Piercing Your Baby’s Ears Doesn’t Make Them a Girl


Growing up, not having my ears pierced usually left me feeling just like the odd one out. In Puerto Rican tradition, many dad and mom pierce their youngsters’s ears shortly after they’re born. It was usually a ceremony of passage, and being with out my very own pair appeared to confuse some folks. I used to be usually requested why my mom did not pierce my ears after I was youthful, and I by no means precisely had a solution for them; it was simply a determination my mom selected not to make for me. Sometimes, I’d flip the query again on them, asking why they selected to make that call for his or her baby. The commonest solutions have been that folks did not need their child lady to be mistaken for a boy, or that it was merely custom.

The (typically actually devastating) gender reveals which have just lately been shaking up the information cycle have introduced me again to musing over this less-obtrusive manner that some dad and mom select to let the world know their child was assigned feminine at delivery. “This persistent and compulsory coupling of feminine and female is, in part, what leads to ear piercing as a visible signifier of femaleness itself,” Sasha T. Goldberg, a doctoral candidate and analysis assistant in gender research at Indiana University Bloomington, tells me. Tying femininity, or lack thereof, to an ear-piercing appears to me like a heavy expectation to placed on a baby that has no say within the determination in any other case. As Jessany Maldonado, an affiliate teacher and graduate pupil at Indiana University Bloomington, specializing within the research of Black sexuality, extra plainly places it: “If you’re trying to push a ‘gendering agenda’ …trying to force other people to construct your child as A or B, then there’s some inside insecurities that [you] need to work out.”

As my fellow millennials and even youthful gen Zers begin having our personal children, a few of us discover ourselves having to parse two doubtlessly opposing views. Many of us perceive gender to be a spectrum and never one thing that may at all times be precisely assigned at delivery. Many of us additionally come from households the place piercing a child’s ears, particularly in the event that they’re a lady, is solely custom. As it is usually a a part of our tradition, it is usually anticipated that we’ll be wanting to proceed the pattern once we turn into dad and mom. “Getting your ears pierced as a woman of color is seen as a rite of passage in the Black community,” says Taylor Gibbons, 27. “It’s so ingrained in older Black women and men that when I don’t have earrings in my ear, I’m called out and scolded for it even as an adult.”

The Culture of Piercing

This was a widespread theme amongst the general public I interviewed for this piece: More than having a hyper-specific spiritual or cultural reasoning for piercing a child’s ears, their dad and mom pierced their ears primarily as a result of everybody they knew did too. (It’s value noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics says there may be “little risk” related to ear piercing, no matter age.)  “My parents pierced my ears when I was a baby, but they never gave a specific reason why. When I ask, they say ‘because we did,'” Justice McNeil, 21, says, noting that they didn’t do the identical for her brother, who later selected to pierce his ears when he was about 9 or 10.

“It’s pretty uncommon for Indian people, especially for a girl, to not have your ears pierced,” says Aarati Akkapeddi, 27. “I think there is also a religious significance for Hindus…I know there are all kinds of theories around Ayurvedic pressure points in the body. I’m sure my parents didn’t think about it in such detail, but piercing your baby’s ears was definitely normalized in their social circles.”

Historically, cultural ties to piercing are widespread throughout cultures, even when they won’t be the specific cause many dad and mom pierce their youngsters’s ears right this moment. For occasion, ear piercing, also referred to as karnavedha in Hinduism, is without doubt one of the 16 sanskar rituals that mark phases of life and signify cultural heritage and upbringing. Usually, youngsters could have their ears pierced after their delivery in a karnavedha ceremony that celebrates this symbolic observe.

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