chapter  2
21 Pages

Constructing the gendered infant

BySusan Grieshaber

Medical technology such as ultrasound has enabled the identification of sexual difference well before the moment of birth. Where the sex of the foetus is known, the construction of such difference can now be extended to life in the womb. Parents can then actively construct the foetus as a gendered identity. This occurs through choosing gender appropriate names, discussing and purchasing gender appropriate clothing (such as pink clothes for girl babies), and by ascribing specific attributes (such as a ‘tiny little girl baby’) to the foetus according to the sex. Knowledge of the sex of a foetus therefore extends possibilities for ways in which mothers and fathers begin constructing gendered realities about their offspring. If everyday life is understood as ‘an arena of gender politics’ (Connell, 1995, 3), then these realities constructed from the early stages of life in the womb, or from birth onward, mean susceptibility to particular understandings of gender relations, values and social power. Specific understandings are drawn from the existing structure of social institutions such as the family, school and the media.