So here’s a fun article. For those of you who know me from twitter, then you know I have been a very suspicious person when it comes to gender politics on account of how I have a lot of seemingly contradictory opinions on the matter.
But, to be fair, that’s because I take an interest in especially psychology, and the campus politic pamphlet on gender doesn’t quite cut it for me. I think gender is more sophisticated and interesting than the postmodern nebula of “Everything is nothing and nothing is everything.”
Gender is a lot of things to a lot of people, and I hate to say it, but the postmodern circus act does have a good word which I think actually defines it. However I will not just tell you, you will have to go through some exposition first and prove that you are worthy of knowing.
If you ask a second wave feminist, then gender is division of labour. Women care for babies, men build cars, or blow them up, or both if they were born in the 1920s.
If you ask a Greek, or at least an ancient Greek, then gender is a matter of status, generally characterised by sexual passivity. Man or woman, femininity is, in every sense of the word, thrusted upon you.
If you ask a third wave feminist, then gender is whatever asphyxiated hallucination you suffer when you spend too much time with your head up your ass.
And if you ask a traditionalist, then, gender is men and women, followed by a shrug.
Half of these ideas are very interesting, and gives us insight into what gender is. Because truth is that gender is all of these things, gender is, and here’s where I must give the postmodern crowd some credit, a social technology.
It’s about a lot of things. It’s about power, it’s about division of labour, but it’s also about culture. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. There is also a psychological and even physiological side to gender.
For instance, did you know most women are born with twice as many pain receptors as men? That’s been a thing for all of human history, or at least social history, and obviously that will have a compounding effect in how men and women relate to the world.
It would explain how women are, in very broad strokes, associated with things like caution, and foresight, and similar things that give some much needed context for as to why men are 90% more likely to put insufficient postage stamps on their mail bomb, and then blow themselves up when it’s sent back to the return address.
The world is a very painful place for women, both culturally and physically, so it makes sense that feminine behavior is more deliberative rather than deterministic. Obviously you don’t have to behave in a certain way, I just mean that you can’t blame people for doing so. It makes sense how this would be intuitive in some way.
So I don’t think gender is just a social construct, I think it is to some extent grounded in the environment too, and how we react to that environment. It doesn’t justify gender roles that force women to do things they don’t want to do, it simply explains why there’s a difference, why gender is pretty universal in all societies.
Then you got reproductive differences of course, and pregnancy. That’s going to influence anthropology and gender roles too. It’s not all pulled out of a vacuum.
So on some basis, I think gender will always exist, it shouldn’t be something oppressive, or unfair, or demeaning, but as long as two segments of a society experience their environment in different ways, then they will behave differently from one another. Doesn’t mean one is better than the other, or that you have to do it if you don’t want to, it just means that it’ll happen, that’s how we’re set up.
Do I think women can fight? Do I think women can do manual labour? Do I think women can play football? Of course. In modern life it might not make as much of a difference as it did in the olden days when we lived naked in the woods, and pain receptors influenced inner monologues such as “Hmmm… I can hear what sounds like hissing from those bushes over there, should I stick my hand inside and see what it is?”
And then this carried over to society, and to culture, and now it exists as part social and part anthropological.
So there is no Year 0 is my point, you can’t just erase everything. You can create rights, and egalitarianism, and democracy, and republicanism, but you can’t really just make people quit dressing a certain way, or have certain manners. Masculinity will always be protective, and femininity will always be nurturing, and even if people with different chromosome setups can freely and willingly lean in either direction, on some level this will always be codified.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m one of those horrible people who actually like contrasts, who enjoy how everyday life has elements that are unknown or interesting. I don’t want to live in some greyscale dystopia where everyone is a politically correct drone without religions, customs, traditions or indeed gender expression. I think that sounds like the sort of thing Scandinavian people would do and I’ve had just about enough of them.
So let’s address the elephant in the room, namely transgenderism. I have a lot of trans friends, in fact, a disproportionate amount of them. Both as friends and as extended family. I am very familiar with what their situations are like, and also what they are represented as particularly in academic and media matters.
So to me it’s not just some abstract thing, these are people to me, I know it on a very personal level. And I think there’s a lot of people who pretend to be on their side, but are in actuality taking advantage of them. These vultures are commonly known as progressives, and I have a few choice words on the matter.
First off, the average trans person is not a wealthy media personality. On TV they are, on Youtube they are, on various other such matters they are, but not in real life. It’s like thinking the average African-American person is well represented by Lethal Weapon; That they’re all police officers who are friends with Mel Gibson.
Wake up and smell the coffee is all I can say about that one.
I greatly admire authentic trans people, but they are very different in real life from the often vapid and whiny people who represent them in media.
Because there’s no hardship for them. They get to have their surgery, and buy all the makeup and clothes, and voice therapy and whatever else may befall. They got steady incomes, and can isolate themselves during vulnerable moments.
What I’ve seen is very different from this. What I see as hardship are the people who can’t quite afford these things. Who have to make due with what they have. Who don’t quite look like they’re supposed to. Who get judged, and bullied and demeaned because their transition is public, in the workplace and at the store. Who constantly struggle with the dilemma of which poison to pick, either conforming to the wrong gender norms and feel miserable over that, or expose themselves to bullying and ridicule or even violence.
The same violence that the progressive vultures love to turn into statistics, and proclaim from their high income communities “This could be me!”
No it couldn’t. Progress has always been segregated on a basis of class. It couldn’t be you with your private security firms, low police response time, gentrified neighborhood, college educated parents and gated community. It could never be you, and to turn the suffering of others into a cheap grab at the spotlight is insulting to people who transition authentically.
Who actually struggle with understanding precisely who they are under backbreaking scrutiny. Who have a million reasons to give up and only one reason to go on. Whose future is essentially an empty promise they hold on to each waking day.
But then something beautiful happens.
Admittedly I’ve known more transwomen than transmen, so I am describing this thing I’ve seen. Because I see how they slowly become themselves. How they gain this elegance, and poise, and lilt in their voice. How they produce a kind of gentleness and ease. How they stop being these anxious and insecure people who let the bullies get in their heads, and just learn to like themselves.
How they work out ways to carry themselves and present themselves in ways beyond mere aesthetic, how it becomes internal, and real, and sophisticated. How even after medical transition, there’s more to it than a modified body, how prior to this, there was a soul for such a body.
I think that’s what I consider feminine strength. It’s not lifting heavy objects with your arms, but rather with your mind. It’s a psychological and spiritual strength, the same strength mothers have when they vigilantly watch over a child, even with only 3 hours of sleep.
The same strength wise women had when they were living their lives as exiles in the woods, hiding from inquisitors and witch hunters. A sort of quiet and stoic strength that men often have to spend decades to train, and yet because of the way the world regiments women, they learn it twice as fast.
The sort of thing that puts a contradiction into someone’s eyes, where it’s as if you look into a beautiful meadow and stormy clouds at the same time. A raw and natural presence that seems to occupy the entire room.
Some women learn it in a more conventional way, others learn it in a less conventional way depending on circumstances of birth, but it’s real. Men have to perform monastic practices of discipline and temperance to gain these gifts that women seem to find on their own somehow.
It is something deep, and mystifying and sublime. And I think it will always be there in some form or other, and I am glad that it is. The world would be a far less interesting place without it.