Build-a-Bear, Build-a-Baby?

I'm a huge Philadelphia Phillies fan.  I know, this is shocking to many, as they are one of the major sports teams in my favorite city.  This season, I'm hoping to get to a few more games than last (which was none in person; quite a few on television) and one of my first orders of business upon entering the stadium will not be to buy a t-shirt or three hot dogs and a beer (although, invariably, those things will happen).  Rather, my first stop will be to go to Citizen Bank Park's Build-a-Bear, and build my very own Phillie Phanatic.

The Phanatic, who hails from the Galapagos Islands and whose hobbies include reading, sleeping, eating, and cheering on the Phillies (we have so much in common, truly!), is arguably the best mascot in baseball. And when I learned that I could build my own--or, really, I guess, just stuff it with the amount of squishiness that I desire--I was hooked.  Apparently, when you squeeze him, his tongue rolls out, which, while I've never seen it in actual practice, I've imagined it in my head and the mere thought brings me much glee.

While we won't dwell on the fact that I'm a ridiculously easy person to please and amuse, we will instead focus on the subject of this post: the perhaps offbeat comparison between building a bear and the new scientific advancement of building a baby.

A disclaimer, of sorts, before I continue: the subject of the post is a line I didn't come up with, and while I'm fairly certain the originator wishes to remain anonymous, I'll give her her credit.  And, even the mere subject of this post wasn't something I considered either: the news article I'm about to link to was suggested to me by a good friend of mine, the very same Twitter aficionado, I mentioned earlier.  It's quite convenient that these two incredible women live in the same house--eventually, I'll be creative enough to come up with an appropriate nome de plume for them.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer on 25 February 2009, there was an article called "Blue, pink? U-pick" by Jennifer Bails.  In it, Bails discusses the seemingly new trend of parents using sometimes costly new techniques which allow parents to select the sex of their baby.  The genetic testing is done on embryos before they are placed in the womb via IVF.  The article contains interviews with various families who have elected to try some kind of testing which would allow parents a greater chance of having the sex of the child they desire.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this article.  I'm not a parent, although one day I hope to be, and while the family dynamic I one day hope to have certainly will not resemble the traditional families interviewed, it will still be, nonetheless, a family.  That said, if my partner and I decide to have children through IVF, I'm certainly not going to be the one carrying it--the "Miracle of Life" video I saw in the 5th grade really wiped out any idea that that was something I ever wanted to experience in my lifetime.  Unless something changes, I really can't say that I'll ever know the attachment of what it's like to have a baby grow inside of me, and the emotional and cognitive attachments that go along with that is something I will unlikely experience.

While I think genetic testing is advantageous for detecting defects, disease, etc., I'm not sure that being choosy about the sex of your child warrants a test or intense mapping of genetic properties, ovulation cycles, even sexual positions.  Children are a gift, truly, and I think it's a bit sad when "Is the baby healthy?" isn't the only important question asked through the gestation process.  I think that if there is a taboo about gender preference in our society, we need to start asking serious questions about why this is the case.  Why does gender matter so much?  Why do we place so much importance on it?  Why do we still think of gender in not only such limiting ways, but also why do we impose those limitations on a baby--a baby who truly can become whoever he or she wishes to be?

What's also problematic is the underlying sex/gender implications of this story.  Mothers want a daughter because they want a little girl who will like princess things and pink and, naturally, their mother-daughter bond will be great.  Fathers want sons who will be athletic and like blue and like trucks and will want to be just like their dads when they grow up.  However, a guarantee of sex, as the article rightly points out, doesn't mean these relationships will work--biology and human relationships and interaction is not the same thing.  Genetics can't make up for attitude and behavior.  Sure, parents have certain expectations or wishes, hopes, and dreams for their children, but why tie those dreams so closely to what their sex is?

Perhaps because for me starting a family will require not only a lot of planning but also a lot of legal and social issues that a significant portion of the population doesn't have to think about or deal with, I'm a bit more attuned to say that building a baby should be nothing like building a bear.  Would I prefer my Phanatic to be wearing a home Phillies jersey? Yes.  Do I want to self-design a baby in a similar way?  No.  I don't really want to choose the eye color, hair color, or sex; ten fingers and toes and healthy would be just fine by me.

The rest, truly, is bonus.

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