SÃO PAULO, Brazil — “It’s a new era in Brazil: Boys wear blue and girls wear pink,” our new minister of women, family and human rights, Damares Alves, said this month in a video. And she didn’t stop there: Under the new government of President Jair Bolsonaro, she declared in her inaugural speech, “a girl will be a princess and a boy will be a prince.”
Ms. Alves’s message was meant to be an attack on “gender ideology,” a concept created by conservatives to disparage the rhetoric of equal rights for women and L.G.B.T. people. The fight for gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights will lead to the collapse of the traditional family, Ms. Alves and others like her say. It will foster homosexuality and threaten Christian values. And so the correct response is moral panic: “Nobody will stop us from calling our girls princesses and our boys princes,” Ms. Alves fiercely proclaims.
Except the conservatives have it backward: Not only is no one stopping them from making their children into gendered royalty, but in fact, their take on children and gender is already effectively a national obsession — if not a global one.
I experienced this for the first time at the very beginning of my pregnancy, when I went shopping for tools for trimming the baby’s nails. “Is it a boy or a girl?” asked the saleswoman. I couldn’t possibly fathom what nails had to do with genitals, but I chose to be polite and said I didn’t know yet. The saleswoman seemed puzzled. She ran through a series of blue and pink cases, but finally announced she didn’t have anything neutral. When I decided to forge ahead and buy a pair of blue nail scissors anyway, she gave me a look of silent reproach. “Anarchist,” she practically whispered.