All that is Masculine is Good.

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When I was three, my older brother and I would take baths together. We would take turns having Mom wash our hair and try to make beards out of the bubbles. Once I pointed to my brother’s penis and asked when I would get one. It made sense. When you get older you get taller and grow beards but before that you grow a penis, right? So when do I get a penis?

I was somewhat confused when I was told no, you never get a penis. Boys have penises. You are a girl. You have a vagina. I remember looking at my vagina and being disappointed.

As a child, I wanted to be a boy. I played with boy toys, I played boy games (mostly war and assassin type games) and I hung out mostly with my neighbor rather than his sister. However, I think I expressed my desire to be male not out of an identity as a transgendered individual, but as a desire for equality. I saw how boys were treated differently by my father and by my parents’ church. I saw how being tough was cool and doing manly things was something my father admired. He only admired women when they did tough things (running marathons, swimming the English channel, running a business alone) and never for more nurturing or feminine things. I wanted all the privileges that being male gave you. And I couldn’t understand why no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get that privilege. I was excluded and placed into the category of Other. Of weakness and femininity. And I hated that.

As an adult, I can look back and make some sense of my childhood. My childhood was not unusual. I was aware of gender bias at a very young age and found it unacceptable and tried to fight it in my own way. However, instead of fighting that bias, I played by its rules and strengthened it. Yes, being male is best. Yes, foolish acts of aggressive are good. Yes, men are obviously natural leaders.

To this day, I still struggle with the gender bias I was taught as a child. All that is masculine is good and all that is feminine is inferior. When I think someone is being tough, a trait men and women both have, I praise them for “being a man.” When someone is complaining, I tell them to “stop being a pussy.” This is such as hard bias to defeat because it is reinforced by everyone around me, men and women alike, feminists and bigots alike. From the beginning, we are taught that there is a two tiered system and guess what, the glass ceiling is only so high before you starting realizing that playing by the rules of gender bias gets you no where.

Part of a real and tangible resistance to that two tiered system is by denying that framework of thought. I am not a man and I do not desire to be a man anymore, but neither am I a woman. I am comfortable with my genitalia, but I am not one thing or the other. I am neither and I am both and I am comfortable calling myself genderqueer, without any pressure to be more specific. I can be masculine and I know that being nurturing does not exclude me from that definition. I can be feminine and I know that being authoritative does not exclude me from that definition.

Don’t get tricked by the patriarchy. Binaries of value are a community created idea and we can defeat it by creating a world were little girls don’t have to believe that being a boy is the only way to feel in control.

Additional reading:

A trans woman’s experience with self doubt

A butch lesbian’s self identification as such

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Reaching Intersectionality

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We are all so different and perhaps it is our differences that should really unite us. The fact that we are all diverse should bring us together instead of pushing us apart. It’s usually our sameness that brings people together because there is comfort, understanding and safety there. But the fact that we are all unique is a sort of a similarity, isn’t it? The fact that no one can look the exact same and have the exact same experiences and the exact same background and the exact same trajectory should open the gateway for empathy.

However, even when looking for differences I’ve found that I’m often looking for differences outside of myself, not in me. Such as, in High School I wasn’t necessarily looking for people that challenged aspects of myself, I was looking for people that challenged the exterior structure. I bonded with people very different from myself in many ways because we still shared something. We were all discontent with the institutions we were in (school, religion, family…).

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

I think it is so easy to label people as “others” because we feel comfortable with the familiar and hold onto things, which establish and support what we see as “right” and “normal” in ourselves. People generally don’t seek out perspectives that challenge their views, but support them. Which I think is pretty sad. Where is the growth in that? Where is the evolution of the mind and thought?

I may encourage us to break out of this status quo, but I am definitely not exempt from it. Looking at my media and news intake, it is fairly clear what my political and social inclinations are. I choose my sources and topics based on what is most important to me. (So, a lot of stuff on feminism, equality, fairness, social justice, cultural awareness…). I am not usually reading things by authors who, in my opinion, are ignorant or who purport things that I consider wrong. But in doing so I am limiting my own dialogue. I am not learning to deconstruct other people’s arguments or to reevaluate my own. I find that I am dismissing their words instead of challenging them. By doing this I am keeping myself in a separate bubble and compartmentalizing.

Because of that when I write I end up not speaking to the people who I really want to affect, the people I think need to change their minds. Instead I am just talking to the people I already have an affinity with, the people who already agree (at least partially) with what I am saying. That is definitely a weakness.

This is something that is a huge problem in US politics today. How I see it is that there aren’t feminist Republicans because the whole political scene is an extreme bipartisan split with the whole mindset of “Us vs. Them” instead of actually being able to have an intelligent conversation and then compromise. The two parties have become caricatures of what they stand for (which makes them even more disconnected from the needs of their constituents and pretty useless). People often seem to see other people’s political views, or even basic needs, as threatening their own. So you have this strange combative fight for survival when it isn’t even necessary. There are female republicans but they all seem to hate feminism and feminist liberals who all seem to think republican females are hypocrites in terms of choice, healthcare, and opportunities. Of course, that is a very simplistic way of putting it, but it shows how these politicians are being exaggerated representations. That is something we really don’t need—particularly when it comes to our legislature.

