Gender disappointment
December 1, 2009 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I've just found out that the child I'm having is a girl. I think being a girl sucks.

I feel awful and guilty and terrible, but I kind of don't want to have this kid anymore.

The thing is, I hate being a girl: I hate the wage gaps, the body image issues, passive sexism, the fear of aging, the potential for sexual assault - everything social about carrying two X chromosomes, actually. And since I've struggled with wage gaps, body image issues, passive sexism, the fear of aging and sexual assault, I don't know how I can raise a girl without instilling fears about these same things.

Since all of the above are real problems, I can't see how to lie to her that life is grand and just as easy as it would have been were she a boy.

I have seen this on AskMe, but the situation is different - I don't want a girl because I feel like life will be harder and worse for her than it would have been for a son.

How on earth do I go back to wanting this child again? Everyone else is celebrating and I feel miserable.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (93 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I really, really hope this was an unplanned pregnancy. Because if it was a planned pregnancy, then you really did things backwards. I knew the odds, right?

While the problems you listed are real, in no way do they cancel out all the potential joy your daughter will experience in her life. There are plenty of strong, confident, happy women out there enjoying life. Millions, even. There's no need to assume your daughter won't be one of them.

It sounds to me like you're unhappy with yourself, unhappy with your life. Maybe if you figure out why you feel so negative towards the world, you'll be able to approach this differently.
posted by yawper at 9:30 AM on December 1, 2009 [11 favorites]

The male-female thing is changing. When my stepson was younger, he asked his mom, "Can a man be a doctor?" Because all he'd seen on kid's TV was women doctors.

Young women these days seem more and more empowered in their careers and their sex lives than girls were when I was growing up in the 70's and 80's. I think this will get better and better.

The way to not instill fear is: don't instill fear. Deal with the fears your kid actually has. It's normal for parents not to pass on their fears about the world-- I don't tell my kids about money troubles. So I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by musofire at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

You have time before these feelings can be imparted on your potential daughter. Go to a therapist immediately.
posted by nestor_makhno at 9:32 AM on December 1, 2009 [26 favorites]

You'd be lying to either sex kid if you pretended that life is grand and easy.
posted by shownomercy at 9:33 AM on December 1, 2009 [30 favorites]

As a (female) Economics major, I do have to tell you that while some of the wage gap is due to discrimination, a lot of it is to with women's preferences for job flexibility, workplace environment, and working in accordance with social values which naturally lower their wage. Men *tend* to seek higher-wage jobs above everything else, even if that means getting home at 8PM, working in a cutthroat environment, whereas women tend to be much more willing to make the tradeoff toward getting home a bit earlier, being with the children, working with colleagues they like and toward values with which they resonate, etc. This isn't to say that women don't go into the former and men don't go to the latter--it's just a tendency, and a generalization. This is changing, though. While something like 30-odd percent of today's physicians are female, do you realize that 58% of the graduating medical school classes are female? Women today are more highly educated than ever before, and are in fact leaving men behind. I argue that in a very short time someone will be asking the reverse question. (It's just my personal soapbox, but I do feel like so much focus on female development--while fabulous, and from which I've personally benefited--has tended to leave male development out of the discussion entirely.)

Also, I personally believe that each gender has some set of cards stacked against them. I wouldn't enjoy even the remote possibility that I might be drafted to go fight in a second Vietnam. Not to mention that it'll be the rare male who can talk himself out of a speeding ticket into a warning. If that's sexism, bring it on.

I suggest coming to terms with your own attitude, and realizing that it's a lot better than you seem to perceive. After all, it's just gender and biology in the end, and short of a sex-change operation, there's not much you can do to change that. Fight for equality between the sexes and don't forget being male comes with its own set of issues, too. Might as well accept your gender and celebrate it, you know?
posted by Dukat at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2009 [28 favorites]

Why would you have to lie to her about how being a boy would be better unless you brought it up? I don't know any small children that worry about being the opposite sex. Except for that kid in Britain, but didn't he go boy->girl anyway?

Can I just say that men face similar issues? Men are raped and sexually assaulted, too, but if 8 out of 10 women don't report sexual assault, 12 out of 10 guys don't. Seriously. I'm a big proponent of people thinking male rape isn't an issue because no one reports it. It's ridiculous to think about, isn't it?

Body images issues and fear of aging aren't real problems, they're manufactured. Do your best to instill in her a sense of self-esteem and downplay advertisements to the contrary. I think you need to go to therapy to deal with some things of your own. If you were this worried about what sex the child would be, you shouldn't have gotten pregnant. I hate to say it, but that's a huge problem.

Really, seek some help with a professional. A female professional.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:35 AM on December 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

Her life is only going to be harder if you continue to perpetuate these beliefs. There are plenty of woman who have conquered or have never experienced wage gaps, body images issues, passive sexism, etc. Don't bring this kind of stuff into your daughters world. Fill her life with the better parts.

To take your logic a step further, why should you want a boy? Boys ( and girls ) are going to have to deal with terrorism, global warming, racism, greed, etc. etc.

I would like to think my daughter will put up with all the aforementioned bullsh*t because things like music, love, food, sex, friends, roller-coasters, and fruit roll-ups make it all worthwhile.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:36 AM on December 1, 2009 [13 favorites]

Know what sucks about boys? They (in some circles) aren't allowed to express themselves. They aren't supposed to show emotion.

I hate that I have to prepare my son for a world like that.

But honestly, don't think about this now. 12 months or so from now you'll think 'I couldn't imagine having any child but Baby Girl X.'

I'd focus on the fun of hunting for feminist kids books, non-pink tarted up clothes and gear, and thinking about what a cool strong little woman you're going to raise.

Bringing up a great girl is an accomplishment. Focus on stepping up to the challenge.
posted by k8t at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2009 [17 favorites]

If I were to have a daughter at some point in my life, I personally feel like it would be a great opportunity. I could help build her up, give her a strong sense of self-worth that no passive sexism or body shame by the outer culture could tear down. I could help educate her on what it means to be in a world with sexism and racism and heterosexism. I could tell her that her body is her own, and belongs to no one else. I don't think you have to "lie to her that life is grand and just as easy as it would have been were she a boy"--why do you think this is what you need to tell her?? Kids need to know truth, not fanciful unicorn rainbow puffy cloud stories about some other version of reality. What if, for you, you think about some of the things you needed to know as a girl?

I also wonder if you've considered seeking out a therapist specializing in perinatal issues.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2009 [16 favorites]

Being a boy wouldn't necessarily have been a free pass. If the kid turns out to be gay, she'll have a much easier time as a lesbian than as a gay male.

I'm sorry your experience of being a girl has sucked, but I and others have had great experiences! Think of the fact that you have a chance to give a girl - this girl - a happy egalitarian life. You are sensitized to the problems she might face, so are better able to help her through them than would be someone who hasn't considered pay gaps, body image, etc.

Maybe her life will be more difficult than that of a boy in an exact same situation, but her life will probably be much easier than those of children born in precarious situations, in many developing countries, to ill-equipped parents, etc. There are always people who have it better than us. There are always people who have it worse.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:38 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sexism is certainly real.

But being disappointed that your child is a daughter isn't a particularly feminist stance. Perhaps you've internalized some of the sexism you've experienced?

I hate sexism, but I love being a woman.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2009 [16 favorites]

I meant to say, body image and aging issues are real problems, in that men and women struggle with them, however, these problems are brought on by other people telling us how we should look, what we should eat, and how to enjoy life. They are pretty avoidable if you're raising your children as well as you can.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2009

I'm sorry you are feeling this way. I can see how this would cause some distress.

