Tag Archives: Gender Stereotypes

Anthropomorphukupzthanyoucanshakealadystickat

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What my cat taught me about gender… (from medium.com)

Little if anything, it seems… Hee hee.

‘Lolita, my 16 year-old female cat, emerged from her kitty litter box with a penis.’ On the basis of which you assign her male?

Your cat has a penis ∴ your cat is male. ARRGH! Fucking bigot! How do you know this? Have you not stopped to entertain the possibility that this is the fabled lady-penis? Later in your article you clain to have learned that ‘…gender (is) experienced from within — it’s not something you can (or should) identify from the outside…’ And surely you’re aware most MtF trans folks have intact male genitals? Party line says this is a class issue, that the surgery is prohibitively expensive for most. It is a class issue as it happens; more in the sense that the penis is both symbol and instrument of class oppression (and more fun than a stress ball to knead in times of dysphoria, boredom, horniness…).

Hell, you even go on to say ‘Mr. Lolita, as far as we know, doesn’t have a gender identity. He just has a sex: male.’ As far as you know? You’ve not bothered to take evening classes in cat tongue that you might be able to have the conversation? He/She/Zie/Hir/Miaow might identify as a dog, a wombat or a Russian space station for all you know! Good Lord!

‘Others that met Lolita, would use words like “diva” and “bitch” to describe his personality (“bitch” seems harsh, but he could get a bit hissy with strangers; especially female strangers, if that means anything)…’

Yep, it means they’re (and you’re) sexist. Cos only females get ‘hissy’ with females, right? Never males, no Siree. Male divas? What a ridiculous idea. Jeremy Clarkson, Rob Downey Jr and the drum tutor in Whiplash would be falling over themselves to be the first to scoff at such a suggestion. And you realise a bitch is a female DOG, right? How d’you think Lolita feels about being mis-specied? (assuming that he/she/zie/hir/Lord/Lady/Dr/Pope/Emperor does in fact identify as a cat; and let’s not even get started on race: looks kinda like a long-haired Burmese, but that doesn’t mean a thing: might be thinking in Siamese or Sphynx). How damned inconsiderate of his former owners not to dye his fur blue and teach him to carry an identity card…

And you don’t own him. He owns you. If you’d taken that evening class you’d understand ‘Fuck you! Just feed me! And none of that fucking Iams sawdust! No? Iams it is. Another fucking eviscerated, half-dead mouse on your pillow tomorrow morning, sonny boy.’ when you heard it.

And ‘Lolita‘. Lolita?! ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and the barista thing…

‘…Not only was this formerly female classmate of mine now a male, but — by all appearances — he was a gay male working at a gay coffee shop. (I would later see him out with other gay male friends at a gay bar.)…’ So you assumed he was gay because he appeared gay. Like you assumed your cat was female cos ‘her‘ name was ‘princess‘; and now assume he’s male cos he has a penis? Sheesh! Aand a gay coffee shop? WTF does that even mean? That they only serve super-skinny caramel lattes with rainbow sprinkles? Be sure to wipe the seat before you sit down, then; wouldn’t want you to catch anything nasty, now.

And you know, ‘formerly female’ but now a male? Either he was always male (wrong body yada yada, unlike the 99% of cis-sy folks who just love their perfect physiques) or is still (biologically) female but has busted out of the prison of ‘assignment’ in a cloud of rainbow-coloured confetti) and now identifies as male. Even the most batshit crazy MRA transjacktivist types seem to grasp that a person can’t actually change sex. Though to be fair, any kind of concensus amongst professionals and lobbyists looks to be a ways off.

You got one thing right, though; about gender and sexuality being socially constructed. Who knew?

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…from the mouths of babes?…

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WTF?! Yeah, that was my initial reaction. Not in a bad way, though…

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109573972″>Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by FCKH8.com</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/fckh8″>FCKH8.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Easier to berate kids for using cuss-words than face up to the crushing realities of sexual violence, gender stereotyping and pay inequality. Is this clip effective? Jury’s out on that one; but it’s certainly on-message…

I could pick, but I’m not going to. This is one of those odd occasions – District 9 springs to mind – when po-mo irony kinda works for me.

