Kim Kardashian is having a girl! This "news" has been picked up and reported by almost every major news source in the last week. In fact, the discovery of the sex of the Kardashian/West baby has been just as newsworthy as the disclosure of the pregnancy itself. Which leads me to ask the question that I think about every time a baby's sex is revealed: why do people care so much about whether a baby is a boy or a girl?
I have two children and each time I waited until the end of my pregnancy to find out what I was having. The looks of shock, disbelief, and in some cases, disgust, that people gave me when I told them that I did not know the sex of my unborn child were commonplace. People just could not believe that I wouldn't want to know – and in that statement, what I felt they were saying was that I should care whether the baby was a boy or a girl.
And the truth is that people do care. Upon learning that she was pregnant with a little girl, Kim Kardashian, said, "Who doesn't want a girl? They're the best and I know that's really what Kanye has always wanted. He wanted a little girl." This quote was printed in every publication that reported on this story without much fanfare, but I think it speaks volumes about the way our culture continues to think about gender. While it shows great progress that baby girls are now desired, why do we have to compare baby boys against baby girls? Why does one get to be the "best?" What ever happened to just wanting a healthy baby? And perhaps more interesting, why do women feel the need to provide a baby of a particular sex to their partner?
Having been there myself, I understand how emotional it is to prepare for the birth of one's child. And I know what it is like to envision your future with a particular child, and to assume that the experience will be different based upon the sex of the baby. A lot of people grieve the loss of the experience of raising a boy or a girl based upon their expectations of what that particular child would be like. I understand and empathize with those feelings.
I do, however, think that our obsession with boys versus girls can have grave consequences for children as the years go by, particularly in light of the fact that every sentiment is now captured forever in Facebook status updates or tweets. How distressing for a child to learn that his mother or father had hoped he would be someone other than exactly who he is? How sad for a child to ever feel that she was a disappointment solely by virtue of her gender? I, too, have fallen prey to assuming that I would be able to enjoy shopping and getting a manicure with my daughter, while my husband could look forward to playing a round of golf and watching a Lakers game with our son. These stereotypical activities may prove to be true, but I recognize that none of this has anything to do with the essence of who our children are and I make it a point to de-emphasize traditional gender roles in our home.
Our society's obsession with the gender of children serves no good purpose. After my struggle with infertility, when I became pregnant I could have cared less about the sex of the baby that I was finally carrying to term. The issue of the baby's gender seemed like a frivolous concern that belonged to people who were able to easily conceive. And yet, now that she is here, I readily admit that my daughter wears more than her fair share of pink, and I look forward to watching her play with her first doll and dress up in my wedding gown that has been hanging in the closet for no other reason for years and years. Truthfully, I have no idea if she will care about dolls or want to play dress-up. And if she doesn't, that will be fine with me. Perhaps my son will want to play in that way – and that will be okay, too. Both of my children are gifts. I wouldn't want either of them to think of themselves any other way.
Why do you think that our society is obsessed with the sex of babies? Do you think that it is creating a damaging culture for our children?