How Do You Say "Gender-Neutral" In French Anyway?
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Say "Gender-Neutral" In French Anyway?

...and boys don't cry.
It’s an exciting day. You head to Monoprix, the Target of France. You beeline to the home section. You see the all-too-familiar logo as you begin the hunt for that perfect Hallmark greeting card.

Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a wedding, maybe it’s just a friendly “Thinking of you” card that requires the illustration of a bouquet of flowers because, let’s face it, they’re not worth a real bouquet. While nothing compared to the Hallmark card stores of American mall fame, the choices are all there.

On this particular Friday, I was looking for a card for a friend about to give birth to a baby boy. The French don’t really do wedding showers, but that wasn’t going to stop us, and it was all planned. But I needed the perfect card, and finally, I found the category entitled, “naissance,” or birth. What a find!

Quickly, however, I realized that the task would be a difficult one. My friend, the farthest thing from a 60s housewife, wasn’t bound by traditional stereotypes. But these cards were.

Instead of having general “baby” cards, there was a veritable Noah’s Ark of cards lined up with blue and pink versions of the same exact card. Hallmark, come on, really? Apparently it was impossible for a baby girl to be anything but pink. And little boys were meant to live within the spectrum of sky to navy, where even cerulean seemed a daring choice.

I stumbled upon a green card only to find that it was a congratulatory card for multiple babies – but I didn’t want to suggest that her stomach was so big that it could be filled with more than one human. And what was I supposed to do if I didn’t know the baby’s sex? Guess?

I later discussed this incident with my neighbor, who at 73 years old was the last person I’d expect to agree with me.
No effort at all...

“The French are all so old-fashioned,” she said, throwing up her hands. I never thought of the French being as blue-is-for-boys as in the US – then again I rarely shop for baby apparel. Still, even back home, before our grandparents’ time, boys once wore pink by default while girls got the blue.

Mind blown.

Back in Monoprix, and unsure of what to do, I went in another direction, choosing a blank card with Champagne on it. “Get that thing out of you and we’ll drink this,” I wrote on it, a rather eloquent commentary on where our priorities should actually be. 

She appreciated it, along with the purple cupcakes I prepared for her baby shower – the color of her baby’s crib decorations. Because hey, why not? 

1 comment:

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