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02 April 2013

Go Forth and Singlify

An interesting thing happened while I was at the dentist's office a couple weeks ago. Both the hygienist and the dentist independently asked me if I had "children." It's a common enough thing to ask, particularly of a person of my age (mid-thirties for the record). It occurred to me later, though, that it is decidedly uncommon for people to ask if one has "a child"; it's virtually always in the plural. Of course, asking if one is a parent at all is itself normative and hegemonic. (See this hilarious take.) But, even beyond that, there are consistent normative assumptions that people will have multiple children, not just one. The most sociologically interesting part of this to me is not just that there are cultural values about whether and how many kids to have but that the power of these values is hidden in plain sight in the seemingly innocuous manner in which we phrase an everyday question.

1 comment:

  1. Love the video and commentary. My sister has experienced a miscarriage and stillbirth in the past couple of years, so these nosy, value-based questions are even more problematic for her. I'm the mom to an only-child and hate the question of, "do you plan to have more children?" Honestly, it's none of your d*mn business.