Gender Binary Meets Christian “Modesty” Movement, Writer’s Head Explodes

29 07 2010

Prepare yourselves for a long, tedious, ranty, semi-coherent, and truly crazy-making post, in several different ways. Also, major mansplaining alert.

I am so stupid sometimes. I just KNOW a site called “” is going to incite rage of biblical proportions in me. I read it anyway. And OH , did it ever.

The article is titled “Why Should Women Enjoy Being Feminine?” If you know me at all, you know that I am low-femme at best. And, for myself, I have absolutely no damn idea WHY I should enjoy being feminine. I find femininity in our society to be expensive, time-consuming, and uncomfortable with little to no recompense.

Anyway, we’re going sentence-by-sentence here, and pointing out all the FAIL there is in this one short article. No links- I don’t want them to have any more traffic than they do.

We live in a day and age where the differences are trying to be removed, and feminism has tried to say that the sexes are equivalent.

Um, no, actually, it hasn’t. Should be treated equally =/= equivalent. Though they’re not as Mars and Venus as the author seems to think. Gotta love the vagueness of “the differences” in that first sentence. Differences between what? Humans and elephants? Glasses-wearers and those who prefer contacts? Math and English majors? GOD SAVE US, that would be horrible. (I kid. I kid. Love you, math department!!!) And don’t even get me started on the bullshit gender binary that the entire article is based upon. I don’t have the Sanity Watchers points to do that today, except to say that “male” and “female” are fluid, not mutually exclusive, and certainly not the only two choices.

They’ve tried to sell women the idea that they are the same as men—and they should enjoy being men!

Women and men are the same in the sense that they are PEOPLE. And gender is performative- occasionally I enjoy “being a man,” whether that means binding and wearing guy’s clothes, writing from a male perspective, doing strenuous yard work, or making fun of romance novels. I should point out none of these activities actually have anything to do with biological sex, though they do have quite a bit to do with socially-constructed gender. No matter what your sex organs look like, if you find “being a man” (whatever that means to you) comfortable and enjoyable, then you SHOULD enjoy “being a man”! There is no reason to feel shame because your behavior doesn’t match what society thinks it should match based on what’s in your jeans.

The thing is, we were created different.

Aw, dude, don’t make me break out the anti-creationism arguments. Those are SO 2006.

Seriously, though, we ARE different. Each and every individual one of us, which is what makes the world so beautiful and scary and awesome to live in. I don’t think that’s quite what he means, though.

We are two different types of people, enjoying two different types of things. 

Why only two? Everything in the whole world is not gendered. Taking a walk is not more “male” or more “female” as compared to staying in with a book or going out with friends or brushing the dog or stargazing. And you can like some, or all, or none. Why the rigid pigeonholing? Why the strict gender-police tone? Why, for that matter, this “us-vs.-them” thing you’ve got going on?

We’re different, but equal.  We’re different, but equal.

This is the first semi-sensible thing you’ve said. This is the first semi-sensible thing you’ve said.

Why should women enjoy being feminine?  Why should they celebrate that difference?

Let’s get some good conversation going!

Wellp, you certainly didn’t succeed there. Except for a few here and there, the comments are just as piously empty of rationale as you would think. Apparently being feminine a) is in God’s plan, and we should enjoy God’s plan (you VILL! HAFF! FUN!) b) “my husband didn’t fall in love with me for my masculinity” (how do you know?) and c) when you act like a girl, guys are more chivalrous! (you know my opinions on chivalry). 19 comments that almost all agree is not “conversation,” let alone “good conversation.” YouTube vidoes get that within seconds, and they’re often more intelligent.

I couldn’t resist leaving one myself:

“Women should enjoy being feminine without shame if that’s what they like. So should men! Everybody should be able to explore both masculinity and femininity openly and without shame, if they so choose, because gender is an artificial social construct. As far as I know, God did not create heels and makeup, nor mandate that they were girls-only.” (I forgot to mention androgyny- but one can only push the fundamentalists’ heads so far).

It is awaiting moderation. I suspect it’ll be doing that for a while.


Goodbye Gender, It’s Been Nice

15 07 2010

I was playing with my neighbor’s little daughter today, and she acted out a story about a pony using my old Fisher-Price Little People . Not Proust or anything, but she’s four, give her time. The pony ran away from his mean mom and dad (both played by female-type Little People) and got hurt. He was rescued by a (female) doctor and two nurses (one female, one male.) They cured him and found him a home with three “moms,” all female-type LPs. Then the pony lived happily ever after, the end. This is the same kid who had me play a female police officer toy while she played a Bratz doll, and the two lived together and “love(d) each other” (her words).

