Where sex is most often understood as a biological concept with 2 distinct sexes that differ based on anatomical features, the idea of gender is not so concrete.
Gender is a social construction thought to be based on sex, and therefore, usually falls into two “corresponding” categories. Male and masculine, female and feminine. But as discussed in Transgendering Kimberly Tauches, gender is not so easily defined. “Gender operates at a personal, interaction, and institutional level;” this translates to the idea of gender truly being a social event. One’s environment plays into gender, as do the social institutions within that environment.
At birth, the doctor is usually the person who assigns a gender to a given baby. Think of the performative utterance with “It’s a boy/girl!” and the consequences that follow. A doctor’s claim of a baby’s gender, quite literally, maps out the rest of the child’s life. As Tauches addresses, there is a gender hierarchy in which the masculine gender is favored to the female. Gender permeates through all institutions, like politics, family, and the economy. Men are presidents while women are first ladies. Men are CEOs while women are secretaries. Now of course, this rhetoric is not at all natural, but instead, indicative of social and gender norms that society prescribes.
Within the last few years, several clothing lines have been created to offer families gender neutral clothing choices for their newborns. Because doctors, and even parents, have no real inclination as to what gender identity their son or daughter may identify with, these options allow parents to raise their child without “assigning” a gender to them based off of their body parts.
The act of “transgendering,” or simply not identifying with a specific gender, disrupts the normalized linear path of sex, gender, and sexuality. In which case, baby clothes are a first step in giving people more agency with their lives, their sexuality, and their identities…from birth.
Are gender neutral baby clothes something you ever thought about for your (possible/potential) family in the future? Do you think they serve as a benefit or detriment to the lives of young children?