FCKH8‘s clip landed in my inbox via Upworthy.com

Blood Test

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I took an HIV test yesterday. Not that I was seriously concerned I might have contracted the virus, mind: rather that I work for an HIV/AIDS organization, and a sister organization, as part of national HIV Testing Week, was utilizing our premises to offer instant antigen/antibody tests to clients and staff. Kinda weird in the former instance, since being HIV+ is a prerequisite for referral for treatment; but staff-wise it seemed like good form to – and be seen to – attend to one’s sexual health.

My ‘tester’ explained that which might once have been semi-taboo to voice, that as a ‘straight’, white man, the risk of my contracting HIV thru sex  was somewhat lower than it might be for a man indulging in regular homosexual relations.

One aspect of the testing procedure surprised me: I filled out a form with personal details prior to the blood test which included my sexual orientation; from which I could choose ‘straight’, ‘gay’. ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘Transgender (Male to Female), ‘Transgender (Female to Male), ‘other’. Perhaps you can guess from whence my surprise sprang? As something of a ‘gender sceptic’, I’m familiar with the line that ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ are discrete ‘boxes’ as it were. So goes popular, contemporary ‘queerthink’. Could it be that the UK’s preeminent (and admittedly gay-male-centric) HIV charity missed the memo or is their use of language deliberate and candid?

As it happens, I agree, to a point: both ‘cis’ and ‘trans*’ people can be attracted to either/both (biological) sexes and/or to folk presenting as one, other or both. But underlying that fact is the reason that sexual orientation is such a deal, even now, in terms of  personal identity. Andrea Dworkin delineated this so well in the ‘Law’ chapter of her magnum opus, Intercourse [1987](p. 185-211):

‘The laws regulating intercourse – prescribing how we must use each other (be used) as well as proscribing how we must not use each other – are supposed to protect the authentic nature of men and women. Men being fucked like women moves in an opposite direction … [t]he regulation of men by men in sex for the sake of upholding men as a class is the least recognized, least scrutinized aspect … of social control…’

During this chapter, the author also states ‘…[e]very detail of gender specificity was attended to in the Old Testament, including cross-dressing ‘A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garments; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the Lord thy God…’

Dworkin remains on record as the least ‘transphobic’ of radical feminist thinkers; yet she clearly and succinctly apprehends the symbolic and real dichotomy between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ modes of attire/behaviour inherent in historical conceptions of gender: deeply-rooted (radical) correlations which are not easily dismissed or over-written by superficially-neutral jargon.  The inference I take from the previous quote is not that the consumerist-patriarchal monetization of gender-nonconformity is to be embraced (which can be discerned even in the presumably-positive notion of the ‘pink pound’, as well as the ‘Transsexual Empire‘ to borrow Janice Raymond‘s epithet) but, rather that in her radical vision, we might reach a point where ‘gender’ ceases to hold sway over our estimation of interpersonal – and specifically sexual – relations.

Until that day arrives, ‘gender’ and sexuality truly cannot be conceived as being entirely separate aspects of our malleable, shifting sense of human identity…

“When the environment makes gender salient, there is a ripple effect on the mind. We start to think of ourselves in terms of our gender, and stereotypes and social expectations become more prominent in the mind. This can change self-perception, alter interests, debilitate or enhance ability, and trigger unintentional discrimination. In other words, the social context influences who you are, how you think and what you do.”

Cordelia Fine (Delusions of Gender…, [2010])…

…even as living in the relatively-liberal West – and especially here in the city of Brighton, UK – the aggressive hetero-normativity and entrenched (Judeo-Chistian-Islamic) conservatism of most human cultures is easily-forgotten, or at least ignored. As Stephen Fry reminded us in his recent TV documentary, this is something of a luxury: in a gender-free, more sane world it ought not to be.