Then I come downstairs today and find my ten-year-old brother has set up his Star Wars figurines in the bright pink dollhouse.

Someday these kids are going to grow up, and hopefully they will bring with them their innocent, adorable, happy-making, complete disregard for all the socially constructed norms and stereotypes we associate with the male/female binary, and I hope I’m around to see it when they do.

Cheers, sweethearts. You are the future, and it will be beautiful. Here’s to you.

Breaking News: Music Video Displays Misogyny.

28 06 2010

It’s not like I didn’t know this was going to be bad.

I saw this music video for the first time last night, and like I said, I wasn’t expecting progressive politics. a) It’s 3OH!3, who managed to perfect the Helen Keller joke in another song, and b) it’s a music video. ‘Nuff said. But still, it was troubling. Very troubling.

Okay, for the most part, it’s just two white guys dancing (or trying to dance) around giant golden hands and… wolves? God, I don’t know. There’s probably a disturbing metaphor there, but let’s leave it in its little box. Not everything should be unpacked.

Anyway, I did really like the fact that they portrayed a variety of couples kissing- different age levels, interracial, etc.- although I have the sneaking feeling we’re supposed to find the older couple gross/funny instead of cute. I’m sorry, but it is 3OH!3. I don’t trust them. </bad pun>

But they just had to, didn’t they? Motherfuckers actually had to go and put a (presumably meant to be read as) bisexual woman in there. And OF COURSE we get an extended shot of her making out with another woman. Because bi girls are HAWT! when they make out with other ladies for the dudes. For the approximately five billionth time: MY SEXUALITY IS NOT YOUR WANK MATERIAL! Especially not, since the only reason queerness is getting any kind of cameo in this video is because the partners are both stereotypically hot women. What are our odds of getting some queer guys swapping spit? Or non-conventionally-attractive women? Or those who don’t identify on the gender binary? Just askin’.

This is usually the part where I go on a rampage, and by “rampage” I mean “writing of strongly worded emails to the people responsible” (we all have our own ways), but let’s move on to the really disturbing part, shall we?

The worst scene (for me) starts at about 0:33. This skeeves me out A LOT. The woman is basically a prop in this scene. She does nothing except hump and kiss this dude. We never see her entire face, and her eyes are completely hidden. I should not have to point out why this is objectifying and dehumanizing. The creepiest part of this is that she never once acknowledges the camera, while the dude is making almost constant eye contact with it. I can’t help it- the scenario this brings to mind is that she doesn’t know the camera is there, and is being filmed nonconsensually. I know she’s an actress. I know she knew it was there. But… well, the gender dynamics of the scene still freak me out.

The saddest part? It’s actually a pretty catchy song. I would be able to enjoy it so much more if I had never seen the music video.

(ETA: I also want to apologize for the sporadic posting. It’ll probably be spotty for the next couple months, then pick back up in September. Summer vacation, dontcha know.)

One Certain Thing

17 06 2010

As people go, I’m not very old, and there’s much I don’t know about my future. I don’t know where I’ll live, what job I’ll have, or who my friends will be. I don’t know how much I make or what I’ll do with it. I don’t know what kind of pets I’ll have, whether I’ll own a car, or if I’ll go to graduate school. I know one thing, though: I will never have children. (No, Mom, I’m not saying this specifically to ruin your life.)

I wish I could say I decided against this because of deeply held beliefs: that I refuse to contribute to the overpopulation of the world, for instance. But no, it was for purely personal, selfish reasons.

I am the oldest in my family, and ever since I turned 13 and my mother started working full-time, I have been responsible for my younger siblings (and often friends and neighbors) during the summers. This means supervising anywhere from two to eight children and doing housework all day. I’m sure there are lots of teenaged girls who did this sort of thing and enjoyed it, and even more who were adequate; I was awful.

I’m terrible at handling small children, and not much better with older ones. I’m not much good at housework either. Even more, I despised being stuck in the house all day. Betty Friedan knew what she was talking about. I doubt any high-schooler looked forward to the first day of school quite as much as I did. The school year meant seeing people my age, an easement (if not a cessation) of chores and responsibilities, and the opportunity to do something productive with my time besides dishes and laundry.  I never, ever, want to go through that again.

