3. Over at Alas, Ampersand offers an excellent analysis of anti-fat bias in a recent study, thereby tearing the study to shreds.
4. Bush’s Midnight Attack on Farm Workers: These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating agricultural guestworker programs since 1942. They will return us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended decades ago. –Via A Slant Truth.
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I’m thinking today of the mythical Amazons. I say “mythical” not to make any statement about their actuality, but because I’m thinking specifically of the mythology. That is, what does this mythic idea mean?
The idea is of a woman warrior, but she’s more than that. She is a person who occupies the space between sexes. She cuts off one breast, the better to shoot arrows, but leaves the other: a combatant who can nurse children. All her life is dimorphic. Women are her friends and comrades, men her enemies; her daughters are treasured children, her sons left out to die.
I am being somewhat ahistorical here. I’m interpreting this idea from my vantage point as a 21st century dyke, wondering what the symbol means today — I find its simple endurance as an idea noteworthy — and, to a lesser (and less informed) extent, what it might have meant once, what purpose this idea serves.
So. The Amazon is, I think, the visceral reaction to the gendering of violence. We code violence as male and tenderness as female and, therefore, men as dangerous and women as nurturing. Trapped in such a system, people respond in many ways — most frequently by performing these roles and behaving as if they are natural and inevitable. But I don’t think of any of us is truly comfortable with this incredibly reductive picture of human nature. The life of the Amazon is a life of both protest against this system and capitulation to it: a rejection of the system on the system’s own terms. The Amazon is following an older, crueler Golden Rule — treat others as they treat you. In a world where men, and only men, are brutal, and women, and only women, are kind,* the Amazon, in an imperfect stand against cruelty, becomes callous to men and considerate to women.
This is a profound assent to the premises of the gender system — she accepts that women are one way and men another. But it also, inevitably, gets her kicked out of that same institution. As soon as she practices both violence and tenderness, even in her sexist way, she is no longer qualified for membership in the group “woman.” This contradiction embodies the essence of life under this regime: we are trapped and re-trapped in the system even as we are constantly kicked out of it, constantly deemed unworthy of our assigned class. And that’s the real cruelty of it.
Even in exile there is no escape.
* This is not the real world. It is the world the gender system tells us we live in, though.
Cross-posted at Revolutionary Act.
I have a new post up over at Revolutionary Act: A Just Gender Culture, Or, To End Sexism, We May Need More Gender, Not Less. Please do take a look if that’s in line with your interests. Here is a bit to get you started:
Since I started getting heavily involved in feminism, I’ve had many different takes on gender and sexism. I’ve felt, at different times and to varying degrees, that gender itself is the problem — that this whole business of differentiating between men and women, between femininity and masculinity, is, at best, unnecessary, and at worst, catastrophically damaging. I no longer feel this way. While sexism and oppression are poisons to human happiness, I’ve come to see gender as a critically important part of identity and culture.
I do not know anyone to whom her gender is not a significant, meaningful part of how she sees herself. What that gender is varies widely, from masculine men and feminine women, to masculine women and feminine men, to something in between, to something that changes, to something outside of that, and more. Regardless of what someone’s gender identity is, regardless of whether it conforms to the dominant culture or not, people seem to strongly identify with their own. Gender is a very significant part of most of our senses of self — even those of us who are feminists or otherwise anti-sexism, and/or who don’t fit well into the gender system.
If you’ve ever had someone misread your gender, you probably have a very strong sense of what I’m talking about here. I’m a lesbian, the kind people can spot, and, as a I recently explained here (and do read that post; it’s very much relevant to this one), I sometimes feel like I’m lost in a quagmire between typical feminine presentation and identity and butch presentation and identity. I’m not butch, but I often don’t feel like a “real” girl, and I’ve sometimes had people tell me as much. I’m very happy being female and being read as female, but my queer identity is also very important to me. This ambiguity makes for a lot of misreading, which seems to scatter about equally between people misreading me as butch and people misreading me as straight and/or (for lack of a better word) femme. (Apologies for conflating gender and sexual orientation… They are, of course, often intertwined.) When this happens, in either direction, my heart sinks: I feel like I’ve failed at gender presentation. If it happens intensely, I start to feel sick, and start experiencing something like dysphoria. I get dizzy and nauseated, and begin to panic, losing my grip on my sense of self. “Who am I? Where am I?”