Keep in mind is that regardless of the gender of a child, the insecurities that we feel about life can be passed on to our children. Feeling like the world is a dangerous and unfair place is not gender specific. Perhaps instead of feeling miserable, you can use this as an opportunity to be motivated to pursue emotional health for the benefit of your child. Nothing can motivate you like a vulnerable little human being who needs your help. This isn't to say that you don't have legitimate concerns about the unfairness of life at times, but when it gets debilitating in a parenting relationship, it might be a good idea to figure out whether things are a little off-balance.

That being said, the most that we can offer our children is to do the best that we possibly can to work through our insecurities and to provide them with opportunities to flourish. Part of this includes us doing self-care in rigorous ways, if we feel that we have the potential to pass on unhealthy emotional attitudes.

My mom was pretty emotionally hurt when I was a little kid, due to issues of alcoholism in her family. I had some work to figure out how to deal with some issues that were lacking in our relationship. But I turned out okay, and am pretty emotionally healthy, and I have a good relationship with my mom and other women in my life. At some point, grown adults need to make decisions about what they are going to do with the hand that they've been dealt. Your only responsibility is to try and deal a good hand for your kids, to the best of your ability.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:40 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You probably struggled with the Cold War too, right? That doesn't mean your daughter is going to. Be jealous that she has so many more opportunities in such an improved world than you did, if you must.
posted by jacalata at 9:42 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

My mom wanted two boys and no girl children. She had a really difficult childhood with lots of sisters and difficult teenage years that concluded by getting married at age 19 and struggling for a long time. When I turned out to be a girl, she was really disappointed. But she raised me as well as she raised my older brother, never let me shirk off or get away with anything because of my sex, and realized that every individual person and experience is different. Just because we're both women doesn't mean we face cultural discrimination in the same way.

My mom's motto was "Life's a bitch, and then you die." This is true for everyone. You will love this baby and if you don't, you will still raise it to the best of your ability, and some day you will realize that it's a completely different person than you are.
posted by muddgirl at 9:43 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, this is a pretty complicated question. Without knowing you, it's hard to give advice here.

On one hand, having second thoughts in the middle of pregnancy is quite common and normal. Your whole life is turning upside down, and on top of that, powerful hormones are putting a filter across your view and impacting how you react to everything. A lot of people don't talk about these feelings publicly because they feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty about them, but still, a lot of people go through periods of pregnancy - or their whole pregnancies - feeling ambivalent or negative about having a baby for whatever reason. Personally, I went through moments of wishing my baby would just go away, that I could undo having gotten pregnant. This was for reasons unrelated to the baby's sex, but I had mixed feelings about her sex too. I didn't know whether I was going to have a girl or a boy but part of me was wishing for a boy because I thought I wouldn't know how to connect to a girl. So I want to offer you the perspective that these intense negative feelings can be a normal part of pregnancy and that in my experience, the things that you are anxious about during pregnancy have nothing to do with how you feel within a couple months of giving birth. Labor and lactation flood your body with hormones that force you to fall in love with your baby - whoever your baby is and in most cases mothers forget about the fears that dominated their pregancies.

However, as I said I don't know you, and the strength of your expression in this question makes me wonder if your ambivalence and concern is great enough that it might have a lasting impact. It is enterely possible that you will carry these negative feelings into your time with a child, and that would be potentially quite harmful both to you and your baby. I don't know if this is on the table for you, but if you genuinely want to not have this baby, that is an option to consider: you could terminate the pregnancy or begin researching adoption. If you do want to have and parent this child, a therapist would be an essential resource at this point. Actually, whether you want to or not a therapist would be quite helpful. I'd also suggest looking for a support group of other pregnant women who perhaps can help normalize and clarify your feelings for you.

No matter what happens, I think it is brave and important that you are thinking about this issues with honesty right now. I wish you the best in what must be a very difficult time.
posted by serazin at 9:47 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're ever feeling down about the gender of your child, just think of one person:

Neko Case.

Neko Case has managed to transcend everything about being a woman, and perhaps your daughter will too. But she needs your help.

As well, you may wish to consult with a doctor about depression. Just take a deep breath, and save your emotional energy. Things will turn out fine.

Also, think of Bjork, Madonna, Oprah (!)...
posted by KokuRyu at 9:47 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Neko Case has managed to transcend everything about being a woman

I think there must be some words left out of this sentence? To me, Neko Case is a very representative woman--she's smart, funny, talented, strong, self-directed, and a hard worker.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:49 AM on December 1, 2009 [12 favorites]

I'm a girl. I really don't like other girls. I have a terrible relationship with my mother. I have a horrible time dealing with (don't laugh) the biological reality of women gestating children, and how guys can flit off to do whatever while we carry bowling balls inside ourselves that kick us and make us go to the bathroom every five minutes. Did I mention how much I hate periods? Or catty high school cliques?

That said, I'm pretty sure I want to have a girl, so I can help her become the best goddamn ass-kicking mig-welding plane-flying ballet-dancing opera-singing hockey player the world has ever seen. And if all she wants to do is curl up and read, that's cool with me, too.

Suck it, boys.
posted by Madamina at 9:50 AM on December 1, 2009 [40 favorites]

I feel like life will be harder and worse for her than it would have been for a son.

It can be bad, yes. But it doesn't mean everything is always bad. Her best shot at getting though this bad stuff is YOU. I think you can prepare her for a hostile world, and do so without being all Sara Conner in terminator 2.

I don't know how I can raise a girl without instilling fears about these same things.

Then you have found your issue. Focus on this - learning a specific toolset that you can pass on.
posted by anti social order at 9:50 AM on December 1, 2009

Many females live wonderful lives without the spectre of any of the problems you mention hampering their lives in any way. Your daughter may well be one. It may be worth investigating some therapy if you feel that your fears are going to influence her upbringing negatively.
posted by fire&wings at 9:50 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you need therapy/yoga/meditation not so much to deal with your beliefs about your daughter, but to get some healing surrounding your own "hate" of being a woman. I'm a total feminist, and I hate all the things you mentioned, but I love being a woman! This seems to be more of an issue about how your handle resentment and challenge in your own life than a question of gender.
posted by yarly at 9:52 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In one of her books Alice Miller quotes the Swiss pedagogue and educational reformer Pestalozzi with the words "You can drive the devil out of your garden but you will find him again in the garden of your son".

In your case it seems to me as if you have driven the devil out of your garden but you will now find it again in the garden of your daughter. This means you have to deal with your issues. You have to deal with your problem of being a woman. Even if you had a boy, you would have to. In concrete terms: please go and see a therapist. I wish my mum had.
posted by jfricke at 9:53 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, there is one thing your son would never be able to do, and you are doing it right now.
posted by jedrek at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, as a woman, although I hate the way the deck is stacked against my gender sometimes, I am generally satisfied with my biologically-assigned sex. What's more, I am quite happy to be alive, even though life can be full of pain and shit and sexism and non-gender-specific hardships.

In the long run, life is harder for girls in the way that infinity + 2 is more than infinity. But it's still very much worth living.

Keep in mind that you have the ability to raise this girl to be awesome and brave and strong and confident, and you will more than likely naturally follow through on that, even if you feel like you're not doing your best sometimes.

I agree that therapy is a good idea, because untangling your feelings about this will take some time.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Raise her to change the World.
posted by studentbaker at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

You seem to think that boys don't have their share of fears. Judging by what the after school specials tell me, boys have to fear violence, are more likely to be pressured to try drugs, and will feel pressure to project and protect their sexuality. If they're gay, God help them, because that's going to be even tougher unless society changes soon. Women are encouraged to go after anything they want, even jobs that have been traditionally male. But men don't get the same courtesy. What? You're a dude, and you want to be a hair dresser? What's wrong with you? Girls can say a random stranger's baby is cute. Guys can get pepper spray in the face for that. Girls have to fear sexual assault. Well, it happens to guys, too, and when it does, it's not taken seriously. I'm sure I could go on if I thought about it, but 1) I don't want to put you off having children forever and 2) I'm a girl, so I don't actually know what it's like to be a guy. But I assume that it has its share of pros and cons.

