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Deconstructing Gender Culture

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Thorn Wilde

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To preface: This is my blog, I have posted about politics and philosophy on it before, and I will continue to do so. I welcome discussion in the comments, but I ask that you keep it civil. Misogyny and transphobia will be reported, even if it means that this blog post is taken down. If you put words in my mouth, you will be summarily ignored. This is a personal and important subject to me. Please respect that. 

 

 

Today is International Women's Day.

 

I've always considered myself a feminist. I firmly believe that the same societal structures that are to blame for misogyny are also to blame for homophobia, transphobia, and the oppression of many other marginalised groups. You can call it the patriarchy if you like, but that word tends to rub some people the wrong way. You could also call it toxic masculinity, but that one just pisses people off. So I'm not going to call it either of those things. 

 

I am simply going to call it culture.

 

We exist within a culture, a social framework, that teaches us certain established truths. I'll preface my argument by pointing out that individuals are not to blame for this. It's not the fault of straight, white men. It's not the fault of Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein or Brett Kavanaugh. It is an insidious culture that has grown as the result of centuries of social norms. While the actions of individuals and groups continue to perpetuate it, these people are not to blame for the culture (though they should still be held responsible for their own actions, as should anyone).

 

Religion holds a great deal of responsibility for spreading this culture, Abrahamic religions in particular. Many older religions and cultures from around the world have no problem with homosexuality, operate with multiple genders, and have large degrees of gender equality. But even today, people use religion as an excuse for bigotry. It has been, and continues to be, a very effective form of social control. And countries where these bigotry based religions have grown strong roots, have spread the culture further via colonialism. India had no sodomy laws before the British arrived. Most African countries had no sodomy laws before the British arrived. Yet today, homophobia runs rampant in many of these countries.

 

A lot of homophobia is based on the premise that gay men are effeminate and therefore lesser. Some gay men internalise this and feel that if they were to bottom they would lose some of their masculinity. The submissive role is the 'female' role. Conversely, gay women and other women in same-sex relationships are often asked which one of them is the 'man' in the relationship. For some lesbians this is also internalised; many butch lesbians think less of lipstick lesbians, that is to say gay women who dress and act in a more traditionally feminine way. 

 

How anyone can deny that these aspects of homophobia were born from sexism and misogyny is beyond me. Sexism and homophobia are steady bedfellows. They perpetuate one another in the culture. 

 

I said I wasn't going to call it toxic masculinity, but toxic masculinity is a symptom of the culture. And again, it has nothing to do with individuals. Nor is it saying that masculinity in and of itself is toxic. It isn't. But there are certain conventions within the culture that are harmful to men and women alike, and toxic masculinity is one of them. Toxic masculinity is when people laugh at men who are sexually assaulted by women. Toxic masculinity is when a man feels ashamed because he cries. Toxic masculinity is when we say 'boys will be boys' when a child hurts another or when young men sexually harass. Toxic masculinity is when a man reacts to strong emotions with aggression instead of facing them head on. It's when a man takes up so much space that it infringes on the space of other people. Many women also perpetuate these ideas, by demanding that men be strong, and by teaching their sons different values than they teach their daughters. And all that is also a symptom of culture.

 

Another symptom is cis-sexism. This comes in many forms, and often from within the LGBTQ and women's movements. Many gay and straight people are downright rude, sometimes even violent, if they find out that a person has other genitalia than they expected. When I began my journey in earnest, one of my friends who's a lesbian said to me, 'I accept that this is who you are, but I don't get how wearing men's clothes makes you not a woman. I wear them all the time because they're comfortable and I like them.' Certain women's rights activists will use a similar argument. They'll say that girls think they're boys because they prefer dressing like them. Why do our daughters think they want to be men? And, conversely, they say of trans women that they're perpetuating stereotypes by conforming to traditional beauty standards and femininity. The truth is, in order to pass as the gender we are, we have to. I like pretty dresses and heels and make-up, but I don't feel comfortable wearing them right now because I would be immediately read as female. A friend of mine who's non-binary trans and on hormone replacement therapy, didn't dare cut their hair until they had facial feminisation surgery. Because they felt like they would have looked too masculine. Gender expression is a way to make our outward appearance match what's inside us.

 

These are all symptoms of culture. Of homophobia, sexism, and cis-sexism. And they go hand in hand.

