Am I Being Sexist?


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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43 Responses

  1. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Social constructs that they may be, the gender differences happen, unless you can raise your kid isolated from all others. I am always amazed at just how much of a ‘Boy’ Bug is, without us really trying (he is so into cars & trucks & planes, etc right now). Of course, at the same time, since he knows how to use my wifes iPad & how to navigate Netflix (at 28 months – shudder!), I often find him switching from the 150th viewing of Cars, Planes, or Wild Krats to watching Tinkerbell movies & episodes of Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Pony (to which I just shrug and switch gears to talking about whatever he is watching).

    However, should you have another boy (congratulations, by the way!), I shall tell you my secret to getting a little girl. Have a good friend get pregnant with one & become the girls God Parents*.

    Yeah, I know, not exactly the kind of thing you can plan out, but it”s worked out for me.

    *Our good friends decided to try for one more kid & are getting 2, a boy & a girl. They asked us to be God Parents to one & gave us first pick.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    No. I can’t see any definition of sexism that would include this and not be so broad as to be meaningless.

    I also think you’ll find that your feeling of loss over your theoretical child will disappear completely when you hold your actual one in your arms.Report

  3. First, congratulations!

    Second, no, I don’t find it sexist. It’s not like you’re going to love your son(s) less because you don’t have a daughter.Report

  4. Michael M. says:

    I don’t think it is sexist at all, but I disagree with your basic approach here. For one, your statement that “I also believe that gender/gender expression/gender identity is largely a social construct” implies a certain dismissiveness about the concept of gender — you seem to be saying that because gender is a social construct, it isn’t as real or important or relevant as some other salient detail about people. Given that we are social creatures, on a fundamental biological level that is essential to our health and survival, I don’t buy that easy dismissal. The fact that gender/gender expression/gender identity are socially constructed doesn’t make those things any less real or relevant than they would be if they were biological imperatives.

    Second, “there is no real reason for me to expect the relationship I would have with a daughter would be necessarily different than that which I might have with a son” doesn’t ring true at all to me. Of course there are profound reasons why you should expect the relationship to be different. Even if you raised your children in isolation from the rest of the world, your relationships with a son and a daughter would be informed by your own pre-existing gender socialization and would vary accordingly. That you will be raising children in a society that constructs gender means those relationships will vary even more.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Michael M. says:

      Excellent, excellent food for thought, @michael-m . Thank you.

      I think what you address in your second paragraph is what I’m trying to unpack and this comment gives me a different way to think about the whole shebang.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        To expand a wee bit, I think I am saddened that I will be missing out on doing some father/daughter things… to do some “girl” things. But this gives me pause because the vast majority of those “girl” things are things one of my sons may very well do. They may be less likely to do so for biological and/or socialized reasons, but the chance remains there. And while I don’t anticipate my love or support of my sons being impacted by how they respond to and interact with gender norms, for some reason I’m worried that I will feel differently about attending a son’s ballet recital versus attending a daughter’s. And I’m trying to figure out what that feeling is rooted in and if it says anything ill about me.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ballet in particular has men in supporting roles. Tap, on the other hand, I don’t see much reason to see a difference between guys and girls.

        As you now have a different situation than you might have wished, you may wish to think about which of those “girl” things are important for you to do with your children. And to figure out ways of having those things anyhow, where possible.

        If you wish to have boys that learn how to sew (or do other handicrafts) — for example, it will probably be something you have to at least open the door for, and may need to do a bit more than that [I wasn’t exactly happy about learning how to mend and stitch by hand, but I did learn and am very thankful for it.].Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Michael M. says:

      Great comment, @michael-m.

      I think gender is only partially socially constructed, and that there are some biological differences (at the statistical level, not necessarily applicable to every imaginable individual). But even if I’m wrong and it is entirely socially constructed, it matters for precisely the reasons you explain.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        So long as we recognize that the underlying biological construct is not a binary… (and may very well have something to do with hormonal/environmental factors, and not just genes).Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to James Hanley says:

        I found this to be a really interesting paper, and also has a really excellent title: Men and Women are from Earth: Examining the Latent Structure of Gender. Conclusion – essentially as you suggested, non-physical differences in traditionally gendered traits are very much greater between two random men men, and between two random women, than they are between the average for men and the average for women.Report

      • scott the mediocre in reply to James Hanley says:

        Interesting paper. I just skimmed it; will have to dig in. My initial worry is that all of the underlying datasets, not just the “Midwestern Sample” (see page 6), are taken from university students, a decidedly non-random sample. I understand [at least some of] the methodological problems associated with trying to get a more distributed sample, but I would like a little more up-front acknowledgement of how much that weakens the findings.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        that is partially explained by the biological/environmental factors not being binary. You get a far, far better match on things like linguistic skill if you actually look at a better distribution.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to James Hanley says:

        @scott-the-mediocre you’re right, those are pretty much all WEIRD sample sets, which if nothing else limits its applicability as you lose one or more of the WEIRD traits.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Michael M. says:

      Yeah. This is one of those weird serendipity things but Kimmie’s review of Dogtooth is themely with this discussion.

      For my part, when I read stuff like “I also believe that gender/gender expression/gender identity is largely a social construct”, I’m reminded about stuff that we used to stand together and say when I was a kid. We believed this, we believed that… good times.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael M. says:

      It’s accepted fact that there are unique configurations of DNA that create two distinct biologies in the human population; “biologically male” and “biologically female”.

      It’s further accepted that these biologies typically produce different hormones at different times and in different amounts, and that hormones can influence a human’s emotional responses (and, therefore, preferences toward behavior or situation or reaction).

      Meaning that a biological man’s reaction to stimulus will be different from a biological woman’s reaction to the same stimulus, and that furthermore there is a commonality to the reactions of all biological men and all biological women.