And to return in the end to the matter of HIV testing, if you or any of your loved ones are concerned about the risk of HIV infection, it’s HIV Testing Week until November 29: you can find information here and here.

Man up…

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…except don’t 😉

Repeat until sane…

‘How many boys have to kill themselves … how many women have to be abused, how many trans* people have to get assaulted … [2.48] Heartening to hear a man lay the responsibility for sexism at the right front door…

‘…Miller Lite is not the most flavourful brew…’ [1.32] got that rite [sic] 😉

‘Nobody says WOman up [1.55] they just imply it … because being directly ordered around by commercials, magazines and music is dehumanizing … when will men figure that out?’
Now there’s a question…

‘I want to be strong in a way that isn’t about physical dominance or power, MAN UP! …’

Les Miserables

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‘These are very unusual offences,’ Lord Bannatyne said during sentencing. ‘The case is clearly an exceptional one.

Well, sort of… sexual assaults committed by females are much the exception than the rule. But Bannatyne‘s judgement had little to to with her sex, and everything to do with her gender: her apprehension and his perception thereof…

The admission of Gender Identity Disorder by Bannatyne as a mitigating factor raises a question: does he mean to imply that because Wilson believed herself to be male her actions were more acceptable, by dint of being stereotypically ‘male’ actions? He said of her disorder, ‘I accept that this leads you to genuinely feel you are male rather than female. This significantly lowers your culpability.’ In other words, males are not culpable – or significantly less so – for their violent actions, in this case sexual assault and fraud.

The implications of such judgements are worrying, as much for what they appear to say about the victims as the perpetrators: that men (including Trans*men) should expect to be excused from the consequences of their actions by dint of being (or believing themselves) male; that females should expect to be victimized and bear those consequences.
Males are more typically violent, but male and violent are not synonyms, any more than female and victim are. The condition of men under patriarchy simply affords them access to a wider choice of victims; and such conditions conspire to protect them from the consequences to themselves of their actions. The consequences for their victims are not held to be terribly significant, if at all, and both theirs and the perpetrators’ debasements are equally feted as natural and desirable. When females do engage in violent abuse – which of course they do, as these cases show – they invariably victimize women or girls less enfranchised than themselves, children; or themselves. But they’re punished twice – think Myra Hindley, Rose West – both for their violence and for being ‘aberrant’ females. As atypical as these cases are, it’s striking how the words and decisions of the presiding judges are seen to reinforce gendered codes of behaviour rather than treat the protagonists as individuals. Wilson was convicted as a female, but punished as a male: i.e. barely (though she’ll no doubt continue to suffer psychological issues, possibly pose a risk to other girls) whilst Adie has been left – all too typically – high and dry.
Surely what matters here is the HUMAN trauma inflicted upon one HUMAN by another HUMAN. Physical assault hurts. Deception hurts. Both physically and psychologically such trauma has been shown throughout history to have repercussions for years afterward. That these girls suffered sexual violence at the hands of other women does little to diminish those repercussions, excepting the risk of pregnancy that might arise in instances of male rape. Adie was nonetheless hurt. That is the point. And the law, in its capacity as gender policeman, has seen fit to hurt her again.
The mutability of male and female behaviours is a matter for debate; though in the light of opportunities created for women by the actions of suffragettes and others since, it’s notable that ambitious females haven’t been shy of stepping up to the plate in the business and political worlds, albeit by co-opting ‘masculine’ values to an extent, and in spite of often violent backlash and having to carry the ‘second shift’ in the home. In different ways, women’s successes and failures within an andro-centric (and hetero-normative) system teach us lessons about the false norms – of both sex and gender – on which that system is founded.  If women have shown themselves able to adapt to the – frankly, often unreasonable – demands of the masculine world and still thrive, or at least survive….
Perhaps the bigger lesson here is that, far from trotting out ‘male’ (masculine) as a handy ‘get out clause’ for female bad behaviour; we might hold up ‘female’ as a standard to aspire to for – rather more often – badly-behaved males.
Maybe we should look for the strength inherent in our sex, rather than play to the weakness enforced by gender.

