Women, Hair, and an Angry Russian

Not too long ago all women were feminine, wanted to wear dresses, cook dinner for their husbands, and have babies.

Nowadays, some women like to wear pants, some don't like cooking at all, some have no desire to procreate, some cut their hair short.

Women didn't change. Culture did. (Intrinsically, I mean, as diverse individuals with a whole range of interests and modes of expression.)

And, when culture allows it, a lot of diversity and variation come peeping through the grimy cracks.

If we took women of today and plopped them into the 40s, it would be all kinds of gender horrifying chaos. People would be calling them mentally ill, transsexuals, cross-dressers, gender rebels, on and on. Panic in the disco!



It's interesting to me, wondering how it is that I'm identifying as a person who's 'transgender' or 'genderqueer' and how these terms are only the most applicable because of the culture we're all living in. A byproduct of the times.

On one hand, there's the person that I am physiologically and biologically. Then, on the other, there's a part of me that wants to understand it and find a sense of community, which seems to be best explained and understood as 'trans', for now.

I can't help but wonder that if our culture became more accepting of variation and diversity 50 years from now, or somehow miraculously escaped binary gender, if I'd be identifying as 'trans' at all. If I'd just be an individual who's gender wasn't such an important, defining attribute. One that had so much weight over options, socializing, or even personal safety; or constantly brought up, even stemming from every day language.

At one point I worked in a physics group where a lot of people spoke Chinese as their first language. Often times these individuals would 'mess up' their gender pronouns. For example, someone could be talking about their wife but using the 'he' pronoun.

In Chinese, this individual wouldn't have to think about their partner's gender before speaking about the person but, in English, it was obvious that it was a bit culturally difficult to have to a.) think about the gender of the person then b.) select the 'appropriate' gender pronoun to refer to this person.

In English it's pretty bad, but it could be worse. Egyptians had different words relative to gender for a word like 'you' where, in English, you can say "You" and the person's gender isn't relevant. If it were, we'd have different words, like 'you' for 'men' and 'schyou' for 'women' or something ridiculous along those lines.

Spanish or French are 80gazillion times worse where individuals have to put constant thought into a.) the person's or object's appropriate gender category and b.) use the appropriate word to refer to a person or object.

It's madness, I says!

Ranting aside, I got my hair cut over the weekend and my puberty side burn fuzz photo documented before it was shaved away, which I'll post pictures of once Moo sends them to me. She lopped my rat tail off and commented that this is my most 'masculine' hair cut yet. Oh boy. I'm just relieved that now I can wear a scarf without having my mud flap of a rat tail bunch up in the back and poke upwards.

Speaking of puberty fuzz, I've been getting in a bit of trouble with my German and Russian female friends when I brag and boast about my hair growth. Just last week while I was with my friend Gina the Angry Russian I enthusiastically exclaimed, "There's hair on my inner thighs now! And on the backs of my legs! And my tummy! And look at my chin! And above my lip!", to which she replied, "There wasn't before?", then went on to show me the stubble on her chin, above her lip, her belly, and complained about having to consistently shave almost every kibble and bit on her body.

My Welsh and Swedish hairless ape ancestors ripped me off!


10 comments:

  1. I wish my wife cooked, not because I feel it's "gender appropiate", but because I don't like having to do it after a 13 hours shift.

    Of course, she's never needed to learn, because I've been doing it for her for years now. I've spoiled her...

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  2. First of all, I have to say that graduate school has kind of ruined me. I can't read something like, "culture changed," without going, "BUT! AND? THEORY? THEORY!" I will take deep breaths and calm down. :)

    BUT - You should read Foucault's "The History of Sexuality." I think you would find a lot of the stuff on discourse to be interesting. Specifically, read volume 1 - you would probably enjoy volumes 2 and 3 as well, but I haven't read those yet, so I can't personally vouch for them! Anyway, I don't know if you've read any Foucault before, but if you haven't, it's kind of like doing mental sit-ups: kind of painful, but ultimately productive. That said, I think that History of Sexuality is less painfully dense than a lot of his other stuff - then again, after a couple of months of Chicago winter, I think that anything above 40 is balmy, so take "less dense" with a grain of salt! However, I do think that you would enjoy it, or at the very least, find it really interesting.

    Also, Kim Petras is completely frikkin' adorable, and SO obviously meant to be a girl.

    In completely unrelated news, Rachel Maddow is frikkin' adorable as well, and I want to have, like, ten of her babies. For some reason she looks extra adorable tonight, and I keep blushing every time she comes back from commercial. I've never been so politically well-informed!!

