tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
I've been reading Carolyn Heilbrun's _Reinventing Womanhood_. I have the seeds of a post or an essay germinating in my head about geek-as-third-gender[*], genderqueerness (especially in female-assigned people), and how that does or doesn't relate to the idea of successful women aspiring to be "honorary men" as Heilbrun argues against, and to feminism and/or the rejection thereof. It still all comes down to the need to make gender both matter and not matter at the same time. To the apparent contradiction between saying, "fuck it, your labels don't apply to me, and I refuse to attach any of them to myself" and the idea of accepting the label of "woman" and living your life as an example of what being a woman can mean. To do either of those seems to be giving more credence to the concepts of "man" and "woman" than they deserve -- but that's what it means to live in a man's world. So, sometime, I will write something better-thought-out on this point.

[*] is worth noting because it's an essay that I and many other people in my circle have enjoyed, yet it seems somehow quite revealing that it's titled "The Anti-Girl Manifesto" -- why is it so frequent that when somebody writes something rejecting gender, it's always the trappings of the female gender that get attacked far more harshly? The author writes, "I'm not a woman, I'm a geek;" yet why does it seem so natural for a woman to write that when it would seem almost unnecessary for a man to declare, "I'm not a man, I'm a geek"? It's not that no one would ever say such a thing, but there doesn't seem to be anything contradictory in our discourse about being a man and a geek. I mean, duh. So when you say, "I'm not a woman, I'm a geek," is this a daring statement of individuality, or does it just reveal you've bought into the same poisonous stereotypes we all have, that you've bought the idea that you can't be a woman and a geek? When I say that I don't identify as a woman or a man because I don't feel like either one, am I just buying into the idea that man is default and woman is special-case? If I were exactly the same as I am now, with the same mind except with convex instead of concave bits (ignoring that I'd have lived a different life if I'd been born with them), would I feel the same need to repudiate my assigned gender? Or would I just take it as a given that I was a person first and a man later, because all men grow up with the privilege of being able to take it for granted that they are a person first, whereas a woman has to spend her life proving it?

To put it another way, there's something really quite broken about the fact that if you call a man a "lady", you're cruising for a bruising (unless he's gay or has an unusually good sense of humor), but if you call a woman a "gentleman", she's supposed to take it as a compliment.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] detonate-for-me.livejournal.com
why is it so frequent that when somebody writes something rejecting gender, it's always the trappings of the female gender that get attacked far more harshly?

Girls suck. But seriously. I think it's because women are perceived as weaker. Weak = bad. Anything attached to or associated with weakness is something to be shunned.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
I'd be interested in comparing who's writing it?

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
Tgenderqueerness (especially in female-assigned people),

As apparently ugly and misogynistic as it seems to be, Taking Gender Differences Seriously (link in today's [livejournal.com profile] differenceblog) seems to sort of argue a point similar to this, suggesting that there are actually two types of women (in contrast to one type of men).

Or is the point you're thinking of different from this? I guess I mean, how is your point different from this?

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
suggesting that there are actually two types of women (in contrast to one type of men).

I don't see where this point is mentioned in your post or in the Amazon page you linked to about the book (although admittedly, I had to stop reading that Amazon page pretty quickly, as it made my eyes bleed.) Care to elaborate?

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
It's actually more elaborated in the National Review article (http://www.faculty.virginia.edu/sexdifferences/reviews7.html):
"The culture wars," Rhoads notes with some justice, "are really about the role of women." He shows that while men are all about the same when it comes to the masculine traits of competitiveness, aggression, and dominance (even "computer nerds" enjoy the frenzied clashes of "BattleBots"), women are divided into two camps: a majority who are traditionally feminine with a yearning for nest-building and children; and a minority, exposed to higher levels of testosterone, who show more male attributes. The tension between these two kinds of women becomes a recurring theme in the book.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
I find that rather pat. I know plenty of unaggressive men, for one, and for another, if there are these two types of women (and I don't think it breaks down into two types; liking computers doesn't mean you don't want to spawn offspring), I don't attribute it to biology (because I don't see a preponderance of evidence for doing so), but rather to social messages that women are the special case and so if you're a woman who likes computers and competition and so on, that that's something strange and worth remarking on.

If it looks like there isn't more than one type of men, it's because we don't divide up men into categories according to how much of a man they really are, because more or less anything is compatible with being a man (if man is the default and woman is a special case), whereas when we see an autonomous woman somehow that makes her less womanly in our minds (regardless of her own gender identity). So if there are these two categories, they exist in our minds and in our discourse; I'm pretty skeptical of any claims unbacked by proof that they result from biology, given how eager most people are to accept biological explanations when they don't have the training to evaluate them as being good or bad science.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
Okay. I think we're getting sidetracked by the awfulness of his argument, because what I was really interested in was in your focus on female-bodied-genderqueers as "third gender" -- is it just that you have little experience with male-bodied-genderqueers, or do you see a difference between male and female bodied GQs?

