Around the date of our 20 week scan, people started asking me a lot of questions about the gender of my growing baby.
This makes sense as this scan is traditionally the one where expectant parents can find out their child’s genitals.
Many parents choose not to find out for a variety of reasons, from wanting to leave it as a surprise to not wanting to make any assumptions about their child’s gender expression before dating them based solely on their gender.
For others, knowing even the tiniest detail about your child during pregnancy helps to provide a stable footing in the sea of unknowns of imminent parenthood — and helps them envision their child and what it might look like.
My partner and I weighed the pros and cons of each and decided that we would find out (full disclosure: I will not share this information here to protect my baby’s privacy, although I respect every parent’s choice not to do so to do as much or as little as they want).
When we found out, everyone in our social circle was curious. Some were excited, like us, to just know something – anything – about our future child.
Others, however, took a more practical stance; They wanted to know because they (very generous and kind) wanted to buy things – especially clothes – for our child and choose the appropriate color: pink or blue.
Well, as probably anyone who has read my work knows, I don’t share any normative gender stereotypes at all. And so my reflex was and is to say that my baby’s gender doesn’t matter: buy them blue, buy them pink, buy them a glitter ball onesie, we’re all good!
But when we later tried to stock up on some essentials, we were so shocked that what most high-street brands have to offer when it comes to baby clothes in 2022 is still so antiquated.
Reading the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sections of some of the biggest brands’ websites was like stepping back into a bygone era where the former were still defined by ‘scissors, snails and doggie tails’ and the latter by ‘sugar’ and spices and everything beautiful’.
I don’t believe in normative gender stereotypes at all
You see it everywhere; Clothing in the boys’ sections is littered with words that encourage adventure and physical play. Girls, on the other hand, are offered princesses and unicorns, with words emphasizing their physical beauty or fragility.
Given all the strides we’ve made in gender equality and freedom over the past century, how haven’t we all moved away from those rigid stereotypes that really really hurt everyone?
In our case, we made a conscious effort to source clothing mostly second-hand and in a full kaleidoscope of colors. Of course, some parents prefer to stick with the stereotypical choices, and that’s absolutely their right.
But given the many people I’ve spoken to who are frustrated by the lack of variety in color options, especially when it comes to boys’ clothing, I just can’t understand why more stores aren’t catering to this demand.
While you may cynically think that most fashion retailers don’t really care about the impact that gender stereotyping has on child development, surely there is a commercial opportunity here? It makes no sense; Surely they could just lump all baby clothing options together and let parents decide which ones to buy based on their preferences?
There are a few brands that offer more gender-neutral offerings, but it’s surprising that this is still something you’ll need to proactively look for as a parent-to-be, rather than something only offered by most labels.
If someone thinks our girl is a boy or our boy is a girl, honestly who cares?
It’s wild when you think about how much we’ve clung to the pink/blue dichotomy and why. Some parents who are more prone to this clothing choice say they do so to avoid constantly gender-mismatching their baby. I can understand why this might be a concern, although I can’t say it’s something I personally care about.
Ultimately, I find the whole thing frustrating as an older adult woman who grew up with the label of someone daring to dress outside of their gender stereotype as a “tomboy.” Like many other people, I’ve spent my entire life trying to break the shackles of expectations about my biological sex (and gender expression), and that’s something I don’t want to force on anyone.
Childhood should be a time of ultimate freedom to express yourself in all directions while figuring out who you will be. So why impose such arbitrary rules on those who are not yet constrained by the highly gendered world in which we live? Why don’t you just let her be?
I recognize that as a parent this is a really personal thing and I would never judge anyone for their own decisions regarding their child. But in our case, we proactively look for clothes in every single color we can find, hoping that—at least at home in the space that we have some control over—they can try anything and be exactly what they are are and express what you want.
And if someone thinks our girl is a boy or our boy is a girl, then honestly, who cares?
I recognize that the task of eliminating gender expectations of my child in the larger society will be an impossible task and if after all this they choose to dress more frequently in colors consistent with their assigned gender in are connected, then of course that will be the case with them and we will support them.
But for now I’m enjoying creating a colourful, kaleidoscopic, glittering and exciting universe for our little baby to grow and develop in, where nothing is off the table based on their gender. Everything after that is up to them.
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