Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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[Ok, this sounds unfortunately ranty... but I do think this is an important semantic distinction, and reveals things about our own experience and the experience we give our children. And, I think that the correction made by Talk du jour is totally inappropriate. Let me 'splain...]
I don't know about anyone else, but I intend to go by my child's sex in socializing them toward gender, until such time as they tell me otherwise (which is a very rare event and therefore extremely unlikely). In which case, the sex and gender of my baby are the same. Now, we've been very, very lax on teaching our 3-year-old about gender; he still uses pronouns randomly, and while he can identify "Mommies" and "Daddies" he will call women men and vice versa. He doesn't care who is a boy or a girl, or who wears dresses or slacks, or plays with trucks or dolls. And I'm perfectly happy with that. ;-)
Furthermore, the reason we are NOT finding out the baby's 46th chromosome is because, as soon as that information is known, society (even those of us who are extremely well-meaning and conscious of this phenomenon) will instantly imbue the baby with gender, complete with color-coding, physical descriptions, and appropriate naming schemes. So, the very act of finding out your baby's sex (whenever you do it) simultaneously gives them gender... making the two terms interchangeable in this instance. Before my child was born, I could totally see putting him in the cute kimono-like outfit a friend brought back from Singapore... but once he was a BOY, I just couldn't dress him in something that looked so... feminine. ;-) Even ME! And I thought I had this knocked.
Unfortunately, I can't find an online cite for it... but there was a fascinating study I learned about as an undergrad sociology student. This was done back in the days when all the babies were in the nursery, behind a giant viewing window. The researcher stood there admiring a baby, waiting for another person or group of people to approach. He'd strike up a conversation, ask them about their new relative, and when the question was turned around on him, he'd say "That's my new nephew over there." This was greeted with evaluations of the boy's big strong arms, how he'd be a football player, look at him shake his fist, yadda yadda. Next group comes in, same thing... but he says "That's my niece over there." Now the other family talks about how dainty she is, how pretty and petite, maybe she'll be a dancer. Same damn baby, but we see him/her differently with different gender information.
I'm still gobsmacked at how casually well-educated, "liberated" women and men will gender-type small children. I get told my son is "such a boy" all the time, even though he likes pink and plays with girls. ;-) My mother (who didn't like me to wear pretty dresses for some feminist reason) and a good friend of mine (with a Master's Degree and a very equitable relationship with her husband) noted one day that my son was "such a boy" because he was good at bringing shy kids his own age into group play. They'd seen him do it with my friend's daughter, and were just observing him doing this with a random little girl his age at the mall. Sheer coincidence that these were both girls, and that he a boy; he's outgoing and energetic, so he wants everyone involved. ;-) Doesn't have one whit to do with sex, but they see it through the lens of gender anyway.
So, while I agree that there's a distinction between sex (a biological characteristic) and gender (a social construct), I don't think that distinction is relevant to this discussion, since none of us are even equipped to raise our children without gender in this society. If my son someday reveals that he'd rather be a daughter, I'll respect his feeling on his own gender... but for now, knowing what's between his legs tells me what his gender is.