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
I should define what I mean by "genderqueer" here, which I'm using to refer to people who haven't done anything to change the physical characteristics of their sex, don't intend to, and identify as some gender identity that's neither female or male. If I think about the set of such people I've run into, more of them are people who were female-assigned at birth than male-assigned. So I do think of "genderqueer", in the sense I'm using it, as being more of a female thing than a male thing. Certainly the person whose experience I'm most familiar with is my own, and I'm a female-bodied genderqueer. And because of that, I wonder whether the specific need to identify as neither male or female is a response to the idea of woman-as-special-case. But I don't know whether I'm right in assuming that most genderqueers are female-assigned, and it would be hard to figure out if that's really true, since genderqueers don't really exist as a mainstream category yet.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
FWIW, I don't think I know any male-assigned genderqueers either. I'm just assuming that they're out there, but more connected to some other community that I'm not part of. FBGQs tend to be loosely affiliated with FTMs, but I think that MBGQs might not be affiliated with MTFs, because in my (very limited) experience, there is even worse "identity police" in MTF cuilture than in FTM...

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
Yes, and the struggle for trans acceptance, I think, provides another angle on the "making gender matter and not matter at the same time" problem. You have the "gender is fluid" camp, and the "I have the right to be accepted as my inborn biological gender" camp, and the two make an uneasy alliance, if they make one at all. Califia's _Sex Changes_ covers that pretty well, though, IMO.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
Which reminds me of a poll I wanted to do
thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
I've put up the poll (http://dan4th.livejournal.com/738283.html?#cutid1) and I'd appreciate you promoting it to your list, if you don't mind.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
awesomeness!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 04:26 pm (UTC)
ext_122215: Photo of my short blue hair. (Default)
From: [identity profile] goddess32585.livejournal.com
i feel like i've seen a fair number of male-bodied gq folk at [livejournal.com profile] genderqueer, and a good rl friend of mine is. if you want hand-wavy numbers, you could probably ask there.

fwiw, i think you're right about the motivations for some females to id as 'something else', though probably not for all, or even most; i'm not uncomfortable in my female body, but being expected to act like a woman, whatever that means, is just ridiculous. besides, apparently real women have curves.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 01:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dan4th.livejournal.com
oh, I should probably warn: Reading that review may cause a fog of rage to descend upon you. It's having an interesting effect on my morning.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:05 pm (UTC)
ext_36143: (Default)
From: [identity profile] badasstronaut.livejournal.com
Wow. I have lots of thoughts about this kind of thing, and have been having them for a long time. It's so complex that I suspect we could pick it to pieces for ever, and yet I think it's worth doing that forever really.

One thought about that link - doesn't claiming 'geek' in place of 'woman' deny gender power differencess within the group of people who call themselves geeks?

When I was little I desperately wanted to be a little boy. I feel annoyed about that now. I'd taken on some idea that maleness was somehow better. I don't believe that anymore. I think I tried to engage in activities I found less interesting in some cases because I perceived them as masculine. I think I have aspects of myself that might be labelled traditionally masculine and others that might be labelled traditionally feminine, and I expect most people do.

I read someone's journal post a week or so ago about how she felt feminism wasn't relevant for her because gender wasn't high up on her list of ways she defined herself. I said that I thought it was relevant to me for exactly the same reason. For me, feminism should enable me, a woman (because I do regard myself as a woman), to define myself however I like and to value whichever of my characteristics I like regardless of traditional views of gendered characteristics. I think the Stitch&Bitch movement has been a bit like that. People might mock, but it's basically people saying "Fuck you. Knitting's just as pointful a thing to do on a Saturday afternoon as football." And we're right; it is.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
One thought about that link - doesn't claiming 'geek' in place of 'woman' deny gender power differencess within the group of people who call themselves geeks?

Indeed. And I think that's very potentially harmful to the extent that it keeps you from noticing sexism within the geek community, which does exist, as per the Male Programmer Privilege Checklist that I posted. It can potentially keep you from thinking that sexist behavior -- when it occurs in your community -- is a matter of problems with individuals, rather than an example of larger societal forces at work, because of course the usual ways that society works couldn't possibly have anything to do with your beautiful and unique subculture.

When I was little I desperately wanted to be a little boy. I feel annoyed about that now. I'd taken on some idea that maleness was somehow better. I don't believe that anymore.

Yeah, this is the kind of thing that Heilbrun talks about in her book; it seems that a lot of successful women got where they are by feeling that way.