And, by the way, there's not ALWAYS a wage gap, and not everybody is sexist. I've certainly encountered gender bias in my time, but I think I came out on top of that, and I've been treated fairly far more often than I haven't. Your daughter's mileage may vary. You're certainly not going to help her overcome the challenges of being female by not having her.
posted by katillathehun at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I hate being a girl: I hate the wage gaps ... Since all of the above are real problems, I can't see how to lie to her that life is grand and just as easy as it would have been were she a boy.

(I'm going to assume you live in the United States since you're anonymous and can't answer this.)

It's far from clear that there is a "wage gap." It's often said that women make 80% of what men make, but this is before controlling for any variables, rendering it meaningless at best and misleading at worst. Studies that try to control for variables find that the gap is much smaller though it's still not quite a 1-to-1 ratio. Does that prove that there's a wage gap, albeit a small one? No, because there might be still more confounding factors that the study missed. The studies I've seen that claim to control for variables still ignore things like number of hours worked, which is an incredibly basic fact to be ignoring.

I make much less money than most of my friends who graduated from my law school in the same year as me. Do you feel sorry for me? Please don't. There's nothing inherently regrettable about making less money than you could. Many people, including me, quite rationally choose to do this. The fact is that I have a very good job, and the lower salary is well worth it. Looking at statistics about wages and salaries doesn't tell you whether people are getting what they want out of life. (Some studies claim to control for "life choices" in assessing the wage gap, but I'm skeptical of their ability to do this with any precision.)

Also, those "wage gap" statistics are based on men and women in general -- including ones who entered the workforce decades ago. Even assuming that many of the women in that group were victims of gender discrimination, your daughter will be entering the workforce not decades ago but decades from now. So, the best (far from perfect) indicator is probably young women right now. Young women in 2009 are more likely than their male counterparts to have bachelor's degrees. Young women in 2009 tend to make more money than their male counterparts, at least if they live in a big city. The workforce doesn't seem so terrible for young women in 2009, let alone 2027.

Women also have a viable option of finding a spouse to rely on for long-term financial security; this is not very socially acceptable for men. Women have the best of both worlds: they're respected if they pursue a conventional career, and they're also respected if they stay at home with the kids. So, if we're talking about the United States in the 21st century, I would argue that women have more freedom than men.

I'm sure there are some bad things about being a girl, but I'm equally sure that there are bad things about being a boy. A boy is more likely to be socialized to be violent (and all that that entails), will likely die younger, etc. If he's gay he might have a harder time dealing with society's homophobia than a lesbian would.

Why do you think women have more body issues than men? Because you more often hear women talking about it. Why don't men talk about body issues? Maybe it's because none of them have any body issues -- though that would be surprising considering how the media bombards us with images of muscle-bound Adonises (particularly young boys playing with action figures, watching cartoons with ultra-macho male heroes, etc). Or maybe it's because men are less free than women to talk about their feelings. This isn't a clear advantage for men.

There have been previous Metafilter threads about this issue that I won't link to here because they involved me and they got very contentious, to put it mildly. They were so contentious because these are complicated issues. You're making it sound simple: being a girl is far worse than being a boy. If we were talking about certain countries in the world, I'd agree. If we're talking about the United States, it's not nearly as obvious as you seem to be assuming.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:59 AM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

One more thing -- this is from the feminist website Double X:
At this April’s conference of the Council on Contemporary Families, researcher Barbara Risman reported on a recent study, with Elizabeth Seale, of middle school boys and girls. Although the girls were deeply preoccupied with their appearance, the kind of feminine mystique that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s was virtually dead.

Not a single girl who was interviewed thought she had to play dumb or act “feminine” around boys. Girls aspired to be strong and smart, and admired other girls who were. There was no sense that it would be inappropriate for a girl to do things that used to be called masculine.

On the other hand, Risman and Seale found that the masculine mystique was alive and well, and in some ways stronger than ever. If boys participated in activities or expressed feelings traditionally viewed as feminine, they were teased, bullied, or ostracized. Boys brutally policed each other to make sure that each lived up to the masculine mystique. And most girls agreed that while it was great for a girl to like “boy” things it was not okay for a boy to like “girl” things.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:03 AM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

As someone who was born with a penis, I can say that being a boy is the worst fate that most humans have to endure. You're supposed to be tough, hard, emotionally dead, dismissive of any creative act, a willing wallet for an unappreciative family, and die at fifty from a stress induced heart attack. Add to that if you're anything less than extremely attractive, or god forbid under six feet tall, your dating options are limited to say the least.

Your daughter will likely never know what it's like to not have anyone willing to hold her on a cold winter night. That alone is worth the wage gap. Be grateful that your daughter will have the option to be a complete human being and not just another wage slave.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:03 AM on December 1, 2009 [10 favorites]

Remember that you have a role to play in this. You are one of her primary agents of socialization, and have some control over her other means of socialization in her early years (e.g. the schools she attends, the friends she sees, the media to which she is exposed most). The smartest person I know had a mother who told her that the most important things in life were looking pretty and being popular. DON'T DO THAT TO YOUR KID. That'll help a lot. YOU can empower you daughter to be self-actualized and awesome and liberated from the shackles of the Patriarchy. And when the other moms hem and haw and scowl, you can kindly ask them to go fuck themselves, because you know they're wrong.

Also, remember Helen Fucking Keller. We remember her now for her amazing accomplishments of overcoming disabilities and for hilariously awful jokes, but she was a Leftist, Feminist firebrand who's writings are still important.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:05 AM on December 1, 2009

Everything will be okay.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I keep typing things and then deleting them.

1. Get therapy. Really. For your sake, whatever you decide to do about the kid.

2. Remember that you are not, actually, the only person in the world, and your point of view is representative of exactly one person. Not every woman feels the way you do about being a woman. Women who face much, much greater problems than wage gaps still like being women, and it's not because they're brainwashed.

I'm 43, a woman of color, and a dyke. My life hasn't been all unicorns and rainbows, and I still wouldn't swap being a woman for anything.

I don't hate myself or my life because I have faced discrimination, been a victim of sexual assault, etc. I hate the system that makes these things possible (and even makes them normal).

You have turned all the external messages about what's "wrong" with being female, and the realities of the difficulties of being female into a way to hate yourself. That's totally fucked up, right? You recognize that, right? And you recognize that it doesn't have to be that way - and for a lot of us, it isn't. A lot of us recognize the difficulties, challenges, and downright discouraging things about being female, and also know that the problem isn't with us. It's with the system (and this is a system that victimizes boys and men as well, even as it privileges them in certain respects - there are costs to the privilege). Turn your anger there, and teach your daughter the same. I had a mom and a lot of other adults and peers who helped me with this. Your daughter can have that too.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2009 [20 favorites]

I'm sorry you're getting guilt trips about having these feelings. Your feelings are real, valid, and they don't come entirely out of thin air.

That said, I'm the neighborhood ambassadorof a sense of agency for children. This huge skill will help protect your child from wage gaps (able to negotiate, brave enough to ask for what she's earned!), sexual assault (confident enough to excuse herself from date with slimeball, aware enough to not get drunk at a stranger's house, willing to seek help if something inappropriate does happen), body issues (knows that her worth comes from stuff she accomplishes, and her willingness to dust herself off and try again after failure), as well as from fear of aging (she'll be adaptable, and have suurounded herself by people who know that age is only a number).

Children need help in developing a strong sense of agency, as well as a relatively internal locus of control.

A qualified therapist can help you acquire the skills you need for this kind of effective parenting.

Take comfort in (or be horrified by) the knowledge that many parents aren't aware of how to assist their children in this arena.

And congrats on having a baby, I have a feeling you're going to do a fabulous job, because you ate acknowledging your concerns and seeking assurance and suggestions.
posted by bilabial at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really hope this thread doesn't veer so far off into fighty territory that it stops being viable, because there's some really good advice here.

