Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gender smörgåsbord.

I think I've come up with a metaphor that clarifies my view of gender.

Imagine a big table with tons of dishes laid out. Some of them are physical traits, some of them are psychological. There's everything here from "big biceps" to "played with dolls as a child." And there are all traits here, not just things you'd associate with gender--this is a table of traits, not of mixed up boy things and girl things. "Brown hair" and "likes classical music" are on there too.

Go ahead, load up your plate. Load it with anything.

And the really important thing here is that the dishes are not paired off. "Chest hair" and "breasts" are not a dichotomy. You can get one, both, or neither. Ditto "watches pro wrestling" and "sews prom dresses." Certainly some dishes are popularly eaten together--"penis" and "testicles" is a perennial favorite combo, and "penis" and "likes racecars" do seem to have some mysterious association--but they're not locked together. It's possible and acceptable to have one and not the other. Then again, anything that's possible is acceptable. And any combination is possible.

Gender is a prix fixe menu. Pick one of two and eat what the chef serves you. And if what he decides to serve you is a shit sandwich, well--depending where you are and which course the shit sandwich is, the consequences range from trivial to life-threatening if you don't eat it. If you get some or most of your courses off the other menu, the fact that it's "the other menu" is something everyone's explicitly aware of.

But when you eat off the smörgåsbord, it's not really about mixing up gender any more; it's just about mixing up traits. And at that point, I feel that the entire concept of "gender," to even refer to the existence of the prix fixe menus, no longer serves any purpose. To see someone's combination of traits and go "well, yeah, but you're basically a woman then, right?" is to miss the entire point.

Ultimately, though, my cute metaphor doesn't really matter. Because whether you say "wow, it's exactly like that" or you scratch your chin and say "hmm, I see things differently," or even if you say "I'm offended by this because it seems dismissive of certain gender identity issues," you're not the intended audience. (Also if you're some sort of smartass that goes "what, 'has a gender identity' isn't a dish?") The intended audience is the people who are not reading, the people who would go "what is this gay shit" if they did read: the people who will treat people like shit if they feel they're committing a gender violation. Whether the shit consists of tiny backhands like "it's cool how you're a girl but you do guy things" or crappy pseudo-tolerances like "I don't care what you do in your private life, but you have to act like a normal person at work" or outright harassment or attack... it's shitty.

And I don't understand it. I've tried to dissect the thinking behind gender enforcement and I always get stuck. I don't think there is a thinking, at least in the sense of a set of principles that you could lay out logically and defend. I think it's more like a cognitive association. "That person looks funny" may be a shorthand for "that person is making me think too hard. I should be able to label someone in one swoop and know everything about them." There's also a heaping helping of homophobia--if someone isn't a clear gender, then maybe they can't be clearly heterosexual, and OH NO WE CAN'T HAVE THAT.

And there's just no explaining to a certain kind of person that we don't even require genetic heirs for inheritance these days, you can write your will out to pretty much who ever you want, plus most of us don't need to have more children so there will be more help on the farm, so the whole homophobia thing is seriously obselete. Go get a bug up your ass about the essential rightness and God-ordained fact of primogeniture or something.


  1. I dunno. Some people (not me) apparently have some manner of subconscious gender sense: that they "ought" to have breasts and a vagina, or a penis and no breasts, or no sexual characteristics at all.

  2. I've often felt the same way about many matters which have more obvious and immediate impacts on life and death, like class structure and racism in developing nations. (Being gay can get you killed faster, but it's statistically less common).

    At some point, I throw my hands up in the air, and admit that if everyone was a progressive thinker and leader, then we'd have what my girlfriend calls "too many chiefs and not enough indians"..

    Basically, we need people to follow stupid prejudice and petty hate amongst each other, because that ends up being some kind of social glue that keeps them steady and stable enough for society to run.