It’s an awful, awful feeling to have someone misunderstand your gender. So, I think that people all over and outside of the gender spectrum need cultural acknowledgment of their genders — not just tolerance, but recognition and affirmation. With this in mind, it is my sense that we can make a bigger, better impact on sexism and gender-based oppression by proactively creating more options, more gender designations, and working to make those accepted, than we can by only trying to tear down gender as it currently exists. A truly just gender culture is not a culture without gender, but a culture with respectful and non-coercive gender.
So, what would a just gender culture look like? What would it mean to have gender without gender oppression?
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To balance out our lighter, curiosity-centered blogging, we’re going to start posting round-ups of links to more serious things. The posts will be co-written — we’ll simply add links until there are five (a somewhat arbitrary number, chosen so the links will still be current).
2. Increasing right-wing violence? Note that last paragraph especially.
4. Toward A Liberationist Feminism — an article arguing that, just as feminism should (must) be anti-racist, it is also necessarily anti-capitalist.
5. Alabama fat tax — and why it’s both hurtful and illogical.
From Feministe, this gave me chills. I think think the only word for it is righteous. Her name is Sonya Renee.
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The other day I spent quite a long time perusing the work of Cristy C. Road, whose stuff I recognized from some book covers and other things. I’m still thinking about her drawings now. They remind me of the best parts of my adolescence–punky haircuts, loud music, rage, sex…and if my initial encounters with feminism and politics more generally had been illustrated, I imagine they would look like one of hers. Check ‘em out.
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I have now seen this movie.
It was somewhat horrific.
But, if you want to watch a pro-abstainence good-girl christian bite off men’s dicks with her vagina, it might be the film for you!
My roommate and I are eagerly awaiting a sequel. We hope that the main character will decide to become a superhero and re-emerge in glittery spandex, guarding the world from the extreme evil of uncastrated men.
Also, this movie is self-described as “feminist horror”. Really, people?
It’s a post about the fact that the percentage of alimony recipients who are male is slowly, slowly creeping up. Because the press just can’t resist, they’ve given this phenomenon a stupid, cutesy name: “manimony.”
For reasons I may never understand, the post’s author, one James Hannaham, decides to go ahead and use “manimony” like it’s a legitimate word. It’s not a legitimate word. It’s an annoying little moniker designed to simultaneously mock men who receive alimony payments and delegitimize women who out-earn their male partners, as if either phenomenon is objectionable or ridiculous. Using the word sanctions these sexist ideas. Why would someone do that on a feminist blog?
Finally, Hannaham closes with this:
. . . Men still have advantages over women in business, but certainly not all women, and perhaps not the women they married. So the question becomes: Does maleness always create enough of an advantage that manimony will turn into the new reverse racism? Or should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?
What the hell kind of question is that?
Yes, undoubtedly, men in general are privileged over women in general in business — that’s why, as the article notes, women are the higher earners in about one-third of straight marriages, men in two-thirds. But what bearing does that have on a given couple in which a wife makes more money than her husband? What if a male partner deprioritizes his career to support his wife or girlfriend? What if a male partner is the primary caretaker of children, thereby sacrificing some of his earning power? Why should that man be treated any differently from a woman who makes the same choices? (Answer: he shouldn’t be. Women who out-earn their husbands are just as capable as any man of paying reasonable alimony — that is, women can be financial providers. It’s really anti-feminist to suggest that women shouldn’t or can’t.)
And as to the second question — “Should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?” — how, exactly, would not allowing men to receive alimony further the quest for equality? You know what we do by having higher-earning (ex-)wives pay alimony when appropriate? We smash right through the idea that men are breadwinners, women caretakers. We smash through the idea that marriage is a financial transaction in which women become their husbands’ property. And we affirm the idea that women can and should succeed in their careers, and that men can and should be free to pursue other goals. We affirm that making money and being supported are gender-neutral activities.
