16 November 2016

What a Darling Boy ... Gender Norms in Dressing My Baby Daughter

One of the first reactions I had when learning we were having a daughter was a negative feeling about the bows and glitter and girly-ness of dressing her. (I was also terrified of the patriarchal system we brought her into, and that fear is more deeply rooted now in the start of her sixth year, but you know what I mean...)

My fears of "girlie" clothes have been pretty much unfounded, and I've found plenty of clothes I'm fine with Jane wearing. And she gets to choose what to wear from what I've bought and has been handed down to us. I help with appropriateness -- always shorts/leggings under dresses for school, always tennis shoes at school for safety and dressing for the weather -- and I probably "help" a little too much to get my favorite tops or pants worn. But Jane's learning to be confident in her style and clothes choices. (Her latest is Avengers, thanks to my mom -- and she wears her sparkly Captain America shield shirt at least once a week ... marketing geniuses, I tell ya.)

I didn't have the same "OMYGOD" reaction to finding out Livia is a girl. We'd been there, done that and were up to the challenge of doubling the fun (and stress) by raising two daughters. But her babyhood has been very different.

Where Jane had tons of hair and very early had to have hair clips to hold it back Livia came out with much less hair, some of it fell out and it's just now coming in. Technically it could hold a light hair bow or I could always make her wear a headband with a bow, but I reject that style in favor of her comfort!

But combined with her somewhat gender neutral baby clothes this means Livia is often mistaken for a boy.

I can only remember that happening once with Jane, and it was our first visit to the doctor's office after her birth. She was wearing gray sweatpants and a blue UC t-shirt. I'm pretty sure it didn't happen again, and not because I dressed her in pink or frills. I avoided those for a while. (Jane's love for pink and seeing how cute she looks in and how much she likes some frilly, sparkly things made me relent.)

Usually I don't correct strangers if they mistake Livia for a boy, just say thanks because it's usually a complement and move on. One of the guys who delivered Jane's bounce castle told Livia, "It'll be your first birthday before you know it, little man." (And I'm pretty sure she was wearing pink!)

But of course this last week I've been pissed at everything and everyone and will absolutely let anyone know "Oh, she's a girl." And it's grated me enough to write about it.

The default baby is a boy. Short hair equals boy, even when literally this hair is all that's ever grown on her head.

This is a quick take on something that's been on my mind, so it needs work and more thought. Filling up the NaBloPoMo challenge I've set for myself and keeping up that momentum. Over halfway there...

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