[Written to my future sister-in-law, after she emailed a link to a Ted Talk on gender by a friend of hers]
...The real problem has nothing at all to do with sex or gender. The root issue is the expectation of conformity.
A transsexual is a person who has (or would like to) actual physical sex reassignment (whether surgery, or just drugs), one who feels that their actual body is wrong.
The universal characteristic that defines sex among all sexual species (almost every multicellular life form) is the precesnse of either testicals or ovaries. Males produce sperm, females produce eggs. This part isn't social. Its basic biology.
That part isn't "assigned" by culture. And there is no spectrum - no one, not even "intersex" born people, produces both eggs and sperm, and there is no hybrid or in-between reproductive cell.
One needn't be a transexual (pre or post op, with or without drugs, in body or purely in desire) or transvestite to reject gender roles!
I am attracted to women who are strong and capable and independent, and I always prefer any new partner do most of the initiating and escalating in the realm of affection and sex. According to the BBC Science's "brain sex" quiz, I'm just about perfectly neutral
In does seem like a fair amount of the differences between the sexs may have a biological component to it.
the problem is when some people make the unjustified conclusion that if it is "natural", therefor it should be enforced.
So, for example, we would come up with gender neutral pronouns.
Make all restrooms unisex
Separating by gender or sex is no more valid than separate but equal by race. It doesn't matter if it is genuinely equal, the mere fact of separation validates and reinforces this idea that we are somehow profoundly different, when in reality our sames are much stronger than our differences.
People are people. In the real world almost no one fits a pure version of their assigned "archetype".
[To a good friend, who sent me an article about "gender dysphoria", to which I responded with a request for her thoughts on what she sent, to which she responded:
"So I used to have opinions, but over the past few years, i've lost confidence in my opinions and the ability to express them, so I just send articles.
Regarding gender: I feel like I don't understand gender. I'm confused about transgenderism for a variety of reasons, and I'm also confused about what I see as some contradictory ideas in the gender-activist community."]
I've become much more understanding, even tolerant of, human kind's stupidity, since I've started seriously focusing on learning about the limitations of human observation, perception, memory, and most of all rationality.
females produce egg cells (which are large and pass on mitochondria to the offspring), males produce sperm (which are small and mobile and only pass on nuclear DNA).
"A recent term in usage is "Transgenderism", essentially an empty word conjured up as a neutral label for any individual not conforming to common social rules of gender expression. The term was created to help unite very disparate individuals under a vague commonality of interest in gender, in order to provide a basis for mutual benefit and support within an often violently antagonistic society.
Transgenderism can refer to those who crossdress, those who are intersexed, those who live in the opposite societal role of their physical sex, those who play with gender expression for any purpose whatsoever, and transsexuals as well. While there is potentially great survival benefit in this mutual association labeled as 'transgenderism', the primary function is social and political, and not clinical, despite the efforts of some to legitimize this essentially meaningless term."
If we removed the expectation of enforced conformity, most of these social issues simply disappear.
What it is displacing is
1) the idea that there simply are no alternatives to the mainstream, they just don't even exist, complete invisibility,
2) that if some other arrangement than the norm exists it isn't really a "family", because "family" is defined as one man one woman and some non-zero number of (biologically related) children, and
3) if it is some form of family, it is freakish, twisted, immoral.
That's not a judgement, its just biology.
Its obvious from a scientific standpoint, and its obvious from observation of real human behavior.
That makes trying to convince people that its really only social conditioning that makes being straight the default, or that its really just as common to be anything else, a very ineffective strategy to try to change minds. When you insist on something to someone that they can plainly see is false on the face of it, that person's response is to write you off entirely. When people outside a particular sub-culture hear arguments that are developed entirely within that sub-culture, they tend to stop listening - even if the rest of what the person is saying may be entirely valid.
And it has been working. This is one issue that the average American's mind has changed on over even just my own lifetime. Reframing it from "freak" to "alternative" has been part of "normalizing" it, in a way, to the point where there are now prime time TV shows that include families with two dads where that's not the focus of the show, it just happens to be the background of a character. That is huge. That would never have happened when I was a kid.
And frankly, I don't think its really ok to come to a conclusion and then be close-minded about it when its an issue that actually effects people, potentially for the worse. Values should be had with conviction. Conclusions should not. The stakes are too high. That's why, despite how much I have learned, and how much thought I have already put into topics of race and gender and sexuality and society, I always listen to you when you speak. I always consider what you are saying. Because I know you are intelligent, I know you have different knowledge and different experiences than me, and that makes you a resource. That's how I continue to learn and grow and refine my understanding.
