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Posts Tagged ‘gender roles’

Swagger Like Us: Should Women Be More Like Men or Not?

For decades, women have been told just to get ahead in an unjust system — but should they be amplifying their aggression to mimic successful men?

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question implicit


when boys try to pay on dates i hate it so much it makes me feel awful. who else hates this. and why. and why do they try. i wish they would stop. i wish they would stop opening the doors and opening windows and opening and approaching.

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another post about rape–a really great, analytical post by a prolific blogger on wordpress. thanks to jlu for sharing!

The way men and women interact on a daily basis is the way they interact when rape occurs. The social dynamics we see at play between men and women are the same social dynamics that cause men to feel rape is okay, and women to feel they have no right to object. And if you accept those social interactions as normal and appropriate in your day to day life, there is absolutely no reason you should be shocked that rape occurs without screaming, without fighting, without bruising, without provocation, and without prosecution. Behavior exists on a continuum. Rape doesn’t inhabit its own little corner of the world, where everything is suddenly all different now. The behavior you accept today is the behavior that becomes rape tomorrow. And you very well might accept it then, too.

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HOUSTON — A suburban Dallas school district has suspended a 4-year-old from his prekindergarten class because he wears his hair too long and does not want his parents to cut it.

The boy, Taylor Pugh, says he likes his hair long and curly. But on Monday night, the school board in Mesquite voted unanimously to enforce its ban on Beatles haircuts, much less anything approaching coiffures of bands like Led Zeppelin. School officials say the district’s dress code serves to limit distractions in the classroom.

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feminineCan anyone recommend me an essay/book/text/video/whatever that makes a clear, analytical, impassioned, awesome defense of femininity? I just found this neat book in the LGBTQI center at my school that’s called Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Gender Studies. It has this interesting format where it poses questions, then presents a YES side and NO side to the question with two different authors. One caught my eye: “Is the Quest for Beauty Necessarily Damaging to Women?” I read the NO answer and was severely disappointed by the argument. Probably because it was written by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese who was a leader of the conservative feminist movement. The whole essay was very capitalist, classist, and racist–in a nutshell it basically said, “Women bond over shopping. If you tell women they can’t buy dresses, they will not bond and love each other.” She called feminists who come out against femininity like me elitists (which I’ve been called before…) , but didn’t really articulate her reasoning or use examples, though I REALLY wanted to know why. I just don’t think she knows how to write well… She also wrote a book called Feminism is Not My Life Story… which makes me saaad.

Anyway. I’m really open to hearing a defense of femme identity, femininity, dress-wearing… I just haven’t read a story that I find empowering and excited. Help.

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gender identityI’ve been feeling a lot of tension lately between my feminist identity and my gender identity. They both began developing around the same time. I started realizing that I what I thought was right for me deviated from the mainstream. A lot of people have been offended by my sadness for feminists who shave their legs and armpits, pluck their eyebrows, and maintain a “femme” appearance. Ever since I decided to stop doing these things (I didn’t do that many of them to begin with), and even before then, I have seen these practices as compromises to my feminism because I associated them with a desperate desire I had to pass as straight. I also hated my body hair and thought it was ugly. And I wasted a fair amount of time each day to maintaining this appearance. So whenever I see a female-identified person following these rules, I assume that they have some deep-down homophobia-based fear of looking gay or like a “typical feminist”. I was so torn about stopping shaving. I was scared people would judge me or be grossed out. Then I remembered that (a) I am an awesome person, (b) I would never want to be friends with someone who liked me only for my socially acceptable appearance, and (c) my hairy legs would just be ignorant-person repellant and do I really want to attract ignorant people? Now some feminists might say that ignorant people will only learn the error of their ways by being wooed (platonically or otherwise) by feminists. But I decided that I would rather stop wasting my time waging a war on my body hair for the sake of converting the fools to feminism.

So I worry sometimes that femme-y feminists sacrifice some self body-love in order to remain appealing to misogynist assholes.

