The first time my friend’s four year old daughter came over to meet Luella, the first thing she asked me was “Is that a girl baby or a boy baby?” Despite having practised pronouncing “Luella Ruby”, she was thrown for a loop when the newborn she’d been told was a girl was wearing a navy blue and white striped onesie.
Similarly, when walking home from the shops this morning, I carried Luella home in a blue wrap while she wore a dark green onesie and got stopped by a woman cooing, “Oh, he looks sleepy!”
This reaction happens more often than not. The thing is, I rarely dress my daughter in pink. And well, she’s 11 weeks old so her hair is a little androgynous at the moment. She’s been rocking a bit of a mohawk the last few days. And, while I tried to buy her clothing that was gender neutral, the fact is, while she’s got a few little dresses, a lot of her clothes are distinctly “boy” clothes.
On a recent shopping trip to Kmart I grabbed a few pairs of shorts in colours I liked, noting that some scanned as “boys” and others as “girls”. The main difference, I noted when later dressing Luella was that the girls shorts were significantly shorter than the boys, despite being the same size and brand.
I’ve not been shy about admitting that I’m politicizing her clothing choices a bit. Making a statement on how we let our views on gender already start moulding our children before they know the difference between boys and girls.
So why do I get so annoyed when strangers mistake Luella for a boy?
Yes, part of it is that I want to yell defiantly, “Girls can wear blue!” But part of me also worries about how she might react if she gets mistaken for a boy as she gets older. Once she starts picking her own clothes, will she stick with the blues and greens prominent in her current wardrobe? Will she be so confident in asserting her girliness, despite her boyish fashion? Or am I projecting too much onto her? Will she rebel and start demanding pink princess dresses? Will I be ok with her choices? Will I be ok with how society reacts to them?
Clearly I’m over-analysing this, and I’ve got years before it’s really an issue. But even now, do I correct the lady on the street? Does it matter? Would I react differently if she were a boy being mistaken for a girl?
I think gender and femininity/masculinity are much more gray areas than people realise, which is why the subject gives me so much pause in raising my child. But I think it’s ok to figure this one out as we go along.