 

Because we are taught from birth what we are supposed to be like, based on our genitalia. Girls are meant to like pink and play with dolls and like princesses and frilly dresses. Boys are meant to wear blue and play with soldiers and play war and like action movies. We are taught this to the point where it becomes hard-wired. We're not necessarily taught this by individuals, but by the culture that we live in. Many women experience internalised misogyny, where traditionally 'girly' things are shunned. How often don't we hear, 'Oh, I was always a tomboy, I preferred hanging out with boys, girls are just so much drama.' And there is value placed on that, on being less feminine, because being feminine is being lesser. Culture teaches us so, even if we don't realise it. Even if we don't believe it.

 

Nobody lives in a vacuum. It's easy to think, oh no, I'm too smart to be affected by advertisement or TV or books or the news. You're not. You are affected, whether you're aware of it or not. The dominant culture in which you live will always affect your morals, your thought patterns, your feelings. The way we're raised affects us, and we're not solely raised by our parents. We are raised by culture. We can break free of that. We can learn to tell ourselves, this thing that I'm feeling or thinking right now, it's not true. But teaching yourself not to feel it at all is extremely difficult. I know I've never been able to, as aware as I am of why I feel that way. Anyone who's ever suffered from depression, for instance, can tell you how hard it is to unlearn internalised basic truths that we've learned about ourselves based on our experiences, truths that aren't true, but that's a topic for another day.

 

One of the ways of making yourself aware and ridding yourself those thoughts and feelings is to deconstruct. To ask why. 'It's just the way things are' is not an answer. Things that are 'just the way things are' are born out of centuries of building a social framework. They are agreed upon truths that we simply accept. Deconstruct them. Pull them apart and look at the individual parts of these structures. Try to understand them, and you'll find that they don't make much sense.

 

As a person who straddles the gender divide, I probably feel these things more strongly than most. I'm in a unique position to notice. I didn't make a choice not to conform; I innately don't. It's the same for other members of the LGBTQ community of course, but for trans people it's something we're reminded of daily, and something we are forced to be acutely aware of if we want to live as anything like who and what we are. And we need every tool in the toolbox to do so. 

 

I was going to march today, but I have a very persistent cold and don't feel well enough for that, sadly. I usually march every year, with the sex workers and the trans lobby; the feminists the traditional women's movement don't want, because we break with their established truths; that being a woman is a fact of gender assigned at birth, and that anyone who sells services of a sexual nature is a victim (also a debate for another day, and one I don't want in my comments today, please). It's an odd contradiction, to first deconstruct the idea that women are inherently unable to do the things that men do—that they are innately nurturing and are supposed to give birth to and raise children, that they can't do what they want with their own bodies, and so on—only to turn around and perpetuate the idea that chromosomes is what makes a woman and to dictate what others do with their bodies. It also utterly erases the existence of intersex people.

 

In spite of this, I continue to consider myself a feminist, just as much as I consider myself an LGBTQ activist. I don't have to be a Woman™ in order to do that, and even though I'm not, I'm still a person with a vagina and many things that the women's movement stands for are important to me. My feminism is about deconstructing a culture that hurts women, men, intersex people, non-binary trans people, binary trans people, gay and bisexual people; in short, everyone. It's nobody's fault, but it is everyone's responsibility, so that we can all be free.

 

I kind of went off on a tangent I hadn't planned for this, and went way more philosophical than I had planned. Like I said, I welcome discussion if anyone has anything to say, but keep it civil, consider arguments put forth before you react, and don't put words in people's mouths. In short, don't be a dick. The more likely scenario is that no one will comment at all. :rolleyes:

 

Happy International Women's Day.

 

PS: I wrote this little batch of poems a while back, and it seems apt to share it with you today. You can also read it here.

 

 

#NotAllMen

 

1. misandrist 

  

you said i hated men and i said 

that would be weird 

since i’m transmasculine 

  

you said 

there was nothing masculine about me 

that if i wanted to be a man i should 

act like one 

and i said 

if being a man means being a dick, then i know few men 

  

you said 

fuck this 

and went home 

  

  

2. incel 

  

she said no 

so he took a gun 

and shot three people 

for the crime of being women 

who wouldn’t have sex with him 

  

  

3. feminists 

  

on the eighth of march 

you said 

when is men’s day? 

and the feminists said 

it’s on the nineteenth of november 

  

on the nineteenth of november 

you said 

fuck this 

and went home 

  

  

4. traps 

  

are trans women traps? 

are traps gay? 

is it wrong to be gay? 

is it, though? 

  

  

5. masculinity 

  

as the women aired their grievances 

you said 

what about the men? 

and the women said 

fine 

let’s talk about the men 

  

let’s talk about men’s rights 

paternity leave 

male birth control 

domestic abuse against men 

men who are sexually assaulted, by other men and by women 

  

let’s talk about why men can’t wear dresses 

about homophobia 

about aggression and anger 

  

let’s talk about why men get depressed 

why men kill themselves 

why men don’t report rape 

why little boys don’t cry 

let’s talk about why men are afraid to be vulnerable 

  

let’s talk about masculinity 

and which parts of it are toxic 

  

and you said 

fuck this 

and went home 

  

  

6. man 

  

what makes a man a man? 

why am i not a man? 

or am I? 

it doesn’t matter 

but it does 

and sometimes i wonder 

do i want to be? 

when i know that most men 

will not accept me as one of their own 

not as long as i look like this 

  

  

7. activism 

  

you said 

do something 

help us 

fix our problems 

and lists were made 

ideas shared 

we said 

here, these are things you can do 

to fix your problems and make your lives 

better 

  

here are your tools 

organise 

protest 

march 

fight 

like we have done 

  

but you said 

fuck this 

and went home

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Succinct points around gender by Natalie Wynne:

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

 

Visit her YouTube channel for more, she's funny and she's clever and honestly, very educational as well, if you're interested in political philosophy.

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I grew up in Kentucky.  Consider this - I never knew an out gay person.  Never.  But, I had this societal knowledge that being gay was wrong.  Jokes, derisive remarks, conversations all served to drum this thought into me.

 

I'm certain the same thing happens with gender.  I've made myself notice.  At first, it was so pervasive that it was hard to.   But once I began I started to see it everywhere.  I see the looks women throw me when I walk by them on the street and it happens to be dark out.  I see them cross the street simply to feel safer.  During meetings, I watch men parrot the great ideas women have and take credit for them.

 

But, there are people who get it.  That's who I look toward - those who try and those who care.

 

Happy Women's Day.

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1 hour ago, Wayne Gray said:

I grew up in Kentucky.  Consider this - I never knew an out gay person.  Never.  But, I had this societal knowledge that being gay was wrong.  Jokes, derisive remarks, conversations all served to drum this thought into me.

 

I'm certain the same thing happens with gender.  I've made myself notice.  At first, it was so pervasive that it was hard to.   But once I began I started to see it everywhere.  I see the looks women throw me when I walk by them on the street and it happens to be dark out.  I see them cross the street simply to feel safer.  During meetings, I watch men parrot the great ideas women have and take credit for them.

 

But, there are people who get it.  That's who I look toward - those who try and those who care.

 

Happy Women's Day.

That's really great, Wayne. :hug: 

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I’ve mentioned this before, but after watching documentaries about Trans people, I asked a question on a Gay porn site’s Forum. These were obviously all people who enjoyed looking a naked men’s bodies. None of the participants in the Forums ever identified themselves as female although there were female members of the site itself.

 

The question I asked was, how do you know you’re a man? Aside from the physical attributes, how do you know? If something happened to your ‘naughty bits,’ would you still be a man?

 

It was a question that none of the others had ever considered before. While we’d had to come to terms with our sexual orientation to some degree, we’d never thought about gender identity. As far as I know, everyone who participated in that topic was cis-male and the answers seemed to confirm that assumption.

 

Most answers seemed to relate more to being a good person and a stubborn few looked between their legs to find an answer. They talked about being loyal and trustworthy or standing up against offensive things. I believe most of us were surprised by how little we could describe our feelings because we didn’t have the vocabulary or knowledge.

 

 

I know that I’ve learned a lot about myself by watching documentaries about LGBTQs who are very unlike me. The documentaries forced me to consider things I’d previously just took for granted. I still don’t know what it really feels like to be Trans or any of the other identities I’ve learned about, but I do have a tiny hint at what it must be like.

 

I’m sure as I stumble my way through this explanation I’ve probably mangled concepts and inadvertently stomped all over delicate sensibilities. I’m trying to understand. And I’m trying to learn.

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droughtquake

Posted (edited)

To all those men who ask when International Men’s Day is, I say it’s all the other days of the year. To all those white people who ask when white history/heritage month is, I say it’s all the other months of the year. To all those straight people who ask when straight pride month is, I say it’s all the other months of the year.

 

 

To all those who reject labels because they’re too limiting, I say that definitions help people realize that they are not alone. If the label isn’t big enough to describe you, create a new label to define you. If the current labels aren’t specific enough for you, create a new label that describes who you are. Labels in and of themselves aren’t the limitation that you think they are. The LGBTQ community has continually expanded and redefined who we are and will always do so.

 

Rejecting labels won’t get rid of hatred and homophobia, but education and visibility will.

 

Erasing labels makes people invisible.

Edited by droughtquake
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Thorn, this is so on point I'm almost speechless. I have not experienced questioning if I'm in fact a woman, but I have struggled with being a Woman (tm). Not with so much anguish, but still enough to make me feel off. And I can't tell you how much I detest stories where the bottom is the weakest, silliest and just not as good as the top. Such a tired trope... 

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2 hours ago, droughtquake said:

To all those men who ask when International Men’s Day is, I say it’s all the other days of the year. To all those white people who ask when white history/heritage month is, I say it’s all the other months of the year. To all those straight people who ask when straight pride month is, I say it’s all the other months of the year.

 

 

To all those who reject labels because they’re too limiting, I say that definitions help people realize that they are not alone. If the label isn’t big enough to describe you, create a new label to define you. If the current labels aren’t specific enough for you, create a new label that describes who you are. Labels in and of themselves aren’t the limitation that you think they are. The LGBTQ community has continually expanded and redefined who we are and will always do so.

 

Rejecting labels won’t get rid of hatred and homophobia, but education and visibility will.

 

Erasing labels makes people invisible.

What you say about labels here is very important. The point isn't to not have labels. The point is to create and describe our own labels. And yes, having the labels and identities that we've created for ourselves erased makes us invisible. Very well put. 

As for your first comment, and trying to understand and learn, I think you're doing a very good job at that, and I appreciate you for it. :) 

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1 hour ago, Puppilull said:

Thorn, this is so on point I'm almost speechless. I have not experienced questioning if I'm in fact a woman, but I have struggled with being a Woman (tm). Not with so much anguish, but still enough to make me feel off. And I can't tell you how much I detest stories where the bottom is the weakest, silliest and just not as good as the top. Such a tired trope... 

I prefer writing verse characters, myself. Most of the time, anyway. :P I'm glad you found my writing on point. I think these are important subjects that need to be addressed. I have experienced in the past talking about how misogyny relates to homophobia and being completely shut down...

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Thorn, one thing I admire about you is your tenacious approach to expressing yourself and sharing your thoughts on this subject wherever and whenever you can, even with strangers you meet. I can't claim to understand all of the dynamics when it comes to trans/non-binary self-expression, but I've been hearing and reading a lot on the subject, and I know many people who are coping with gender identity - some who have transitioned, others who are still searching for answers. I have empathy for the struggles that are continually faced by marginalized people. Considering that my lifestyle choices make me, and those in my care and in my circle, outsiders, too, I get it. Education is key. Your discussions are educating people. You're brave for talking about it, and I encourage you to continue to do so wherever and whenever you can, even with strangers.  

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6 minutes ago, MacGreg said:

Thorn, one thing I admire about you is your tenacious approach to expressing yourself and sharing your thoughts on this subject wherever and whenever you can, even with strangers you meet. I can't claim to understand all of the dynamics when it comes to trans/non-binary self-expression, but I've been hearing and reading a lot on the subject, and I know many people who are coping with gender identity - some who have transitioned, others who are still searching for answers. I have empathy for the struggles that are continually faced by marginalized people. Considering that my lifestyle choices make me, and those in my care and in my circle, outsiders, too, I get it. Education is key. Your discussions are educating people. You're brave for talking about it, and I encourage you to continue to do so wherever and whenever you can, even with strangers.  

Thank you, Mac. I really appreciate that, and I appreciate you for your encouragement and the friendship you've shown me. 

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3 hours ago, Thorn Wilde said:

As a Gay cis-male, I know how I feel about that topic, but don’t feel as though my opinion has been solicited or would be valued. And I understand that because I object to straight people trying to dictate to my community. It was very interesting to read though.  ;–)

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