Baby · Family · Feminism

The Pronoun Game

We’re still at that stage where we can’t walk more than 10 feet without someone sticking their head into the pram and cooing over BB, which obviously becomes exponentially worse in Waitrose because the main demographic of shoppers is already drawing a pension and therefore are drawn to small babies like a fly to the proverbial ‘you know what’. It’s sweet that people are so nice and want to pass on that positivity, even if answering the same 3 questions (“Yes, she’s very little.” “She’ll be 6 weeks on Monday” “She sleeps brilliantly for a newborn, yes”) does get a little tiresome at times.

But today, I went renegade. I battled against conformity and threw everyone through a loop. I took BB out dressed…IN BLUE! This, so be specific:

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It’s a hand-knitted cardie that used to belong to Sausage and she was wearing it with a red babygrow,

I immediately noticed a change.

“OH! Isn’t she beautiful!” instead became “OH! Isn’t your baby lovely!”

Because, by dressing her in blue, I somehow seem to have challenged the gender perceptions of the septuagenarian population of Essex. They could see the pink blanket, my very pink changing bag but the addition of blue knitwear made everyone err on the side of caution. It made me think about MY perception of gender. If I saw a baby dressed head-to-toe in pink, I’d automatically assume it was female, but would a parent not have as much right to dress a little boy in pink, as I do to dress BB in blue?

I’m constantly telling Sausage that pink isn’t just for girls, girls can play with cars and Meccano if they want to. Just yesterday, Husband and I were telling her what it is to be transgender and that some people may appear to physically be one gender but actually feel like they’re something completely different. But how can I expect my daughter to understand gender issues when I buy into them myself?

And then, it occurred to me.

The reason people play the pronoun game is so as not to cause offence. People say ‘your baby’ or ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ because they think it would be rude to guess wrongly at a baby’s gender. But…why? I guess parental pride could play a part, plenty of parents would find it offensive if someone guessed wrongly at the gender of their little darling, but that seems crazy to me. Sure, some babies really do look overtly masculine or feminine, but let’s face it, most of them are fairly neutral.

We need to stop treating gender as some hot-button of embarrassment and quit being so ridiculous about it. Dress your boys in pink and your girls in blue – colours shouldn’t automatically signify gender, they should be accessible to all, and when a myopic old lady calls your little dude “she”, laugh it off. It’s really not the end of the world, is it?!

What do you think? Would you be cross if someone got your child’s gender wrong? Do you dress your baby in the ‘wrong’ colours for its gender? Let me know!

23 thoughts on “The Pronoun Game

  1. Abbey had no hair until she was over 2 and was always called a boy despite wearing the pinkest girliest dresses. It used to really annoy me but now I think its quite funny and wind her up all the time!

  2. I’ve never cared in the least if people get my kids’ genders wrong, but I have read really angry, upset posts by bloggers where someone has called their he a she or their she a he, so yeah, that’s why we dance around it, I guess, because while it doesn’t bother me, some people are clearly really upset by mistakes, and I’d never intentionally upset anyone.

  3. I think it is often hard to tell if babies under 1 year old are male or female, and if there are no clues in the way they are dressed it is more polite to say ‘they’ or ‘your baby’ rather than guess – though I am totally with you on changing gender preconceptions. I was very proud to buy my son a toy hoover when he was a toddler because he wanted one, against the protests of his father. Great topic 🙂

  4. Baby wears mostly girlie type clothes or colours because I like them. But I do sometimes just put her in jeans and a jumper. If someone called her a boy it wouldn’t worry me though.
    x

  5. I wouldn’t be cross but i’d say if you weren’t sure then don’t say anything in the first place. Sometimes its so obvious yet some people don’t really look first before speaking. xx

  6. This made me smile because MIss Frugal looked like a boy until she was about 18 months – no matter what I dressed her in she still looked like a boy. It didn’t bother me but I did wish her hair would grow so she looks more like a girl x

  7. I have two toddler boys who are very typical little boys,playing with dinosaurs, cars, trains etx . however they adore their toy kitchen, their toy pushchair (blue!). they both have some funky pink t-shirts! Harrison, my eldest, has lovely white blonde hair that up until recently had some length and curl to it, and huge baby blue eyes, and people constantly asked if he was boy or girl, even when he was wearing very obviously ‘boy clothes’ !

  8. I wouldn’t be annoyed if someone called the girls boys as babies…although it is clear now they are girls…. I do dress them in blue too…but I guess people seem to find it worse dressing boys in pink

  9. I used to put Austin in pink tops when he was little – not ones with flowers or princesses or anything, but just a bit of pink. Sadly now, at four years old, he firmly buys into the ‘pink is for girls’ nonsense. He was shocked when I told him my favourite colours were red and orange – he genuinely believed that all women and girls liked pink best. Yikes!

  10. I have 2 boys who are very much boys but i’m not afraid to dress them in pink or other ‘girly’ colours on occasions. However, i prefer to see newborns in pink or blue as it’s so hard to distinguish between a boy and a girl at that stage and i would hate to cause offence to the parents by guessing incorrectly.

  11. People have thought my daughter was a boy since the day she was born. Thankfully she’s only 2 but it doesn’t matter how she’s dressed, she still gets called a boy. She’s the girliest girl I’ve ever seen!

  12. Oh I get this all the time with Ozzy with his long hair – they look at him and Kitty and say ‘what lovely girls!’ Luckily he’s not at the sage where his puts his hands on his hips and tells them they are silly and he’s a boy. Oh how they apologise!

  13. They would be guessing the sex wouldn’t they not the gender. Gender is a preference, sex is the biology – but I guess I am splitting hairs. There is something rather annoying about your son being called a girl when he looks like a boy but has longer than average curly hair.

    Do you know the study about baby X I find that all very interesting.

  14. We have a policy of sharing toys in our house where every toy is available to all, no matter of gender. I don’t think it matters what colours boys and girls wear, as long as they are happy and healthy. Anyways, I’ve dressed my girl in pink head to toe before and I’ve still been asked, “Is it a ‘he’?” Like you say, it’s something to laugh off! 🙂

  15. I don’t see anything wrong with pink for girls and blue for boys, although my son wore the whole gamut of colours when he was a baby!

    When it comes to tiny babies, people are wary of getting the gender wrong – I know I am, so if they’re wearing a gender defining colour then it helps me – maybe I’m just old fashioned or something!!

  16. If its not colour, its hair length. Literally barely a day passes when I have to correct someone from calling O a girl, he is totally the most boy-ish, and gross of my boys (said with total loving affection) despite dressing him ‘normally’ and the fact that he is normally stomping, growling, roaring or making gross hocking a loogie sounds, people are desperate for him to be a girl! To the point when people say oh you have ‘two boy and a girl’, dutifully I reply ‘no three boys’ and some have said ‘really?’…Err yes really!

  17. Syd gets called a girl all the time, no matter what colour I dress him in- he is just too pretty for his own good I guess! Doesn’t bother me though. Oddly I dressed my daughter in blue, but wouldn’t dress Syd in pink, even though I disapprove of the gender colour nonsense I can’t help going along with it…..having said that Max has a couple of pink t-shirts!

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