I read someone's journal post a week or so ago about how she felt feminism wasn't relevant for her because gender wasn't high up on her list of ways she defined herself.

Funny, cuz it's feminism exactly that has given her the privilege of being able to say that.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 02:20 pm (UTC)
ext_36143: (Default)
From: [identity profile] badasstronaut.livejournal.com
And I think that's very potentially harmful to the extent that it keeps you from noticing sexism within the geek community, which does exist, as per the Male Programmer Privilege Checklist that I posted. It can potentially keep you from thinking that sexist behavior -- when it occurs in your community -- is a matter of problems with individuals, rather than an example of larger societal forces at work, because of course the usual ways that society works couldn't possibly have anything to do with your beautiful and unique subculture.

Quite. I personally know damn well sexism is alive and kicking in small press comic geek circles. Fortunately there're more good, pushy women here in the UK circles who've created a much nicer space for us here than was the case in New Zealand, but I'm aware of how hard they've worked for that, and have a sense of how quickly it would be lost if people stopped paying attention.

The other thing that makes me uncomfortable with the gender-geek post is, how about those of us who fall through the cracks? Yes, I like comic books more than Cosmo, I've been a keen RPGer, I like computers and games, and books, and conversations about abstract ideas. I find it insulting when it's suggested that I can't have all that and wear a skirt or some lipstick or whatever if I want to. Undermining any set of choices isn't a very good way to support everyone's choices.

Funny, cuz it's feminism exactly that has given her the privilege of being able to say that.

Quite. Not to mention her degree, her career and her access to technology.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thewronghands.livejournal.com
One thought about that link - doesn't claiming 'geek' in place of 'woman' deny gender power differencess within the group of people who call themselves geeks?

Often, yes. I'm one of a relatively few women in my field who speak at conferences presenting their own research. When I first started, I was worried with some justice about being "the girl hacker". And while I had my scoffing counterarguments all lined up ("um, Ada Lovelace? Hello?"), it took several years and the eventual refusal to do any interviews that were personal and not technical to become "the $my_specialization hacker" instead. There are other women in the field, but not many of them speak, and there were fewer several years back.

I recently had one of my friends say that I was sufficiently accomplished in my field that I was considered "effectively male", and that she wished that there were more "feminine" women in security. While I know that she meant it as a half-compliment, I was really pretty offended. If I were effectively male, I wouldn't have had to deal with half the crap I have from the security community, not exactly known for its maturity. I wouldn't have had a boss say "so get me coffee and take notes" after I introduced myself as the senior engineer, picking the two women at the meeting of eight people for these roles. I wouldn't have gotten 800 requests for a date in e-mail after Slashdot ran an article about me. I wouldn't have to listen to my research peers saying that all that women in security were good for was sucking dick under the desk, or to listen to my boss asking me if I'd noticed too that women in security weren't as good as the men at their jobs. "Oh, but not you, [livejournal.com profile] thewronghands". Die in a fire. I wouldn't have been colloquially known as "that ball-busting bitch" at work.

To say that an accomplished woman is "effectively male" is to undercut both the experience of sexism (not pleasant), and the very traits that allowed me to overcome all those experiences I was bitching about. If I were more passive, helpful, and "feminine", I would be less accomplished. I feel that saying "we're all geeks here", while it can be a pleasant statement of collective acceptance and socialization, does to some degree deny that when I walk into a room to give a talk, half the audience is looking at my breasts and not my face. That's a relevant experience, as distasteful as it is. So while I don't want to be "the girl hacker", I do strongly identify as female and feminist, and to say that that doesn't matter is, unfortunately, laughable. It would be great if we got to a point where it truly didn't matter, but we're nowhere near there yet.

Totally agree with you regarding feminism and its point.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 03:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
Great comment. I think you'd enjoy the Heilbrun book; she has a lot to say about the "effectively male" phenomenon.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 04:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thewronghands.livejournal.com
I'll check it out; thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 03:58 pm (UTC)
ext_36143: (Default)
From: [identity profile] badasstronaut.livejournal.com
I suppose I've had it relatively easy in a sense. Professionally I've wound up in a discipline area (education) where there are a lot of highly regarded female researchers and theorists, although of course it wasn't always like that, and there's still the history of Big Important Men who carved out the foundations. That said, in a previous role, as an adviser at a medical school, I sat on various policy and strategy development committees, where I used to joke about being the only person without a grey beard.

People always bang on about Mrs Thatcher (previous UK PM) as not being a 'real woman'. Just because she was tough and not very nice to poor people. To me, that's no evidence that she's not a woman, but that not all women are nice. Or weak, for that matter. I think the problem stems from the assumption that there's one correct way to 'be a man' and one to 'be a woman', but really there are as many ways of being men and women as there are men and women.

