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Non-thoughts on gender

There's a distributed gender discussion on LJ currently; one way in is via wild_irises's journal here.

Even though I mostly think I'm differently gendered and all the people writing also seem to mostly think they're differently gendered, I'm finding a lot of it hard to relate to.

I have had the same reaction to gender discussions before, especially the parts that are directed toward finding a label for one's gender expression, or defining what various gender terms (butch, femme, kiki, etc.) mean in terms of behavior or appearance.

The problem I see with focusing on defining what the terms mean is that then it seems almost inevitable that you set up "a real [fitb] does this" or "[fitb] belongs to [gender-label]." Thereby you set up a hierarchy that promotes some specific version of "fitting in." Even if it's a much different version of fitting in than exists in the general population, it still seems problematic.

Sometimes folks in alternative gender discussions declare that anyone can label themselves anything, and it has no bearing on how other people label themselves. It's not entirely untrue, but it's not entirely true, either.

I wrote in another journal entry recently that I tried not to think about how my behavior or presentation matches negative stereotypes (e.g., "fat slob"). I guess this disinclination to mark an X (or even multiple Xs, or an area) for myself on a gender graph may be coming from a similar place.

Note: I do identify my sex and my gender and I acknowledge that other people tend to assume I belong to a certain sex and gender. What I'm talking about above is mostly how my internal process works. I just can't settle on a label or labels for my gender expression that I feel good about, and part of the reason is that I don't think very much about my behavior in terms of how it fits various gender labels.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
cjsmith
Nov. 9th, 2003 10:31 am (UTC)
The problem I see with focusing on defining what the terms mean is that then it seems almost inevitable that you set up "a real [fitb] does this" or "[fitb] belongs to [gender-label]."

That's a really good point. If I'm frustrated about the whole concept of fitting in, I talk about it in ways that help propagate the "here is how to fit in" concept. I guess when rebelling against something, the "something" is still the main focus.

I wonder if I were able to drop that completely, whether gender would disappear for me -- would there be bio sex, and then simply individual personality?
firecat
Nov. 9th, 2003 10:52 am (UTC)
I wonder if I were able to drop that completely, whether gender would disappear for me -- would there be bio sex, and then simply individual personality?

Gender hasn't disappeared for me, insofar as I still respond to other people based on my beliefs about their gender. But I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my gender these days, and it's largely a relief.
spiderdust
Nov. 9th, 2003 01:52 pm (UTC)
...defining what various gender terms (butch, femme, kiki, etc.)...

Kiki? I don't know that one.
firecat
Nov. 9th, 2003 03:16 pm (UTC)
This says "An old-school term used to describe dykes who either refused to identify as butch or femme, or identified as both." That mostly describes how I understand it.
daltong
Nov. 9th, 2003 02:40 pm (UTC)
I don't do gender discussions online, because I'm comfortable with my approach and no one ever wants to hear about it.

But I'll say something here, because you're someone who's very sane about gender issues.

My conscious approach, for quite some time now, is to ignore gender as best I can. I'm so much more interested in a person than in the person's gender.

Now, this is a little disingenuous, because my sexual orientation does lean more toward men than women, but the political effect still works.

One way this manifests is that if someone says "Guys can never handle situation X; they always do Y" (heh, placeholder letter pun unintentional), I replace "guys" with "some people" and check it out. It's almost always correct. Now, there are definitely trends, where maybe more people of one gender do something--in general--than people of the other gender*, but usually these "gender-stereotypical" traits end up being more "type-of-person-stereotypical," like maybe someone who doesn't have self-confidence behaves a certain way, etc.

"Men never ask for directions." Well, I know men who do, and I'm a woman who would rather figure my way out of a lost, if I have time, than actually get the map. I like to see if my wits and my sense of direction work. When there's no time pressure, I kinda like getting lost.

"Girls aren't good at math." This is so trite it's almost not worth being an example, except to say that the personality trait has a lot more to do with the strength of the sides of the brain, I think. I know guys who are terrified of math. I was a whiz.

etc etc. You get the gist. Anyway, I spend a lot of time ignoring labels when they come up.

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the "a real thusandsuch would do blah..." How about "a real person would do what feels best?" Okay, bland and strident, like this comment. Oh well.

How about: Go Stef! You tell 'em!

---

*For purposes of that example, I went with 2 genders because the folks who say things like that are usually presuming 2 genders. I'm quite aware that it's a spectrum and not a binary.

firecat
Nov. 9th, 2003 03:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I kind of do the same thing in discussions that assume traditional gender roles. Unless I want to argue with the assertion.

You're among the folks in this discussion who seem to consider sexual orientation a problem when they're trying to take apart gender. I don't think it's a problem. I guess I think much of sexual orientation has a biological basis and isn't all that strongly related to gendered behavior. But I might be wrong, and I'm not sure I can unpack these thoughts any further.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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