Gender and Language, Vol 9, No 2 (2015)

The interactional organization of sex assignment after childbirth

Anna Lindström, Shirley Näslund, Christine Rubertsson
Issued Date: 5 Aug 2015


That society divides its members into females and males is the point of departure for much research on gender and language and yet the situated accomplishment of the primordial sex categorisation of the newborn child has not attracted much scholarly attention. The present study fills this research gap by exploring the interactional organisation of sex assignment in a corpus of 67 video recordings of Swedish hospital births. We present quantitative and qualitative support for the idea that sex assignment is a prioritised activity during the first minutes after childbirth. Contrary to descriptions and assumptions in previous research, we find that sex assignment typically is sequentially accomplished in the social interaction between parents and medical staff. Our analysis reveals a normative preference that selects parents (rather than medical staff) as the ones who should discover and declare sex. We also provide tentative evidence that sex assignment may be a gendered practice that prioritises the father (rather than the mother) as the individual entitled to assign sex.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v9i2.17810


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