Reigning Supreme: Pink, Blue and the Royal Baby

On July 17, 2013 England and Wales legalized same-sex marriage. This news has important political implications, especially as the international debate about LGBT rights heats up. On December 3, 2012, Dutchess Kate Middleton announced her pregnancy, and on July 22, 2013, she gave birth. While the baby will be an icon of British culture, he will have no direct political power. From July 17 to July 24, there have been 91 headlines from credible American news sources that mentioned “England” and “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage.” In that same time period, there have been 630 headlines about the “royal baby” or “Kate Middleton.”

The media has been obsessed with this baby.

Since Middleton announced her pregnancy in December, American news coverage of the royal baby has been ubiquitous and has focused on the baby’s gender. CNN has an entire page dedicated to the royal baby, linking to articles explaining the scientific likelihood that the baby would be a girl, hypothesizing what the baby would look like, and noting cues from Middleton that supposedly let the world know that the baby was a girl. The betting agency, Coral, brought in about $1.53 million in total bets about the baby’s gender, name, and birth date.

Now that the baby has been revealed to be a boy, the media, again, is jumping on the bandwagon of gendered assumptions. Especially notable are responses giving Middleton credit for having a baby boy instead of a baby girl. Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast exclaimed, “once again, she does the perfect thing… She gives us a prince,” noting that now the Queen can stop “pretending” that she did not care about the baby’s gender. CNN Royal Contributor, Victoria Arbiter, said that Middleton is “brilliant” for having a boy, noting that “there are women throughout British royal family history that have panicked not being able to deliver a boy, and… Kate did it first time” (as if she had a choice). Apparently, we have a king among kings to look forward to.

In the past 300 years, the baby’s gender would have been important in terms of rights to the crown. Brothers superseded sisters in succession to the throne, in spite of birth order. As of this past April, this is no longer the case due to The Succession to the Crown Act, which dictates that the first born has rights to succession to the throne, regardless of gender. The Queen herself pushed for this movement.

So why does anyone care? Because we still make assumptions about personality through gender, thus training children to conform to gender stereotypes. Think about it: What is the first question a parent receives about a baby? How do people choose gifts for children? It all comes down to pink versus blue.

Research shows that the ways in which children are brought up is heavily influenced by their gender. Girls and boys have vastly different clothes and toys, and are taught conflicting values: boys are often taught to seek out power, while girls are taught to submit to such power. These gender roles often produce and reproduce gender inequality. The consequences of conforming to gender roles are stark: for example, many women, especially adolescents, feel dissatisfied with their bodies because of the pressure to be skinny and beautiful. Despite being taught in such different ways, studies have proven that there are not nearly as many differences between the psychology of men and women as we are taught to believe, yet we continue to make assumptions about what one should and will be like based upon it.

We know nothing about what kind of person Prince George Alexander Louis is going to be, but we think that knowing his gender gives us insight into understanding him. He may turn into a powerful, wise king, but he also might grow effeminate qualities, or even identify as a gender other than male (who knows?). We should stop making assumptions about what this baby will be like and let him develop his own unique characteristics. Will we? Probably not.

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