Grousing and bitching to ensue.
I recently ran across this article about a mother who, in response to the experiences of her other children, her own thoughts, the thoughts of her husband, and a reasonably well thought out philosophy, decided to keep the gender of her recently born child private. Apparently this became a topic for news coverage with outcries of "GENDERLESS CHILD" - the first stupid thing I saw. In the article she writes a well-reasoned, calm, and perfectly balanced response.
Where it got interesting was in the comments section where I witnessed just how little people actually read before reacting and also how little they think about what either they are reading or what they are saying. What's more, I see the same stupidity being repeated in various news media. It's plan irritating.
Let's go about this in small, logical steps, shall we? I'll go slow, although I fully expect the 6 or 8 people who will read this are quite capable of the same simple thought process in which I am indulging. At least three of them have already reached the same conclusions and could do a better job expressing them.
OK -- first, THIS CHILD IS NOT GENDERLESS. "Genderless" means to be without gender, that is, without any discernible or detectable signs of being either male or female. While I imagine it might be in some measure possible, an actual case of it would be a medical issue (and no one's business, really) but nothing leads me to believe this is the case. The child has a gender.
It is just not a publicly announced gender. The family knows. In time, the child will know. After that, those whom the child and the family think should know will know, or the child will begin to present as one gender or another somewhere along the great continuum between the imaginary binary of "male" and "female".
Second -- WHY IS THIS AN ISSUE? So, some small human being has not had his, her, hir or [pronoun of your choice] gender announced to the world at large, in the rather annoying traditional way. This is important? Why is it important? What will happen if we, the public, do not know RIGHT NOW?
I have thoughts on that, and they relate to the mother's article. Not revealing the child's gender does upset a tradition, and the many MANY institutions and behavior sets which are attached to and based on one's gender. It denies people the option of NOT THINKING. Gender is a code, a stereotype, a set of expectations at one time amorphous and rigid. We can tap into it and just follow a script without having to apply any critical thought. Now, humans are constantly giving gender to items which have none -- bottles, pens, books, furniture, cars, etc. -- so you can see how this plays out. Gender is part of our language, part of our social system. We aren't always sure what it is, but we insist that everything conform to it.
Many people are upset about lacking the knowledge about this specific person because it denies them the ability and opportunity to shuttle that person into some rigid classification or other. Pink or blue cloths. Dolls or cars. Long hair or short hair. Music lessons or baseball camp. Reading or mathematics. Knowing a person's gender gives us a script so that we can talk without thinking. I'm sure someone else could go into it far more deeply. None of the screaming and accusing are actually about any damage or problems for the child -- they are screams and accusations of those being denied this particular power. Their privilege has been removed. They might have to *gasp* think before they say anything. And they are reacting to that headline of "Genderless Child" as if the parents had taken up kitchen knives and deprived the child of physical gender identifying body parts.
None of which, of course, they are moved to do at this point.
Now, not much after I saw the article above (via facebook, as it happens) I saw this one come by on Twitter (yes, I'm back on Twitter and don't ask me why. I suspect it's just a summer thing.) Here we have an entire blog devoted to people who do not grasp the maxim "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt". Of course, these particular bad examples are taking The Onion as actual news instead of the satire it is, but the lack of thought there is typical of the lack of thinking about almost any news story that goes around.
I've long been critical of what I see in the media, and I tend to pull apart the stories and headlines before I wade in with an opinion (at least, a public opinion). I try to apply the critical thinking I learned in school (and, hell, from Mythbusters, for cryin' out loud). But it does take effort. I can't give in to my first emotional impulse. I especially can't get too close to any tool of social media, internet communication, or anything else where I can embarrass myself until I've completed it. So, ok, it takes some discipline, but one only has to make the mistake a few times to want to avoid the consequences from then on. However, I now wonder if those consequences are still around. Does the derision and scorn I feel for such open displays of idiocy -- shared, I know, by at least a small portion of people -- have no power? I fear it does not. What I think about it -- because I do think about it, at length and sometimes when I'd rather be sleeping -- has no merit. I'm tilting at windmills. However, I will not be unseated from my Rocinante of a blog quite yet.