I’m pregnant. Please don’t ask me if it’s a boy or a girl.

August 30, 2016

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Our world is a place where we face a lot of social pressures, a lot of pressures to conform. I can think of many examples from my own life where I felt like I was less valuable for not fitting into the role that society seemed to expect from me. Many of these feelings connect directly to gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender expectations. I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned to value the things that make me unique, I have come to embrace non-conformity as though it was a choice, my choice, but it was not and never has been. I march to the beat of different drum because I can’t hear any other drum beat. And now, I’m finally happy about it. I love the things that make me different.

But now things are changing. I’m pregnant. Soon, we’ll have a baby. I’ll be a mom. I think parents want what’s best for their children and while I think that we’ve come a long way, in terms of gender roles, I think we still have a long way to go. Here’s how I know. We are obsessed with gender. Obsessed. 90% of people who speak to me about my pregnancy ask if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s a ubiquitous question, it would seem, that people ask without even really thinking about it. Along the lines of “how was your summer?” But before we really get into why I find this question problematic, I think we’re going need to establish a bit of common understanding first.

Let’s talk about sex vs. gender. So sex refers to chromosomal traits, male, female, intersex. Chromosomes, DNA, dictate what we look like and sex chromosomes dictate, among other things, what our genitals look like. Most people have genitals that are easily distinguished. A male sex chromosome results in a penis. Female sex chromosomes result in a vagina. Gender, on the other, is a social construct, it’s about behaving in a certain way that a culture has decided is either masculine or feminine. It’s being a “boy” or a “girl”, a “man” or a “woman.” Our society says that there are certain ways we behave that make us one or the other. I think this creates an incredibly narrow view of who we are, or who we can be as people. I think we are ready to value a much broader spectrum of humanity, and I think we have already begun to.

MandiPigeonNow back to babies. Babies do not exhibit gender. So when people ask if I’m having a boy or a girl, I think what they’re really asking is if the baby is male or female, because it’s really too soon to know anything about the baby’s gender and we won’t for quite some time even after it’s born. Now, why is it seemingly so important to everyone to know what a baby’s sex is? Are they really desperately curious to know what my baby’s genitals look like? Why? If you think about that objectively it’s actually pretty creepy. I think the truth is that most people see sex and gender as interchangeable synonyms. And for most of the population, particularly all the cis folk out there, they really are. But for trans, gender queer and gender non-conforming folk and folk who never felt like they fit into society’s expectation of their gender, there’s a lot more going on. My guess is that people think they will know something about who the baby is going to be if they know its sex. And when a baby is in utero, its sex is one of the few distinguishing things we can find out, but I don’t think it tells us anything about who this unborn person is going to be, and to imagine otherwise does them a disservice, it limits them. Why are we so anxious to fill this blank slate for them, before they’re even born?

Don’t get me wrong, if you fit nice and snuggly in society’s expectations of gender, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, if my baby fits nice and snuggly into society’s expectations, that’s great too, but, if they don’t, wouldn’t it be glorious for this baby to be free to figure that out on their own? To find their path and have it be valued for whatever it is, right from the beginning, to hear that there are many different ways to be a human and that they are not contingent on what one’s genitals look like. That sounds beautiful to me. It sounds like it doesn’t take anything away from anyone else and like it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Does this mean I won’t let my child play with trucks or wear pink or take risks or play it safe? Nope. What it means is that I want to let them fill in their own slate, and I want to celebrate their uniqueness along the way. Will it be easy? No. We have lived in, and been formed by this gendered society, and it will be a constant challenge to not gender our child based on their genitalia. But I know it’s worth it. I know young people that have struggled for so long to find a path to their true selves, and who have had people who love them try to steer them off that path at every turn. I want my baby, my child to have every opportunity to create their own path and to take us along on the journey, wherever it may lead.