The world is what your daughter makes it. You can help her get there. I know a young man who very recently (within the last 6 months) overcame severe developmental and nonverbal learning disabilities to the extent that he now has everything an average person would hope for at age 19. The deck is never too stacked.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:11 AM on December 1, 2009

How on earth do I go back to wanting this child again? Everyone else is celebrating and I feel miserable.

Figure out how to celebrate being a woman despite all the shit that's wrong with society. I don't know how you do that but it seems pretty obvious that this is something you need to do very badly for yourself. You might take this issue to more strictly feminist forums and ask forthrightly "despite everything that is wrong with society, try to convince me that it is actually great to be a woman."
posted by nanojath at 10:11 AM on December 1, 2009

I think you need to talk to a therapist.

I'm not sure you aren't rationalizing (common, normal) anxieties about becoming a parent into this. All the reason you site for not wanting to have a girl would also work as reasons not to want to bring another male into the world.

Good luck.
posted by timeistight at 10:15 AM on December 1, 2009

paging geek anachronism...
self-loathing [is] a damn stupid reason for anything truly serious apart from getting therapy to stop being self-loathing.

Sometimes life sucks. For girls and for boys. Your job is to raise a bebeh who will be equipped to go out and deal with whatever life hands her -- the sucky and the awesome. As much as I hate the AskMe kneejerk "see a therapist" response, in this case it's really warranted. Please. Talk to someone.
posted by somanyamys at 10:16 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

It may indeed be harder for your daughter out there than it would have been for a son. Isn't she lucky that she's got you to raise her to prepare for the world? Maybe your upbringing will instill in her the toughness to change some of those wrongs for the better.
posted by gaspode at 10:24 AM on December 1, 2009

Men (and male children) have to live in a world where those things exist, too. As a conscientious parent, you should teach all of your children, male and female, to refuse to accept those things for themselves and others.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:25 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A few comments removed. Please leave the fightiness, shaming, and side-arguments out of this, folks. Metatalk is there if you need it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on December 1, 2009

With our first child my wife and I wanted it to be a surprise because we knew we'd be happy either way. We had a daughter, she was absolutely wonderful, the love of my life. She died when she was eight months old, and I'd be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't still crushed to this day.

Fast forward a few years, and my wife gets pregnant again. I really, really, really, wanted a girl again for a million and one reasons.

Twin boys.

I love them every bit as much as their sister.
posted by togdon at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

Your daughter will likely never know what it's like to not have anyone willing to hold her on a cold winter night. That alone is worth the wage gap.

I have no idea what you're trying to say here. If you're saying that it's harder for men to find romantic partners than it is for women to find romantic partners, the statistics actually don't seem to bear that out.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

I am so sorry for you. I am the father of a 17-year-old young lady, of whom I am outrageously proud. Her mother and I are divorced, but I adore my fantastic daughter and see her as often as I can. We get along very well. I was THRILLED when I learned that my (then) wife was pregnant with a girl -- I really wanted a girl. I don't know why, but I wanted a girl far more than I wanted a son. She is the only actual child I have (I have had step-children), and it would have been nice to have more but in all honesty I am so lucky to have her in my life. I have not read any repsonses in this thread yet -- I will, but this is my off-the-cuff reaction. I love it that she a girl, and I love who she is. My current wife loves her as well, and vice versa.

Love your daughter -- that's all you need to do. Sure, she'll make mistakes and have bad things happen to her but if you give her all your love, it'll be for the best for all.

Teach her what she needs to know. Love her. That's all you have to do. She will be strong and find her way with your help. And if she's like a lot of kids and rejects that, well, she'll come round one day. Just love her and don't lay any trips on her.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:31 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sid, I think he was trying to say that, in general, it's accepted that guys need to be protecting their girls from the cold and tough it out, like giving her their jacket. To suggest the opposite would be taking advantage of your girlfriend. I see it as an example, like the door-holding issue.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:32 AM on December 1, 2009

And since I've struggled with wage gaps, body image issues, passive sexism, the fear of aging and sexual assault, I don't know how I can raise a girl without instilling fears about these same things.

You do this the same way you would not foist bitterness about any other aspect of your life on a kid, regardless of gender (yours or theirs.) You do what's best for your kid. You don't make your kid's life any harder by pathologizing her gender. And you remind your partner to give you a sign when you're straying into this territory.

KokuRyu, how on earth are these women "transcending everything about being a woman?" I'm wracking my brain for an explanation that's not patronizing, insulting, bizarre, erroneous, or all of the above. If you mean that they've overcome the disadvantages associated with being female, that's merely naive and presumptuous.
posted by desuetude at 10:36 AM on December 1, 2009

I think a lot of people here have offered a good amount of perspective, but here's a little more to possibly think about. My son has Push Around buggy from Step 2 that he adores with all of his little eleven month old heart. Last night he was getting on and off it, beeping the horn, and bouncing in place to try to get it to move until his dad pushed it for him. When we brought it into him while staying with my parents a month ago, he jumped out of my mom's arms and ran right over to it. He pushed it all around the house, climbed in it, over it. You'd never have seen a baby as happy as this baby was when he got that little car.

What does my mother say?

"But it's pink!"

See, we had bought it second hand because it happened to be sitting outside a traditional junk shop that was a few blocks from a restaurant we were going to. It was half the cost of a brand new one and in fabulous shape. And it's pink. Neither my husband or I paid the color any mind. We were thinking it would just make the little guy happy. But then there's my mom caught up in the fact that pink is for girls. And to her credit, she didn't really care at all, but it's still not the third thing you want to hear out of your mother's mouth after giving your son a totally awesome present, joking or not.

Then there's the attitude, which in our circle of friends and family we likely won't run into too much, that boys shouldn't play with baby dolls. They shouldn't push dolls in strollers. They shouldn't put dolls down for naps. That's all girl behavior. Those are things for girls to do! But many men go on to be dads, right? What's the problem with having a boy practice being a dad the way girls are almost pushed into practicing being moms? I think we see so many stereotypes of men not knowing how to take care of babies and women automatically knowing everything about babies because boys aren't supposed to play with dolls and girls are. Well, screw that! Every kid should play with dolls. And airplanes, trains, kitchens, swords, make up, clothes, jewelry, footballs, and so on.

To go a little further, it's okay for girls to play sports, but what does a boy who wants to take ballet get? It's okay for girls to rough and tumble with the boys, but what about the boy who wants to bake cookies with the girls? Girls can wear clothes with trucks and fire engines on them and it's considered cute and "tom boyish" and "she'll certainly grow out of it," while boys wearing fairy princess outfits are given odd stares and his parents over hear remarks about his "being gay" or how he'll "grow up gay." (Because, you know, clothes determine sexuality.)

I think too that men sometimes get the short end of the proverbial stick as much as women do. Look at all the examples of the dumb and incompetent dads out there --- Homer Simpson, Hal from "Malcolm in the Middle." How's that for a role model? And to take it further, the attitudes towards men who are kindergarten or preschool teachers! The pop culture example of "Kindergarten Cop" and the mothers speculating on Arnold's character's sexuality is not far off from what some men really experience. But men aren't supposed to want to hang around young children all day. It's shown to be a burden on them while for women it's a regular old job that they're all old hands at. But don't we want our sons to grow up to be good dads and husbands?

So, women may get it in terms of wage gaps, sure, but sexism is a two way street. And men have it, at times, just as hard as women in different areas of life. For men, it seems to be related to the home while for women it seems to be related to work. It's up to all of us to find a way to get rid of sexism in all areas of life. And teaching a child to recognize unfair portrayals and standards of both sexes and genders is a good way to start.