Admittedly, my experience is limited and YMMV, but every last woman I’ve ever known with kids has taken on a majority of the responsibility for childcare and housework. Like it or not, those tasks are inescapably gendered in our society. They are women’s work, and I’m a woman. Unless something drastically changes in the next two decades or so, if I have a baby, I will be the most responsible for taking care of the child and the household- and as I’ve already established, not only do I hate doing that, I’m really bad at it. Eighteen-plus years is a long, long time to do something you hate, not to mention the fact that having a mom who hated being a mom would probably fuck my kid up pretty badly.

I know, I am a horrible, selfish bitch. I love my autonomy, the freedom to do as I please without worrying about dependents. It is impossible, in society as it exists today, to be a mother with complete autonomy. I know I should be unselfish enough to procreate. I know that, according to many, “it’s all worth it.” I know I’m going to catch hell for this for the rest of my life, and I can’t say I don’t care, because I do. But I’ve paid my dues already. I’ve tasted freedom and independence, and they are so, so sweet. I write, I read, I act, I learn, I socialize, and I love those things too much to give them up for another human being. Even my own child.

Into the Enemy’s Den

31 05 2010

Cherished readers, I was doing my usual daily blogroll this  morning, perusing the articles and links the denizens of the Internet saw fit to render up today, when I found myself upon this site. Yes, the legendary Focus on the Family, home of gay anti-gay activists and weirdly incestuous advice columns. Yet as much as I have heard about the horrors of FotF, I have yet to see them for myself. Join me, dear readers, as we plunge deep into this festering pile of bullshit. It’ll be fun.

On the opening page, we already meet with “What?” Not offensive “What?”, just confusing “What?”. One of the blurbs concerning a story about Prince of Persia reads : “This swashbuckling adventure includes a dash of romance and comedy, but it’s all set in a world of dark magic.” What? Why the “but”? The ‘dark magic’ is a selling point! At least to this fantasy geek, reared on fairy tales, Tamora Pierce, and Garth Nix. It probably has something to do with the whole Christian thing (though what is the Old Testament God except magical? The plagues of Egypt, Daniel in the lion’s den… but I digress.) Moving on.

So, being that it’s Focus on the Family, I look under the ‘parenting’ tab, and right away, something seems very, very off:

Blue Internet menu; under 'Parenting Topics' the options Effective Biblical Discipline, Protecting Your Family, Spiritual Growth for Kids, Sexuality (circled in red with a question mark), Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, School-Age Children, Teens, Your Child's Emotions, Adoptive Families, Parenting Challenges, Parenting Roles, Single Parenting, Building Relationships, Parenting Community, and Parenting Resources

What the…? Why…? Do I want to know? Most of these things at least have SOME relationship to parenting, even if they sound vaguely threatening (“Effective Biblical Discipline,” I’m looking at you). Adoptive Families, Teens, Protecting Your Family- all standard operating procedure. But Sexuality? What the fuck? What does that have to do with parenting? Wouldn’t that be under “marriage,” being that, oh, you know, (most) married people have sex? I humbly submit that if your parenting requires sexuality, UR DOIN IT RONG.

Though perhaps I misinterpret. This is probably about the child’s sexuality- still a little bit freaky, but okay. Children, sometimes very young children, are sexual beings, and I’m sure parents often need help dealing with those issues. Are there really so many “my-three-year-old-daughter-is-masturbating” and “the-neighborhood-kids-are-playing-doctor” and “how-do-we-tell-little-timmy-about-the-stork” articles that you need a whole separate category?

Oh, no. Ooooooh no. I think I get it. I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to click through and have all my worst fears confirmed. I really just want to close the window, put down the laptop, and go admire the clematis. The weather is so beautiful outside, maybe I should dig my rollerblades out of the shed and…

Too late.

There are five little brown boxes about halfway down the page. The last one cracks me up: “When Children View Pornography.” It… it takes it so seriously! *gasp* Phew. Okay, okay, this is a legit problem and I am NOT going to refight the Porn Wars of the 80s here, so moving on and ignoring their undoubtedly pearl-clutching and sanctimonious advice. Okay, okay, I did click through a little bit- like you could resist a link titled “Advice for Parents of Teen Porn Addicts,” which sounds like the teens are in the porn rather than watching it. I was rewarded with this gem of a quote: “I was surprised that the first four callers identified themselves as sex addicts- three of which were female.” Oh my GOD, teenagers have sexual desire! Teenage GIRLS have sexual desire! Fetch the fainting couch, Martha!

