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It’s [sex and gender] really not that esoteric:
A girl is a prepubescent to adolescent human female. A woman is a post-adolescent human female. A boy is a prepubescent to adolescent human male. A man is a post- adolescent human male.
Gender is the socially enforced prescribed behaviors and expectations people are pressured to follow based on which sex they are. It’s profoundly harmful and, especially for girls and women, oppressive.
“Gender identity” is therefore associating oneself with the oppressive gender roles of the opposite sex and determining that makes one the equivalent of the opposite sex (or in some way something other than the sex they are), which only reinforces the idea that gender roles are inherent to the sexes, which only furthers their oppressive use on the sexes.
That’s it really.
Can you explain it a little differently? I’m really tired and frustrated at the moment, please just make it a little more simple if that’s okay?
“Okay, consider it this way: you’re born female, you’re a girl. You’re born male, you’re a boy. That in of itself is a neutral statement.
But in our society there are certain things expected of girls that aren’t expected of boys. We’re expected to be quieter, more agreeable, less capable, less competent, less intelligent than boys.
We’re expected to like makeup and fashion and princesses and we’re also treated as vain and frivolous and less worthy for liking these things.
If we like “boy” things that may be seen as quirky and charming for a while, but it’s still discouraged and we’re still expected to grow out of it.
We’re expected to be disinterested in science, engineering and technology, discouraged from purusing it if we are interested and treated as less competent if we make it our career in adulthood.
(Even though a scant few decades ago women primarily did the mathematical calculations for NASA and preformed the earliest computer programming. Because those things, like typing, were seen as jobs that were beneath men to do.)
We’re expected to be sexually appealing to every man on the street. This is the role given to us in most advertising, film and media by default.
We’re expected to grow up to be the helpers of men, to be their wives and girlfriends and the things they get sex from. To further their own needs and ambitions while having none of our own.
That’s gender. It’s sexist. And it sucks.”
What we are exposed to in childhood helps set the tone of our expectations later in life. Consider the female role models little girls and boys are exposed to while they are making up their minds on what and how they want to be.
-Woman Hating. Andrea Dworkin
Contrast this passage with male role models who are actively adventuring, swashbuckling, and generally getting shit done. The gender roles and socialization are woven deeply into every aspect of our society. Gender roles are for the most part, destructive social constructs, whose expectations and limitations hurt women and men. We should strive to counter the normative messages that our socialization breeds into us because ultimately, gender is a hierarchy that happens to discriminate against half the human race and we need less oppression not more in our society.
10. The oppression linked to sex begins at birth, operating through the social imposition of gender. Gender is the label that feminists use to describe the value system that prescribes and proscribes forms of behaviour and appearance for members of the different sex classes, and that assigns superior value to one sex class at the expense of the other. (That’s the same link as the one I said to bookmark in the previous post. I really, really want you to read it.)
11. Gendered socialisation is a lifelong process of inculcation into the gender role for your sex. It begins at birth, is imposed and enforced consciously and subconsciously by us all, in myriad ways, large and small, and operates to enforce certain forms of behaviour deemed desirable for members of the different sex classes and to prevent those deemed undesirable. This is what Simone de Beauvoir meant when she told us that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”. To occupy the position of woman is to be socialised over the course of a lifetime into membership of the inferior sex class. Gender prescribes submission, weakness and passivity as desirable female traits, and dominance, power and aggression as desirable male traits. The way in which gender is expressed will vary according to culture and context, so different times and places will impose different norms of appearance, behaviour and comportment for males and females. But the underlying values are the same: females are supposed to perform gender in ways that signal their inferiority and submission; males are supposed to perform gender in ways that signal their superiority and dominance. The function of this system of oppression is to make female weakness and dependence on males seem natural and inevitable, and therefore to facilitate the exploitation by males of female emotional, sexual, domestic and reproductive labour.
