I thought genders were socially constructed, until I became a parent. Why is society hell bent on de-gendering everything?!
In light of Target and bathrooms and people calling to de-gender everything, I need to comment - NOT on what bathroom people use (aren't we all tired of that?!) but on the topic of gender. Some of the most outrageous comments I've seen on the topic state that "gender is a social construction!" and "let's take all gender-specific things away entirely!" And honestly, I'm just sitting over here with a massive eye roll. It must be fun to be so opinionated without any experience on the actual differences in gender, huh? I'm betting none of the people with those strong opinions have children.
In college, I thought gender was taught too. And for some things (like masculinity and teaching boys not to be emotionally vulnerable) I think it still is. Blue for boys and pink for girls is clearly made up by us as a society. However, to say that gender is entirely a social construction is a complete load of crap. How do I know? I had children. And I see what they do, the way they act, and the toys they prefer first hand every day. And it's not just my children - it's my friends children too, all reinforcing the same principle.
Otto is a mere 5 months old, so he's too young to be a part of this conversation. Henry, on the other hand, is the perfect age to demonstrate that "gender preferences" are a REAL thing. We have tons of gender neutral toys (blocks, puzzles, books, etc) for him to play with. He loves them. He also has a baby doll and a colony of stuffed animals, traditionally bought for girls. He has cars, trucks, trains and balls, traditionally bought for boys. He has play dates with boys and girls his age.
At two years old, he doesn't yet understand that he's a boy. He's just starting to stare at me when I get dressed, noticing that I have parts he doesn't and he has parts I don't. He doesn't prefer to play with boys or girls yet - he's still an equal opportunity friend! And he certainly doesn't understand the concept of society, gender roles, transgender, or any other label currently trending - you know, all the "isms" people are talking about these days.
All that said, how do I know that boys and girls biologically have gender inscribed in them? I see it. Every day. Henry has ZERO desire to play with the dolls. When we have play dates at little girls' homes, he's not interested in dollhouses. He wants to play with the balls. He'll seek out the puzzles. If I'm sitting on the floor, he'll come to me to wrestle. He's got energy to get out! While the little girls will sit quietly and play (like I used to do when I was little), Henry is loud(er) and moving and active. I haven't "raised" him to be this way; it's just who he is. He's at the age where he will fearlessly be who he is naturally, all society standards aside.
Meanwhile the little girls we play with love to nurture their dolls. They sit and stroke their hair. It's precious! And just as soon as your heart melts, they're over their dolls and everyone is playing a game of tag together, running around the house or the pool deck like a pack of wild animals. Not all girls like to sit still for long, especially in Henry's age group! But, the fact of the matter is girls have estrogen. Estrogen promotes that nurturing side in a female, all societal construction of gender be damned! It's in their blood. Just like boys have testosterone. They biologically want to move and wiggle and make noise. So much noise...
It's not that I have a "more masculine" boy than anyone else. In fact, I'd say he's far more gentle and sensitive than the other boys we play with. He's fascinated by me breast feeding and pumping for his younger brother. He dances to the beat of my pump and one time got a hold of some pump parts, held them to his nipples and said, "Baby! Baby!" as if he could feed the baby too. This is to say that just because you have a boy doesn't mean he'll be a wild and loud creature, just like if you have a girl, she'll be a doll-loving quiet lady. Each child is different with different amounts of hormone and different genes.
I'm not going so far as to say if you have a girl she will be a doll-loving nurturer and if you have a boy, he'll be a truck racing wild thing! It's not black and white like that. It's a spectrum. As a female myself, I like to be physically active and run around - I don't want to sit quietly all day. My point is that there IS a difference. And that difference is ok. We should all accept it, and maybe even embrace it. Why are we spending so much time de-gendering everything? Why do we suddenly feel this need to force everyone to be the same?
I see gender differences everyday in the play and preferences of my children, and others children. Which is why I don't understand this call to "de-gender" everything. Let boys be boys and girls be girls. And if Henry wants to pretend breastfeed, that's precious! And if his lady friends want to come over and race cars with us, that's fantastic! But don't pretend like gender doesn't exist, or that we can just "do away" with it. That's excessive. And it's nonsense.