I love advice columns so much. I don't know why. The amazing (Captain Awkward), the iffy-at-best (Prudence), even the openly fake (Here's That Bad Advice You Were Looking For) and the ones that I will promptly ignore because I am lazy (Ask A Clean Person, Heloise if she still exists).
The obvious classic is Dear Abby, and despite the venerability of the pseudonym, I am often pleasantly surprised at the modernity of the responses. Yesterday was NOT one of those days.
A mother-to-be writes in about her disappointment at expecting a son rather than a daughter http://www.arcamax.com/lifeadvice/dea… :
"DEAR ABBY: I'm a single mother of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. I have always pictured myself as a mom of four little princesses. When I fantasized about having children, I imagined fairy tales, ballet, cheerleading, dress-up, tea parties — all girl things.
Now I'm expecting a little boy and I feel heartbroken. When I learned my first was a girl, I couldn't wait to meet her. I bought her everything pink and frilly. Here I am eight weeks from my due date, and I have yet to buy this baby a single thing. When I look at baby boy items, I become severely depressed."
Abby pretty much just does the standard Prudie dance of recommending counseling and leaning on family, which might help the mother for now, but says very little toward the child. She basically advises the LW to accept snails and puppy-dog tails while leaving out some very pertinent points that I was for hoping for as soon as I read the headline:
1) the LW may well have a son who identifies as a boy and also loves pink, frilly, princess stuff, and
2) the fact that a penis seemed apparent on an ultrasound and may also (those readings aren't foolproof) appear on her child does NOT mean that the LW will not have a child who is also a girl. Who may or may not like pink/princess/frilly, btw
3) AND THE MOST OBVIOUS yet I didn't catch it til I proofread this!, "fairy tales, ballet, cheerleading, dress-up, tea parties" are all girly? Really? No. All children should get a bedtime story; ballet requires male dancers and if we want to get ultra-masculine, many football players take ballet as part of training; male cheerleaders have been a thing since like forever ago; please tell me you wouldn't deprive your male children of make-believe time!
Do I just spend too much time in my select corners of the internet that these seemed like obvious things to point out? Just as a 'by-the-by, LW, your assumptions are factually wrong'?
The LW is obviously very entrenched in old and stifling gender roles and may be closed-off to such ideas. But such a widely syndicated column should be addressing the larger readership, which involves people who live in 2014 - including trans* readers and allies - who see a giant pile of wrong assumptions being made. And maybe people to whom those wrong assumptions aren't readily apparent but who could be open to the ideas.
And so this column made me extra sad that Captain Awkward has been busy and hasn't updated in forever.