Gender Perspectives, Vol. 14

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

On Gender Expression, or None Gender with Left Girl | The Gay Divorcee Chronicles
The author discusses their struggles with gender boxes, dypshoria, and their identity of “Vaguely Genderqueer But Mostly Female”:

That female box may be what is most appropriate for me to check, but it really doesn’t cover it.

It’s definitely not all of me, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable to check that box. It limits me, confines me, suffocates me. When I was trying to earn money on a survey-taking site, I actually had a bit of a breakdown at one point because I was so infuriated by the fact that I HAD TO CHECK THAT DAMN BOX.

Gender Peformance | Sighs and Sprites
A genderqueer femme discusses their struggles with internalized misogyny and anti-femme bias.

I said to a friend that I feel like a drag queen sometimes, performing femininity because it makes me feel attractive and powerful, to which she pointed out that all gender is performative. That hypermasculine dudebro’s, with their utes and beer are performing masculinity to feel attractive and powerful as well.

I understood the point she was making and I agreed fully but it wasn’t shaking this icky feeling that I had inside. Like I wasn’t really genderqueer because I’m AFAB and dress femme so often. As if there were some kind of gender non-conforming checklist of criteria that I wasn’t measuring up to. I knew this was bullshit but I didn’t feel it.

Standing on the Wrong Mountain | quizzicalsloth
The concept of evolutionary “Fitness Peaks” makes a potentially useful analogy to gender transition and identity.

I feel like I’m on peak A: I’m fairly happy with myself (most of the time) but if I think about being somewhere on peak B I feel like I would be even happier. The problem I’m seeing at the moment is that to get to that point I’m going to have to go through a time where things aren’t so good.

To Justify and Identify Gender | my love, my loathe
An intensely personal exploration of gender identity, with no definitive answers (i.e. my favourite kind, really :P)

I’ve been pondering – specifically the question of gender. Does one have to pick a single identity to truly convey what they feel? Does dysphoria, or lack there of, set a person’s identity in stone? Does dissatisfaction with the social expectations of your gender truly mean anything beyond being different?

The real reason I love gender fuckery

Well, the 30-week genderqueer challenge is working for me! This post is inspired by last week’s prompt/post!

Really, the reason I love gender fuckery (and especially the reason why it’s so important to me sexually, sometimes) is as a means to an end.

I want for my body to just be my body, as it is. I want to be able to just be, without the pressure of all of the meanings and value that other people insist on putting on it, and on forcibly making me acknowledge those meanings and values (this is what sexual harassment usually is – not just objectifying a person, but actively making sure they know you are doing it, and trying to elicit a response from them, thus forcing them to participate. It’s disgusting.)

I hate that because I live in a world where this shit is so pervasive that it is is sometimes hard for me to see my own body without seeing it through the lens of cisheteropatriarchy. I hate how hard it is for me to be free of that.

What I really want it to see myself and my body on my own terms. But before I can do that, I need to fuck up the existing scripts I have for understanding my own body.

I need to take what I have been taught – both explicitly and implicitly – about my value and about what having certain body parts (or not) means about who I am as a person and how I am valued by others, and I need to twist it around, and shake it up and tear it to pieces and put it back together again, in every way I can think to. I need to pull the pieces apart and put them back together in impossible, unrecognizable configurations. I need to make new shapes out of the old meanings, over and over and over, until it all stops meaning anything at all, like a word repeated until it is nothing but a series of arbitrary sounds.

I need to fuck with gender, so that gender will stop fucking with me.

“Consent is sexy” is an insidious message

Look, I get the point of saying “consent is sexy”. I get that it became a thing in direct response to naysayers of the importance of consent who insist that asking before touching someone (especially sexually) is somehow inherently unsexy or a turn-off. I also get that we are living in a culture that seriously does sexualize and eroticize female non-consent and just violence against women generally, and that it is important to try to fight back against those forces as they continue to form so many people’s sexualities, sometimes in very dangerous ways.

“Consent is sexy” is and always has been at *best* a band-aid solution to some specific aspects of rape culture. And it has always been clear to me that we shouldn’t need to sell consent in this way, or call it anything other than right, or the only non-evil way to interact with other people. The fact that anyone thinks that the message is necessary tells us how much work still needs to be done, if nothing else.

