Talking about Gender, Ability and Race…

Having a baby in 3 months and studying about social justice and anti-oppressive education simultaneously is actually a blessing. I did not realize how much common sense and social ideals are put into as harmless wishes to a baby.

Lets list first things came into my mind:

  • ·         I wanted to raise my child in gender neutral way; neither color separation nor characters to address babies into two genders. However, I thought about if it was a boy I would be active and playful mother and if it was a girl I would cook with her and do crafts and arts… The role as a mother seems to be different for a boy or a girl.
  • ·         Wishing for healthy, able body; I became conscious about what to eat to promote baby’s growth and health benefits. I wanted to make sure by testing before hand for any possibility.
  • ·         Hoping for traits from both race in balance; Caucasian Canadian and Japanese. Thinking about raising my child in bilingual house, naming in both Canadian and Japanese…etc.

So today, I am going to start talking about gender.

Why do we care about gender so much? Throughout my pregnancy and almost everyone asked me “what are you having?”
I decided to find out my baby’s gender because I thought it will allow me to prepare for the baby’s arrival easier. Why is it easier? I was thinking about raising my baby gender neutral anyways. But ever since I found out about my baby’s gender, my eyes go toward girls’ things. patterns for cute dresses and clothes…
When I tell my friends and families that I am having a girl and everybody thinks it is great to have a girl. Everybody, especially for experienced mom who has both boy and girl, they all say that it is easier to raise a girl. You can have fun dressing her up and all of the girly stuff. I am guessing that if it was a boy, everybody would be saying positive things to dad more, like play sports together and field trips, etc.

I must admit it, the thing that worries me the most is if my girl is born and figure that she is a transgender. Of course I will support her in any way that is possible, but our society, my community ready for it? I have watched the documentary (16X9: Two transgender children struggle to be themselves )the other night about this issue and it made me think about the life in my belly.

I grew up in the country where gender role was clearly drawn in society; I always envied being a boy. Maybe because mom telling me sometimes about what dad said when I was born. “Oh, it’s a girl again.”
In Japan (in most of Asian countries), traditionally boys are preferred, even pressure to have boys to carry on your family. My dad’s comment clearly reflect on this tradition; however, I took myself as a disappointment for him. I often thought about if I were a boy. I know my dad loves me in his own ways now, but it was diminishing feeling for a young girl.

It is not like I wanted to be rough and fight with other boys but they seemed get away with many things too. I loved watching martial arts and I wanted to learn Judo or Karate; but my mother would say, “Because you are girl…” meaning girls don’t do these things. I loved climbing up the trees and jumping between roofs of sheds. I often lipped my clothes and my mother would say, “Because you are girl…”

I had long hair until I was 12; it was not because I wanted to girly but it was rather did not want get my hair cut from mom. Last hair cut she did on me made my head looked like a mushroom when I was 8. So when I turned 12, I asked mom to take me to the hair salon and cut it very short. I recall then that my posture and clothing changed to boyish ones. Acted and spoke more boyish. I liked that my friends told me I was more handsome and cool than boys in the class. I felt stronger and free. Mind you it was not about my sexuality, it was more about the power the gender possessed.

It was the time I went through my hormonal phase. My body was changing into something different from before and clearly different from boys. Through my childhood, I was always taller than most of the boys in the class and often stronger in arm wrestle. I could run faster and jump higher. I was not really like a girly figure that the society put out – petite, thin, cute, long fair hair, fair skin with big eyes …like someone on TV. Perhaps the ideal image was too far apart from me that I envied boys so much… There were more guy figures with different quality.

I wonder when I became comfortable or really felt happy to be a woman… I guess it was when I came to Canada. Everybody told me how small and thin I was (which boosted my self-esteem for sure). I could differentiate myself from others more because of my race. I met my husband who appreciated and praised me like I have never been before. I do still struggle accepting complements though, because traditionally parents and family never complements their own family members out loud.

I was able to truly appreciate being a female when I found out I was pregnant. First time I heard my baby’s heart beat, I just cried with joy and sincerely appreciated this life within me.  Having new life growing inside me empowered me and made me stronger as an individual. I do fear many things of course; however, I am more determined to become a teacher and provide good stable life for my child. I could not feel this way if I was a man. So many years trying to have baby and not being successful, it made me feel like I was a failure as a woman. I did not realize how strongly I associated childbearing and womanhood. On the other hand, it did give me a push to pursuit higher education and career at the age 35, when my potential motherhood diminished inside me. I now think that I had an ideal image of a mother to be: at home or at least work comfortable hours at school as EA so I can be available at home in decent time – motherhood comes first and career second, must choose your priority. I think it is because my mom was a stay home mother and she was always at home when I came home from school. And I do really appreciate her being at home for us then. She made us feel safe and comfortable to come home.
Though, I have seen her unhappy sometimes. She often fondly talked about her job and her colleagues before she got married. In Japan, it was (or I should say still is) just customary to quit job and devote herself to her husband and family. My mom’s experience made me want to keep working after getting married, wanted to keep myself as a productive adult contributing to society. It is not that stay-home parents are not contributing to the society; however, the society treat them feel that way.

Well, it is hard to conclude my thoughts now… maybe later…

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1 thought on “Talking about Gender, Ability and Race…”

  1. I appreciate you sharing this deep look into your thoughts and how they have evolved throughout your pregnancy in regards to your classes and your own upbringing. I always enjoy reading your posts. Your baby is in good hands and I know that your experiences as a mother will only add to your attributes and skills as a teacher!

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