And as something practical, I think you may enjoy reading My Mother Wears Combat Boots. The author is a punk musician who does all sorts of non-traditional things with her daughter and she addresses a lot regarding gender and stereotypes. It's also a really easy read and much easier to bring a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to everything in it. There was a lot that I found didn't mesh with me, but then much of her point is you find what works for you and your family --- but the gender components, I think, you may get a lot out of.
posted by zizzle at 10:38 AM on December 1, 2009 [18 favorites]

Sid, I think he was trying to say that, in general, it's accepted that guys need to be protecting their girls from the cold and tough it out, like giving her their jacket. To suggest the opposite would be taking advantage of your girlfriend. I see it as an example, like the door-holding issue.

Chivalry has historically been part of sexism. The fundamental idea of chivalry is that women are "the weaker sex" and that men should take care of them while simultaneously denying them the agency to take care of themselves.

I am not a bit interested in benefiting from chivalry; I would prefer to be treated with politeness and generosity that isn't gender-specific.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think it would be helpful to think of your child more as an individual with her own priorities, dreams, and problems, than as a sort of binary identity that can only go one way or the other.

Right now, gender is the only thing you know about your kid, so it might be tempting to extrapolate a whole life based on that one characteristic. But a few years from now, when she has a face, a personality, and emerging talents and dreams, then her gender will be just one part of who she is and how she fits in the world.

Lots of men have mediocre or unpleasant lives, despite their ostensible advantage. Not having to deal with sexism doesn't mean that life isn't still full of all sorts of other problems.

Anyway, you're the mother, so you get to actually have an effect on the situation, and raise your daughter in an environment that helps her feel good about herself.
posted by bingo at 10:44 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't think that, on average, men are any happier then women. Maybe there is some research on this, I don't know.

But the fact is that for both men and women life can be full of hardships and disappointments. Being a man certainly doesn't make everything wonderful for everyone. I would imagine that gender only plays a small part in the overall range of life experience.

Your daughter will likely never know what it's like to not have anyone willing to hold her on a cold winter night. That alone is worth the wage gap.

This is pretty weird statement. There are certainly single women out there. I think that when men think about women's lives, they think only about the women they pay attention to: attractive ones.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Chivalry has historically been part of sexism. The fundamental idea of chivalry is that women are "the weaker sex" and that men should take care of them while simultaneously denying them the agency to take care of themselves.

No, yeah, I know. I was trying to point out that it was sexist and chivalry (or whatever the none-sexist term should be) should go both ways. I guess it's just courteousness, then. People should just be courteous.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:49 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

And by "need to be protecting their girlfriends," I meant that as the biased, sexist notion. Not what should really be.

Sorry for the confusion.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:50 AM on December 1, 2009

This is pretty weird statement. There are certainly single women out there. I think that when men think about women's lives, they think only about the women they pay attention to: attractive ones.

I point you to my above comment. I think it was just poorly worded. I'm pretty sure he just meant that guys are told to put their women's needs above theirs, and never to expect it in return.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:51 AM on December 1, 2009

I would imagine that gender only plays a small part in the overall range of life experience.

I would imagine that you self-identify as male, right?

Because when you self-identify as female, it's really hard to think of yourself as the default gender, at least in US society.

That said, yes, of course every human being has a unique set of life experiences and challenges, and the OP's baby wouldn't necessarily have had an easier life as a boy.

But gender plays a big part in the overall range of life experience--the thing is that people who self-identify as male sometimes have the luxury of not noticing (and other times not, of course).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:52 AM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

There are many, many women in this country (and probably a few who have read this question) who would give their (fill in the blank with most valuable possession) to have any child of their own making, let alone a girl. They - including myself - suffer through years of procedures, disappointments, miscarriages and set backs. Some manage to have a child, some don't. By the time they make it through this years-long odyssey and have a real chance at a child, they do not get hung up on having the gender that they want.

Focus on how fortunate you are to have a healthy pregnancy without drama rather than the fact that you didn't want a girl.
posted by Leezie at 10:54 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

OK, this is about cats. Intellectually, I know it's not the same thing, but I don't have kids, and anyway this is what I've got, and I think it's pretty good.

I always assumed I wouldn't really like having a female cat. Male cats are more affectionate, less territorial, and bigger (more furry purry). My two cats were both boys, and they were smart and fun and did awesome tricks. They were huge and heavy and warm. All the female cats I'd met were kind of mean -- which makes sense, because you'd have to be kind of mean, or at least fierce, to make it as a female cat. Hunting? Kittens? Nursing? Plus being smaller and more vulnerable in general.

So. We volunteered to foster some kittens. Finally they arrived, two boys and a girl. The girl was tiny, especially compared to the gigantic boy kitten - hard to believe they were from the same litter, but they were. She was also a tortie, which is kind of a mix of three colors, and these colors were all mixed throughout her coat, like a lawn covered with autumn leaves seen from a distance. The boys were a yellow tabby and a mostly-red tabby, and they were beautiful. The girl had these perfectly round yellow eyes that reminded me a lot of a baby alien from the movie "area 51". She let the boys take her toys all the time.

I think you can see where this is going... I and everyone else was utterly charmed by this little girl kitten. She was much tidier than the boys. She cleaned them a lot. She was so dainty! And, once you looked at her, she was so beautiful. She turned out to be smarter than the two boys, learning new tricks almost instantly, and she was ill-acquainted with gravity, flying up the cat tower and across the floor and around the room like she weighed nothing but was strong enough to lift anything. And you could hold her in one arm, she was so small, and she nestled there perfectly.

Her name is Eliza. I've known about four people who were interested in adopting her, one of whom is my fiancé's slightly curmudgeonly father, who fell in love with her even before this incident:

On Thanksgiving, she was curled tidily in my lap -- she fits on my lap, the other two are so big they spill over each side when they try -- and fiancé's Mom looked over; I asked if she wanted to hold the kitten, she said she didn't want to disturb the kitten, and little Eliza took the initiative, got up from my lap, walked to the neighboring loveseat, and curled up in her lap.

These virtues like sensitivity, tidiness, beauty, kindness, and sweetness, not all females possess them. But many do, and there is a lot of joy in just being around them.

It may not be easy being female. But girls, and women, are nice to be around. And you, you lucky girl, have one all of your own.
posted by amtho at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2009

I agree that you should talk this over with a therapist.

I don't think we need to convince you that men (or any other group) experience challenges, or that it's awesome to be a girl. I think you need to figure out why this is freaking you out. Whatever feelings you're channeling into this pseudo-logic ("being a girl sucks in some major ways, therefore it sucks that I'm having a baby girl") would probably have come out in some other way if you had found out you were having a boy. I'm not trying to minimize your feelings here, I'm just saying that I think this runs deeper than whether it's better to be born a boy or a girl.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:03 AM on December 1, 2009

Okay, as a Dad to both a boy and a girl, I just have to say this.

Listen to me, and follow along.

Say these words to yourself and remember them whenever you feel down about this:

"Little girls are fucking awesome!"

My daughter makes me a better person, every single day. I will never, ever, let her feel like she is 'less' of a person because she is a girl. You need to do the same.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:05 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Mod note: again, this is a touchy topic, parables for "guys have it just as bad" isn't really what the OP is looking for. MetaTalk is available to you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:12 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know what all the deleted comments said, but mine said that the grass is always greener, which means that if this was a future-boy, it would be just as easy to come up with a list of reasons that life is hard for boys. You are a woman and so you are seeing men as being in a better place. This is human nature.

You're injecting way too much of your own past into a future that isn't yet written. Your daughter's experiences won't be yours, and her life will be different.

Millions of successful happy women prove that it's not a horrible life for everyone.
posted by rokusan at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

You've gotten so much good advice in this thread, but I just want to chime in on the "gender roles" part of it.

Its really true, you know: girls can be whatever they want, but (right now) boys cannot.

A girl can play with tools, be a firefighter, be a cook, be a mom, be pink and girly, be denim and blue and butch and no one will bat an eye. All those things are accepted roles for women in our society.