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  3. Go figure... I'm a woman who took the long way around to my womanhood, i.e. transsexual. I like:
    --being feminine. Check.
    --wearing dresses. Check.
    --cooking. Check.

    But I'm still a feminist. I am in the struggle for equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, ending FGM and honor crimes, and the rest.

    Stereotypes are so inadequate for real people in real life. Each individual can have any combination of many different traits, gender-wise, politically, culturally, or whatever. Real people are not stereotypes.

    I found your thoughts on whether the concept of "transgender" will even exist 50 years from now to be fascinating and thought-provoking. 50 years ago, transgender was completely out of the question (unless your name was Christine Jorgenson, who was seen as a freak at the time). Certainly transgender on the scale we now see was unthinkable given the 1950s circumstances. And 50 years from now, I think you're probably right, the significance of transgender will disappear as it becomes irrelevant, when everyone will free to identify however they wish gender-wise.

    So what's the significance for the present moment, that transgender is currently a hot issue? We're in the midst of a huge tectonic shift in how human society is structured. So transgender as we currently know it is a symptom of the old order breaking down to give way to the new. A liminal moment. It's kind of exciting to be poised on the threshold of a new era.

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  4. raedances: I wouldn't expect anything less of you! ;]

    My little parentheses disclaimer hopefully sorta kinda conveyed what I was trying to get at in a the ittiest bittiest tiniest little nutshell possible.

    Something along the lines of how, even in the 50s, there was a lot more variation and diversity in every individual than the culture at large recognized. It only seemed uniform because each individual was strongly pressured into one category or the other.

    I actually have the 'History of Sexuality' sitting on my bookshelf! My grandma gave it to me in December, along with a slew of other super interesting books. I'll read it fo' sho'!

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  5. Lady: So well put. Particularly "So transgender as we currently know it is a symptom of the old order breaking down to give way to the new."

    Spot on!

    On a side note, the "But" isn't AT ALL necessary in the "But I'm still a feminist". As you're obviously aware, there's nothing un-feminist about femininity, dresses, and cooking!

    What would be un-feminist is to pressure all individuals into being as masculine as possible, instead of just being free to be who ze is and to make hir own choices. Throwing in some genderqueer lingo there. ;]

    Thank you for commenting!

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  6. heya! You may have written about this before, but I don't remember. Have you read much about the Native American concept of 'berdache'? here's a great read about it. I think the concept that society is breaking is correct. Non-binary gender has been recognized by societies for millenia; but as anyone who has lived in the US for the past 8 years can attest, it only takes a couple of people in power for a short amount of time to set history back eons.

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  7. oh (and as a welsh/russian and some other stuff mix) I'm really looking forward to the day when you have more chin stubble than me. My universe will feel much better that day, I'm sure, as will yours :)

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  8. dscokween: Gadz Native Americans were neat. "Among Native Americans, the role of third, fourth, or even fifth genders has been widely documented.", and then, "With the arrival of European settlers and pressure from Christian and governmental sources, the tradition of the berdache changed in dramatic ways."

    That's a really good article, by the way. Thank you for linking me to it.

    There's a really amazing documentary called "Middle Sexes: Redefining He & She" that this reminded me of that talks about this a little, also - and how some cultures that were accepting of gender identities outside of binary gender were overridden by, essentially, Christian European settlers.

    Who, of course, have had a little itsy bitsy impact on our current culture, especially here in the states. :\

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  9. You should definitely start History of Sexuality. Read it in small doses, it will probably go down more easily that way. (I had to read it all in one go because THAT IS MY LIFE NOW.) I think you will like parts one, two, and three the best (the first 73 pages), and those are also the smoothest read, relatively speaking.

    Part four starts moving towards biopower, and by part five, you're in an all out discussion of biopolitics and sovereignity, which is interesting, but dense and painful. I'm taking a class on Biopower this quarter, and I think it took me four weeks to even feel like I could barely-coherently explain the concept of "biopower." That's not to say that you wouldn't find parts four and five interesting (I think you would), but whereas you can "read" the first 73 pages of the book, everything after that needs dissection.

    Aaaaanyway, I'm procrastinating a midterm that I'm supposed to have done in 9 hours, and the longer I put it off, the more incoherent I'm going to get, and I need to somehow be awake enough to give a presentation tomorrow afternoon, so pulling an all-nighter does not sound appealing to me right now. Or ever, really. Yay, school!

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