12. It is perceived reproductive capacity, not actual reproductive capacity, that determines the sex class you will be assigned to, and therefore the form your gendered socialisation will take and the oppression you will experience. It doesn’t matter if you are actually infertile, and therefore incapable of performing the reproductive function of your sex. Nor does it matter whether or not you are inclined to perform that function. The fact of sexual dimorphism means that you will be socially read as belonging to one sex class or the other, and will henceforth be subject to the gendered socialisation, and sanction for non-compliance, deemed appropriate for your sex. Women in their twenties and thirties will experience workplace discrimination on account of their appearing to be potential mothers, even if as a matter of fact they could not conceive or have no desire to conceive.
13. Crucially, gendered socialisation and gender oppression happen regardless of how the individual happens to feel about herself or her identity. The injustices that are inflicted on girls do not occur because those individuals happen to know that they are girls and to think of themselves as girls. They occur because those girls inhabit female bodies, and so were placed into the inferior sex class at birth. To deny this fact is not only to fail to understand how gender operates; it is also to engage in a form of victim blaming, where girls and women who suffer gender-based violence and oppression are assumed to have identified with this subordinate social position, and to recognise and endorse their own inferiority and submissiveness.
14. Many individuals of both sexes are uncomfortable with the constraints that gender places upon them. All women who call themselves feminists are. The reason we come to feminism is because we feel that gender is an oppressive hierarchy that limits our potential, and we want to be liberated from the demands of femininity, which just is the expression of female submission. Similarly, many men feel uncomfortable with the norms of masculinity, which requires the expression of dominance, often in the form of aggression and violence. Males who find masculinity painful and intolerable, and who choose to rebel against its strictures, face prejudice and discrimination, and we should want to end this. But it’s worth remembering that gender punishes females whether they conform or not. Non-conformity is punished and socially sanctioned for both sexes, but for females, conformity is also a form of punishment, since compliance with femininity is in itself submission and subordination.
15. The degree of distress and discomfort individuals experience trying to conform to the appropriate gender norms will vary from person to person. There are very few, if any, persons who conform perfectly to the gender ideals prescribed for their sex. We all of us make compromises to survive, and to flourish as best we can, under the constraints that gender imposes upon us. We all of us actively endorse some bits, passively acquiesce with some bits, and positively rail against some bits, and the balance we eventually settle on will be an individual, personal matter. While we should be prepared to critically examine and reflect upon our choices, and to scrutinise our complicity in the perpetuation of gender, no individual is to be blamed for the choices she makes in order to survive living under an oppressive system.
16. Wanting to abolish the oppressive and limiting effects of gender does not mean that radical feminists want to stop anyone expressing their personality in the ways that they enjoy. Feminists do not wish to ban make-up or high heels, or to prevent girls from playing with dolls and dressing up like princesses. All feminists want is to liberate all of this stuff from perceived reproductive capacity, so that boys and girls, men and women, can dress however they like, play with whatever toys they like, perform whatever jobs they like. Men and women would be free to develop their capacities and reach their full potential, free from the constraints imposed on them by powerful social norms prescribing submission and passivity to females and dominance and aggression to males. The ideal world would be one in which one’s perceived reproductive capacity has as little bearing on one’s social treatment and expected achievements and outcomes as blood group or dominant handedness currently does.
17. The behavioural choices that any individual makes, their tastes and preferences about dress and appearance, and how they choose to express their personality, are independent of biological sex and – quite obviously – have no impact on it. People can dress however they choose, behave however they choose, modify their bodies however they choose, as long as these choices do not harm non-consenting others. This is to be encouraged, and indeed is an important part of the project of liberating humans from the oppressive constraints of gender. But none of this alters the underlying biological fact of their maleness or femaleness. No amount of challenging and modifying gender norms – or “queering” gender – will make a male person female, because to be female just means to be a member of the class of humans capable of gestating a child. Challenging and playing with gender norms in one’s behaviour and presentation, so that one appears androgynous, is a valid and useful tool in dismantling the structures of gender; but on its own it can never liberate females from the oppression that accompanies living in a female body. You cannot identify your way out of an oppression that is material in basis.