    As Frederick Jackson Turner said "the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history." -when we can live apart in systems based on subsistence, then it's quite easy to follow our own creed. The moment resources become something to compete over, underhanded techniques become a key aspect of societal survival, and discrimination is a key poison in the coating of otherwise innocent looking edges.

    I can't think of a good analogue to your description, but here's another issue of similar paradox; if we know people lay somewhere dying in the street, or children suffering in the hospital (even from boredom, spending their last days in oncology while their parents work), then should we rush to fix the situation? It's an optimization question for me, and so I donate and volunteer enough to feel I've done something meaningful, but it's still arbitrary, and my impact is insubstantial.

    Likewise, we can convince people on issues of gender, but then a new word or classification emerges, and the previous workings are moot in all but experience.

    I think you'll tear yourself apart assuming that everyone has the potential for good and can achieve some sort of peace... "Life" is competition; we take from others, we make resources unusable to those who stand in our way... much like bacteria and fungi. The fact that we can feel bad about it tends to influence society's perspective far, far more than it does their actions.

    How to fix a problem? The only way I can see to a logical conclusion is to act in benevolence, and enjoy the hell out of it. Humans (and most sentient creatures) are extremely receptive to seeing fun, and are drawn to its methods and motives. Lead by example I suppose is all we can hope to do, because explaining "why" is likely infinitely beyond human capacity.

  3. Ozymandias - Well, people can have or want breasts or a vagina etc. and not have absolutely everything on the "woman" menu.

    Or hell, they can have breasts and a vagina and absolutely everything on the "woman" menu, but still not have that define some abstract concept of "woman" for anyone else.

    M4gaston - Basically, we need people to follow stupid prejudice and petty hate amongst each other, because that ends up being some kind of social glue that keeps them steady and stable enough for society to run.

    To be honest, I'm having some trouble following your comment, but it seems to be something along the lines of how if we had world peace, that would be terrible for world peace. And also I shouldn't think too hard about things because I should just be nice and have fun?

    Man, without thinking about things I don't even know how to be nice and have fun.

  4. @Holly That's not really a fair assumption, but the onus was on me to clarify my point, so I'm sorry if it came out that way.. though I don't feel it did.

    It's my belief that to seek knowledge and understanding is a priciple purpose of our existence, so I'd never encourage the ideology that "ignorance is bliss". I was saying though that it doesn't behoove one to feel depressed about facts of society which are currently unpleasant.

    As for "world peace", I find that phrase to be a mockery of the daily suffering and injustice of the unspoken majority, so that a few privileged such as ourselves may mince words over such matters. Many people love peace, and equally many love war and hunting. To call either wrong is to deny animal nature. My point about the frontier is that when we cannot hunt or antagonize nameless shapes in the undefined wildnerness, we turn against each other, and that's the insurmountable limitation we face in a resource-sharing world.

    Perhaps I'm still phrasing it with too much bias, but I truly regret if my words conveyed such a dismal ultimatum...

  5. M4gaston - It doesn't behoove one to go around all sad all the time. But that doesn't preclude thought and dissection. I'm going to think and dissect here, and then I'm off to the hospital to try and do a little good, and in both cases I'm not particularly emotional about it.

    No, loving war is wrong. Loving a particular war that may eventually prevent worse suffering may be right, but loving war for its own sake is in fact totally wrong. The animal nature of humans is to organize and better ourselves, not to masturbate on the subway and say "but seeking sexual pleasure is my animal nature!"

    Maybe hatred is inevitable. So's death. That doesn't mean we should accept either without a fight.

  6. @Holly

    I understand your point completely, and ask that you lend me some slight trust that I see a similar outline of utopia.

    However, to say loving war is wrong... okay, it's morally wrong, but factually it is an issue. Whether war with guns, on drugs, or done oppressively against race/gender, are we not talking about the same impulse?

