Being the youngest woman out of almost 50 first cousins on my father’s side alone (gotta love that big Arab fam), I was able to witness several of my older cousins start their own little families. This means that I’ve attended a fair share of baby showers over the course of my young adulthood.
Upon hearing the news of whether one of my cousins is having a male or female baby, I already know what the color scheme will be at the baby shower.
Male baby = blue decorations
Female baby = pink decorations
And I never questioned it.
But now I have a better understanding of gender and biological sex. Biological sex is the set of body parts you are born with that identifies you as male, female, or intersex. Gender, however, is a social construct, and there are endless amounts of different gender identities.
We’re socially conditioned to view life from a gender binary lens. This means that we’re taught that there are only two genders, man and woman, and this simplifies a very complex concept that isn’t as clear cut as you might think. Through our social interactions, we are taught what is considered to be feminine and masculine, and this normalized indoctrination of what it means to be a man or a woman reinforces that binary.
We are also taught that biological sex is synonymous with gender identity.
However, it is important to realize that they are not the same thing.
Having a penis doesn’t mean you have to identify your gender as a man. Similarly, having a vagina doesn’t mean you have to identify as a woman. People with penises can identify as women, and people with vaginas can identify as men. Some people might be genderqueer as well. Your gender isn’t defined by the body parts you were born with.
Gender roles are constantly shoved down our throats. We’re taught that being a woman means we have to be quiet, submissive, passive, nurturing, and docile. We’re taught that being a man means we have to be loud, assertive, dominant, emotionless, and physically strong. Whether we’re married adults and our families enforce gender roles and expectations on us, or whether we’re 8-month-old unborn babies in our mother’s womb, our gender is defined for us depending on the body parts we are perceived to have.
So let’s say that a mother finds out she is pregnant with a female and she goes off decorating the baby shower with pink decorations. Then, when the child is born and grows older, he realizes he’s a transgender man and doesn’t identify as a woman. How must it feel to be that transgender man and know that your own parents had these expectations of you and what your identity was supposed to be before you were ever even born?
I’m not transgender, so I cannot speak on behalf of people who are trans and experience unparalleled levels of violence, hatred, internalized transphobia, and constant identity crises.
However, as an ally, I always try to be as inclusive as possible. If I was a soon-to-be mother having a baby, deciding to throw a blue or pink baby shower would mean that I am robbing my unborn child– my flesh and blood — of the opportunity to decide what gender they feel most inclined to identify with. I am making a call on behalf of someone who cannot advocate for themselves, and I’m defining their identity for them without their consent.
In order to prevent gender-based indoctrination, a positive alternative could be to have a gender-neutral baby shower.
A lot of families already like to hold off on knowing the sex of the baby until the baby is born and throw gender-neutral baby showers. However, even if you decide to know the sex early on, you should still have a gender-neutral baby shower so as to not place certain expectations on your child before they are born and to truly allow them to cultivate into the person they desire to be, rather than molding them and shoving them into the gender binary.
One simple Google search can bring you to a plethora of creative gender-neutral baby shower ideas and themes. Heck, there are even Pinterest boards dedicated to it!
Having a gender-neutral baby shower makes a statement. It challenges preconceived notions that reinforce the gender binary and in turn reinforce patriarchy, and we all know how badly we want to see the patriarchy smashed!