But lately I’ve been questioning myself. All my life, I don’t think I ever felt comfortable wearing dresses or putting on makeup or generally being “femme”. I felt judged, I felt ugly and too flabby, and I was physically inable to do many things I would do while wearing… loose cargo pants, for example.  Lately, I have felt differently, oddly enough, after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and seeing male-identified people putting on a feminine show. When I wear a dress now I comfort myself by remembering that gender is a performance and, right now, I am performing femininity. It is no more closer to my identity than the character I play in theatrical piece. I have finally learned to be comfortable in a femme role by imagining that I am merely in drag. Having a mohawk also helped too, though.

So, essentially, what I’m going on about is this conflict deep in my feminist soul. As far as my gender identity is concerned, I don’t identify as trans, or feel comfortable with male pronouns for myself, but I do not enjoy female pronouns either. I currently identify as genderqueer, and sometimes genderfuck. I favor clothing from the “men’s section” of stores because it usually is better made and better suited for my comfort, loving my body, and being a physically active human being. Shopping in the “men’s section” was another scary leap for me. I initially felt uncomfortable venturing there out of embarrassment. Now, I have no qualms. But I still have trouble dismissing my now hairier body as part of my gender identity. It was a feminist statement when I stopped shaving–that is, I didn’t stop because I wanted to look like more masculine. I stopped because I wanted hairiness to be an acceptable form of femininity. But, more and more, I feel as though I need to put this feminist view aside and say it’s a queer genderqueer thing. I want to get to the point where I don’t worry about anyone who proudly calls themself a feminist. Though I still can’t help but wonder if she’s ever questioned why she’s still shaving, plucking, and squeezing into those skinny jeans. I always find it hard to believe that she ever considered the other options.

I hope y’all will help me pull these thoughts apart.

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Big Trubs, by Allyson Mitchell.

[Woman] can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development, her freedom, her independence must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right of anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them, by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc., by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities; by freeing herself from the fear of opinion and public condemnation.”
– Emma Goldman, “Woman Suffrage,” from Anarchism and Other Essays (read here). Found in “Raise Some Hell: A Feminist Childrearing Zine for Everyone,” @ zinelibrary.info.

We used to talk a lot about whether cisgendered feminist women can dress and act the ways that mainstream society expects of us—how our gender presentation and sexuality relate to our feminism. Does normalizing second-wave-style feminist response to social expectations—e.g. refusing to shave and wear bras or makeup—violate individual women’s freedom of choice? Do third-wave-style responses, or “choice feminism”—wearing makeup, wearing typically feminine clothes, etc.—devalue women in society? Personally? Both?

Any monolithic standard of behavior fucks with people’s freedom of choice—no matter how integral choice is supposed to be to the standard. Second-wave feminism (and its offshoots) can make you feel like a traitor to the movement, complicit in your own oppression and others’, for having a femme-y gender presentation. Third-wave feminism makes you feel like an irrelevant troublemaker if your “choices” don’t cooperate with some version of the status quo. I believe that superfemme presentation and noncooperation can be equally liberating for different people, and I think we create false extremes that divide us. From now on, I’m going to try and trust and support you if you want to wear lipstick. But you have to trust and support me in my choice not to.

I’ve recently made very classic dirty feminist-looking choices about my body and my appearance—I don’t shave my legs or pits, wear makeup or sexy clothes, or have pretty hair. In a post-third wave world, this constellation is judged variously as: uninformed, outdated, regressive, gross, pointless, and, frequently, oppressive. I feel like we’ve talked here as well about whether it is oppressive. I’d like to submit: on the contrary! The very, very contrary. And I’d also like to say that I think everyone should think seriously about making second-wave-y choices.

When you think about it, pretty much every physical expectation of women in our society requires us to participate in constructing ourselves as sex objects. Shaving, wearing make-up, having long, pretty hair, attractive clothes, etc… First off, what the fuck. And second, for this post, I will refer to these processes as “sexualization,” but I really mean “mundane sexualization”—in other words, those sexualizing processes that have become part of our standard definition of femininity. Purposeful sexualization for the purposes of turning people on is another topic for another post, to me, anyway. (Also, I’m only going to talk about some very obvious banners of femininity here, rather than deal with newer expectations like surgery, tanning, etc.)