      Where social constructs come in is when people decide that someone is morally suspect if their reactions differ from that common reaction, or that the common reaction should be cultivated (and uncommon reactions suppressed.)Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Not quite what the research says… Even hormones have tipping points, and we really come out with something that is functionally more like three hormonal patterns, each with different genes attached.
        And, yeah, this leads to all sorts of fun!Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        and I suppose I ought not to forget the environmental factors. Testosterone production in particular can be tied to lifestyle…Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Physical bodies are social constructs. We’re not here. You’re not there. THIS ALREADY HAPPENED.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        the menu is never the meal. What we think of as our bodies are just a simple heuristic for what we’re actually doing, which is many times more complicated than we generally wish to think about.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Not really – yes, chromosomes lead to different levels of various hormone production in utero, which in almost but not quite all cases lead to formation of characteristic genitalia.

        So, (possession of a Y chromosome or not) -> (genital configuration at birth) – that’s pretty solid, only slightly less than 100% reliable.

        But, the solidity of the association points beyond that – (genital configuration at birth) -> (hormone levels later in life) -> (personality traits and reactions to events and interactions), those I think you are vastly overestimating.

        Mostly the personality traits are going to be based on other inputs – how we raise children differently based on their genital configurations, how we treat adults differently based on our guesses at their genital configurations, the individual’s genetic and physical traits that are independent of genetic and biological sex.

        As the study I linked to above (subject to the valid reservations raised by @scott-the-mediocre) suggests, while there is a quite small association of traditionally masculine traits with biological men and traditionally feminine ones with biological women, the differences between two randomly selected men or women will be much much greater than the differences between the averages for each sex.

        Given all the survey responses on those personality and attitude traits, for someone whose sex and gender you don’t know, and basing your guess as to their gender on what we believe we know about “how men and women think” will be only just barely better than a coin toss.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        I’m pretty sure with a decent testosterone reading and a phenotype of sex I could do a bit better than a coin flip. (yes, i’m not disagreeing with you.)Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        “Mostly the personality traits are going to be based on other inputs – how we raise children differently based on their genital configurations, how we treat adults differently based on our guesses at their genital configurations, the individual’s genetic and physical traits that are independent of genetic and biological sex.”

        Which is to say, as I already said, that “[w]here social constructs come in is when people decide that someone is morally suspect if their reactions differ from that common reaction, or that the common reaction should be cultivated (and uncommon reactions suppressed.)”Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        @kim – What do you mean by “phenotype” in this instance? Clearly, with measurements of things like BMI, facial hair, hip/waist/ribcage/bust measurements, maximum benchpress weight, you could come to a much better than random conclusion. Heck, even without the bloodwork.

        @jim-heffman – I think it goes further than that, though – I believe the degree to which the normative gendered reactions or attitudes are in fact inherently typical and the non-normative ones atypical is slight.

        Or, to look at it from another angle, that the degree to which they are currently common arises from a slight biological difference hugely exaggerated by social constructs, rather than a pronounced biological difference that’s somewhat propped up by social constructs. I read your comment more as suggesting the latter situation, which perhaps was a misreading.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        I meant a pure “phenotype of sex” (checking for boobs, balls and other genitalia).
        AFAIK, we have about a 40/40/20 split. And the biological/environmental stuff does get somewhat exaggerated (you should see twin studies on football), but I can assure you the differences aren’t minor… particularly when it comes to intelligence/creativity.Report

  5. zic says:

    I don’t think so, Kazzy. I had two boys, and felt the same. Come to find out, however, one of my ‘boys’ is my daughter. Life throws curveballs.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    If you are worrying about being sexist or some other kind of awful than there is a very good chance that you are not sexist or some other type of awful.Report

  7. kenB says:

    I can’t imagine anyone considering this sexist, except perhaps in a very literal, entirely benign way.

    However, I wonder if anyone would feel differently if you had only girls and you were sad not to have a son. Is it possible for a man to express that thought without it having patriarchal overtones?Report

  8. James Hanley says:

    I have three daughters. When Johanna first got pregnant with the third, everyone said, “I bet you’re hoping for a boy this time.” And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I actually preferred to have another girl. Fewer new clothes to buy, we could shove them all into the same room and bathtub. And at that point I felt like I knew how to deal with little girls, and learning how to deal with a little boy might just be another learning curve I didn’t want to bother with. (Of course now they’re all teens, and that’s another learning curve of its own.)

    All in all, while my initial ideal was one of each, having three of the same has been great. I don’t think you’re being sexist, and I think your feelings are quite natural and inoffensive. At the same time, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy your two sons so doggone much that you’re going to find life with them fulfilling enough that you’ll not long be bothered by not having a daughter.Report

  9. Citizen says:

    Wait till your first granddaughter starts bowling you over!Report

  10. dhex says:

    i think you’d be sexist if you were particularly biased against having a son because of some belief in inherent male badness or what have you. which isn’t the case here, so game on.Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    Honest question- am I right in thinking it’s considered offensive to be essentialist about gender and offensive to be non-essentialist about sexual orientation?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I am also under the impression that transgender people have changed the dynamic regarding gender essentialism, though I may be wrong in acknowledging that this might have happened.Report

    • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

      *shrug* our concepts aren’t terribly well tied to reality.
      You can have gay guys who would never, ever, ever sleep with a man, and who openly lust after women (to the point of doing substantial work to get said women).
      … or you just say “dude, i guess my gaydar was wrong”
      Point is, when you have massively multivariate systems — pushing them into ANY binary is just kinda dumb.Report

    • j r in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I think that you are using essentialist in two different ways, which makes sense because it is rather an imprecise word.Report