A boy, on the other hand, is constrained. No pink toys, no dress up, no baby dolls, he can pretend to be a doctor but not the nurse, a rock star but not a ballet dancer. He can play with a rocket ship but not a dollhouse.

Being a girl is an open ticket to be whomever you want to be.
posted by anastasiav at 11:21 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

You also have the opportunity to make a different environment/thinking for her by combating the stereotypes. Sure it's out of your and her control when she grows up and faces them. But doesn't everyone via gender, race, age, etc? It's life.

Look, my biggest worry was not only would I bond with a son when I found out but a baby in general. When I gave birth and almost lost him during the process, my world changed.

My only goal in life is to ensure he is happy, safe, healthy, and doesn't feel the way I felt with negativities or be like his father. I can do that with the best of my abilities and give him the coping skills to endure when he does encounter the crap in life. And in the end, loving him and giving him the best self esteem and values is all I can do.

Seriously, it's an utter joy having a baby. You'll do fine but talk this through with a therapist/OB. Good luck and congrats.
posted by stormpooper at 11:22 AM on December 1, 2009

Ok, my comment was deleted, but I'm gonna try it again as I think it was misconstrued.

In answer to your question, maybe you could look at it from your child's perspective down the road.... I'm real happy that my mom turned out to be a girl, and my sisters are glad too.

Point is that even though you're worried about what your child is going to go through, it's gonna happen no matter their sex... and in the end your child is gonna love you regardless. So from your potential grandchildren's perspective - they'll be glad you had a girl.
posted by matty at 11:23 AM on December 1, 2009

I felt the same way you do.

Because of that, I put off having kids a long time, until I was sufficiently convinced that I could genuinely love and appreciate a girl. I'm not positive how I got to that point, but a lot of it was learning to be myself despite my gender and all the crap associated with it. I grew up knowing I was not the daughter I was supposed to be, and it had a lasting effect. So now I had to dare myself to show up in the world as a distinct, unrepeated person with her own characteristics, skills, and foibles, and not simply as a woman with a chip on her shoulder, which was about 80% of what I was until that point. And I had to either call other people to relate to me that way, too, and/or be able to stop lunging at every interaction as an opportunity to get others to pay homage to the chip on my shoulder.

And part of it was a willingness to relate to a baby as another person, a singular, unique individual who was going to have his or her own experiences and world view no matter what I did and no matter what their gender. This doesn't mean my fears went away when I finally became pregnant. I knew having a girl would trigger a lot of stuff for me. I knew I'd have to let her like what she likes, even if it was pink princesses riding in Barbie cabriolets. But this one of the things it means to be a parent: not pushing your own fears and limitations on to your kids as a way to make yourself feel better, in control, more powerful, whatever. It will make things easier if you work on your own baggage, but we're human, it's not going to magically go away. You need to learn how to have your own shit and also be a wide open "yes!" of possibility for your kids no matter what their gender.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Life's not perfect for anyone. Teach your daughter to deal with that reality and be thankful for the things she has going for her and you both have a pretty good shot at leading happy lives.
posted by timdicator at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2009

do you realize that 58% of the graduating medical school classes are female?

I thought this was an interesting factoid but it does not appear to agree with statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges for U.S. medical schools. There, 48 percent of graduates in 2009 were female. At no time in 2002–2009 was it greater than half.
posted by grouse at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2009

I am a woman. My mom is a woman who does not like women and does not particularly like being a woman. I am her only child, and even though I know what her opinions of women are, I never once felt like she was disappointed that I am female. I think the only way I could have disappointed her is if I had grown up to be über-feminine and girly, but I didn't, because she instilled me with a sense of self-confidence and independence from an early age. She taught me that I never had to conform to anyone's ideas of what I should be if I didn't want to. I thought being girly was pretty dumb, so I didn't end up being girly. It was as simple as that.

We never had to have the "feminism talk" when I was younger because there was never any question of my not being as smart or capable or good as the boys at school. She did impress upon me the importance of being aware when I'm out in the world, so as to try and avoid assault, but I'm pretty sure she would have worried just as much about a son.

The point is, you don't have to lie to your daughter and tell her that everything is going to be unicorns and rainbows, but you also don't have to raise her to be a militant feminist. Raise her to be a strong, confident, independent person, and she'll be equipped to deal with the sexism she may encounter.
posted by coppermoss at 11:53 AM on December 1, 2009

Yes, you're right, being a woman is uniquely difficult in our patriarchal society. Men cannot understand this because they are a privileged group.

However, that doesn't mean that your daughter's life will automatically be sucky. Things are slowly changing, and it's probable that she will experience less sexism than you have. More importantly, she will have the opportunity to transcend that sexism and do whatever she wants with her life. She will be a part of the changing society that brings more opportunity to women, if you choose to raise her that way. She is a whole new life whom you can instill with your own values. You can either empower her with the confidence to do what she wants, to hell with what anyone else thinks--or you can bring her down with your own fear.

I agree with everyone who recommends therapy. It's still early enough to change things for the better.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2009

FWIW, during a random phone conversation my father announced today, out of the blue, "I wake up every morning and thank God I don't have sons." There are genuinely pros and cons to both sides that in our society at least do more or less even out.

But it's OK to not be excited. I'm not even going to tell you that you will feel differently once the baby is here, or that you'll fall in love instantly, or that in five years it won't make any difference. What I will tell you is that your feelings will change, over and over again, through the whole life of your child. That's how all of life works. You just need to ride the ride and know that it will probably all be OK.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2009

Being a girl doesn't suck. The world sucks sometimes wrt girls, but that's different.

I know many women who went through this kind of gender disappointment while pregnant. All of them found some therapy or comfort, in online support groups, or traditional therapy, or just over tea with friends. All of them welcomed their babies with joyous, open arms, even the woman who was so resentful of her baby's gender that she found it hard to make the effort to push -- when she finally met him, she said "Oh, it's YOU! I know you."

In other words: It's normal to feel this way, even if it's not common. It can be gotten through with time and some personal work. Try not to worry.
posted by KathrynT at 12:38 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

You need to get therapy for your self-hatred in order to raise a healthy girl. If you think life is going to be rough for her because she's female, think how much more rough it will be for her if her mother thinks that being a woman is a fate worse than death.

You are assuming a lot about things you can't possibly know, starting with 1) the future.

You have time to get this right in your head before you start feeding it into your daughter's. Print out what you've asked, take it to a therapist, and get to work.
posted by tzikeh at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

With my second pregnancy, I was convinced I was producing a brother for my son. I was surprised to have a girl child, and somewhat horrified for some of the same reasons. Within 3 days of her birth, those feelings changed. It was a complete turn around, and still stays with me 17 years on. Now both my kids have graduated school, and even though the boy was naturally gifted (skipping a grade, winning maths competitions) it is the girl who graduated third in her class with an award in leadership, partly for introducing her cohort to the idea of feminism. She intends to be an academic in visual arts. She's incredibly vivacious and funny and sometimes a brat, and not like me at alll. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to raise both genders, though now I think the differences in raising the kids has not been their genders but their innate personalities.

So, difficulties with life? Both my kids face challenges, but to a great extent, his are internal (lack of self confidence, apathy that sort of thing) and hers external (sexism, objectification - she's a cute kid with very large breasts and cops a fair amount of crap), but her problems seem easy to deal with than his, because she is in charge of her life, and he isn't.

Memail me if you want.
posted by b33j at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wonder if your sadness really is about having a daughter. Depression during pregnancy is very common, easily treated, and not diagnosed often enough. It's worth asking your doctor about, as I bet your doctor isn't asking you. Yes, I say this in pretty much every pregnancy AskMe.