Alright, so I finally caught up on the latest infotainment that passes for relevant news.
How is it that people miss that the majority of his victims were male?
What an incredibly appropriate analogy, for the "feminist" misogyny I've been trying to point out the past couple years: the belief, even in the face of contrary evidence, that women are inherently victims, that women are weak and helpless and need protection.
You see it in the persistent belief that it is dangerous for a woman to walk alone at night in bad neighborhood - even though statistics say men are at significantly greater risk of attack by stranger.
You see it in the persistent myth of date rape drugs - even though 99% of suspected roofies turn out to be nothing but self-inflicted alcohol ingestion.
You see it in the extremely different reactions (and sometimes even laws) in sex with a minor depending on which gender was the older and which the younger.
You see it in rape laws (and statistic gathering) that defines the word rape as penetration, which automatically means a female forcing a male is a lesser (or no) crime.
You see it in claims that "society doesn't value women" - while we ignore that men are expected (and often legally required) to go to war and die for society, while women are not only not forced to, but aren't even allowed to.
And then here, when twice as many men are murdered as women, and we all agree to pretend that it exemplifies violence against women. Um, huh?
I'm not denying that sexism or oppression exists. But the trope of woman as victim is not at all helpful in countering them. In fact, it is deeply counter-productive.
You want to end rape? Fuck giving the power to perpetrators, with the slogan "no means no". How about "fight back!" as a slogan? The overwhelming majority of attempted rapes where the intended victim fights back with maximum violence, the rape does not occur. But most don't fight back, because women are taught all their lives that they are weak and defenseless, that they are naturally victims.
You are no more a victim than you allow yourself to be. The laws have been changed.
Don't wait for men to give you what you deserve, fucking take it.
[then he wrote a response, and then I responded to the response]
First of all, I don't really disagree with anything you said. I make this disclaimer cause I know that sometimes the way I frame discussions comes across as argumentative. I mean it more as dialogue - its just that the most interesting and useful revelations generally come from hashing out the details of conflict. Where two people agree, there isn't much more to talk about.
You can see this sexist assumption in the genre of femdom porm. Instead of the dominate female tying the guy down, blindfold and gagging him, and riding him for her own enjoyment, she invariably dons a strap-on and gives him anal. In other words, the actual physical act of "penetration" is taken as default interchangeable with "dominant". But this comes from culture, not from biology.
Re: women being valued - that wasn't what I was saying. I was saying no individual is valued by "society". In the big picture we are all expendable. When people say society doesn't value women, the fact of specifying, of saying it that way, implies that society does value men, so that's where I point out that every able bodied man is potential cannon fodder as soon as a country or kingdom is threatened. Men are expected to work at jobs they hate for the vast majority of hours they are awake in their lifetime to take care of their families - it was always a source of social stigma if they didn't, but now that we have the means it is legally enforced. Just as easily as one can say (as they often do) that women are just "valued" for their role in making and raising babies, so too could you assert that men are only valued for their role in impregnating women and providing for offspring. After all, at least as many women want children and grandchildren than men do. Ultimately, there is no society without both sexes, not only existing, but meeting and coupling up. "Society" doesn't care about individual stuff like happiness or equality. It just is. Its a collection of millions of individuals, with their own self-interests - and half of them are female.
I try to take that into account, to an extent, and what I say in the moment in person with a person who is going through something is different from what I will say in a theoretical political conversation. As far as what I write in my blog, I'm not good at being manipulative, and since nobody at all is saying some of the stuff I'm saying, or even anything similar, I feel like my best role is to just put the ideas out there, direct and complete as possible. Many people will be offended, and/or will ignore it. Hell, most won't read it to begin with. And maybe now and then someone open-minded will stumble across it, and even if they don't accept it at first, maybe the seeds have been planted, and maybe they will look at things differently, if only a little. That's the most I dream of accomplishing. I have gotten a comment that I have completely changed someone's view on capitalism. I am getting more and more hits from google from the keywords "femdom" and "feminism". And occasionally people even read all 5 parts of my essay on societies perception of rape and its implications for societies view of female agency. I don't know who, and no one comments, but I can see in the back-end data that some people read it to the end. The people who would object most strongly would never read to the end, and if they did I'd be getting hate mail. So I think I may well be influencing people, even though my style is direct and harsh and unapologetic.
But don't get me wrong - your words gave me pause. I need to remember and keep in mind, and tweak where I can, to stay direct but be less harsh, to acknowledge emotions, in all their illogical power. Its hard to do, and reminders are good for me.