Category Archives: gender

Yelping about babies and bathwater

Every now and again I back myself into a conceptual corner and sit there yelping in confusion and distress.

I realised very clearly the other day just how subversive feminism actually is. I’m not sure that women can live financially and professionally independent lives without un-weaving society around us. I don’t think we can have our cake and eat it. It’s an unsettling thought – particularly from a position of feminine freedom and privilege.

But feminism is good – right? I mean it’s freedom and self-actualisation isn’t it? How can that be wrong?

But communities are good – right? They’re caring and supportive networks of people reaching out to help each other. When communities fall apart we end up with underclasses and gang warfare and drugs and knives and guns.

Shit! I’m turning into a Daily Mail reader before my very eyes.

I’ve always known communities aren’t necesarily either caring or supportive. There are too many places in the world where you can’t be gay or trans or bi, where you can’t be a woman and educated, where you can’t be poor and ill, where you can’t be an atheist and hold office for me to think for a second that communities are safe places to be. But on the other hand, we are social animals and we do need some glue to hold us together: if you are a round peg, then those round holes and cosy and snug.

What I hadn’t realised is that if you are a woman and you don’t suit the community you are born and raised in, then you will either damage yourself or undermine that community.

I realised this when I had lunch with a friend the other day. The friend is Asian, 30ish, educated, professional and has a strong stream of self-determination in her temperament. So far so westernised. She is also a sincere believer in her religion and a committed member of what she refers to as “my community”. Her religion, her family and her roles as a daughter and aunt are part of her identity. But she doesn’t want to become another one of the submissive women she sees around her, tucked in to an arranged marriage and made bitchy and manipulative by boredom. She wants to be herself within her family, her friends and her religion, and respected for it. It’s like looking back in time to the 50s or the period before the first World War. My friend’s position is very much the same as that of my grandmother’s sister a century or so ago who left home to become an actress: to do that she left her family, any hopes she had of marriage, her friends and the places she knew. These things are more common than not in the West now, and we forget how hard they were.

My friend wants to have her cake and eat it, and I don’t think she can. Communities function best when men work and women don’t (oh, goddess, the Daily Mail) because men bond when they are active and women bond when they talk. This isn’t how it should be, not in a society of human beings where the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy are more or less taken care of. But darwiniansim sucks and it’s an observable fact that communities start to fracture when more than a few of the women work, and communities where the men don’t work fall apart. Social cohesion happens when women share conversation, motherhood and domesticity and men win bread or hunt mightily.

You can see why this thought has left me yelping. Unfortunately we can’t wrap ourselves up in warm value judgements about social justice, ethics and how things should be: this is a matter of wiring.

So women like me, my grandmother’s sister and my Asian friend, who aren’t mothers, who work in predominantly male environments, who have friends of both sexes, who network rather than gossip, we pick away at the glue that holds communities together.

And women like my friend and my grandmother’s sister have to choose between cutting off one part of their identity of suppressing another. Individual western women are luckier: we don’t have such strong and cohesive communities and families to constrain us. But collectively are we worse off?  They are not there to support us either, because we’ve torn them down pay-cheque by pay-cheque and latch-key by latch-key.

Which means that the mad feminists of the 70s who said that the patriarchy were inherently opposed to wimmin’s freedom were right.

The mad feminists AND the Daily Mail?

Shit.

Needing being needed

When does being supportive slip into co-dependency?

My Grandma, who had a large part in my raising, was born to a well off middle class family in the 19th Century. The role of womanhood which she presented was to help and support her men-folk and I imbibed co-dependency with my morning cereals. On the other hand I also learned that although men are loud and shouty and useful for heavy lifting, they aren’t necessarily that bright and in fact it takes a woman to understand the subtleties.

I emerged from my up-bringing believing myself very capable, thinking that men only see half the picture, and believing it is appropriate for me to enable my partner to Do His Work. Grandma acknowledged that the Work men Do is often Important, even if it is lopsided and frequently misses the point. On the other hand, she sent her daughter to university and certainly we grand-daughters were expected to enter professions rather than get jobs, so maybe she was a seething mass of feminist frustration all along but being a five year old, I didn’t notice. She could certainly be very impatient with men. Her motto was “‘I’ll do it myself’, said the Little Red Hen”, and my problem with feminism has always been to question why women should lower themselves to equality.

Now, whenever I get into a relationship, I can end up putting myself out to enable my partner to Do His Work. I do it consciously, I do it sparingly, and I tend to do it when it really does make a difference. However, I have previously been supportive of partners to my own emotional, financial or professional detriment. I am rougher and tougher than I used to be, and have much firmer boundaries, but the instincts to be supportive are still there.

What I struggle with, is whether or not it is a Bad Thing.

John Grey and Dorothy Parker

What I say is what I mean.
what you see is what you get,
what I think shows on my face,
and yet you’re still confused, my pet?

