Monday, January 31, 2011

Zero-sum gender.

Rowdy mentioned to a coworker that I have more power tools than he does. "Wow," the coworker said, "doesn't that kinda challenge your masculinity?"

In one sentence, so many layers!
1) Power tools are masculine. Owning power tools indicates, or perhaps causes, masculinity.
2) One would not expect a woman to do anything masculine.
3) If a woman is masculine, this makes her partner less masculine.
4) If a man isn't masculine, that's terrible.

All of which is particularly unfortunate considering that power tools are so useful. I didn't buy an electric drill to feel like I had a big swingin' cock (when I wanted that, I bought a big swingin' cock); I bought it because I was assembling furniture for my old apartment. Is it feminine to sleep on the floor?

But the interesting part for me is step 3. It's the idea that there's a limited amount of each gender role in a relationship, so if one partner is more masculine, the other must be more feminine. You see this a lot in the way certain people approach homosexuality--the idea that every lesbian relationship is butch/femme, or every gay relationship top/bottom. "Which one of you is the 'man'?" I think it even underlies more outright homophobia--how can you have a marriage or raise a child if you don't have people playing two distinct roles?

It's a bizarre extension of this thinking to be in a heterosexual relationship, but violate the unwritten rules just a tiny bit, and get "which one of you is the 'man'?"


  1. Does the coworker know you're only one of Rowdy's girlfriends? Fucking more women should make him more manly, but does sharing him make you and Sprite more or less feminine? How many power tools does Sprite have, anyway?

  2. In my experience, it's less a sliding scale and more a binary switch. It doesn't matter how many power tools you own. It matters that you have more than Rowdy. If he owns 10, you owning 1 isn't "better" than you owning 8, nor is you owning 20 "worse" than you owning 12.

    It's not that there's a set amount of masculinity in a relationship, but rather a male role and a female role. Owning powertools is part of the male role. It's still a weird heteronormative judgement.

  3. Bwaaaaaahhahahaha! I love how power tools = big cock, somehow. This only makes me more sad that I left my power drill back at my mum's in the move, for now anyway.

    Oh and Holly, no no, you have it all wrong. Feminine = incapable of being independent. So no, what you were supposed to do is go find a big strong man with manly powertools to put your furniture together FOR you.

  4. It would be OK if the electric drill was PINK!


  5. This just seems weird to me. I mean, wouldn't a man who likes power tools want to date a woman who likes power tools? So they can have things in common? That's just sense.

    Of course, I'm an androgynous woman who is very attracted to other androgynous people, so maybe I missed the memos.

  6. I think flightless was kidding, which makes it more disturbing that I've actually seen a line of power tools "just for women" that are ... guess what color?

    Also, I've had this conversation more times than I can count. The guy I'm seeing likes interior decorating and cooking. I like cars and sports. Yet strangely, as of last night, he still had the cock. Maybe I should check again?

  7. The only power tool I'd consider to be overtly masculine would be a sawzall with a dick on the end of it, and just because it has a dick on it.

  8. Yet strangely, as of last night, he still had the cock. Maybe I should check again?

    Check a hundred times! He probably won't mind. :D

  9. Bruno - I don't know if Rowdy is "out" at work or not. Having multiple girlfriends seems like it would earn him infinite Man Points, but letting them fuck other people could be negative infinite Man Points.

    Sprite is girlier than I am, although still not Absolute Girl. And I think she has fewer power tools than I do.

    Heather M. - Funny thing is, though, Rowdy isn't into interior decorating. He borrows my power tools.

  10. Reminds me of the poem "My Dog is a Plumber" by Marlo Thomas, from Free to Be You and Me. Depressing that we are still going around this particular mountain 40 years later.

  11. Hahah!

    @Heather M, Quick! Keep checking! You never know when it could disappear..!! Keep checking!!!! Just to be safe!

  12. This horrible example of inappropriate gender role embracing would be even less acceptable to society if the drill was powered by the poetry of Adrienne Rich.

  13. Two things:

    1) My most square friend is an actual white anglo-saxon protestant, a sola scriptura Christian who takes his religion very seriously, who takes his role as a husband/father/man very seriously in that he is clearly the Provider and that's a responsibility he has to fulfill or he's not a man. When he was engaged, he often said "I look forward to building a power tool collection with my wife, because she has even more of them than I do." So there's a range, I guess.

    2) When someone asks me a question like "[a girl did something], [doesn't that make you feel less manly]?" I sometimes like to respond with "No, it's cool, I have a huge cock." I recommend this approach to anyone with the balls to pull it off.

  14. Somehow this connects to your last post about enjoying wearing a cock. I don't know how....but I'll think about in a very luscious manner. Wait, I typed that....

  15. I used to be rather puzzled by all the discussion about whether something was manly or womanly, I didn't get why it was a big deal. I've realized that it's because being a 6'3" martial artist, nobody says anything if I cook or if I borrow my ex-wife's sewing machine to work on a costume. No one tells you you aren't manly if you could beat the snot out of them if you wanted; I was insulated from the effects by hobby and genetics. I think perhaps I should make an effort to do more "girly" things to help people get used to it. Problem is I'm mostly pretty cisgender by inclination.

    This is actually kind of related to PJ's approach, which I really like.

  16. I could write a book on this topic... ;)

  17. @Mousie:
    I wanted to say that you can be perfectly cismale and still wear, say, skirts, cause I sometimes wear a skirts and identify as cismale.

    But then I got thinking, if gender is a continuum, maybe me wearing skirts is an indicator for being only 95% cis?

    (Not that I'd have a problem with that. It is even "cis enough" to retain all the priviledge.)

  18. @david, did I use the word wrong? It's kind of new for me. I was trying to indicate that I'm mostly stereotypically male by inclination. Not 100%, probably not even 90%. I'd wonder about someone who just happened to match every stereotype. But mostly.

  19. You see this a lot in the way certain people approach homosexuality--the idea that every lesbian relationship is butch/femme, or every gay relationship top/bottom. "Which one of you is the 'man'?"

    There's a great moment in the David Sedaris essay "All the Beauty He Will Ever Need" where someone asks him "which one of you is the woman?" And he responds by saying "Neither...we're both guys. That's what makes it a homosexual relationship."

  20. @Mousie762 'Cis' simply means 'not trans'. If you feel comfortable in the sex and gender that has been assigned to you from birth on (in your case apparently male/man), you are cis. Gender roles/stereotypes have little if anything to do with it.