Thursday, May 08, 2008

On Gender II

Decided to try to catch up on what was happening in the world outside my academic concerns and spent 40 minutes listening to NPR's series on transgendered children. (Made me think of Ma Vie en Rose.) Even for the more progressive among us, I think transgender is a hard thing to wrap one's mind around. We are just coming to terms with homosexuality, just barely. How to balance your child's personal fulfillment with the looming rejection of society? I can't imagine the deep deep pain of these decisions.

But let's take a step back. Let's forget about the terminology and the counselors and societal norms for a moment. Once upon a time, girls wore dresses and took Home Ec and eschewed sports and swearing. Bit by bit women donned pants and took up basketball and other manly pursuits and, while a few still cling to the classic notion of femininity (as they should be free to do), most of us happily inhabit a world in which women are free to be as "masculine" or "feminine" as they like.

At first glance, the idea of boys wanting to "be girls" as young as toddlers is alarming. Transgendered toddlers? Yikes! Yet how are they different from the "tomboys" of yore? I don't know that they want to be girls they just want to be free to do things that are currently off-limits to boys. The tales of these poor little boys being forced to omit lavender and pink from their drawings or to give their stuffed animals boy names instead of girls names is unsettling. It's just a color. It's just a name. But even I, of the babies can wear any color camp, still cannot bring myself to include pink in Baby Y's wardrobe. So I understand the parents' fear of the ridicule that these behaviors might elicit but what makes me sad is my belief that the real reason these behaviors are so discomforting is that still today masculine = superior and feminine = inferior.

Seriously, why is that women wearing pants is ok, but men wearing dresses makes us so profoundly nervous? If we took all the blue crayons out of little girls' drawing palette and refused to let them near a pair of pants - imagine how strangely uptight that would seem. Although the struggle for suffrage and independence for women in this country was no light task, it was made easier by the fact that aspiring to be like a man was at some level an admirable and understandable desire. Aspiring to be "like a woman", on the other hand, is puzzling. I think we subconsciously associate it with joining the losing team, so to speak. Despite all our progress, we have only come so far. And I find this point far more alarming than "transgendered toddlers".

... now back to our regular proramming...

8 comments:

The.Grey.One said...

Hi MayBeMBA,
I will be visiting GSB on May 9th (GSB Live). Would be great if i could meet you and have a chat.

- Murali

MaybeMBA said...

Tomorrow is a bad day for me unfortunately w/2 midterms but I will be free and most happy to chat at 4:30 - after all the misery is done. I can meet you at the couches near the security desk ...

The.Grey.One said...

On my GSB Live schedule, i've class visit from 1.30 PM to 4.30 PM. So, 4.30 PM works for me too.
All the best for your mid-terms. I guess you will treat me for a mid-term (job) well done :)
Hope i wud get to meet baby Y :)

- Murali

P.S
I guess you will be able to easily recognize me from my patented "i'm-lost-here" look. Or, from my name tag :)

HappyBunny said...

My baby gender preference:
1 girl and 1 boy
1 girly girl and 1 boyish girl
1 boy and 1 gay boy

So regardless I can have both gender :P

Urban Frolicker said...

Your refreshing views on gender, child-rearing, the MBA process, and life in general are much appreciated.

Thanks!

Bianca Reagan said...

Even for the more progressive among us, I think transgender is a hard thing to wrap one's mind around.

Not for me, and I'm a super progressive. I even have a lycra costume with a big SP across the chest.

We are just coming to terms with homosexuality, just barely.

You should watch more Bravo and HGTV. Oh, and Logo, the actual admitted LGBT network.

How to balance your child's personal fulfillment with the looming rejection of society?

Try being young, gifted and black in America, like me! My parents had to deal with it everyday. You could remove "black" and substitute "differently-abled" or "autistic" or "Jewish" or "poor" or "fat". Our American society rejects many people on a daily basis.

Once upon a time, girls wore dresses and took Home Ec and eschewed sports and swearing. Bit by bit women donned pants and took up basketball and other manly pursuits and, while a few still cling to the classic notion of femininity (as they should be free to do), most of us happily inhabit a world in which women are free to be as "masculine" or "feminine" as they like.

That magical olden tyme didn't exist for all girls. My mother wore dresses, but she also played sports...in the 1950s and 1960s. Also, considering the rhetoric of the mainstream media punditry on Hillary Clinton's perceived sexuality, not all women are "free to be as 'masculine' or 'feminine' as they like."

But even I, of the babies can wear any color camp, still cannot bring myself to include pink in Baby Y's wardrobe.

You should look to Gossip Girl's Chuck for inspiration. He knows how to work a pink polo.

So I understand the parents' fear of the ridicule that these behaviors might elicit but what makes me sad is my belief that the real reason these behaviors are so discomforting is that still today masculine = superior and feminine = inferior.

I agree. I would direct these concerned parents to X: A Fabulous Child's Story by Lois Gould. It explains how silly and restrictive gender is, especially when assigning those expectations on young children. Kids are pretty much interchangeable sex wise at early ages before puberty. The societally constructed gender is what differentiates them.

The.Grey.One said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The.Grey.One said...

Sorry it is definitely my loss that i cudn't meet you there today. I was on a meeting with Joanna and cudn't get there on time to meet you.
I was there at LPF looking around for you, and met Iday and inquired abt you. Then i went and attended the Follies event. It was great.
Will try to get in touch with you again when i come on campus for interview (i'm being optimistic here) :)
Hope you did your mid-terms well. All the best.
- Murali

P.S
I even contacted 2 or 3 gals who were at LPF with babies, whether they are MaybeMBA, and got weird looks :)