I’ve been working pretty constantly for the last two days on my big final paper for a class of mine. It’s a research paper on sex differences in humans, specifically differences in problem solving and on the performances of various mental tasks. What a huge, exhausting topic! Ugh.
I’m posting it here in order to make the big amount of work feel vaguely more satisfying (it’s an assignment and a post!), and because, as you may have observed, I tend to post my longer, more interesting papers. This paper will be edited by my peers and my professor this week, so I may post the revision if I feel it has improved substantially. Also to look forward to next week: my final essay for another class, Writing for Arts and Culture, about sexual imagery in the work of Jeff Mangum, in which I will try to tease out the commonalities in the sexual references in the lyrics of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, On Avery Island, and some live recordings including Live at Jittery Joe’s, a show at Aquarius Records, and a show in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2001, hopefully developing an idea of some kind of over-arching meaning, attitude, intention, something. That one should be fun.
Anyway, this paper. Almost entirely below the fold, of course, ’cause it’s ten damn pages long. As a taste-test to help you figure out if you have any interest in reading it, here are some things I learned that I wasn’t expecting to (in addition to a whole bunch of stuff I was expecting to learn): little girls are about 2% more likely to engage in “cross-gender behavior” than little boys (van Beijsterveld 650), but despite this, boys are something like six times more likely to get referred to doctors to be treated for GID (van Beijsterveld 655), which shows just how huge the imbalance is between the social acceptance of female masculinity (in kids) and male femininity. Also, it’s fairly apparent, I think, that a combination of classism, racism, weird sexist ideas, and macho culture are undermining a lot of boys’ academic success. These two things have convinced me even more that we desperately need a men’s equivalent of feminism, not to shuck off the oppressive regime of women or to overturn feminist achievements or anything like that, obviously — die-hard feminist here — but to do for boys and men what feminism is doing for girls and women: to expand opportunities and remake gender roles. We’ve begun the work of making it socially acceptable for girls to excel in math and science; as we continue that work, we need to begin the process of encouraging boys in the humanities. As we continue the work of expanding our conceptions of femininity and femaleness, we need to do the parallel work of expanding our ideas of masculinity and maleness. The gender system will not die until we until we begin to attack it from every side. And for fuck’s sake, that thing must die.
On that note, here is my paper.
Sex Differences In Cognition:
Disparities, Similarities, and Explanations
There are documented differences in the average intellectual strengths and weaknesses of women and men. Some postulate that these dissimilarities are innate, the product of an evolutionary history that placed different pressures on the sexes. Others account for the variation with the strong forces of culture and socialization, asserting that the divergences are the product of the different treatment of young boys and girls.
At this time, it is not clear whether the demonstrable differences in the behavior of women and men are caused primarily by biological or environmental forces — there is support for both claims. What is clear, however, is that the sex of an individual is not an indicator of his or her particular abilities. There is a tremendous amount of overlap between the sexes, a the tremendous amount of variation within each sex, and a tremendous number of forces that influence behavior. Though there are observable trends along gender lines, they are just that: trends, which cannot reveal information about any given individual. Furthermore, “variation between men and women tends to be smaller than deviations within each sex” (Kimura 34) — regardless of certain tendencies, women and men are far more alike than they are different, and sex is just one of many axes on which persistent differences can be observed. Read the rest of this entry »
Let me just say, to the people (coughMARCOTTEcoughSEALcough) responsible for that particular bit of total bullshit: don’t you fucking dare claim ignorance of this one. This isn’t an oversight, this isn’t a failure to acknowledge someone. This is an obvious act of racism. Someone proposed this. Other considered and approved it. This is deliberate, or, if not deliberate, such a massive blunder that those responsible are as culpable as if it has been intentional. This is so blatantly racist, I cannot respect anyone involved. Ever. Again.
Thank you, though, for finally being upfront about the fact that when you say “women” you really do only mean “white women,” if not an even narrower group than that.