    Novels like "Lord of the Flies" are only stories, yet their premise is remarkably believable. In the Gulf, I spent some time with a group of Lebanese men and women, and tried to understand why people fought and killed so freely. They were all disgusted with the fighting, yet all had left. The only assumption I could make after seeing the horrible living conditions is that fighting and killing were their only amusement.

    I knew a Japanese man in Mississippi, who was asked outright by the church whether he would align himself with whites or colored people, since he could not use their facilities unless white. This antagonism isn't based on principle, but a war fought within a quiet town for the amusement of those on top.

    I do not have so many anecdotes for gender, but I am sure you can think of many. Please let us not bicker over the definition of "war"; it is manifold, and I am intimately familiar with the works of Clausewitz and the fallout of the recent fighting in Iraq. But that is the face of it which is easy to spat upon.

    I will not try to rephrase my original point, as I take your responses to mean that it requires some refinement.

    Hatred and death may be inevitable; it is suffering which I argue is not. We must be allowed to hate, so long as that hate doesn't poison the lives of others, or we must surrender our consciousness altogether.

    Your point about going to the hospital is important; it's the fact that you are so intimate with a world of immediacy of life and death that makes your analysis of living so meaningful to me, so I hope you will consider it in that context; that while it may be possible to turn off feelings for those dying you cannot help, we have to let some of that black pitch in while considering the rights and life of others, otherwise we risk our pursuits becoming arbitrary... and that's a request too harrowing for many to bear.

  7. ah, I'm speaking sloppily, in the anecdote of the Lebanese group, I meant that the militants who remained and fought did so because they no longer cherished anything but fighting. Not the group accompanying me by any means.

  8. I think this is basically what I've been thinking for ages. I've been active to some extent in the LGBT community for a few years, and the one thing that's always really irked me is that a lot of the gender identity stuff seems to enforce stereotypes about what being "male" and "female" means.

    Not to say that trans people are wrong to feel like they got stuck with the wrong set of genitals, but sometimes when someone says "I like flowers and wearing dresses and putting on makeup, I don't feel like a boy." I want to ask "was that last part separate, or because of the dresses and flowers and makeup?"

    Maybe fewer people are genuinely trans, and some of the "trans" folk just want to have a tea party or run a barber shop without gender-related dissonance.

    Hopefully that doesn't make it sound like I think gender identity issues and trans people are full of crap. I don't think they are!

    I think people who push pink dresses on little girls and monster truck-covered overalls on boys are.

  9. Whether the shit consists of tiny backhands like "it's cool how you're a girl but you do guy things"

    So is there any socially conscious way of expressing this positively? Or ... being supportive of it, or hell, I don't even know the right question to ask.

    Because, to just lay it all out, I'm a boy, and I'm ~95+% straight. I like girls. I like girls a lot. So, person-I-have-sexual-compatibility-with-on-at-least-a-basic-mechanical-level + does-stuff-I-like (works on cars, plays with guns, has a thing for power tools) is, well, cool.

    So, the young woman at Sears last night helping me in the tool department talking about her dirt bike racing and the giant tool collection she and her sister share? That's... pretty fucking awesome. (Obviously, I didn't say anything about it because she's working and that's just trashy even if it wasn't a "social role subverting" thing. Also, probably half my age, and so, also trashy behaviour.)

    But... now I'm getting the vibe that it's uncouth of me to even think of it as a thing that I should think positively of.

  10. And... damnit, all my comments in your blog always sound like "me me me me me" but I'm the only person whose behaviour I can actually control. So... trying to do better. I hope I don't sound too self-centered.

  11. "And I don't understand it. I've tried to dissect the thinking behind gender enforcement and I always get stuck. I don't think there is a thinking, at least in the sense of a set of principles that you could lay out logically and defend."

    I always feel this way about gender enforcement, as well as a lot of societal "norm" enforcement. Someone does something outside of the "norm," something that's a little "weird" but isn't hurting themselves or anyone else, and some people will lash back violently (metaphorically or literally.) "You MUST do things a certain way, and if you don't, we'll MAKE you." It just seems like... mean-spirited, pointless, baseless hate.