Secondly: with my first pregnancy, getting the sonogram results was upsetting. I was happy that I was having a boy (I hadn't had a preference), but up until then I'd been unconsciously picturing I had two kids, a boy and a girl, and now that I knew there was just a boy, I was sad because the girl was gone. Might you be in a mild bit of mourning for the boy you're not having, entirely unrelated to the girl you are having?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:54 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think being born to middle-class parents in a rich country who don't beat or belittle you or each other is basically winning the stork lottery.

We should of course care about gender equality, but if you're seriously feeling like you're bringing her into so much misery that it would be better not to have her at all, you need a wider perspective.
posted by palliser at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

But gender plays a big part in the overall range of life experience--the thing is that people who self-identify as male sometimes have the luxury of not noticing (and other times not, of course).

I probably should have said "Life experience quality" not just "life experience". But I think that quality of education, having a good childhood, being fit, as well as things like not having a debilitating disease and so on probably play a bigger role in life quality then gender. Obviously there are lots of life experiences that are unique to men and women. I'm not saying women don't have it somewhat worse, on average, but that there are plenty of men who's lives are worse then the average women, and lots of women who's lives are better then the average mans.

Thinking that gender is going to be controlling, especially compared to other thing that the parents will have control over (like making sure the kid gets a good education) is not very helpful.

The mother should try to focus on the things she has control over.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2009

I will admit to skimming this thread, because a lot of the comments have made me want to yell and throw things, and a bunch more seem to be missing the point. Of course, that sounds like I *know* the point, and I'm not sure that I do, but here's my stab at it.

Pregnancy is not a mechanical process, it is a physical and an emotional one. I think that the emotional aspects of pregnancy are not very well explored. A lot gets chalked up to "hormones" or made invisible because some of the emotional process is what might be labeled a "dark" one, one full of regrets and fears and things that may or may not make sense to people outside of ourselves.

A friend once suggested that the difference between how she felt about her own children and how she felt about the children of her loved ones was not so much in how much she loved them but in the tremendous, nearly crushing responsibility that she feels towards them. Some of this sense of extreme responsibility begins to develop in pregnancy, especially (I'm guessing) in people who tend to think about the future a lot. The problem with it in pregnancy is that it's all in the abstract: there is no actual physical or emotional person to be responsible for. Other than taking care of your own health, there is little else you can do.

In this case, the baby is still very much an abstract concept, but at the same time, the OP all of a sudden has a very specific piece of knowledge that defines her responsibilities as a mother in a particular way. Being a girl in this world has associated dangers, some more pressing than others. Now there is still no person to interact with and no specific circumstance that requires the OP's guidance or responsibilities, but there is the knowledge that there are *THINGS* that need to be taught and dealt with, and the OP has no idea how to teach and deal with them because they remain problems at large in society in some cases, and problems that are unresolved for her in other cases, and most of all, because how they are going to come up in her daughter's life remain a great unknown.

OP, I think that part of the reason that you don't feel like you can teach her what she needs to know is that her interaction with the world is still abstract and unknown. You won't be called on to teach her everything about being a girl, and have it all figured out correctly, all at once. These things will come up over time, in various situations, that you will help her navigate one at a time. But while you are pregnant and that sense of responsibility is starting to press on you without any way to relieve it, without any ability to *do* something about it and assure yourself that you, in fact, can take care of your daughter as she needs to be taken care of.

I don't think this sounds like something that necessarily needs therapy, unless it appeals to you. If these thoughts are sucking the enjoyment out of your whole life, and if they persist for a few weeks or months, then you might want to reconsider. But I think that getting into this kind of emotional space for at least a little while is a pretty normal part of pregnancy, so unless you're losing sleep or having self-destructive thoughts or something like that, you can probably wait a little while and see if it goes away on its own.
posted by carmen at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

Talk to a therapist. Either you're sublimating some ambivalence about having the kid in the first place, or you genuinely hate being a girl, in which case, you need to work through that.

Being female isn't any worse than being male, tall, short, gay, whatever--it's one of many things that make up a person. It's not The Thing. There are some inconveniences, but at least it gets you out of having to talk about football. hardeeharhar.

No but really -- your problem, for whatever reason, is a worldview problem. There's no single part of any of us that is that big a deal. All of the things you list can be either addressed directly or you can make your peace with it.

Also, I will gently suggest as I generally do in pregnancy threads, that you may be hormonally completely insane. Because I was. Maybe that's not you, and it's not to dismiss your concerns, but I will tell you I think I cried for nine months straight.

Being a girl is great.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2009

For almost all people, a large portion of life just sucks. Maybe it sucks more for girls, but mostly life is painful for us all. By creating a new person (regardless of gender) you're creating suffering--but you're also creating all the good stuff, too. What matters is that she's able to cope with the shitty stuff that happens to her, and that skill makes all the difference. People can be happy in terrible situations with the right attitude.

You've fallen into a trap where you're comparing two good things and deciding that the one you don't prefer is really bad. Step back a bit and look at all the babies born, and you'll realize she's actually going to have a better starting point than a vast number of people: those born into poverty, born addicted to drugs, etc.
posted by jewzilla at 1:21 PM on December 1, 2009

I have spent most of my life hating (and being secretly jealous of) skinny people. I'm a chubby person from a chubby family. I believed for many years that skinny people had it easy, got everything they wanted, and had no barriers to happiness. Skinny people don't really understand what it means to be compassionate or tactful. Skinny people are mean.

Then my daughter was born. Skinny. She was so skinny as a baby, I had her at the doctor all the time. Finally the pediatrician sat me down and said "You have to stop this. You are going to scar your child. She is the way she is and that's ok." My "baby" is now 10 years old, 4'10" and a whopping 65 pounds. She gets teased for being skinny; kids call her anorexic, twiggy, toothpick. She is one of the most sensitive, compassionate, and kind children I know.

I have had to face things about myself and my perceptions that were not easy to face. Once, when she was about 5 or 6, I used the phrase “skinny bitch” (directed at someone on TV). For the first time in my life, I heard the venom in my voice. I imagined that phrase and that venom directed toward my beautiful, sensitive, compassionate daughter, and I felt sick to my stomach. It’s been a struggle not to impose my own issues onto my kids (my worries about my younger, chubbier daughter are a whole ‘nother thread), but I have to bear my own burdens, and so do you. I probably would have benefited from therapy, but since skinniness can’t be predicted like gender, I didn’t have the benefit of foresight. You do. Use it.

Also, what carmen said: you don't have to "do" anything right now. Think about this for awhile. Talk about it with someone you trust. There is time.
posted by SamanthaK at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

OP: I'm not sure what anyone can say to make you feel better about this. It's pretty clear that you're projecting your own experiences, hopes, and fears onto your baby. Which is absolutely normal but still isn't a good thing when it causes this level of anxiety and depression. So I would also recommend therapy.

But you are, I think, greatly underestimating the struggles and problems with being a boy. Given that you grew up a girl and had to live those challenges instead, this is not surprising. You have to understand, though, that whether or not boys today are privileged (and of course they still are) that does not translate into an easy or even necessarily an easier life than a girl. In feminist parlance patriarchy and traditional gender roles constrain and damage men as well as women. Yes it happens in different ways. But it happens.

I'm sure "it can really suck being a boy too" isn't a lot of comfort. But there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that your daughter will be any less happy than a potential son (and some evidence to believe the opposite) unless you make it happen because of your projection of your own fear and anxiety. Which is why I suggested therapy up above.

don't think that, on average, men are any happier then women.

In point of fact the opposite tends to be true; women are happier than men, particularly at younger ages. The "happiness gap" is closing, particularly as you get past age 50, but historically speaking men have been less happy. Why women are becoming more unhappy and men happier as men's privilege is chipped away is way beyond the scope of this question. But fascinating.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on December 1, 2009

The issue is not going to get resolved by trying to convince you that the discrepancies between being male or female experience are not real. What you are describing sounds more like depression: you beleive that your life and your circumstances are terrible and that they are never going to get better, and that you are destined to make other people's lives worse by being in it. You are depressed.