“I think the weirdest thing about having teenaged boys yell: “suck my dick bitch.” at me is that there’s nothing I can say to them that will make them feel the way that makes me feel.
I have lived my entire life with this threat of sexual violence hanging over my head: I’ve experienced it too. They’re hitting me where I live.
Women can’t threaten men with sexual violence and make men feel small and want to crawl out of their own skin; it’s taken a lifetime of violent socialisation just like this (men leering out of cars since I was 12, peers reaching between my legs in junior high, uncles getting too close, sports coaches grabbing my hips, being groped on transit, being sexually assaulted) to provoke this visceral reaction in me. Men haven’t experienced this constant background radiation of violation that contextualises moment like this.
I get well-intended messages from men: “I’m sorry you had to experience that.” “Those kids are jerks.” I do appreciate people reaching out. The thing is: in the context of my life experiences, this wasn’t even a particularly traumatic incident, so much as an illustrative one. It’s one of thousands of these moments.
I made me sad and a little contemplative, sure, but I’ll get by; feminism really helps with that, because it gives me this (almost) unshakable belief that I am human.
But I don’t want to hear: “those [particular] kids are jerks.”
I want to hear: “I’m not going to tolerate misogyny in my own life, and among my social circle. This stops now; it stops with me.”
There is no threat I can make to a man that will make him hate the fact he was born in the body he was born in. The second I start thinking I’m a person, someone reminds me that to them, I’m just a hole. I’m a bitch. I actually can’t make them see I’m a person. That has to come from other men.
As I get older, I get more and more angry when men I know are hostile to feminism. Because it means they aren’t really listening, or even caring, when I describe the reality of my life. Feminism is my refuge, and the sole source of my belief that I’m not deserving of the way I’m treated. It is the only movement that has dared to put forth the radical belief that women are people.
I don’t even want to hurt the men who do things like this. I just want them to be kind. Yeah, I can carry my knife, or get a big dog in self defense, but I actually don’t have a lust for vengeance or causing people pain. That’s really the worst part of it: being better – being more human, more forgiving, more kind – than them, and still losing.”
The radical belief that women are people. The year, dear readers, is 2016. In your social circles if you see shit like this happen, don’t laugh it off, don’t ‘boys will be boys it’ – demand an end to the behaviour at once. If the push back is too great, the people you happen to be interacting with are telling you a great deal about how they regard one half of the human species, and more importantly strongly arguing against their continuing membership in your social circle.
John Stuart Mill wrote an essay in 1861 (published 1869) called the Subjection of Women. From this brief quote we can see the evidence that even in the 19th century there were people who understood how socialization effects people and how they behave. I’m constantly amazed that here and now in the 21st century I run across people who don’t get basic shit like this. It isn’t rocket science and doesn’t take a keen sociological mind to identify the concepts and start to make the relations and come to the conclusions that Mill was making 150 years ago.
“When we put together three things – first, the natural attraction between the opposite sexes; secondly, the wife’s entire dependence on the husband, every privilege or pleasure she has being either his gift, or depending entirely on his will; and lastly, that the principal object of human pursuit, consideration, and all objects of social ambition, can in general be sought or obtained by her only through him, it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character. And, this great means of influence over the minds of women having been acquired, an instinct of selfishness made men avail themselves of it to the utmost as a means of holding women in subjection, by representing to them meekness, submissiveness, and resignation of all individual will into the hands of a man, as an essential part of sexual attractiveness.
Can it be doubted that any of the other yokes which mankind have succeeded in breaking, would have subsisted till now if the same means had existed, and had been so sedulously used, to bow their minds to it?”
The tl;dr of what is being said – women are raised in a society that glorifies the toxic notion of femininity and the constellation of man pleasing behaviours that femininity entails (patriarchy anyone?). Surprisingly enough(?), this state of affairs is bad for women.