  12. In terms of why people police gender, I think that a lot of it, particularly with women, has to do with a female community that many people find really valuable. My regular social scene is usually mixed gender and not too fussy about it, but recently I was a bridesmaid in a pretty traditional high-church protestant wedding, and of course that was an incredibly gendered thing all the way through. Sometimes the stereotypical girly stuff was almost creepy, especially coming from the older generation of the bride and groom's relatives. I won a pair of oven mitts in some game at the bridal shower, seriously. It was especially weird to me because it's really useless, who doesn't already have oven mitts, or something similar? Why would I need a second pair? Just to collect them?

    But once we had shopped for lingerie and talked about wedding minutiae, and been incredibly female together for a while, it actually became this really happy safe and inclusive (of the people included) space. I was surprised by how open we were able to be about sexuality in a really substantive way. I was free to talk about having sex with men and women and at the same time another bridesmaid talked about how hard it is to find a guy who is willing to wait for marriage to have sex but still wants to be somewhat physical with her. As cliche as it sounds, the gender segregation really did result in some intimate bonding and good times. I think the women organizing all these activities saw it as a way to exclude men, which was supposed to be liberating. In some ways it was, but obviously it also excludes people who fit themselves into this traditional, hetero-enough female mold. Then, when you talk about it like it only excludes men, people with less traditional gender identities aren't just excluded, they're entirely invisible.

    I think some people's social lives are more closely bound up in this kind of community generally, and they are so invested in policing gender because they personally get a lot of positive things out of the exclusionary community that gender makes. It's tenacious because it really makes people happy and it's insidious because they need such a big jurisdiction (encompassing other people's gender presentation) to preserve it. I agree with you that the immediate issue is feeling like your knee-jerk discomfort entitles you to be a jerk, but I think the discomfort is sometimes about protecting something real. If it weren't, it would be a lot easier to get people to let go of!

    I found your blog recently and have been reading back through it. I love your writing! I keep finding things that are like more articulate, better considered expressions of something about non-vanilla sex I've awkwardly tried to talk to my boyfriend about. You're fabulous!

  13. @perlhaqr: I agree!
    1) I like spending time with people who like to do the things that I like to do.
    2) I like sex with the opposite gender
    3) Many of the people of opposite gender aren't really in to the things I like to do

    so when I meet a person, of the opposite gender, who likes to do the things I like to do, and who wants to hang out with me, I think it's great. and I'm ok with pointing it out.

  14. Perlhaqr - I'd say that it's fine to say "it's awesome that you like dirt bikes and tools!" but potentially obnoxious to say "it's awesome that you like dirt bikes and tools, even though you're a girl!" Focus on the cool stuff you're impressed by, not the "despite how one wouldn't expect that of your sort" aspect.

    Anon 3:10 - Maybe I just don't understand because I've never felt comfortable or welcome in women's (or men's) exclusive spaces.

  15. I'd say that it's fine to say "it's awesome that you like dirt bikes and tools!" but potentially obnoxious to say "it's awesome that you like dirt bikes and tools, even though you're a girl!"

    Ahhhhhh. Ok, that makes sense.

  16. To add a trans perspective; i think people are getting confused about what being trans means in relation to the table of dishes. basically it essentially it means that you're born with say a penis, and people decide that because of that you have to have all the things on the male menu and what the thing you really want are mostly or entirely on the female menu. the important distinction with being transexual as opposed to transgender, is that you want the physical things too, things that require medical intervention. which confuses the issue further. since most gender specialists (therapists etc, not surgeons) have a veiw of gender that would make most religious fundamentalists proud. many still insist that you cant be serious about transitioning is you dont wear dresses (assuming male to female here since thats my own perspective). so more than even the general population many therapists are insisting you pick from an even more restrictive menu than most people demand, and unless you do, youarent getting the physical hanges you need to feel 'yourself'. if you dont fit the menu, your only realsitic option is to lie and pretend that you do. but this has a knock on effect of the therapist having the idea that trans people are all 1950s stereotypes reinforced and it becaomes more and more out of date and more and more reinfoced as time goes on. essentially the only way of changing that is for new therapists to come along and old ones to retire, since the tendency is to dismiss anything trans people say as delusion, since 'theyre crazy of course, one; theyre trans which is an admisssion of weirdness, and two; why else would they be seeing a PSYCHOtherapist.

    Someone mention earlier a link between homophobia, and hostility towards gender deviance (usually known as transphobia). i think that its to do with the gender menus being set up so that attraction to the opposite sex is an extremely important course. this is particaulary strong for the male one where; any unsanctioned contact with another man tends to be cracked down on incredibly hard. this is seen as womanly behaviour and hence it is unacceptable for a man to prefer this over the objectively better possition of manliness). when a woman has contact with another woman, it is either seen as being for the enjoyment of the man (two women better than one), or a natural aspiration to manhood, which is grudgingly accepted. however if a woman chooses another woman over a man, this is seen as being as unacceptable as a man lowering himself to being with another man and hence the trope of lesbians that are only interested in women until a man comes along at which point they never thing of women again. my veiwpoint on this is heavily influenced by kate bornstein if anyone's interested.

  17. This all is a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately. One of my younger siblings is transitioning from female to male, and some people are having trouble with it because he's never presented as particularly masculine. Mostly he's the intellectual and creative type, which is sort of gender-neutral. He was a very, very pretty girl, too, which causes a lot of resistance. And he wants to date boys. People just don't get it. If he'd been a butch, toolcase-carrying lesbian, people would have a much easier time accepting his transition.

    So, it's weird to me: I know lots of women who are much more stereotypically "masculine" than my little brother. But at the end of the day, they're comfortable saying, "I am a woman," and he's not. I wish I understood what this "gender identity" thing consisted of, since many people I know, cis and trans, have it, and many people (you, me, and my boyfriend among them) don't.

  18. I like that you wrote "smörgåsbord" with all the correct little circles and umlauts (or whatever they are called in Swedish). :D

    I am so sick of being gender-policed. I am already stressing a little about summer and whether to shave the quite visible, long, dark hair on my legs. It's not even fucking SPRING yet. Gah.

  19. I'm not sure I agree with you completely - I'll need to think about it more - but I love your analogy and I think it's a great way of creating a scope for new and different perspectives on the whole gendered-stuff issue.

    Oh, here, I found the bit I think I disagree with (right here in my head - amazing!). Your approach seems to be rather dismissive of gender-as-it-is-traditionally-conceived, and potentially rather hard on people who aren't able to be instinctively and immediately open-minded to a truly incredible degree. That's what I think put me off a little bit, but in the end I suspect that's just rhetoric and you're not intending to be dismissive of anyone with, well, something resembling good intentions.

    Like...if we run with your smörgåsbord analogy, and imagine an individual who always and without fail wants cheeseburgers and fries and a banana milkshake from the table, there's nothing inherently wrong with that - as long as it's what makes them happy, and they're not judging or mistreating the non-cheeseburger crowd. In other words, an individual can personally prefer romantic/sexual involvement with one particular people who tend to have one set of gendered-and-other-characteristics, and while that's perhaps a rather narrow way to live, that is absolutely their right, and living that way need not be in any way unfair to others - provided said individual doesn't start in taking issue with people who go for a Greek salad with a side of bacon and catfish.

    One thing that comes up for me a lot is all the side-issues of gender-policing. I go to an extremely liberal college with a very active queer community, feminist community, socialist community, etc. You'd think there'd be less gender-policing and more personal freedom and acceptance of individual difference, right?