I've no idea how feminine other people think I am, but at least at work I'm rarely passive. Sometimes I'm quite pushy, and I'm often arrogant. I do think I'm helpful though. I think we should smash up these sets that supposedly go together.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 05:41 pm (UTC)
ext_3375: Banded Tussock (Default)
From: [identity profile] hairyears.livejournal.com
My take on it is that gender roles are changing and not everyone is keeping up: sure as hell, the language and manners of an harmonious society, household and workplace are still evolving and the transitional forms we have today are far from perfect.

Actually, I'd say that they will need decades to settle down and many things will suck in the meantime. Deal with it, work with the more reasonable people and make damn' sure that the less-reasonable ones are told - politely and reasonably - to adapt; it doesn't have to be you that takes all the grief.

That being said, not everyone is trying to keep up.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 07:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etb.livejournal.com
So is Trent Lott going to start talking about the President nominating "a qualified man, woman, or geek"?

To put it another way, there's something really quite broken about the fact that if you call a man a "lady", you're cruising for a bruising

The fun thing about being mistaken for a woman is how discombobulatedly apologetic people (by "people" I mean "men", of course!) get when they realize the GRAVE INSULT they've perpetrated, with the exception of some freak riding a bike past the 1st & Oak MAX station who preceded his interrogation about whether the adjacent business had closed permanently with "hey ma'am—sir—whatever".

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catamorphism.livejournal.com
I got "sir...ma'am"ed for the first time in ages on my first day in England. It was awesome. Hasn't happened since, though. I keep wondering if I really should keep growing my hair, since that seems to be 99% of it.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-16 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kest.livejournal.com
I think there's two axes. One is power. In our society, men have power. Therefore to want to have power becomes synonymous with wanting to be male. If one postulates that a 'geek' gender rests somewhere between 'male' and 'female' (although I'm not entirely sure that that is what you're postulating), then to be 'geek' *raises* the status of women, whereas it *decreases* the status of men. While most geek men are ok with this (it could be said that there is a geek status which to most geeks is more important than conventional status), there's still the social pressure to not talk about it much.

The other axis is, well, I want to say gender roles, but more like traditional/stereotypical gender traits. The things we say are 'girly' or 'manly'. I think there's a growing movement for not just equal power for women, but being allowed to have equal power *without* necessarily having to become 'manly', but this is hard, because women have long felt like we are forced to play men's game. Especially as one of those strong feminine traits is a desire to not rock the boat, to make everybody happy. There is also an equally strong movement for both men and women to have some freedom from these stereotypes and be able to be male or female without necessarily being 'girly' or 'manly'. In both cases I think it all comes down to respecting other people, and respecting difference. Female traits have value in their own right and should be respected by both men and women, just as male traits should.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-17 01:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etb.livejournal.com
There is also an equally strong movement for both men and women to have some freedom from these stereotypes

There is? Where?

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-17 08:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kest.livejournal.com
genderqueer is part of it, as are a number of subcultures, like goth/punk or hippies. The stereotypical gay man leans towards feminine traits and the stereotypical gay woman leans towards male traits. We have a growing number of not only women in pants, but men in skirts. (Although sometimes they call them kilts.) Men are doing more childcare, and are more interested in being 'sensitive', at the same time that women's career opportunities and confidence are increasing. It's kind of hard to see, because its slow, and a lot of it is 'underground', but its definitely there.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-17 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etb.livejournal.com
Bringing up "the stereotypical gay man" just emphasizes how off limits the idea of men-acting-like-women is. If you have sources for any of the rest of it, I'd like to see them; I don't mind being convinced that reality is less grim than it appears.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-10-17 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pplfichi.livejournal.com
Too much has been crowed into "man" and "woman". From the male point of view, the whole thing where to be a real man you have to behave like a chauvinistic bastard irritates the hell out of me, but on a more general level I more-or-less gave up on the whole gender identity label thing a few years ago.

Born male, I've never felt comfortable being called a man, but certainly not a woman either. I use the label "fairy" as I used it once online when someone asked and it seems to have stuck, but really I just think of me as a me. I think the genderqueer label fits, though I'm not entirely comfortable with the overtones. There are too many identity nazis in the gay community...

if you call a man a "lady", you're cruising for a bruising

Over the summer I was told by a toilet attendant that the entrance to the female loos was over on the other side as I walked up towards the male one. The apology was truly cringe worthy when she realised her mistake.

I wish society's views on genders were less overloaded and more flexible. Because women can reject girly stuff, not want kids, like computers, not be any of these or some of them. Same as men can hate beer, be passive or interested in make-up.

Profile

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

November 2014

S M T W T F S
      1
23 4567 8
9101112 131415
1617 1819202122
23242526272829
30      

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags