On Transtheory in response to what I was saying about misogyny Joann opined, “And what it does to those of us who got the wrong-color blanket at birth, or who actually have a noticeable different-than-majority sexual orientation, is worse than oppressive.”
This rather missed the whole point.
I think there are two different kinds of gender. I say this as one who shares her abode not only with her partner but with our thundering herd of feline friends. While our feline friends do occasionally share watching television with us, mostly Nova and the Nature channels I seriously doubt their gendered behavior or as scientists tend to call it sex linked behavior is a product of socialization.
This is to say I am a bit of an essentialist when it comes to believing there is such a thing as natural gender. I don’t believe this natural gender is the stark binary made so popular by gender theorists, cultural feminists and right wing religious freaks.
The form of gender differences that bother me most are the harsh misogynistic patriarchal defined ones that ingrain in to little girls and boys the “proper” behavior expected of people born with a certain set of sex parts between their legs. This form of gender shall henceforth be referred socialized gender or SG.
Perhaps the idea that one simply got the wrong blanket and should have received pink instead of blue or vice versa is a case of trans-myopia, a narrowing of focus until one sees everything through the focus of transgender.
This has been a serious shortcoming of the identity politics of transgender where dissent is often labeled as bigotry or transphobia.
Perhaps the problem isn’t the wrong blanket but rather more deeply structural. Misogyny requires there to be major differences between men and women. These differences must be god ordained, therefore sacred and immutable.
This leads to the vehement statement when those who believe in rigid boundaries between the sexes encounter intersex, transgender, transsexual, or lesbian and gay people, “God does not make mistakes!”
Of course, this can cause people who are different to be faced with the alternative reading of that statement, that then god must be malevolent or non-existent.
What is interesting is that back in the 1970s in the early days of feminist and alternative (hippie) culture there was an advocacy of recognizing that men and women, boys and girls were really not all that glaringly different if one took away some of the socialized gender bullshit.
Marlo Thomas and others put out books and a film called “Free to be, You and Me”. There was an effort put into making it okay for little girls to play sports, to be rough and tumble as well as for little boys to be shy and gentle. The thinking was that it might just be a far more equitable and less misogynistic world if we recognized that the differences between the sexes were not all that extreme and that there were people who fell some where between. That there were even people who sometimes were deeply unhappy with their birth assigned and later pursued surgical sex reassignment.
Now this came at the end of the war in Vietnam where America’s best and brightest refused to fight. Not only did they refuse to fight when drafted but worse yet they saw the humanity of the so called enemy and that often times the leaders ordering them to fight were the same racists at home who enforced Jim Crow laws. So what was a bright young man to do? The answer was to say, “Fuck the army?” Grow his hair long, smoke dope and give peace a chance.
Now as the 1970s wore on the right wing got their panties all in a twist over what Spiro Agnew called the “freaking fag” revolution. The rise of ultra right wing conservatism required rigid sex (gender) roles.
To make their nationalistic shift towards right wing fascism a reality they required the idealization of the ultra-macho hard man not the intellectual, cultured man. Thinkers make piss poor soldiers who like the dissenters in Vietnam simply refuse to go out and murder for their country.
In the business world the hard macho values of winner/loser are needed to create the great gap between the upper management and the workers who actual create, transport and sell the products. Further, the business world became more abstract and modeled on gambling rather than making and selling products.
Yet the creation of hard men by the rigid patterns of socialization in the post-1970s rise of the right wing that went hand in hand with the rise of ultra bizarre religious extremism also required the need for women to be rigidly defined by gender.
This meant denial of access to abortion and to a lesser extent effective birth control. Rigidly defined gender demands “purity” on the part of good girls/women and denies protections to women who live outside their standards of purity that pretty much include all independent women no matter their social class.
Man is defined as dominant and women as submissive. The quiver full movement of the religious right is a prime example of the biology is destiny argument for the rigid gender role movement. It is important to remember that the anti-feminist backlash started not in 1980 but with the founding of the Suffrage Movement in the mid 19th century.