    There isn't. Tragically, it's just the opposite. There is great love for transgression, and a love of the short-hand of rule-breaking, and much anti-traditionalism and anti-conservatism...but this is a place where I have been publicly criticized for "damaging" myself for the sake of the "male gaze" because I wore lipstick to class. A dear friend of mine, and one of the sweetest people I have ever known, was literally yelled at, walking across campus, for the great crime of wearing a dress while female-bodied, and thereby upholding the patriarchy. I keep saying that if only I had a penis, then all my fondness for lipstick and painted nails and fluffy dresses would be just fine - because then it would be transgressive and daring and great!

    Gender-policing comes in many forms, and none of them are good. But I don't think that trying to make the concept of gender disappear is very realistic, or even very constructive, and that's the direction some people seem to go. (I couldn't quite tell - is that the direction this post was going?) I think that creating a free-flowing and far more nuanced view of gender - the smörgåsbord - is preferable, and possible, and wonderful, but that it doesn't need to supersede or get rid of other conceptions of gender. Instead, we need ways of opening up the possibilities and treating concepts of gender differently.

    And frankly, I think much of that starts with the critical issue of absurdly over-gendered everythings for children. When we were as young as four or five, around 1990, my brother and I were notorious for crisply informing other children that "There are no boy toys or girl toys." I would like to live in a world where people don't constantly have to be reminded of that but also where there's no grand political issue or sneering disapproval at the fact that I am sewing historical clothing for my thesis, and have 1.5" heels on my winter boots.

  20. (I'm the anon from 3:10)

    @Holly, I think it's interesting that you locate the misfit between you and femininity in your own head. It's pretty amazing and terrifying that people can police our behavior with our own feelings of discomfort! It definitely happens to me sometimes, but I wonder how people manage to use my feelings of awkwardness. I mean practically speaking, how do you set that kind of tone around me without my consent?

    I love reading all the comments on this kind of post because people don't just have different gender identities that function the same way, they have different ways of relating to their genders. People are complicated.

  21. @Emma
    I think you ask an excellent yet tragic question: How do people use your awkwardness?

    I will assume you are a from a more recent generation, as those familiar with the less-hidden effects of racism are quite familiar.

    Awkwardness and guilt add incrementally, but they are utterly paralyzing and debilitating when accumulated. It is not something that can ever be "fixed" or restored...

    I think a good analogy would be a bonsai tree or sculptured landscaping (not trimmed); when you are pushed and huddled into certain corners by society, your growth is limited, and so you reach out in what directions are available. The others are not things you have "lost", because the mind has not even the capacity to consider them.

    In much of the Gulf and some regions of India (and commonly in post-Katrina Indonesia), a white western male like myself is treated by the poorer class with a nauseating reverence. They serve and obey with the mindset of dogs - not placid; they actively have been constrained to yearn to obey. I spoke with a man who hurt his knee, and he attempted to assure me he could still be of service if there was anything I wanted from him. I gave him a bottle of ibuprofen, and his response amazed me: not only was he grateful, but he carefully asked and attempted to record the proper way to take the medication, and any limitations - something I had forgotten to mention. This was not a stupid or simple-minded person, it was a "broken" person.

    This is the same issue women have faced in societies for centuries, but largely behind closed doors and out of public scrutiny. Gender is an even more convoluted and difficult to observe set of traits, and as such, it's even more difficult to address, let alone try to liberate.

    Sorry for the gargantuan posts... A really important question for those who no longer (thankfully!) have a publicly visible model.

  22. Oops, I was thinking of different disasters, I meant the Tsunami in Indonesia... I can't recall the English name (was abroad).

