Shit, did I say sex? I meant gender. (Yes I did just pull my own take on the classic “SEX! Haha now I’ve got your attention” gag. So sue me.)
So, yes, gender is the topic of the day.
As you will know from reading this blog, I have twin girls – and if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you probably wish I’d stop clogging up your feed with pictures of them in ever so slightly different poses. Before they were born, we didn’t know what flavour of baby we were expecting, so the few clothes we did buy were all pretty gender-neutral.
They were born in the height of summer and it was so hot we would often take them out in just a vest or romper. And there we were, with two teeny tiny babies – suddenly the biggest tourist attraction this side of the London Eye. Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – wants to see your tiny twin babies. You can’t walk down the High Street without being stopped at least three or four times. And the first question on everyone’s lips? “Are they boys or girls?”
I started to get annoyed. Of course they were girls. I mean, we all know that babies do pretty much all just look like babies – genderless little balls of cuddles and vomit. But surely – SURELY – people could tell that my two little darlings were princesses, not princes!
A lot of the clothes we were given as presents when the girls were newborn all fell clearly into the girly category and I started to shy away from dressing them in anything that made it less than obvious they were two little girls – of course, this didn’t stop one old gent in the shopping centre stating that Claudia “must be the boy” because she was the one who wasn’t crying (at the time!), despite both of them being dressed head to toe in pink.
So time has passed and still the majority of their clothes remain pretty feminine. But the Winter has set in and with it the near constant wearing of these gorgeous Mamas and Papas pramsuits that were bought in the sale. Beautiful, a bargain to boot and very gender-neutral.
So whilst the girls might be wearing the prettiest dresses ever underneath them, when we are out and about all anyone ever really sees is the white pramsuits. And so we’re back to the same old question. Interestingly, people often now say, “Are they two girls?” and whilst one of the toys Immie has clipped to her buggy seat is pink, none of the others are, which leads me to believe they must be basing at least part of their assumption on Claudia’s facial features.
Anyway, ultimately, I kinda got over it. If people stop and admire them, I mean, WHEN – and not for any reason other than by virtue of them being twins, before anyone accuses me of being big-headed – I just get in pretty quick with the fact that they are both girls and it just removes any embarrassment on anyone’s part.
So, to get to the point of my rant (and I do have one), the girls have been invited to a birthday party. It is the third birthday of our friend’s son and it will be the first special occasion the girls have been to (if you discount Christmas).
When we first talked about going, I got excited and suggested they could wear their superhero babygrows that I had bought them a while ago in a size too large because they hadn’t worn them yet. However, my wife pointed out they also had their tutus that had been sent over for Christmas from their Auntie and Uncle in Australia that they had worn on Boxing Day, which – although also a bit too big – were more like “party clothes”. I acquiesced.
However, when we received further details about the party, we discovered it was ‘Superheroes & Fairies’ themed. “Great!” I said. “So they can wear their superhero outfits!”
But my wife still wasn’t convinced. “But they could still wear their tutus. We could get them some fairy wings to go with them. If they wear those superhero outfits, everyone will think they are boys.”
This was true, I had to agree, so I went out in search of fairy wings that might be suitable to fit a baby. As I did, I became increasingly more uncomfortable with them dressing up as fairies. They would look dead cute in the superhero outfits, they would be far more comfortable and if anyone thought they were boys, why, surely we would correct them. I quite hope that when they are older they want to dress up in “boy” outfits as much as they do in “girl” ones. I don’t know why, but it feels like this is setting a precedent.
If people do assume they are boys because they are dressed as superheroes, is that our problem for the way we have chosen to dress them, or society’s problem for giving the diktat that those dressed as Spiderman and Batman must be boys?
My discomfort wasn’t helped when I came across this display in Debenhams.
I know I’m starting to sound a bit like a lefty, liberal Guardian-reader (oh wait, I am one!), but actually this is a significant issue. Gender exists, I’m not going to dispute that, and I actually think it’s quite important – for example, I don’t particularly agree with the principles of the family who kept their youngest child’s sex a secret from not just the world, but also other family members, in order to somehow make that child freer from the constraints of gender. Gender is important. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be a huge trans community who wish to change their bodies to match the gender they were born with. But what does need to be noted is that gender, much like sexuality, is far more on a spectrum than the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ allow for. I’m not the girliest of girls, but I do like pink, although you will most often find me in shades of blue, grey and brown. I would probably describe myself as being on the feminine side of tomboy. And as a child I actually would have enjoyed some – and not all – of the toys from each of those displays.
See, it is hard to quantify.
My girls are girls because that is the body they have been born into. That is their sex (ah, see we did get around to talking about sex eventually), but when they get older, they will be able to describe their gender to me and I hope I will give them adequate language tools to be able to do so.
So does it matter if I don’t dress them “like girls” for this birthday party? Does it matter if I do? Babygrows would be more comfortable, but as my wife pointed out, they can wear those anytime, whereas the tutus are a bit more of a ‘special occasion’ outfit.
Part of me – the slightly obstinate part, I’ll admit – wants to take them as superheroes now, almost on principle.
What do you think, Internets? Does it matter if people think they are boys? Should I stick with the construct of gender that matches their sex until they are old enough to tell me otherwise? Is the gender issue completely beside the point and I should just put them in what looks cutest? Am I just making this into a “thing” when it doesn’t need to be one? Which outfit would you choose?