Tag Archives: gender roles

Misogyny in action.

I apologize for not getting a blog post up yesterday.  Extra hours at work and the mental exhaustion caused by a major deadline and other factors prevailed, and I chose to spend much of the last forty-eight hours taking care of myself rather than blogging.  I hope to make time and conserve mental energy tonight to meet my blogging schedule for the rest of this week.

In the meantime, I wanted to bring attention to a week-old story from the Huffington Post. Kristen Wolfe relates a story in which two boys come in to the store she works so the older boy can buy the other one, his younger brother, a game and game controller.  The younger brother selects a game with a female character and a purple controller, specifically referring to purple as a “girl color.”  All is well and everyone is happy until the boys’ father gets involved.  Kristen describes his reaction:

He saw the game, and the controller, and started in on the youngest about how he needs to pick something different. Something more manly. Something with guns and fighting, and certainly not a purple controller. He tried to convince him to get the new Zombie game “Dead Island” and the little boy just stood there repeating, “Dad, this is what I want, OK?” Eventually it turned into a full-blown argument complete with Dad threatening to whoop his son if he didn’t choose different items.

Kristen goes on to tell how the older brother stood up for his sibling until his father backed won and then reassured the boy.  Kristen herself spoke to the younger brother, pointing out that he should go on liking whatever it is he likes, regardless of what other people think.  It’s a great story that challenges gender stereotypes and vindicates those who choose not to be limited by the narrowly defined gender roles.

I think it’s equally important to note, however, that this story is also about misogyny.  The father in the story’s whole problem with his younger son’s choices is that, in his mind at least, they’re not sufficiently “manly” choices.  That’s code word for “his son is being too much like a girl.”  This suggests that there’s something wrong with a boy being “too much like a girl,”[1] which suggests that there’s probably something wrong with being a girl.

This is my problem with ideas like “manning up” and “being a man.”  They are based in the idea that “being a man” really means “not being a girl/woman.”  It reinforces the idea that women are second-class humans, even if unintentionally.  And I’m not at all convinced it’s unintentional.

  Which means we’re almost certainly in transphobic territory too.

Thoughts on “Transgender Basics”

After the trans* panel discussion on Thursday night, I talked to Kelly, one of the allies who had spoken.  She suggested I watch and blog about a video as a way to promote ongoing discussion.  The video that she suggested I blog about is called “Transgender Basics,” produced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City as part of the Gender Identity Project.  I’m embedding the video here:

There’s a lot that I could and would like to say about this video, and I suspect I may do multiple blog posts about it due to the vast range of thoughts I had and my limited time today.  Part of me is tempted to hold off on this post for a few days so I can work more on it, as this topic deserves a great deal of thought and consideration.  However, my desire to keep my commitment to talking about this today is going to take precedent.  I think it would be way too easy for me to use “working on a better, more considerate post” as an excuse to procrastinate.

I think one of the things that interested me is how the Authentic Gender Model breaks down and separates physical sex, gender roles, and gender identity.[1]  Having done some reading[2] on gender essentialism and the growing body of evidence that most of the traits and roles that we tend to consider inherently gendered is a matter of social conditioning, I’m well aware that physical sex and gender roles can be quite distinct.  The idea of gender identity being a distinct paradigm separate from gender roles, however, is somewhat new to me.  It’s quite possibly the one take-away from this video that I need to think more about.[3]  I hope to get a better understanding of what it means from a trans* person’s perspective when zie says their gender identity is as a man, a woman, or neither.

The other part that I found interesting about the AGM was the fact that it presents even physical sex as a spectrum.  Before this video, I had never considered that there’s more to physiological sex than which genitals someone has.  The video rightfully points out that even in terms physiology, sex is much more complex than the simple binary we tend to make it out to be.  To me, this strengthens the already strong argument that our understanding of gender needs to be even more complex when we start to move beyond physiology and think about roles and identity.

My first take-away from this video is an even bigger understanding of just how nuanced and complex gender actually is, and that being trans* is first and foremost about recognizing that complexity and rejecting society’s attempt to force one to fit into the simplest and most inaccurate model in favor of embracing the far more complex and unique reality for oneself.

One of the things that I noticed about both the panelists from Thursday night and the trans* people who spoke in this video is that they are unique, authentic, and compelling people who are seeking to live authentic lives.  As one of the speakers in the video says, she desires people to avoid reducing her to a transwoman and see the incredible person[4] that she is overall.  I hope and trust that by allowing her and other trans* people the freedom to express their gender identity authentically, we enable them to show what incredibly unique and and complex individuals they are in other ways as well.

What are some of your thoughts on the video?

[1] I’m intentionally leaving out the fourth component of the model, sexual orientation, for this initial post to focus on the first three.  There will be time enough to talk about sexual orientaten and how it relates to gender later.

[2]  Thank you for guiding me down that path, feminists.

[3]  I’m also hoping that the resources at the Gender Identity Project site will provide me with deeper insight.

[4]  I’m hesitant about saying “person” here rather than “woman.”  On the one hand, I want to stress that her identity includes far more than her gender identity and that she’s incredible for more reasons than just her gender identity.  On the other hand, I don’t want to deny or ignore that identity either.  Her gender identity may not define all of who she is, but it is an integral part of who she is, and I don’t want to deny or invisibilize that part of her, either.