Today I went to a morning tea gathering. A pleasant surprise was that N. was there, who used to babysit my kids and who now has a delightful 11-month-old baby of her own.
As I was making kissy-faces at the baby, I was a bit startled at the level of pink the bub was wearing. Not just the overall, but also the bib, the shoes and the socks were all shocking hot pink. I’m not always startled at the general insistence on pinkifying baby girls, but N. was always a jeans and rugby shirt woman, and still is, so that contrast did surprise me.
So there we were, watching the baby being fed bits of hot-cross bun by her doting nana, when another woman, R., horrified me, and not just because I instinctively react badly to drive-by parenting. As she wandered past with a tray, while we were all happily watching the baby enjoy her food, R. said the following:
Oh, no! Stop! Naughty Nana! You’ll make her fat!
This was said in that plausibly deniable jocular fashion that one is not allowed to take offence at, on pain of being considered (oh noes!) humourless, but the message was clear.
(a) It is unacceptable to watch a woman eat food and enjoy it without worrying about her weight, even if that woman is only eleven months old.
(b) A mother will be judged a failure if her daughter is fat, so the mother has to worry about her daughters weight until the daughter is old enough to worry about her own weight.
(c) A woman becoming fat is one of the worst things that could happen to her.
I wanted to snarl at R. and slap her, but she is otherwise a very nice woman (who would probably be much healthier if she was 5-10kg heavier) and besides, it might have been considered an over-reaction. I only snarled internally, and then I turned to N. and said brightly “Heaven forbid a woman might enjoy being comfortably padded, eh?” and then we went on to discussing the baby’s dimples.
A few minutes later I got my clue as to why the baby is so extremely pinkified: N. was lamenting that baby’s hair wasn’t longer, because she wasn’t able to put a bow in it to show she was a girl.
Yep, as well as making sure baby girls are not offensively fat, we must also make sure that everyone who looks at them knows immediately that they are girls and not boys, otherwise a baby girl might accidentally be treated by strangers as if she had the same potential as a baby boy, and that might make the universe explode.