[Disclaimer: If you know me and you’ve ever referred to my kid as It you make take offence to this post.]
“How’s It doing?” “Does It do anything new?” “How’s It sleeping?” “It looks very happy.”
It… Sounds more like we’re talking about the Stephen King film than a person, doesn’t it? I’ve been wondering about this thing some people have for referring to my son, or any baby for that matter, as It. Sure, it kind of makes sense when you’re talking about The Baby, but my baby has a gender, he has a name, he is a person.
It hasn’t particularly bothered me until now. Sure, I correct people by saying “You mean He? Him? Anakin?”, but I’ve mostly found it a bit strange and somewhat amusing. Until the other day when I asked a friend who kept referring to Anakin as It why. “Why do you keep calling him It? He has a gender and a name, you know.” And the more I’ve been thinking about the answer, the more I’m finding it wildly uninformed and… perhaps ever so slightly offensive.
“Well, it’s not like It has personhood, It doesn’t really have a personality. It doesn’t have consciousness like we do, It has no control. All I see is that It’s happy.”
If you look up personhood you’ll find that the definition is to have status as being a person. Personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. I assume you all know this, I’m just adding it to underline my (delayed) reaction the response I got.
Anyone who’s ever spent some time with a baby knows that all babies have personalities. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that most people, regardless of how much interaction they’ve had with babies, know this. Ok, so a newborn may not be Mister or Miss Personality at first, but give them some time to wake up and you’ll quickly discover who they are. They are people and people have personalities, it’s what separate us as individuals. It’s that simple, is it not? And anyone who knows Anakin would know that he has more personality than you can poke a stick at. At almost 10 months old he is very much an individual. He may not be fully coordinated, able to philosophise about life, the universe and everything, or capable of having a conversation about quantum physics, but he is very much his own person with likes and dislikes, moods and traits.
As to the argument of having control, I would say that whether or not you can control your limbs make no difference to your status as a person. I’d also say that Anakin has more control over his body than some drunk people do, but everyone would argue that drunk people are still people. And before we offend a whole heap of people with certain disabilities, let’s just discard having control or not as total BS in relation to this whole matter.
Is it just the protective mother in me who sees her child as perfection incarnated who finds this strange? Is it a matter of understanding and connecting? It would be unfathomable to refer to an adult as an it, would it not? So why is it that children under a certain age receive such a label from some people? And at what age will they go from it to he/she?