Included in all the frighteningly divisive rhetoric lately in the news/politics/social media, I’ve noticed a strange dichotomy about sex.
We’re supposed to identify as “us” against the “other,” divided by skin color, income, religion, nationality, etc. but for some reason (I suspect religion as the root, honestly) we’re also supposed to be divided along strict lines by sex. It is also of paramount importance that our gender match our sex exactly. I’d like to know why. And I want to hear that answer without any mention of religion, deity, or holy book. I suspect that is going to be a sort of “that’s how it’s always been” kind of answer which, in my humble opinion, isn’t good enough.
At this point I go back to my little toddler self and ask “why” until my curiosity is satisfied and I’ve driven someone to explain to me how the ‘quiet game’ works and ‘why don’t we play it right now?! Yay!’
Seriously, though, all these questions I have lately on why government does what it does, some of American society’s shitty opinions about race, gender, religion, pretty much all the bigotry that falls under the “other” category, go back to a basic set of questions, some “whys?”
- The answer to the first “why” almost always goes back to “because that’s the way it is/it’s always been (with the implied ‘in our society/country/the world’).”
- The next “why?” leads to “well, it used to be/back then (whenever this indefinite ‘then’ was) people thought that <fill in the blank about a set of people> were different than/better at something than/separate from ‘us’ because <fill in the blank about a set of people>.”
- Okay, but “why?” Which leads, if you really dig, to who made up the bullshit classification in the first place, how they sold it, and to whom.
- We’re getting closer. But “why?” at this point generally goes back to basic variations on control (sometimes even law) and so that <fill in the blank about a set of people> can use this idea/law to make money.
- “Why did people fall for it/how did they get people to buy it?” usually leads to a bunch of men citing a holy book (the Bible is awesome for this) so they can profit from controlling people’s behaviors.
Like I said, this is a good way to get to the answers for a lot of things that make no sense or seem outdated now (like slavery, marriage laws, etc.).
If we’ve already done the “whys” for the question of sex (and gender) we’ve gone through the “that’s how it’s always been, women at home and men out earning the bread (which, of course, isn’t how it’s always been, anywhere, but whatever).” The next are some fun and hilarious gems like “doctors said women couldn’t overexert themselves or their uterus will fall out or women are delicate, can’t read, masturbate, raise their arms over their heads, etc, because it leads to hysteria or insanity or some silly thing.” Going deeper, “a woman has to stay home with babies/clean house/do what man says, etc. so that he can keep control of her, be sure he sired his kids, etc.” Those are about control. A woman’s husband or father could make pretty much any claim and she’d be committed to an asylum. If the man says she’s nuts, she must be nuts.
An aside, an observation, if you will indulge me – Men still like to say that about women, that they’re crazy. Yet men who claim that all women are crazy (or 99.9% of women are nuts or whatever) haven’t noticed that other men don’t find it to be true at all. It also probably doesn’t occur to these poor victims of feminine hysteria that they are the common factor in all the equations that lead to the 99.9% figure (perhaps the .1% is their mother? or just a generous estimate since they’ve not met every woman?). Funny that.
Back now. Thanks.
So we’re getting to the heart of it. Man controls woman. Bible is clear on this. It’s not the only holy book that instructs about a woman’s place in a home and in society. There are very specific rules and penalties about a woman cutting her hair, having a period, having the audacity to be raped, etc. We use holy books to tell women what they can or cannot wear so they don’t cause men to behave badly (as if we control another person’s choices and actions). What if all of this bullshit we go with today is remnants of the nonsense the Bible taught all those years ago? I’m finding more and more that the Bible is a book of excuses and reasons to be a horrible human being. I’ll look for direction in reason and compassion instead, thanks.
What if we, as a society, still assume with our pronouns and our traditions and our excuses, that there are only two distinct sexes, that our sex dictates our gender always, and that those binary sexes (and genders, obviously) are opposite? What if the Bible, written by men for the specific purpose of setting up rules to control people, is still being used to force modern people into this idea of a gender binary? When all of the evidence around us points away from a strict gender binary, why do we still try to force every peg into either a square hole or a round hole? I don’t mean to make a sex joke here, but seriously, it fits. Why is it so important to us that other people fit into a specific sex with matching gender? and why is it so important to us that other people conform sexually?
Why are we obsessed with what other people’s genitals look like? Why is it so important to us how people dress, how they present themselves, in relation to what we understand of their gender? Why are we obsessed with who other consenting adults choose to make love with? Why are we so obsessed with fitting other people into our narrow views that we are giving them excuses for bad behavior or laziness like “oh, he’s just a man” or “boys will be boys” or “women are like that?”
Sure, some people are “like that.” And people will be people, but who we are isn’t the color/shade of our skin or the religion we chose (or were indoctrinated into as children) or our genitals. These things are certainly a part of who we are as individuals as we evolve and grow, but they aren’t a way to separate us into opposites. They’re characteristics, lovely little differences, nuances, that distinguish us from each other in our big, human family. We are like notes in a song. Our differences don’t set us apart, and they certainly don’t exclude us from the song; put all of us together, and we can be beautiful beyond imagining. Exclude one, and the whole song is just. . . wrong.
How is it we are using sex/gender/race as an excuse, even in government, to pay people from different pay scales? Why do courts almost always award kids to their biological mother if it is an option? Why do we assume that a nurse is a woman? a plumber a man? Why do we assume a victim of sexual assault is a female? Why do we associate “strength” (physical/emotional, whatever) with men? Why do we teach/let boys believe that crying is weakness? For fuck’s sake, crying is strength! Human beings, regardless of gender, can only hold in so much joy, pain, love, fear, compassion, before they must let some of it out, relieve the pressure, release a little bit of their deepest and truest selves in the form of tears (or uncontrolled laughter/giggles) for all to see. For us to hold and cherish, to join with our own humanity, to share the weight. Why are we so afraid for others, men specifically, to help carry and to express that emotion, that vitally important part of precisely what makes us human?
“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” – Gloria Steinem
We’ve been taught a lot of things for a lot of years that simply don’t serve us now. Can’t we look at the whys and understand that these are outdated ideas? maybe move on from them? We’re still spending a lot of time and hate pushing “others” away and jamming people into the notions we set up for them. Stop giving people excuses and reasons to be awful or lazy or selfish. If other people don’t fit into our views there isn’t necessarily something wrong with them. They are who they are. They are their own note in the song, and it’s not for us to tell them which they are or where they belong. They know their own beauty, what they have to offer to the song, better than anyone if we just let them be who they are.
We could save a lot of time and preserve a lot of love by simply loving our neighbors as ourselves.
(Meme at the top of the page has an important message that is part of mine: “The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more than that.”)
Link to original tweet from Kevin Panetta.
Link: Good For the Goose – by E. Brooks, Gray Matters
Link: But Her Emails: Make a Molehill Out of a Mountain – by E. Brooks, Gray Matters
Link: Beware Ignorance – by E. Brooks, Gray Matters
Edited 3 August 2017 at 1253 to include this series of tweets I found from Elizabeth May that provides a possible answer as to why “women’s clothing” doesn’t have pockets or doesn’t have enough usable pockets. It looks like another holdover, this time from the French Revolution: