In my previous post I answered some of the questions Madeline Wyndzen posed on her site All Mixed Up. Today I’d like to answer some more of her questions.
Most people are gender-schematic. That’s a psychology term for people’s tendency to divide people into boys and girls. Thinking back, try to remember a time where somebody of your target sex said, “Oh you just think/feel that way because you’re a man/woman.” How do you feel about being grouped that way? Did this cause you any hurt feelings? How did you respond? In general, how gender schematic are you? That is, do you often say things like “boys are É and girls are É” or do you try to minimize the groupings others make by saying things like, “maybe boys and girls are different like you say but it’s not a very big difference.”
Although I’m sure people must have said things like that to me countless times, I cannot for the life of me remember one single specific occasion. I guess I got so used to hearing people saying these things (not just to me, but also to others) that I just stopped paying attention.
There’s other remarks, similar but not quite the same, that I do remember because of the hurt and anxiety they caused. The “you can’t be a lesbian because you do something to men” comes to mind. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Just because I looked like a pretty girl and men found me attractive I could not possibly be a lesbian? What kind of utter crap is that? Was I responsible for their feelings? Isn’t that what rapist pigs say about their victims too? That they asked for it? That they wanted it?
Let’s see what Wednesday Addams has to say about that, shall we?
Way to go, Wednesday!
Gender schematic? Me?
Yes. I cannot and will not try to persuade any of you (or even myself) that I’m not gender schematic in my thinking. The truth is this: We, humans, are psychologically wired to like things black and white. We like to know exactly what goes where. We want the distinction between good and bad to be clear-cut. We want the differences between male and female to be exact and clear. It makes us feel safe. Like it or not, but that’s what humans are made of. I’m no exception to that rule.
Of course the world is not like that. There’s no nice sharp line between good and bad. Instead there’s a large blurred area when good or bad is a matter of degree, intention and a myriad of other factors. White isn’t always the same colour, and neither is black – and then we haven’t even taken all those other colours into account. Wanna talk to my artist daughter about colour? You’ll be in for a treat.
And so it is with male and female. Gender isn’t as clear-cut as society would like us to believe. Just talking about biological sex, there’s more to it than meets the eye, as the existence of intersex persons teaches us. Sky from Genderneutral shared the link to this very interesting documentary: Me, my sex and I, a documentary well worth watching.
So what is gender anyway?
To me, gender is something best seen on a sliding scale, which ranges from male on the one end to female on the other end. I firmly believe that every person has both feminine and masculine qualities (as defined by our western cultural norms). In this worldview, females have more female qualities, whereas males have more masculine qualities. No problems so far. But then there’s those people who don’t conform to that norm – and I could be mistaken, but I think most people really don’t. Most women I’ve known are really pretty androgynous. I’ve known quite some men who would definitely be seen as at least a little on the feminine side. My 16-year old has been told she was in the wrong changing room many times, even though she really wasn’t. My little great-nephew likes dolls and nail polish.
There’s those who aren’t just androgynous or feminine, but like to dress and act like a person of the opposite sex occasionally or even regularly. Transvestites. There’s those who take the crossdressing to a different level: Drag Kings and Queens. There’s those who identify as genderqueer, two spirited, genderneutral… The list goes on and on.
Gender isn’t an easy thing. No matter how hard we try, we cannot divide gender neatly into two or even three boxes and be done with it. There’s a whole world of gender to explore.