“Awe, look at those babies! They are so cuuuuuute!”
“That’s her boyfriend. She just loves getting attention from him!”
Time and time again I’ve heard this type of banter between parents. A baby girl and a baby boy who enjoy giggling back and forth with one another cues a “joke” about how so and so is her boyfriend or girlfriend. Or maybe they just managed to be born around the same time, must be her boyfriend. Perhaps he likes to grab out and hold her hand as he’s learning to perfect his baby grasp, hey not so fast buddy…
While it’s all cute and friendly, have we ever stepped back and thought for a second about what messages these “harmless” conversations are sending to our little ones? When we do this we teach our children (especially the older ones who are listening to it all and absorbing everything by the millisecond) that boys and girls must always be attracted to one another. That a boy and a girl who like to play with one another can’t possibly just be friends. It must mean more. In essence, we are needlessly sexualizing babies right from the get go.
No wonder it’s difficult for many adults to just be friends with members of the opposite sex, or for spouses to not be concerned about male-female relationships. Obviously, there are lots of influences on this, but these are the very first messages about relationships we are sending our children.
Then there’s the whole, “you better stay away from my baby girl when she’s older” or “better start cleanin’ the shot gun” mentality…. My 2 year old son was told this more than once by joking father’s of female children. MY 2 YEAR OLD SON. Think about the implications of that. We are (not so subtly) telling girls that they need to be protected by a male figure (daddy), that boys are out to get them because they have bad intentions, that girls have limited consent, that boys must be friends with you for only one reason…. the list goes on.
There’s also the whole assumption this brings up that your baby is heterosexual…. Let’s not even get into what message it sends to a child who is stigmatized down that path for years of his or her life.
These comments are almost always made by parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/PEOPLE who are well meaning and jovial without ill intention. Don’t get me wrong, it is adorable when babies play together, but why does it matter what sex those children are? Can we just let them be BABIES, please?
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