My 5-year-old insists that Bilbo Baggins is a girl.
The first time she made this claim, I protested. Part of the fun of reading to your kids, after all, is in sharing the stories you loved as a child. And in the story I knew, Bilbo was a boy. A boy hobbit. (Whatever that entails.)
But my daughter was determined. She liked the story pretty well so far, but Bilbo was definitely a girl. So would I please start reading the book the right way? I hesitated. I imagined Tolkien spinning in his grave. I imagined mean letters from his testy estate. I imagined the story getting as lost in gender distinctions as dwarves in the Mirkwood.
Then I thought: What the hell, it’s just a pronoun. My daughter wants Bilbo to be a girl, so a girl she will be. And you know what? The switch was easy. Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender—and neither does anyone else.
Women use birth control for other purposes than preventing pregnancy. Married women use birth control. Women that could potentially die from pregnancy take birth control. Telling women not to have sex as if it is some magical solution is dangerous, misinformed and misogynistic. Women take birth control for a variety of reasons and not one of them is any of your damn business. Sit down and shut up.
I am a nurse. For 30 years of my career, I was a labor and delivery nurse. I took care of women through all stages of labor and through their delivery. Due to the many times that I have worked 16 hour shifts, I bonded with many women and helped them through long hours. Finally, through much work on the mom’s part with my guidance, she would be ready to deliver. In would sail the doctor, spend five minutes catching the baby, and then pose for all the pictures. I would hear from the families how wonderful he/she was.
Then why is my back killing me because I stood for two to three hours with a woman in a variety of positions including resting her foot on my shoulder while she pushed? Oh, and did I mention that she is also paralyzed from the waist down from the epidural, so I was also helping to hold her up while she squatted to push?
Why have I had to change my scrub clothes twice in a shift because someone either puked on me or amniotic fluid soaked everything?
Who is it that actually got that IV started while reassuring the poor mom?
Who is it that took the camera out of the daddy’s trembling hand and started taking family pictures because she knew that otherwise there would be no proof that he had even been in the room? And capturing the look of wonder on both parent’s faces at the same time.
Who is it that cleaned up every body fluid that can spew from a human, with a smile on her face and encouraging words for the mortified patient who has never been sick in front of a stranger in her life?
Who is it that tracked down the anesthesia people, chased them out of the lounge, and threatened them with their lives if they didn’t take care of her patient, NOW?
And when things didn’t go well, who was it that took that poor baby that didn’t make it, cleaned it up, dressed it, wrapped it in a soft blanket, and brought it to the broken-hearted parents to hold for the first and last time?