Anyway, the next two boxes concern The Talk- pretty standard fare, even if their advice is probably painfully holier-than-thou- and one called “Prevent the Sexualization of Your Daughter.” Leaving aside the fact the sentence construction kind of turns her into an object, this title just makes me sad. I know most people who click through to this have their hearts in the right place and really do want to protect their daughters, but it’s fruitless. I’m sorry. I genuinely am. I’m so sorry. I know you would do anything to take care of your daughter, but she is already sexualized. Will always be. She was destined for sexualization the minute she came out of your womb with two X chromosomes into our rape culture. It is inescapable: she is female, and therefore sexualized. There is nothing you can do to prevent your daughter’s sexualization short of killing her or turning her into a boy. Though considering the dead-hot-girl complex our culture seems to have, and all the shit trans men have to deal with, even that might not save her. (PS: The answer to abolishing women as the sex class isn’t fundamentalist Christianity. It’s feminism. Case you were interested.)

The remaining two boxes are titled “Healthy Childhood Sexual Development” (the and “Teaching Children Healthy Sexuality.” The first one made me lol again, only because there is a “Prevention” tab underneath it. Prevent healthy childhood sexual development! But the second one creeps me the fuck out. Since when do parents teach their kids sexuality? Sexuality is an innate characteristic that each of us must figure out for ourselves. My parents damn sure didn’t teach me how to be queer- or lesbian, or straight, for that matter. They taught me how to cook, do laundry, tell funny jokes, and mow the lawn.

“For example, family is where young males can be mentored into responsible men who know how to safeguard sexuality and young females can be fashioned to cherish fidelity.” Oh, God, I’m regretting this already. Gender binary. Get out your Gay Bingo cards! Also: they bash dating. Really, dude, it’s okay if you’ve had bad experiences, I totally understand, but don’t feel obligated to take it out on everybody else. They also say we need to “intentionally equip our children with intimate homes” which sounds half dirty (“you have such an… intimate home”) and half nerdy (“I intentionally equip Zyclon with a Level 5 Crystal Trident!”)

…And now the website has cut me off. It insists it is “temporarily unavailable.” I suspect they have discovered my secret liberalness and are deliberately hiding!  COWARDS! Fix the 404 and STAND AND BE MOCKED!



Abusive Relationship Sing-Along!

24 05 2010

I was browsing through my iTunes library today, and I realized I have quite a few (0kay, four) songs about domestic abuse, both physical and emotional. Now, this is a tricky topic to incorporate into art, especially for guys: much like rape, it’s highly gendered and really, really easy to screw up, resulting in some stunningly cringeworthy pieces. But it is also possible to make REALLY KICKASS and inspiring works that just about make you cry because they are living, singing proof that there are some people out there who Get It.

Starting out with the quintessential don’t-hit-your-girlfriend anthem Face Down by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus:

Okay. Some good, some… weird. The first verse is eerie: “Cover up with makeup in the mirror/Tell yourself it’s never gonna happen again/You cry alone and then he swears he loves you.” There are some really powerful lines here, although we get a little victim-blamey with “I’ll never understand why you hang around. Then the speaker changes his focus on the chorus and addresses the boyfriend, where we get some interesting challenges to masculinity. It still squicks me out a little, though- maybe it’s the presumption that Narrator Guy gets to yell at Boyfriend Guy on behalf of Girlfriend? The condescension of “heed my lecture”? (“I am a MAN, and I will tell you what to do with your girlfriend!) Actually, my major issue with this song is that the girlfriend kind of disappears after the first verse except as an object to be beaten or not beaten. Not beaten is good, but object is…not.

I will admit, though, that seeing the lyrics reassures me a lot. I used to think the line “She said ‘I finally had enough'” was “She said it and I felt like hurting you.” That, I really disliked, though I’m not 100% sure why. I think the eye-for-an-eye attitude maybe? It sort of reminds me of this post by Amanda Hess of The Sexist about how chivalry still reinforces the patriarchy.

Overall, it’s not awful, but something about it still doesn’t sit quite right with me. Squick Factor: 5/10

Next up, how about some emotional abuse and neglect? I present to you Flavor of the Week by American Hi-Fi:

All right, maybe not an abusive relationship per se, but unhealthy? You damn betcha. Also, it does bear some similarities to the “let me intervene and fix your broken relationship!” attitude in the other songs. (“I wish that I could make her see/She’s just the flavor of the week”) Honestly, though, I just wanted to include this for the last line. GOD I HATE THAT LAST LINE. “She makes me weak.” BECAUSE THE ONLY REASON WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT WOMEN IN ABUSIVE/NEGLECTFUL/UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS IS BECAUSE THEY’RE ZOMGHAWT! AND WE WANT TO BANG THEM. Sorry about the capitals, but that concept is just full of failicious faility fail. The rest of the song isn’t bad, though, encouraging communication in relationships and spending time with each other. Still hate the last line, though. Squick Factor: 99% 0/10, 1% 10/10. Next!