  23. Maybe add food allergies to your metaphor, and severe vitamin deficiencies. Say I've got some penis on my plate, and it's hard to stomach but it won't kill me, although it might make me sick. What WILL kill me, what IS killing me, is that I'm missing my vagina vitamins. Or maybe I spent my childhood mostly eating from one menu, and feeling a little ill, maybe, but figuring that the other menu couldn't possibly be for me because I liked so many of the individual items on this menu (say, climbing trees and being rough and being an astronaut). And then puberty comes along and courses I can't digest at all are added (secondary sex stuff, facial hair and chest and everything) and suddenly I have to eat huge portions of things that had previously not been the focus of the meal (genitals, being seen as a "guy" first instead of a "kid"), and ugh. But wait, I definitely want to kiss girls. That means this menu is for me, right? But it makes me feel so ill, and I'm pretty sure I'm starving.

    Also, maybe separate the courses? For appetizers you have an assortment of physical things (chromosomes, genitals, boob stuff, etc.). Then you have a serving of Gender Role According to Culture, arbitrary stuff (love of the color pink, whether or not you wear tights - things that reflect society's idea of "masculine" or "feminine"). Then there's a course of things that are less arbitrary, that tend to go with the appetizer course, but don't have to (I'm not sure what these traits are, actually, but I have no problem saying they exist, in a bell-curvey, "the fact that society enforced heterosexuality doesn't mean it's entirely a construct, the fact that most people are straight doesn't mean it's The Natural Way To Be", similar to height, blah blah blah). Then there's a course for being viewed a specific way. Different words are available depending upon which course(s) you want to switch up. And then there are people for whom certain courses are more important, or who need to take a bit from several different plates (which is pretty much all of us, to varying degrees).

    This is probably more complicated than I'm letting it be, ugh.

  24. @Anon What --I-- want is my toy in the kid's meal!!

  25. And you don't have to have the same meal every day. You don't have to pick a plate and that's what you have to have for dinner every day, for the rest of your life.
    There are days when I love having breasts and a vagina, days when I could take them or leave them, and days when I wish they'd go away and hide in a hole somewhere.

  26. Thought that was a great metaphor, really struck a chord. I've long tried to explain what I mean by sliding scales, shades of grey and suchlike.

    I also think there is a place for labels and approximations used for shorthand. Someone lent me a good book ("Influence") about psychology once and it pointed out that we don't have time to rationally think through every tiny moment of every day, so we have 'learnt' responses by way of a shorthand. Sometimes those misfire, and certainly underpin prejudice, especially when combined with fear and ignorance.

    So, it's useful to be able to say that I'm male and am attracted to women, or that I have S&M interests, but I am constantly disappointed by the assumptions people leap to draw from labels of convenience.

    Forever seeking balance in all things! (Well, a realistically balanced proportion of all possible things.)

  27. I know I am a little behind the times here, but I only just found the blog, so -

    I think some of what makes gender policing so strict is 'gender-variantphobiaphobia' (clumsy word I made up for 'fear that people will be mean to you because you don't comply with their idea of gender'). As in, if a guy is cool about the fact that I wear eyeliner, he thinks his mates will give him a hard time, so he gives me a hard time instead. Ditto for the girls busting Avatrimble for wearing a dress/lippie. This is kind of self-perpetuating as well, because someone in a social setting or group that has previously seen discrimination is reasonable in guessing that, if they don't ostracise or victimise people-who-are-different, they themselves will be discriminated against. And on the cycle goes.

    GGrrrrrr. Similar thing happens with homophobiaphobia, makes my life hell when I try to play sport.

  28. Hey Holly, I thought you might like this article I stumbled accross on gender pronouns. It made me smile.

  29. Yeah.

    I basically cannot understand gender variance below a certain level: Pink/blue and profession roles seem bizzare and absurd to me, and the fact that women can wear complex and interesting clothing but there is no complex and interesting mens clothing seems odd, but the idea that one could have an indistinct gender just seems alien, so I occasionally get a little frustrated at people who think that this should seem simple and obvious.

    For me, I place a high value on eating only on one side of the table (sitting across from my lover) and I place some value on seeing at least some other people eating all from one side. Beyond that I don't really care.

    I can't stand communities that create new normals, especially because the new normals always look so wierd.