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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Newborns and Gender

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Author Topic: Newborns and Gender
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I recently completed my obstetrical rotation at a local hospital. I got to work with babies and new parents and it was great.

What really made me wonder ... and we discussed this in a few classes ... Do babies have a gender? Isn't gender something you identify for yourself? (Keeping in mind 'sex' makes you biologically male or female, not 'gender').

According to my sociology text book, gender is "The cultrually and socially constructed difference between females and males found in meanings, beliefs, and practices associated with 'femininity' and 'masculinity'" (Sociology in our Times, Kendall, Murray, Linden, 2004)

I saw parents there throw a fit when their little baby boy was given to them with a pink hat on. Or a white hat. Or blankets even ... ! We had blankets with blue on one side and pink on the other ... But don't dare wrap the baby girl with the blue side out! Girls should be wrapped with the pink side out ... so everyone will know she's a girl.

I was kind of shocked, really.

What do you think? Do you feel you'd treat a newborn boy or girl differently? Is it fair to place such stereotypes on people (infants are people too!) not even a few hours old? Should we be educating parents on the importance of not placing such stereotypes on children or just let them have their baby boy in the nice blue hat?

Posts: 7168 | From: Ontario | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 14139

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This is such a fascinating topic. My answer is no, I wouldn't treat a boy and a girl any differently in infancy. Gender stereotypes shouldn't be imposed on infants - the most common is probably the pink/blue thing, but why when there are so many gender neutral colors? Unfortunately, I doubt educating parents about these sorts of stereotypes will not produce a large effect. I mean, Smurf, you saw how the parents reacted when even a gender neutral color was used instead of an identifying shade. Most people are generally resistant to such changes.

Something interesting that I learned once is that people treat small babies differentially based on gender, as identified by blue, or other things. Boys are more likely to be tossed in the air, in that way that people toss children up and down, while girls are more likely to be held close to the body or left in a carriage. It just fascinates me how gender influences actions toward children that young.

Posts: 317 | From: Seattle, WA | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 182

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They have done studies that show that if people believe a baby is a boy they will describe it with masculine adjectives, and girls with feminine ones. These are words that are commonly *associated* with a gender btw. Boys will be described as 'strong' and 'sweet' for girls. The study concluded that it isnt something people do conciously, it is based in our cultural ideas of maleness and femaleness.
Posts: 523 | From: Ashland, Oregon, US | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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