Monthly Archives: May 2011

Genderless

Neutrum_1994

It wrote this cartoon back in 1994, near Weltschmerz’s inception. I dust it off now because of the kerfuffle about the Toronto parents who have decided to keep their baby’s sex secret. Only they, two midwives and the child’s two siblings know what is between Storm’s legs. This family has made international news, with many lambasting the parents, who have understandably refused further interviews.

What’s old is new again. Nearly two decades ago, a friend of mine told me of her friends, who were doing the same thing. At the time, I found it bizarre, misguided political correctness run amok – and great fodder for cartoons. After all, I thought, in the first few years, parents and siblings have a greater influence in a child’s mental development than society at large. They are not free of societal preconceptions, much as they might want to think otherwise.

Of course, in 1994, there was no Internet, and the story didn’t hit the media.

Do I still think it’s bizarre? Well, keeping a secret like that would be immensely impractical. It spotlights gender as a defining aspect of personality – by making it into a secret, it is emphasized. And the parents may push their (maybe) boy to do (maybe) “girl” things.

However, as the parent of a girl who wishes desperately to be a boy, I find the Great Wall of Gender tall, thick, impenetrable and ever-growing, despite decades of striving for women’s rights. It’s the first question asked of a new baby. Clothes and toys are more and more genderfied. And marketers have been unfettered to foist stereotype-reinforcing (and apparently highly profitable) media on our children.

When my daughter, having just switched to boy clothes, picked up a flower off the sidewalk, a man sitting on his porch said, “ahh, hes’ a flower-lover, eh?” I can’t imagine him saying that if a girl-identified kid did the same thing.

So I understand Storm’s parents’ motivation, and hope it opens some eyes and helps bring down the wall – or at least hacks a few doors through it.

I still find this cartoon funny. I like when a cartoon has legs. Regardless of what’s between them.