happy to have an expert data point that states that Margaret doesn't look male, it is lucky for random passers by that I have not been taking this advice. Mostly I remain of the opinion that unless you are changing the diaper, it's impossible to tell the gender of a baby under a year of age. This is why we have the convention of dressing little girls in pink and little boys in blue.

Before Margaret was born I thought that I would be happy to dress my little girl head to toe in pink. As it turns out I am less enthusiastic about pink on her now that she is here. I like pink, really I do. I just don't want all pink all the time. Also, she has already outgrown one set of clothes and is on the verge or outgrowing the next set. Given that she isn't quite two months that's not much wear per outfit, even changing her up to four times a day. I am feeling much more optimistic about our chances of procreating again in the future, and I'd like to use the cute wee clothes again. Given that we can't count on another girl if we are successful again, I find myself buying mostly gender neutral clothing, aside for a few dresses for her to wear when I want her to look especially pretty. As a result Margaret is often out and about without a whole lot of pink on her.

As it turns out, not that many people actually ask me whether the baby is a boy or a girl. About 25% of the people we run into who comment. The rest, that is most of the people, just assume a gender, and at least 75% of them get it wrong. Given that there ought to be a 50% chance of getting it right, I am a bit baffled. I understand the wrong-headed logic that leads to people guessing rather than admit that they can't tell the gender of a person, however tiny. What I don't understand is the bias toward guessing boy, even when there are subtle clues like a small pink pillow. (Apparently the pink pillow and the pink booties that twe made are not enough to clue some folks in.) Pale green doesn't strike me as an especially masculine color. Personally I don't mind that people get it wrong, if I minded that I'd make sure we never left the house without at least three pink items in evidence. What I do find slightly annoying as a female is what seems to be a tendency to default to male. What is up with that?</lj>