Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things I've seen recently

I wanted to share a few things I've seen recently.

The first is kinda funny and kinda sad - http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/09/17/why-are-saudi-boys-painting-their-nails/ - it says that Saudi men have been tweeting photos of their painted nails, under the hashtag #tweetlikeagirl, to make fun of girls who spend "too much" time tweeting about their own nails. My view... the girls are having fun, but if that bothers you, don't look.

The second and third are a little more important. They are segments of ABC's "What Would You Do?" feature on their 20/20 show. One segment explores public reactions to a boy (with his mom) in a nail salon, getting a manicure with pink nail polish. This one is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4_fYhREtGQ. The other segment explores public reactions to a transgender teenager shopping for a prom dress. That one is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtytuVs-Kks. Barbara Walters has conducted several interviews with a transgender child named Jazz, who has explained her status as "I have a boy body and a girl brain". I admire the effort ABC is making here to expose society's prejudices and promote tolerance for the transgendered - but I think they are missing the real problem.

 The last is more important, as it provides a framework to consider the other items. I found a webpage where the World Health Organization defines the terms "sex" and "gender". It's at http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/. They say:
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"Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
"Gender" refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
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I agree with these definitions. But, consider the implications here. "Gender" is defined NOT by one's anatomy, but purely based on what "..a given society considers appropriate for men and women". So, "gender" is built on sexism. If one identifies as "cisgender" (they conform to the roles etc.. that society considers appropriate for people of their same sex), they are subscribing to and SUPPORTING one set of sex-based societal expectations.... and if one identifies as "transgender", they subscribe to and support the other set of expectations. Either way, it all happens within a sexist paradigm - and current initiatives to increase tolerance and acceptance of transgender people really amount to statements like "It doesn't matter how a person's body is shaped - if one likes these 'girly' things, they're a girl, and that's OK".

But, very little in life is truly specific to just one sex. Condoms only fit onto penises, tampons are intended for use inside vaginas, bras are designed for female breasts (a small percentage of men have "man boobs"... and a smaller percentage of them wear bras to support them.) Public restrooms must be segregated by sex (not gender), so that any person with a vagina may use a public restroom secure in the knowledge that nobody with a penis will enter the room. Otherwise, there is no reason to consider anything "girly" or "manly" - most everything we can do in our lives is suitable for anyone else, regardless of their sex... and it is SEXISM to assign gender to things like clothing, fashion, lifestyle, hobbies and interests, behaviors and attributes.

My problem with ABC's effort, is that they seem to be advocating a departure from a society segregated by sex characteristics (anatomical configuration) - in favor of a society that would be segregated on the basis of gender (sex-based societal prejudices). In ABC's perspective, if someone has a penis, and wants to paint their nails pink and wear a dress to prom and do all the things that ABC considers "girly" - that person is expected to accept the label "transgendered" and declare "I am a woman" - and IF they do that, IF they accept that since the things they like are 'girly' they must identify as girls... THEN society is expected to accept this person as a woman, and (under the new California law) grant them access to the vagina restroom. I think it would be a better message for ABC to challenge society's assumptions about "masculine" and "feminine", to promote "everything which is OK for anyone is OK for everyone", instead of simply changing the criteria by which people will be judged and expected to identify as "women" or "men".

In light of the W.H.O. definition of "gender", and the obvious sexist basis of it... I can not identify as either "cis" or "trans" - instead, if I MUST declare a gender identity, I identify myself as "postgendered" - except for the few things that are specific to one anatomical sex, everything that is OK for anyone, is OK for everyone else.

2 comments :

  1. Prince said it best in his song "I would die 4 U" I'm not a woman
    I'm not a man
    I am something that you'll never understand.

    Truth

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