What is the deal with our obsession with sex and gender?

Unintentionally phallic-looking baby-shaped white chocolate or yogurt pops and blue onesie-shaped sign that says "It's a BOY!" and has a bow-tie.

Before we’re even born, numerous complete strangers will ask about:

  • When we are expected to come into this world
  • Whether we have a penis or a vulva (I know the question is usually worded as “Is it a boy or a girl?” but let’s be honest, both ways these are worded are meant to satisfy the exact same curiosity).

Isn’t that strange? I mean, I’m not a fan at all of strangers approaching someone and asking unprompted questions they’d never dare ask if that person looked more masculine or had an abdomen that was less round… but we all know I’m a weirdo.

So setting my opinion aside and assuming we absolutely must interrupt the lives of pregnant persons to gain intel about a small human we will likely never cross paths with again, why do we take more of an interest in the baby’s genitalia than in the baby’s personality or interests? Is it mostly a chill baby or is it always throwing wiggle parties? Does it mostly hang out in one spot or does it like to flip around and change it up? Does it do a happy dance when you eat certain foods? Does it startle easily? It’s almost as though we assume that the person carrying the baby could not possibly know anything more about it than it’s due date, and whether or not it has a penis or a vulva.

I’m stuck on this… like, what do strangers do with this information once they get it? Seriously, they will stop what they are doing to go over to a person they assume is pregnant (based on their evaluation of that person’s body shape) and will interrupt whatever that person is doing so that they can learn that, in about three months, there will be a new penis on this planet? And then what? What value has come out of this exchange?

I won’t lie, as an expecting parent, I did find it exciting to learn which genitals my babies were expected to be born with… because I yearned for any and every bit and type of information about my little babies that I could get. If I could have learned from the womb about their eye color, hair color, or whether their big toe or second toe was their longest toe, I’d have eaten that trivia up with a ladle. I also could have told you about their temperaments, preferred body positions, and sleep schedules.

And after our babies are born, their genitalia continues to hold an important place in people’s minds… it steers them to specific aisles in clothing and toy stores, affects their tolerance for the baby’s tears, the gentleness of their tone, and the roughness of their play. Again, why? No really, why? The body part they use to pee may affect how we change their diapers, but why does it change which hue of fabric is acceptable for keeping them warm?

It’s completely arbitrary. Pink used to be considered a “masculine” color and blue more “delicate” and “feminine”. Did reversing this cultural norm heal any of our societal ills that switching them back would undo? Boys–particularly those of high status, and isn’t that what we all want for our children?–used to wear ruffles, jewels and sparkles, high heels, and make-up. Did societal wounds heal once those practices were abandoned? Oh, but maybe they might have if only girls never traded their skirts for trousers? And who decided it’s girly to wear a bow in your hair, but if it’s on your neck, it’s manly?

I have many more thoughts on this topic, but I’ll end it here. Feel free to agree with or enlighten me in the comments (any comment laced with insults will be swallowed by the comment-void. I’m all for respectful discourse).

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