Or: Why I have no use for the Gender Binary
The big problem with having a rigid, socially accepted list of traits that are for Boys and traits that are for Girls is that if you’re neither fish nor fowl… wtf are you? My metaphor breaks down because mammals and reptiles are things, but you get the jist.
My whole life I’ve been Not Quite. I was a little girl who looked cute in dresses and bows but preferred androgynous shorts and polo shirts from Lands End. I liked ninja turtles and barbies. I wasn’t that good at playing sports, but when I did play, I played hard, and fought my way onto the boys basketball court at recess. Many thanks are due the Aged P for giving me Bullets and Kings NBA jerseys like it was no big thing, because when I think back on it, I was almost definitely the only girl at my school wearing them.
It would have been all too easy to say "those are for boys and these are for girls " instead of arranging the Christmas morning where I put on my Chris Webber jersey to pose for a picture with my new Magic Attic doll while sporting a bowl cut and sitting in my giant bean bag chair. That was a good year. And you know what, this past year when I got a Mets jersey and Gail Collins histories of the women’s movement, that was another awesome moment of acceptance – these two aspects of myself were recognized, rewarded for being very good all year, and went home with swag. Anyhoo..
I had a conversation recently with a dear friend who feels like "Women" (the socially constructed sex-based class) are looking for "Men" (…ditto) who are strong, dominant and masculine, who can take charge of things. He’s having trouble finding a serious relationship because (he thinks) he’s physically slight, kind of a dork, and while he likes being the one with all the responsibility, he’s more of a sympathetic listener than a Mighty Decider. He doesn’t think Women Want That.
Here is this talented musician, a good friend, nice Jewish boy…. who thinks the reason he can’t get a date is because he’s not domineering and arrogant. Thanks to the gender binary, he’s socialized to be looking for The Kind Of Girl Who Makes A Good Wife, who will in turn kick into gear his aspirations to Be A Good Husband.
I have kind of the opposite problem. I’ve learned from experience that the purity of "opposites attract" doesn’t play on this monitor – Pair me up with a gentle soft-spoken philosopher and I’m a sarcastic bully. Send me out with an assertive Alpha Male and I wind up wanting to take him out back for fisticuffs because if he gives me one more statistic on how "women just physically can’t do X" I’m going to make a SCENE.
I need a guy on the spectrum. Because I’m a woman on the spectrum. I refuse to believe I’m a failure as a woman because I can’t handle long hair, refuse high heels, don’t cross my legs daintily. Don’t do much of ANYTHING daintily, come to that. And I’m not a hypocrite for liking hot pink, loving well-written rom-coms, wearing skirts sometimes, and thinking chocolate is amazing.
Because I shouldn’t have to reject "typical woman things," thusly passing judgment on women who do like all the "woman things" that I hate, just to carve out my own territory! As long as we exist in this binary world where it’s either Manly or Womanly or the advertising agency can’t possibly make any money from it, I have to keep bouncing back and forth between the disaffected Pong paddles that are masculinity and femininity.
Studied that "prove" or "posit" or "claim" or "suggest" that women do X and men do Y, whether it’s because of brain chemistry or socialization or bone mass or WHATEVER are totally useless to me. All they do is create stereotypes and expectations to fence both women and men into their binary corners by telling anyone who doesn’t fall into those percentages that they are aberrant and wrong-o.
I don’t need to hear that 89% of women would never dine out solo, and 76% of men, while they eat alone themselves, think a woman who eats alone is sad…because I’m a woman who likes eating alone in restaurants – WhyTF should I have to contemplate, while standing out front of Yum Thai on 46th street, the thought that "gee, maybe eating alone is sad…maybe I will wind up dying alone and unloved if I don’t find a dinner date. Maybe someone masculine, who will pay the check so I don’t have to calculate that super tricky 15% tip, and order for me so I don’t get something that will make me fat and therefore unloveable. If I were the kind of woman who attracts men, I wouldn’t be doing this."
There are already so many annoying messages floating in and around my cranium, aided and abetted by the crazybrain, that I really really don’t need any that are custom tailored to my current personal level of gender conformity.
100% of MKPs think all that is total crap.
Nobody should be told they aren’t enough of what they are.