One of the core arguments of the anti-feminist movement is that feminists are not womanly, that they are mannish for wanting equality. It is the yin to the yang of cultured men who function above the level of oppressive brutish thugs are effeminate.
Over the years, I have been dismayed with the tendency of TGRAs (Transgender Rights Activist) to place such emphasis on “gender” as validating their claims for justice and equality. It seems at times as though these TGRAs are supporting these rigid gender roles and are using adherence to them to stake a claim of womanhood or manhood based on their skill at demonstrating their performance of these stereotypes.
Considering the reactionary nature of this rigidly defined “gender” it seems to me that placing one’s validity on the legitimacy of these socially constructed and manipulated roles is in and of itself a reactionary nature.
People with transsexualism who get sex reassignment surgery and base their claims of membership in the sex they have been reassigned to have a more legitimate claim. They are basing membership in that class based not on behavior but rather on a common shared physical trait (admittedly the most obvious but in fact only one of numerous physical traits defining one as male or female), the standard physical aspect and method of declaring an infant male or female at birth.
The term transgender is actually fruit from a poisoned seed. First coined by the misogynistic Virginia Prince in the early 1970s it became the term of choice for those involved in cross dressing/heterosexual transvestite groups such as Tri-Ess and the group descended from the days of Transvestia. Those who went full time some going on to get SRS and others to simply live full time created the organization IFGE as well as its publication Tapestry that furthered the ideas behind and usage of the term transgender as an umbrella.
In the mid 1970s, the feminist movement started to fracture into different factions. Alice Echols in Daring to be Bad describes one group as the activists and the other group the “cultural feminists”.
Cultural feminists are drawn towards gender essentialism and a biological determinism for that. One of the seminal documents of this was Jane Alpert’s renunciation of the radical left, Mother Right. Mary Daly and others like Dworkin and MacKinnon were closer to the right wing and had more of a tendency to find common ground with the religious right on issues such as pornography.
Cultural feminism spawned Gender Studies.
All of this seems so reactionary and enforcing of sexual inequality based on trained modes of behavior starting with pink blankets and blue blankets with positive reinforcement for gender appropriate behavior and punishment for gender inappropriate behavior.
All aimed at making us into rigidly defined and unequal different genders. Remember we must not say sexes because sexual equality has been rendered a mute point with the promotion of gender as a replacement. Even though gender has a neo-Victorian euphemistic feeling of sounding like it means the same thing it actually means something different.
What the ascendancy of gender means is that masculinity is conflated with male and femininity with female. Woe unto those who do not conform as they face the risk of being un-sexed.
When the religious right says that same sex marriage will undermine traditional marriage what they are talking about is how same sex marriage has the potential to be a model of marriage as a relationship of equals, partner instead of the dominant husband and submissive wife. When they say same sex marriage undermines society, the society they are referencing is a society based on hierarchical structures of dominance, winners over losers.
What the “Free to Be” movement promoted was a society of equals where girls could be strong and leaders and boys could be passive and follow… If they wanted to be that way rather than being belittled and bullied for not living up to their expected gender roles.
For the last 40 years in the US, we have been in backlash mode fighting against all that was wonderful and positive about the 1960s and 70s. Squashing out the flowers of freedom and equality that blossomed for a few short years.
Leaving those of us who once believed so strongly in sexual equality along with all the other equalities and freedoms lost and confused.
Earth Day was last week. The planet is in crisis and not just from global warming but from unsustainable traditional values of which one of the most enduring is misogyny based on there being a hard core difference between the sexes/genders.
Perhaps it is time to do away with pink blanket/blue blanket and replace them both with a green blanket (environmentally sound, hopefully) as well as returning to the free to be ideals of children being able to grow up to be themselves even when those kids grow up to be feminine men, masculine women or transsexual/transgender people.