And you, my friends, can help. Please don’t ask me if my baby is a boy or a girl. Not now, not once it has been born. Take some time to reflect on why you want to ask the question, what would the answer mean to you? Why is it important? Feel free to engage me in conversation about this choice, but please know that it comes from a lot of thought and is not a decision made on a whim. If you would like to challenge the ideas I’ve presented here, please be sure to put in a lot of thought and research of your own. When we fit easily into the world, when it’s set up for people like us, we experience privilege, and sometimes that can make us blind to the struggles of those who don’t fit, those for whom the world has not been tailored. If you are someone who finds that gender roles and expectations suit you pretty well, your personal experiences may not serve very well as an argument against what I’ve proposed here. This is an argument for valuing a minority, and it cannot be informed by the experiences of the majority.

This is not meant as an attack or judgement against anyone. If you are someone who has already asked me this question, this is not an attack on you, not at all. I appreciate your interest in our family, in this new human, whomever they may become. I know you will care for them. This is a good chance though, to expand your thinking, and why not? It’s so interesting to think about things in new and different ways. I for one am always enthusiastic to learn how to navigate the world in a more inclusive and respectful way, and I am honoured when people offer me the opportunity to share in that journey. I hope you will share in this journey with us.

— Mandi

DOCTOR WHO’S NEXT?: 10 Picks For The Next Doctor

June 4, 2013

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Unless you live under a TARDIS, you know Matt Smith is quitting his tenure as the Doctor. Perhaps the only likely suspect who could get me to watch the next regeneration is Benedict Cumberbatch.

But, given his new Star Trek fame (and the fact he better damn well be concentrating on new Sherlock episodes), he’s a long shot. Also he’d be about as boring a status-quo Doctor as you could possibly squeeze out of the Dr. Who machine: tall, thin, dark and terribly British.

So who could break the Dr. Who mold? Here are my top-ten picks of people who probably won’t even be considered.

Doctor W judi-dench_2198108b1. Dame Judi Dench

The first name that came to my mind when I thought about possible Doctors-in-waiting was “Jude”. And, oddly, it wasn’t Jude Law. No, we’re talking The Dame. Not only would she be a hard-as-nails Doctor, she’d bring a much needed reserve to her portrayal of the famous Time Lord. Also, she could play the role as a bit of a grandmotherly figure, which could be an interesting dynamic. Sort of like a sci-fi Nanny McPhee. But let’s face it, though she played M in the James Bond films (proving she’s not shy of lowly “genre” work), she’s not going to do it. So why bother even entertaining the daydream?

doctor-w_helen-mirren-baftas-red-carpet-2013_12. Helen Mirren

Someone who might do it though, is UK television aluma Helen Mirren. And she might even be a better choice. Old enough to play that same grandmotherly angle, but young enough that we’d not be worried about her breaking a hip. We already know from Prime Suspect she can also do hard-as-nails and, from those RED movies, she can do whatever action is required by Dr. Who. As a bonus, she’s more suited than Dench to playing up the Doctor’s annoying “zany” side (while still dialing it way back, hopefully).

doctor-who-tildaswintonacnestudiosfall2013413. Tilda Swinton

When I think of the Doctor, I think, “What a weirdo.” When I think of Tilda Swinton, I think, “What an awesome weirdo.” Done and done. Other than the fact she might actually be a Time Lord in real life (or a member of some other alien race) and  might not want draw attention to that. Not that the Doctor has ever been terribly covert operator.

Doctor WhoTricky-260x2604. Adrian Thaws (Tricky)

So far I’ve been focusing on possible female actors to add a little much needed gender parity to the franchise. But, assuming they’re not going to make the Doctor a woman, how about a man who isn’t whiter-than-white? Tricky‘s done some underrated acting and is, like Tilda, a bit of a damn weirdo. I could listen to that odd marble-mouthed voice all day. Plus, his music career has been sputtering and stalling for the last decade and it’s been a bit painful to watch. Maybe a stint as the Doctor could help jump-start it again. Or just distract us from what’s become a perennial series of “come back album” failures.