Oh, Bowling for Soup. You can rarely, if ever, make it through a three-minute song without some kind of fail, be it gender, race, trans, size, or whatever else. This song, 99 Biker Friends, is no exception. Despite its good intentions, it still fails, and fails pretty hard. Stunning similarities between this and Face Down: the masculinity questioning, the makeup lines, etc. etc. etc, though we do manage to keep a consistent point of view and avoid the damsel-in-distress scenario. But there is quite a bit of (implied) violence, and some more violence, and some stereotyped violence (prison guards? what the HELL?) Because if you beat HER down, we’ll beat YOU down! Body-shaming penis size joke in the third line, that throwaway line about lesbians, and so on and so forth. Not much else to say about it, except Squick Factor: 7/10. Gotta give them points for effort; gotta revoke most of ’em for misspent effort.

Three songs that all fail in one way or another. Sigh. Isn’t there a way to sing about domestic violence without the Squick Meter going off? Wait, what’s that noise? Could it be…. Yes! It is! It is the DIXIE CHICKS!

Okay, full disclosure: I hate country. A lot. My first exposure to this was the cover version by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (which I still prefer, solely on musical grounds.) Buuuuuut the Dixie Chicks are pretty awesome, so it makes perfect sense that they would have written this. God, it’s fantastic- the acknowledgment of law enforcement’s inability (disinclination?) to successfully help victims of domestic violence, the sisterhood, the recognition that for women in small towns, sometimes marriage to a jerk is all there is, calling Wanda “abused” rather than using euphemisms- wow. Okay, I’m not in theory a fan of the vengeful school of thought, but I can safely call this an exception. What can I say? Schadenfreude plus happy ending equals happy, happy Thessa. Squick Factor? What Squick Factor?

And I don’t think it’s any accident that the only not-painful song among these has women as the primary focus and was written by women. I KNOW, I am perfectly aware, that domestic violence is also an issue for men, but it has been borne out by study after study that most victims are women. (If you have an issue with those statistics: please, argue with the Justice Department. I’m sure they care about your anecdata.)  Therefore, strangely enough, women have the insider’s perspective on abusive relationships and thus can write songs that don’t fail. A shame there aren’t more of them.

P.S: If, like me, you are more of an alt/rock fan, I did find the other version of Goodbye Earl that uses the same footage as the Dixie Chicks one.

Welcome Back, Queer!

8 05 2010

The semester just ended, and it is my first day back in my hometown for the summer. I come from a town whiter than bleached porcelain, more Catholic than the Pope, and VERY conservative. I’ve lived here as a confused/closeted queer; it sucked. Living here as an open (but not overt) queer will be… interesting. 

I’m going to have to have a conversation this summer with my mother about her use of the word “queer” as a pejorative. I’ve come to favor that over “bi” as an identifier because it doesn’t reinforce the gender binary. God knows it’s strong enough as is. I would prefer that the woman who brought me into this world not use my sexual identity as an insult. I am not “off” or “degenerate,” Mom. 

Also, I should not read the newspaper here. I was spoiled by my progressive-blogs-only method of gathering the news. In the paper today: a letter to the editor protesting the Ninth Circuit’s overturning of the National Day of Prayer. I quote: 

The day is merely a recognition of prayer and no one is forced to pray to any god (or if an atheist or humanist, not told to pray to themselves). 

What? That makes no sense. Atheists, who don’t believe in a god, think… they are God? What? Who prays to themselves? I’ve met some arrogant atheists, but that dig was just ridiculous. (The letter writer also used the old “I-would-have-voted-for-Alan-Keyes-so-I’m-not-racist canard. Hope that helps fill in your bingo cards.) 

Oh, and in a review of the French documentary Babies, the reviewer writes: 

“If you’re a member in good standing of the W. C. Fields party and prefer your babies parboiled- or if you’re in such open contempt for the “straight” world that you sneer at “breeders”= you’ll want to give the wonderful French documentary the widest possible berth.


Yeeeeeeah. Gays/lesbians/queers hate babies, because they can’t have them. Suuuuuuuure. Also: wtf with the scare quotes around “straight”? Sounds like he’s saying, “The straight world? Redundancy! Straight people ARE the world by default! It’s silly to make the distinction!” 

I can’t make this stuff up. It’s gonna be an interesting summer.