But. It needs to stop now. We need to stop actively promoting the idea that consent is sexy. Because there are ways in which it is actively harmful and helps rapists.

I don’t think it’ll be surprising or revelatory to anyone if I point out that many people (read: most women) feel an awful lot of pressure to be “sexy” in accordance with what their culture tells them is sexy, regardless of whether they enjoy those things, or particularly want to have sex. Heck, women are told they need to be conventionally attractive in order to be perceived as professional (or, y’know, even just worthy of being treated with the most basic respect), as if those things have anything to do with one another.

Women are taught to model the behaviours that the culture they grow up in declares to be sexy. Naturally, as the idea that consent (and especially enthusiastic consent) is sexy gains more traction, this means that women are feeling and will feel more pressure to model the appearance of said enthusiastic consent regardless of their actual desires.

By framing consent as “sexy”, we are making it harder for people, and women especially, to feel like they have the freedom to decide whether to consent or not. Not because it’s bad to find consent sexy – I do still agree that finding consent sexy should be and will be a sign of the death of rape culture if that ever comes – but because we are still living in a misogynist world, and because we are still living in a rape culture, and this particular attempt at combating that culture is far too easily turned against itself.

Consent is necessary and important, regardless of whether it is sexy. It is mandatory even if it is inconvenient, even if it is a turn-off. And deciding not to consent to anything, at any time, is not unsexy, either.

“Not all men!”: redirecting defensive energy

not all menIt’s a really common derailment in conversations about rape culture: the clarion call of men who would totally never rape a woman, and definitely think rape is bad, and want to make sure that you know that not all men are like that. Not all men, they say, rape, harass, or otherwise demean and objectify women.

Which, um, I mean, the reason this is a derailment is that it is not helpful in addressing the very real problems of rape and harassment. The thing is that regardless of whether this is a problem with all men or just a few (and yes, I know that it is just a minority of men that rape women, ok?), it is a real problem and it needs to be talked about. It is, in fact, more important to stay on topic in discussion about rape and harassment than it is to waste time soothing feelings and reassuring individual men that we don’t think they are personally rapists.

Ok, ok, it is actually possible to tell jokes that have rape in their content without making rapists feel like their attitudes toward women are normal. I don't 100% endorse this flowchart, but it's a pretty nice starting point.

Ok, ok, it is actually possible to tell jokes that have rape in their content without making rapists feel like their attitudes toward women are normal. I don’t 100% endorse this flowchart, but it’s a pretty nice starting point. Click through to the source for full size, y’all.

The thing that really gets me about the not all men defense, though, is that it’s being directed at the wrong audience. Because yes, it’s true that not all men are predatory rapists, harassers, and general objectifiers as women. And I mean, I’m super glad that’s the case, because the world would be a whole hell of a lot worse if they were.

But the thing is, dudes, feminists know you’re not all like that. Women, be they feminist or not, who complain about harassment and predatory behaviour, know you’re not all like that. Most women have positive relationships with men; friends, partners, co-workers, family members, whatever. Women have met men that aren’t awful people. And thus, they know you’re not all awful. You don’t need to tell them that.

But you know who doesn’t know you’re not all like that? Rapists. And harassers. And general objectifiers of women. Misogynist men genuinely believe that all men see women the way they do. The really do. And when you make “jokes” about raping, harassing or objectifying women, they take that as proof that you are like them. When you laugh at their jokes, they definitely think you’re on their side.

And I’d really like to think that it’s important to you that rapists don’t think you’re one of them. Like, at least as important as your clear need to make sure that women know you’re not.

So, dudes, the next time you see a discussion about rape culture, or about harassment, and you feel yourself getting defensive, and worrying that people don’t know that you’re not like that, do me a giant favour. Don’t tell that to the women who already know that. Take that energy, that desire you have to communicate a thing, and to do something, and use it to do something worthwhile.

Use it to criticize your friend when he demeans, harasses or objectifies a woman in your presence. Make it clear to *him* that you’re not like that, and that that behaviour is not acceptable. Make it clear to *him* that the world isn’t men vs. women, and that there are men in the world who don’t think it’s ok to talk about women like their only worth lies in their appearance, and that women’s desires are important, and they don’t just exist to fulfill men’s fantasies.

Stop telling us these things. We know these things. Tell the dudes who treat women like shit that their attitudes are not universally shared by men, and that their behaviour toward women is unacceptable.