Doctor Who Naveen+Andrews+Naveen+Andrews+Outside+London+ks8ixpwVmwWl5. Naveen Andrews

Yeah, Sayid from Lost. How about a suave and swarthy South Asian Doctor? It seems like an obvious choice for regeneration since this particular Time Lord is so freakin’ obsessed with being British every single time that he’d look to Jolly Old’s colonial past for inspiration. I know, I know, he couldn’t even choose to be ginger when he ended up as David Tennant, but still…

Doctor W dawn-french6. Dawn French

Considering how being “wacky” is apparently an entrenched character trait, a good Doctor should actually be played by a good comedian. And there aren’t many British comedians better than Dawn French. In fact, I think she might actually be my top pick on this list. If the producers would be brave enough to picture someone who is not male, not rail-thin and is over-40, French would be a perfect fit. In her career, she’s played characters who’ve displayed all the qualities required by a Doctor. Most importantly, when she acts goofy, unlike a certain someone named Christopher Eccleston, she’s entertaining to watch. That is, she induces laughter and not massive, full-body cringing.

doctor-who-lenny-7078238617. Lenny Henry

Equally funny, though not as versatile (from what I’ve seen), French’s ex-husband Lenny Henry would be an interesting over-40 choice. Personally, I’d like to see a Doctor with the kind of snarky, ballsy, cocksure, arrogant-to-a-fault attitude displayed by his Chef. Also, dude’s black. Win-win.

doctor-w-takei-sin108-523-2013-201108-high-jpg8. George Takei

Sure, the obvious Star Trek veteran to play the Doctor would be Sir Patrick Stewart. But maybe it’s time for an American actor to fill the role. Why always British? Why always straight? I don’t think I really have to make a case for why George Takei would be an amazing Doctor. You’re already nodding you head. Oh myyyy indeed.

doctor-w-katie-leung-7085910637_613a0bef6a9. Katie Leung

Likewise, the obvious Harry Potter alumni for the role would be Dan Radcliffe, or the more likely in need of work, Rupert Grint. But what about Katie Leung who played Cho Chang? Scottish and Asian! Okay, okay. She’s more an “affirmative action” choice here. She made no impression on me at all as Cho other than being oatmeal. So, really, she’d be perfect companion material. Spunky but kind of boring. There needs to be a little diversity on that side of the Dr. Who equation too, after all.

Doctor who Rowan Atkinson article_fa296ab40abfffed_1360325309_9j-4aaqsk10. Rowan Atkinson

Okay, if there has got to be a white guy in the list (since they’re obviously going to pick a white guy), how about Mr. Blackadder Bean? Like Dawn French and Lenny Henry, Rowan Atknison is a top-shelf comedian. And though we rarely get to see him not being a completely irritating clown, he can do straight as well as anyone (and also comedy that isn’t based on pulling stupid faces). It’s actually a crime against acting that his serious side hasn’t really been given its day in court. It’d be interesting to see the Doctor as an older, Oxford professor type as well. Leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket and all that. Maybe smokes a pipe and needs reading glasses. Dr. Who could be the role of his lifetime.

The Empire Sucks Back: The Zine

October 29, 2011

Purchase The Empire Sucks BackThe Empire Sucks Back

The epic blog post is now a zine! Jakob’s controversial views on exactly what makes The Empire Strikes Back a bad movie are expounded in this 16-page essay. Since there is no “try”, it’s up to you to decide if he does or does not make a strong argument.  Afraid? You will be… you will be…

$3 CAD (shipping incl.)


Simply Syndicated Meet-UP Toronto 2011

September 14, 2011

Last Saturday MAndi and I hosted a meet-up. Of course that doesn’t mean we actually arrived on time. Luckily intrepid forum members were more punctual and opened up the party room at Betty’s On King for us.

People came from as far away as England, the US and Guelph to mix it up with other podcasters and podcastees. It was a lot of fun and we’re already looking forward to the next one.

Photos: Kennedy Gordon | Videos: Kevin Archibald


Loving and leaving

March 10, 2011

We’re going to be “off the air” for a few weeks. But to make things right, we’re going to love and leave you with this video from the Scattered Trees. See you (or, more accurately, hear us) on March 25th.

I gotta tell you though, it really pisses me off the girl is dressed like Amidala and not Leia.

There’s An App For That. For them. And For Us.

