Hooboy, people is WEIRD about gender.
This is my opinion based on experience and also, cultural norms and political evidence.
My daughter is currently my posse. We go EVE’RWHARE together because… well, I am her primary caretaker and I don’t want to stay home all the damn time. My daughter is also one of those babies that makes people squee because, and I quote, “Oh mer gawd, her cheeeeeeeks!” and “Wouldya lewk at those eyelashes!” So I get a lot of strangers approaching me–which as an introvert is my nightmare–and making all sorts of “I just want to eat her face” comments.
I mean, I want to eat her face too. It’s that kind of face. But she’s MY baby. Only I get to eat her face. Back off, zombies.
The problem is that she is not always easily gendered based on cultural norms because… and this is going to absolutely shock you to the point where you’ll want to comment on what a terrible mother I am and if you knew my address, you’d send the Mommy Police right to my door:
She has a blue and white blanket. GASP! WHAT?! HOW DARE YOU! THEY SHOULD CASTRATE YOU, EDA, FOR CONFUSING EVERYONE SO MUCH.
Ok, first of all, calm yer tats, because I’m done having babies. Castration seems like an expense and I’m not paying for it so if you really feel like it should happen, fork over some dough. But be warned, I wasn’t planning on having any more anyway so you might be wasting your video game money.
Secondly, it’s a blanket. It’s a hand-me-down from my son, just like the blue and white striped bucket hat she refuses to wear for more than three seconds (which is why I refuse to buy her a new hat). And she doesn’t always wear pink, which, I know, is very confusing for the old folk out there who desperately need that specific gender marker to make sense of their world.
But you know what? Even when she does wear pink–true story here–even when she’s wearing a freaking tutu and a shirt that says, “Daddy’s Princess”, people still get caught up on the blanket… which is only covering her feet half the time because she kicks it off. Even with an abundance of culturally appropriate signals as to her gender, people will still say “he” and when I very gently answer, “Yeah, she’s got a tooth coming in so she’s a little cranky,” they will fall all over themselves to correct their HORRRRRRIBLE mistake, blaming the blanket–that goddamn penis-signifying blanket–for mis-gendering her.
And I’m like, “It’s really not that big a deal.” But they cry and they shake and they run to the shower to wash off the humiliation.
Are we not yet at the point where a baby’s genitals don’t matter to strangers? Can we get there, please? And, this one’s just for me, can we maybe not approach adorable babies like they’re public property and force their reluctant mothers into conversations?