Parental guidance

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I find (R1 DJ) Sara Cox’s remarks about her own kids’ musical awakening both enlightening and a wee bit depressing:

http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/blogs/sara-cox/kind-music-fan-daughter-turn-100912205.html

‘Turn that bloody row down’ was Mum’s general reaction to the sounds being blasted out of mine and my sister’s stereos, despite the fact her and Dad bought said stereos for us for Christmas. She used to get properly riled up, both at the quality of the music – mostly metal, goth and indie guitar bands in my case – and the volume we played it at.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

This:

‘I have a soft spot for The Wanted and think their music is actually quite good. I’ve often found myself crooning along to ‘All Time Low’ in the car. I’m well aware I’m just out of their target market now I’m in my ‘mid-twenties’ but I’m happy for Lola to become a fan. She and Max and the rest of the boys have my blessing.

Is surely just the kind of patronising attitude to kids music you wouldn’t expect from someone in her position. There’s nothing will turn a kid off anything quicker than Mum’s blessing. Though she’s been drip-fed Radio One since before birth the reality is that at some point, probably early teens, her daughter will contrive to seek out the very artists and songs that will make Mum’s hair stand on end.

But I’ve never examined young people’s music taste from a parental perspective, not being a parent. Does the act of reproduction kill off a chunk of brain cells, specifically the ones retaining teenage memories? It seems incredible to hear a lifelong music fan taking such an ‘old fart’ stance towards their kids’ musical awakening. Isn’t R1 supposed to be so hip? And there’s always something slightly cringemaking to hear a woman using words like ‘slutty’ to describe another.

‘Ke$ha (too slutty) or Katy Perry (too saccharine)’ sounds a lot like The Whore and The Madonna to me.

Kids may resist learning their music taste from the previous generation but they can pick up value judgements like this by osmosis. Music and music culture are desperately important to kids in establishing their place in a crazy world, generating self-esteem. They need to feel free to construct their own model of ‘hip’ and ‘sexy’ that allows them to be themselves and also fit in. Boys never have to contend with such restrictive  stereotypes and girls shouldn’t have to either.

It would be refreshing if the cultural attitudes being espoused by exponents of our no. 1 radio station were as fresh as their playlists can, at best, be.

Room for a new view

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I’ve just read ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue (told you I’m a bit behind the times) and whilst it’s perhaps not the masterpiece one might be led to believe it’s incredibly refreshing in at least one respect. In an age when human misery has been more effectively tabloidized than ever and violent criminals enjoy a high and often lucrative ‘anti-hero’ profile Donoghue chooses to make the perpetrator a mostly anonymous shadow lurking in the background.

This works wonderfully on two levels: both foregrounding the importance of Jack and his mother over ‘Old Nick’ the kidnapper, whilst subtly presenting evil as a shadowy prescence in us all.

All too often in crime novels we see murderers, rapists, terrorists and bullies presented as clever, charming and intelligent beings with – usually – women and children as their hapless victims. This book shows that one can create a – mostly – gripping ‘thriller’ style narrative without glamourizing criminals; and tell the truth about crime whilst avoiding creaky gender stereotypes. Most importantly it refuses to cvictimize the victims. This is no ‘sufferporn’ potboiler.

Donoghue’s choice of a child as the narrator of her novel strips the prose of distasteful sentimentality or melodrama; serving to remind us of the gift of childhood. Writing a child’s perspective as an adult author is a notoriously difficult device to pull off but here it’s handled with applomb.

It does suffer from novel pitfall #1 – imperfect pacing. The ‘escape’ chapter is less than convincing and the tension levels decline sharply thereafter, leading to an end which seems arbitrary and contrived at the same time (as paradoxical as that sounds). But the balance between tackling serious subject matter and creating a highly readable story was handled near perfectly.