January 13, 2011

Our sister podcast Starbase 66 blogged a while back about something we should have mentioned before now. The following text is shamelessly cribbed from that post.

Simply Syndicated, our home base, has launched a new app for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. It allows you to stream Nerd Hurdles and other fine programs (like Starbase 66) and take part in our virtual community of amazing people. You should download it right now.

Upcoming NERDPRECIATION special!

July 19, 2010


One of the hallmarks of a good podcast is conscientious audience appreciation. Reading out letters and comments is a classy way of saying “we appreciate you, dear listener, and care about what you have to say.”

We’re not very classy.

On top of that, we’re forgetful and lazy. It’s probably been a year since we’ve read a letter on the air, so to speak. Perhaps not since the last “letters” show. So we’re doing another listener feedback appreciation special for the milestone 75th episode of Nerd Hurdles!

Along with letters we’ve saved, you have until the morning (EST) of July 24th to send in:

  • questions
  • suggestions
  • observations
  • criticisms
  • audio comments

to nerds[at]nerdhurdles[dot]com. You can also ask us questions on our Formspring page and we’ll answer those “live” on the show.

If email and ego-aggrandizing vanity websites aren’t your speed, throw something on our Facebook fan-page and if it sticks, we’ll talk about that too.

Nerd Hurdles Liking Likers of Like Page on Facebook

June 22, 2010

Everyone* likes Nerd Hurdles, even you. And now you can officially “like” Nerd Hurdles on Facebook. Another great thing to do is suggest to your friends that they’d like Nerd Hurdles too. That is if you really like your friends and want them to have a happy and fulfilling life. Don’t be shy, click the screen-shot to get active with your Nerd Hurdles liking.

*Claim not audited by impartial third party.

Toronto Small Press Book Fair 2010

June 14, 2010

Drop by the Ampersand Publishing table and say hello to Mandi and Jakob. Special show prices on Nerd Hurdles merch. At the very least, you’ll walk away with a free postcard and an awkward conversation.

15 Best Google results for “nerd hurdles” that have nothing to do with our podcast

May 19, 2010
  1. “It is in fasion these days to be a nerd. Well to be a geek. Truly, I don’t understand … Instead of jumping life’s hurdles, do they just walk around them? …”
  2. The Nerd life is a complex life. Especially in todays high-paced connected … Steps not taken and hurdles not cleared within a certain time …”
  3. Nerds love puzzles. Libraries love nerds. … And this project was realized by a group that had to jump over numerous hurdles. …”
  4. Nerd is short for nerd stance, and nerd stance is short for my short-duration …. isn’t the gear hurdles that I have to jump over. …”
  5. ” am the nerd sitting outside the coffeeshop groking brain network dynamics …. rather diminishes the power of selection to overcome phylogenetic hurdles. …”
  6. ‘Nerd’ and ‘douchebag’ aren’t mutually exclusive…”
  7. “I think it’s unfortunate all the hurdles female players so often face…. the adoration of thousands of faceless nerds on the Internet …”
  8. hurdles – existing organizations defend their positions – apparent lack of alternatives for … the knitting nerd who got a tattoo of a knitting ball …”
  9. “5 Best Tax Nerd Blogs: The First Annual Rick Moranis Awards …. several tax-collecting hurdles…”
  10. “… I didn’t want there to be hurdles like registration forms and email … and other hurdles slow down adoption….”
  11. “She identifies herself as “a nerd for valuing books, for reading them, Some of those hurdles stemmed from Sugar Loaf not owning the wastewater treatment …”
  12. “There are hurdles that have to be scaled to successfully hack the PS3. ….. me your retarded and have no idea what a electronic nerd can do
  13. I want to be a bad ass cav scout, not a nerd. …. You have a lot of hurdles to pass before even considering what you’ll look like on graduation day. …”
  14. “I am a trek nerd and pinball nerd so it combined two of my life’s passions. … forecasting must have one of the lowest performance hurdles in the game. …”
  15. If I found another nerd who was never married, no kids, …. Because we want to eliminate any hurdles that may exist in getting a marriage …”

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