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I have been wondering for a while how I would announce to you the gender of the child once we got to know it.  If it’s a girl, I’ll change my website to a pink theme and have balloons floating around was my first thought.  I did not have an idea what I’d do with a boy.  The thought lasted just a few seconds before I embarrassed myself with putting the child-to-be in gendered containers.  I myself had been fond of pink for a long time.  I remember a shopping trip during my primary school days when I demanded pink undergarments from the sales woman.  “Are you a Muslim”, she asked.  I still don’t know how she made that association.

I should confess that I have been struggling with the gender business.  While I was at D.School doing my Masters I had a few feminist friends who did not hesitate to call my remarks sexist every now and then. Thankfully they did that with a smile and my reaction to that changed over time from ‘what on earth is she talking about’ to ‘oh my lord, did I say that’.  Schooling on gender started in concrete terms from those years.

Much before getting to D.School, I had resisted well defined notions of who should do what.  My father had encouraged me not to be afraid of being different, and in high school I had become fond of JK who helped me understand that well defined ideas of who should do what is a great source of unhappiness.  My feminist friends helped me appreciate the lines drawn around women’s lives, circumscribing their freedom and happiness. And here I was thinking of painting my website pink for an unborn child.

My sociological training since has led me to question gender stereotypes.  And then I got married.

Marriage does many strange things and one of it was to mess with my sociological training thus far. There were many strong differences between Dr. K and I, many of which were gendered in the conventional sense.  It is true that she contradicts most stereotypes of women, but the gendered differences between us were too much to ignore.  If that were not enough she started introducing me to new stereotypes but with the difference that women were right on top in all of these.  Men just cannot multi-task and women are just superior in it.  Where do you think humanity would be if we did not manage our work and taking care of children at the same time? We would all be dead. I have not yet figured out how to accept the strong portrayal of women and yet reject the stereotyping involved?

Every now and then a Porsche would pass by us and Dr. K would say, it must be a man, perhaps suffering a mid-life crisis.  Why on earth would you buy such a costly car that breaks down all the time? It just does not make any sense.  Every now I then I would silently smile with the knowledge that the driver of the car was indeed a woman.  If you’re a little boy out there, not all is doomed!

I have noticed that many of my sweetheart’s new stereotypes too have their flaws.  On one occasion we were behind a Porsche with a male driver that was just ahead of us when the signal turned red. She was arguing that women are more patient and this helps them accomplish more.  The signal had turned green and the Porsche did not move in 1.5 seconds.  What are you waiting for? A signal from God? She yelled.  I guess my sweetheart too is struggling with stereotypes.

The good news is that we both agree that our child should grow up with the courage to engage in things that he or she values and not be bound by crushing boundaries.  And we want the child to make these choices thoughtfully and with kindness for others.  Hopefully, we will do our job as responsible parents in exposing the child to many daily wonders that surround us and help the child find happiness in many an activity.

I should add that I am fairly conservative when it comes to certain things.  I would prefer a girl’s name for a girl and a boy’s name for a boy.  I would be uncomfortable with calling a boy ‘Rachel’.  There is no logic to it, but I accept my conservatism on that account.  Having learned the gender of the child, I have devised some names for the child.  I asked Dr. K what qualities she desires in a name and she said that it has to be less than nine letters long and easy to pronounce. I told her that I have a name that is less than 9 letters and everyone in the world can pronounce it.  Instead of being happy or curious she became nervous, I don’t want our child to be called Apple or Google she said.  I guess we are jumping ahead in talking of a name, I have not yet told you if it’s a boy or a girl.

Talking of jumping ahead, my wife who wishes to plan for everything well in advance has been planning things for the child.  She is already working on a school, setting up college funds, drafting our will among other things.  At this rate she would finish planning all that have to be planned for our child’s life and our own lives in the next few years.  My theory is that by the time we are both 40 she will start planning for our afterlives, for there will be nothing else left to plan by that time. In the meanwhile there are things like clothing the child.  She learned of a sale of children’s clothing two weeks ago when we did not yet know the gender of the child and decided to use the occasion.

We had our conversation about stereotypes on our way when she declared that she does not believe that boys should not play with Barbie dolls.  We reached the store and she instructed me to look for neutral clothes since we did not know the gender yet.  I picked a pretty pink Onsie and a beautiful red Christmas-y coat.  I told her that I don’t mind boys wearing pink and she was embarrassed that others could hear it. She does believe in boys’ clothes for boys’ and girls’ clothes for girls.  We have since learned the gender and shopping has continued.  I will leave you with a picture of one piece that my sweetheart bought for our yet to be born child, and that shall finally let you know what you came here for.

 

 

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About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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