Friday, April 14, 2006

Androgyny and the art of polite conversation


Having lived with Mama while she got her master's degree in Women's Studies, which involved reading a fair number of papers, before they got to smart for me to understand--in about the second term--I think that I understand a large number of different sides in the gender discussions and debates. Nature vs. nurture? Culture vs. biology? Family vs. society? Peers vs. family?

Everyone seems to have at least one opinion about why boys are boys and girls are girls. Everyone also seems to have at least on opinion about what a boy is and what a girl is. Now that we're having a boy, these discussions are not so academic anymore--just as they wouldn't be if we were having a girl, BTW.

From my vantage point (sitting with iBook scalding my lap, butt in the desk chair, legs up on the U.S.S. Queen Bed, if you must know--although I was talking more about my temporal vantage point, which is prebaby), my greatest concern is trying to figure out what kind of kid 3B is, not whether or not he's a boy or a girl. The biological part of that seemed to be very clear on the ultrasound pictures (ha! we already have naked baby pictures of you, son. . .I'm sure that for a small fee we can keep them in a drawer, where they won't embarrass you in front of your friends), but what people want to know when they ask, "Is it a boy or a girl?" is "How should I treat him or her? How should I behave? Interact? What should I talk about?"

I don't think that I'm making rash generalizations here, since I'm speaking of myself primarily, but also including my observations of other people with babies.

The problem that I have with this behavior is that these people then only teach the child half of what they know--the half that they have determined to be boy or girl behavior, depending on the gender identification of the child. But why can't we teach boys to be socially adept? Why can't we teach girls to be technically adept? BoingBoing writes about one woman who has been subjected to some socially inept behavior, but who still believes that there's hope for boys.

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