Go to a doctor, please. You need help, and you deserve to be happy about your baby.
posted by Kololo at 2:23 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it's any consolation, look at how gender roles have improved just during your lifetime. Your kid is likely to be better off than you are just for having been born later when things were getting more progressive. Yeah, it's not perfect now and won't be for her either, but it could be a lot worse. I am glad I got born female in this era rather than earlier ones, for sure.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:44 PM on December 1, 2009

As a clinician, I'm going to disagree that you need psychiatric help...though it might be good to go to a therapist to talk some of this through. You're sounding a bit irrational, but it seems like it's coming from a place of concern. I grew up very resentful of my girlhood, angsty, bitter, jealous of boys and how effortless and easy their lives seemed. I've experienced sexual harrassment, sexism, body issues galore... and my parents had no idea how to handle any of it. All they could do was raise a smart, socially conscious daughter. And they did. And I've turned a lot of that angst into action. It's made me a better person - and definitely a better woman.

You can turn this into a positive, too. Yeah, being a girl sucks. Being a boy sucks in a lot of ways, too, and I didn't realize that until I got older and gained a bit more perspective on gender socialization. You can't change her gender, and you can't change the world she's going to grow up in (at least, not all by yourself)...but you can encourage her to be strong, be smart, and give her the tools to achieve whatever it is she wants in life. Please don't project your own negative experiences as a female onto her. She's starting a brand new life - let her experience it through her own eyes. Tell her about your struggles and encourage her to rise above them. She'll realize "Wow. My mom went through a lot of shit" and learn from it. (I hope) "And there ARE some good things about being a woman," you can tell her... "One of them is you."

Finally, not to be a downer, but here's a little perspective. You know who actually suffers the worst discrimination, worst wage inequity, and worst psychosocial/financial struggles in this country? The mentally handicapped and the disabled. Pray to the baby fairy that your little girl is born healthy and stays that way, because every mother of a disabled or sick child that I've met would give their own lives to have a healthy, "normal" child - boy OR girl. You're a mom now. It's no longer all about you.

Good luck, and I hope you're able to talk this out with someone.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

Are you doing your daughter-to-be any favors by thinking of her first and foremost as a girl, a girl who will automatically have all the "girl problems" you mentioned?

It will be hard not to think that way until she gets to a few months old and starts to show some personality, but some day you will realize she will be her own person. She may sail right through all the problems you anticipate without your help. She may not. It's all up to her, and the best you can do is be there with solutions if and when she needs them. You won't impose your notions of how much it sucks to be female on her if you focus on responding to her as your child, who will be different than you, and different than other women, with her own needs and tendencies.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:43 PM on December 1, 2009

Here's the thing.... people have babies in all sorts of horrible circumstances that are much worse than being a girl. What about the hundreds of millions of children who are born into poverty and don't have enough to eat or don't have clean water or don't have access to education or won't have basic human rights? I think you need to change your attitude. If you have a healthy girl in a Western Country than she's better off than 99% of humanity in that she'll have access to good nutrition, clean water, an education, and basic human rights (free speech, free religion) etc. Even if she gets 70% of what her male colleauges get she'll still be better off than almost anyone who has ever lived on the planet. My grandparents each had multiple siblings who died during childhood and in the days before polio vaccines and pencillin that was pretty much the norm. Just having a decent shot to live to adulthood is a relatively recent phenomenon

If you're concerned about sexism raise your daughter to be independent thinker who's self-reliant. Raiser her not to take anyone's shit.
posted by bananafish at 5:18 PM on December 1, 2009

You know what? I think being a girl is pretty awesome! I am in a male-dominated field (in a still very male-centered country), and I am getting along pretty well for myself. I am happy where I am and I don't think that wages are the be-all-end-all.

Perhaps I have been extremely lucky. I don't have any particular body image issues (I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and think "I am totally awesome!"). I have never been a victim of sexual assault or even felt particularly in danger of being sexually assaulted. I have no fears of aging apart from the more existential fears which would exist regardless of gender. I have dealt with sexism, but not in any extent that has limited my abilities to achieve what I want. I probably make more than a good portion of the men of my age that I work with. I could earn more money, but that would require me working harder, and I have minimal desire to do so as I am in no way struggling with money at the moment.

I do not have many female friends (probably due to focusing in male-dominated fields), but the ones I have I am ridiculously proud of. My girlfriends are helping put people in space (and get them back from space safely), flying planes, fixing people's ills, teaching the next generation, and writing programs for companies all across the board. They are all awesome! You can be female and awesome, it is not so hard!

Give your daughter agency, let her know that her biggest proponent and encouragement should be herself. Don't tell her that her life would be easier if she were a boy, and don't believe it yourself. If she thinks that she has all of the options that a boy has, she will live up to that expectation.
posted by that girl at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

I used to fret over all the impossible figure standards are held to and how guys can't possibly understand how ridiculous and stressful it is to not be able to attain that perfect image...

and then my sons got into super-heroes and I watch their egos deflate every time another muscle-bound trim waisted "real man" comes into view. It's not any easier for them! And I think they spend more time worrying about their own 6-packs than our thighs than we realize anyway...

Girls are fun, I wish I had one!
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2009

and PS - thjs is why we never "found out" there's lots to obsess about either way and knowing the gender for sure one way or the other just gives you some hard data to focus on.... and it's TOTALLY normal to be thinking the way you are, but trust me, you will LOVE her when she arrives!
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:55 PM on December 1, 2009

A question: would the world have been richer or poorer if Barak Obama's mother had take a look at the racism of segregation-era USA and quietly arranged an abortion rather than inflict blackness on a baby?

Honestly I think you need to find some help with your issues about being a woman - I know feminists who work in shelters, policy, academia, who engage all the sorts of issues you're fretting about on everything from a concrete to abstract level and none of them are as negative about "being a woman" as you seem to be.

Frankly, I'd be more worried about a boy than my girl. A boy is more likely to kill himself as a teen, less likely to get good educational outcomes, less likely to get into or suceed in teriary education, more likely to suffer a range of conditions that a male-only or grossly skewed to boys (autism, for example), more likely to be pressured into behaviour medications at school ages, more likely to suffer violence, and more likely to be killed than a woman. But I don't think dwelling on all those realities will help.
posted by rodgerd at 10:13 PM on December 1, 2009

You've gotten a lot of great answers. I agree that all the problems you mentioned (wage gaps, the body image issues, passive sexism, the fear of aging, the potential for sexual assault) are real fears that anybody might have for their daughter. All I can say is, for me, almost all of those problems have been non-existent or minimal. So remember, they may also not be issues for your daughter.
posted by timoni at 10:41 PM on December 1, 2009

The role of women has changed so much in my lifetime. What an incredibly exciting time to be a woman, when you can actively shape how your gender is defined! Be honest with yourself, you have no idea what kind of world your daughter will live in, but the future looks very bright.
posted by xammerboy at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2009

Two book recommendations:
  • Woman: An Intimate Geography - great book about how incredibly complex and intricate women's bodies are
  • The Story of V: Opening Pandora's Box - "With a wide-ranging perspective that takes in prehistoric art, ancient history, linguistics, mythology, evolutinary theory, reproductive biology and medicine, Catherine Blackledge unveils the hidden marvels of the female form."
I can't wait to have girls so I can teach them how amazing they are. The world can be a scary place for girls, but we can give them power and respect again. Your daughter is an opportunity to discover why it can be great to be a girl, because you're going to fall head over heels in love with her.
posted by heatherann at 1:51 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

P.S. It's okay that you are feeling this way. You want your child to have the best possible experiences in life, and this is triggering your fears. It doesn't make you a horrible person. You can hate these aspects of being a girl and become excited about having your daughter.
posted by heatherann at 1:54 PM on December 2, 2009

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