It’s this whole thing of erasing people with whom you disagree. If you dismiss people’s ideas and what they stand for, you are dismissing them. If you never learn about the struggles of others then, in your mind, they do not exist. Think of it as if you are ignoring what is going on in the rest of the world. You are not going to run straight smack into it because you have that privilege, so you will never be forced to acknowledge it. Or, like people who say that they don’t “see color,” it is both trivializing a current issue and erasing the identity of others.

I’m not saying anything new here. It’s all about empathy and education, as I’ve already gone on about in my last post (and will continue to in the future). I will just end here with this excerpt from Zara Bennett in Dear Feminists: I’m One of You! Please Don’t Save Me discussing ignorance and dismissal and how it directly affects global feminism:

“Excluding a feminist or denying her feminist identity on the basis of her cultural affiliations is akin to rejecting the idea that a man can be a feminist. It creates divides that shouldn’t exist because the key role feminism plays in our lives is one of intersectionality; no two people share exactly the same experiences, and it is these distinctions that allow us to identify problems within our social institutions. These very same distinctions also help us find solutions to those problems, so instead of arguing over whose view is best, we should instead be focusing on how various perspectives can be used to further our understanding of oppressive constructs in our different societies.

Women from non-Western cultures do not need to be saved. When I go out wearing shalwar kameez, it is not a cry for help; it’s just as self-expressive as blue hair or a tongue piercing. It is a statement that I am proud of where I come from. I do not have to compromise my feminist identity with my cultural affiliations. If we could all just talk to and educate one another before assuming that different perspectives are automatically conflicting, I believe we would open a lot more doors for one another.”

(can anyone help with the source?)

(can anyone help with the source?)

Casual Harassment Part 2

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Continuing our discussion from last week about covert vs. overt harassment, I want to bring up interactions with family members, coworkers, and friends. The examples provided last week were all about interactions with strangers, with overt harassment. That sort of harassment is the easiest to point out as wrong, offensive, and unacceptable. However, there are more serious and systemic forms of casual and covert harassment. While being threatened on the street is terrifying, being constantly demeaned and objectified is much more harmful overall because it normalizes viewing women as only bodies rather than a complete person.

One of my main issues is that casual or indirect harassment typically comes from a male gaze and is usually passively demeaning. For instance, at my current workplace, there is very little actual “work” that gets done. Additionally, my job primarily has male employees and mostly male customers. This unfortunately means I have to deal with customers who stare at my boobs behind sunglasses, constantly call me “sweetie” or “honey” (I am a person, not food), “compliment” my hair or attire, and a host of other minor, harmlessly demeaning comments and interactions. It isn’t bad enough for me to quit (I need money more than I need self-esteem apparently), but for every bad customer there are a few nice ones to make up for it. What is worse than the customers are my coworkers, who almost universally are sexist and bigoted.For instance, one day at work I wore a nice retro style dress and decided the store need to be vacuumed. Immediately, one of my coworkers made a comment about how I should be a housewife and then said I should get on my knees and dust something. However, because they aren’t always overt about their prejudices, it becomes difficult to resist their created environment. I tried to fight against their pervasive opinions but it’s tiring to the point where I don’t bother resisting them. I either shake my head or just say nothing. I cannot change these people, but it’s an oppressive environment. What’s worse is that they are not special and unique. Every other work environment I’ve been a part of has had it’s own culture of bigotry.

For instance, no one in retail likes Indians. No one. Every single job I have had is biased against them and while at first I resisted it, now I have joined them. Whenever I see an Indian in one of my stores, I assume they will smell, take forever, and be incredibly cheap. Obviously, this is a gross stereotype. But I have that now because of my environment. I’ve assimilated. As a minority opinion (Lesbians are not all man hating privilege seeking entitled bitches), no one listens to me and so I’ve just stopped bothering to disagree out loud, and my silence becomes acceptance, or at least compliance. Given the choice, I would work somewhere else, as it seems many other people with similar opinions have done. At my workplace, they had hired a gay man before me, but because of the bigoted environment, he did not feel comfortable and chose to leave. Bigotry has almost become normalized in my mind and that is wrong. We need to slowly change what is and is not acceptable in the workplace (and outside of it). And I definitely need to take more of a stance against it.

Recently, I chose to share with one of my coworkers that I am not straight. Despite his previous adamant denigration of lesbians previously, he accepted my statement by saying “That’s hot.” One form of bigotry met with another form of sexual objectification. Any woman who comes into my work has her body commented on after she leaves, each of my coworkers has his “girl” of the regular customers, and every male employee has made negative comments about women whose bodies do not meet their expectations. This is what I deal with on a regular basis. This is what many people deal with on a regular basis. Because this is “normal”.