So, the question at the heart of our neverending debate is, should women sexualize themselves in society? Can making yourself look hot or normal be a tool for general empowerment? The societally approved third wave wants us to feel like accepting and performing our own sexualization is an aspect of our liberation. And here’s where Emma Goldman comes in—I think you can exchange “suffrage or the ballot” for “razors or make-up” quite neatly. There is nothing they can do for us that we can’t do better ourselves, and we can never change how they essentially function.

The communities I grew up in, like the communities most people grew up in, were dominated and created by men and other people who value, judge, and commodify women based solely on our appearances. For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I’ve shaved, made myself pretty, showed off my body, etc. because I wanted to be judged positively and seen as valuable by my communities. And that is such bullshit, to drag women into caring about all that crap because it’s the only value they have in some communities. For some time after becoming dimly aware of feminism, I tried to actively choose to do all that stuff, but it just felt like artificial intelligence—like being a dumb robot with the curse of reason, thinking about why it should follow its programming when in fact it has no choice.

Sexualization by choice and sexualization by default are no different. Society wants women to be sex commodities, and because society expects women to sexualize themselves, it will never bother respecting their reasons. That’s just its due. Daily life in the United States is like a giant Miss America pageant. Thinking critically about society’s requirements and continuing to accept them just traps you in the contest. No judge is going to ask or care why you shaved your legs. They just expect it. It doesn’t occur to them that it might be a choice, and I think we need to ask ourselves whether it even is one before we try to go there in society at large. (I do want to leave sexual relationships out in this post. However, let it be said: your partner should want to talk to you about why you do things to your body and respect your decisions, as part of a practice of consent. I think there’s some kind of magic about a healthy, communicative intimate relationship that allows people to critically examine their own expectations much more readily than in society at large. So in other words, I’m not saying it’s a fool’s errand to even make people think about why women are doing things. Your boyfriend should be able to respect your choice to shave your legs as a choice, and if he doesn’t, dump him.)

On the other hand, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’re not even worthy of their attention—and it rules. It seems like most people don’t even want to judge my worth based on how well I’m sexualizing myself, cause I’m so weird and unfeminine, so I don’t have to deal with them expressing their opinions. What’s more, I don’t have to constantly worry about whether they find me acceptable. Hairy armpits disqualify you. You can get off the stage and find some peace and quiet. Free from “the fear of opinion and public condemnation,” you are FINALLY able to actually devote a reasonable amount of attention to the “meaning and substance of life in all its complexities.”

I’m not really going to touch on the other oppressive categories Goldman mentions—the all-powerful State, reproductive expectations, husband/family, but basically, the same holds true—I believe in ignoring what any particular construction (of work, government, age/status in life, family, etc.) demands from you and trying to see things objectively. Most social constructions were created and/or cemented arbitrarily, and whoever did it probably didn’t have you or anyone like you in mind. Following along with them for whatever reason will never do you any good; it only feeds the apparatus that continues to oppress you (whether the agent of the apparatus means to or not). (Following the system can be and is sometimes neutral, and sometimes you need to do it just to get by, though. I also want to add that I’m lucky enough to fly under the radar in many other ways—I’m white, young, cis, pretty, financially subsisting, able-bodied, etc., and I don’t mean to malign the choices anyone makes to survive.)

I just feel so, fucking, FREE. I feel like a person. There is no, “I’m supposed to look…” or “I should worry about…”. I don’t sweat it when I forget deodorant (HA), I don’t shower every day, and I don’t get worried about my mascara smudging, or my hair unstraightening, or my leg hair growing. I never realized how much brainpower those thoughts drain, and it’s a LOT. Sure, there are new expectations of me, but I have more power over them because I’ve purposely bought into these constructions of what a woman can be.

Life is “simpler, but deeper and richer.” There’s so much stuff I don’t have to worry about any more, and so much more time to think and be happy.

I can buy blush, heels, razors, and haircuts, but I sure as shit could not have bought that.

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