Men are from Mars, Women are from VenusDorothy Parker

The eye of the beholder – 1

Colour Blindness TestThis ad on my local freecycle list amused me:

Settee

Probably 1960/70s lg. greeny-brown or browny-green (depending on gender) settee complete with fringe around the bottom, lg. square arms, sprung interior – very retro. Good condition/comfortable. Foam cushions.

Photo available.

Gender meme

It’s not mimetic and lazy blogging. It’s feminism. Right? This is mandarine’s gender meme.

1. Three things you do that women usually do

Wear matching undies.

Come over all unnecessary near firemen.

Wear perfume.

2. Three things you do that men usually do

Negotiate with builders.

Rebuild the household PC.

Fall deeply asleep immediately after sex.

3. Three things you do that women usually don’t do

Reverse park in on go, three weeks out of four anyway.

Swear. Like a fucking trooper. In a sewer.

Drive more than 20,000 miles a year.

4. Three things you do that men usually don’t do

Spend four hours solid on the phone to a girlfriend, and at the same time finish the ironing, cook supper, sort the laundry and tidy the kitchen.

Have my legs and underarms waxed. Though in this meterosexual world, that’s hardly a differentiator.

Dye my hair.

5. Three things you don’t do that women usually do

Shower or bathe every day. I am well socialised so most of the time I’m hygenic but left to myself I’d be, well, left to myself.

Iron sheets. I don’t iron anything much really, which is why finishing the ironing doesn’t take long, but is put off for months.

Bitch about people; I never say anything behind somone’s back that I wouldn’t – in a pinch – be willing to say to their face.

6. Three things you don’t do that men usually do

Watch sport.

Drink beer.

Mow the lawn. Ever.

7. Three things you don’t do that women usually don’t do

Fart in public.

Tailgate.

Choose someone else as the nominated driver.

8. Three things you don’t do that men usually don’t do

Calorie count.

Lie about my age.

Disagree with my escort in public. Gentlemen don’t do this, and neither do I.

Sisterhood is for bitches

I tumbled across a this on FtM Doctor’s blog today, and have been choking on my reaction ever since.

The story is about a feminist music festival in Michigan which is explicitly for “womyn-born womyn” and explicitly excludes trans women. Presumably they also explicitly excludes trans men. In fact, it is not actually a story, it is a press release, explaining the organisers’ point of view.

The language is interesting, veering between the hate-filled and the overly emotive. At one point the organiser of the “womyn-born womyn” sends the following email to the leader of “camp trans”.

I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space — as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.

The self-righteous emotional manipulation of this is nauseating, with its talk of “deeply desire[ing] healing”, “respect” and “deeply needed space”s.

We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female.

Is it unkind of me to consider the spaces and places that I have spent with “womyn-born womyn” this past week, which include a women-only gym and the WI? It is not hard to find women-only groups, if that’s what you need for a while. I’ve been on women-only holidays and women-only retreats. I was educated in part at an all girls’ school.

Of course the gym, and the WI aren’t full of radical feminists or …

womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). … gender variant womyn …. ” or women who ” … consider themselves differently gendered

… so far as I know.

I find myself wondering why the organisers exclude trans women if the spread of women at the festival is so broad, (yes, I know, the “deeply-needed space” thing) and also whether or not there are any straight married mothers there, or whether monogamous heterosexuals are not welcome either.

Rather than rant on and on about this, I will conclude with three final comments.

Firstly, it would be acceptable for the “womyn” of Michigan to create an activity exclusivly for “womyn-born women” if, on other occasions, they created events which were exclusively for other sub-sets of women, for example women who have been abused, or widowed, or who are lesbians, or indeed trans. But to exclude trans women and only trans women smacks of the “all men are rapists” school of separatist radical feminism which de-personalises half of the human race in a way which is as unjust and unacceptable as the de-personalising of women by men which went on for centuries before.

Secondly, I wonder if this is actually personal. If it isn’t about all trans women, but about one particular trans woman, if the organisers lacked the balls to exclude her and if they therefore decided to exclude them all. I find this theory rather compelling, given how petty, emotional and factional groups of women can become. See quotes above.

Finally, I put the press release through Gender Genie, and it scored 30% female and 70% male. Which made me snigger. Bitch that I am.

Shock news – I’m female

I am, apparently, female. But not very. Especially not when I am writing about my eggs.

Blog Female Percentage Male Percentage
     
There should be a special level of hell… 55% 45%
… a woman’s work is never done 52% 48%
Saved by a meme 53% 47%
Migraines II 62% 38%
Summer flowers, winter mornings 75% 25%
Sofa so good 42% 58%
Amazon, my river of shame 31% 69%
“Aphra Behn racism poems” 55% 45%
Exercise and the placebo feel good factor 55% 45%
Scrambled Eggs 47% 53%
     
Averages 53% 47%

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. The analysis of my writing style came from Gender Genie.

I feel peeved that my gender is so obvious in what I write, and also peeved that my femininity only just shows through.

There I go, wanting it both ways.

Again.

I’m looking forward to December when I don’t have to scrabble round for blog subjects, and I can think more and write less.