textualdeviance: (trapped)
Dear The World:

Asking you to stop requiring people to be either butch or femme doesn't mean I'm denying those gender identities to others.* It certainly doesn't mean I'm denying gender identity itself. I'm not trying to take away your lipstick. I'm just asking you not to support a cultural paradigm that says I'm a worthless, pathetic creature (or should at least have the decency to identify as butch instead) because I don't wear it.

See also: just because I'm an atheist doesn't mean I'm trying to burn your church down, asexuals aren't anti-sex, blah blah blah.

This isn't like voting, where abstaining can have negative effects on others. It's just a matter of how one goes through the world on a personal level. If you can't enjoy playing a game without coercing everyone else into playing it, too, the problem lies with you. It's possible--really, it is!--for people to be different and yet have equal value in the world.

*Assuming those identities are, in fact, natural or at least freely chosen. If I see someone who's trying to do the femme thing but it's obvious she's not happy with it, and is only doing it because she feels obligated? I'm still going to call her on it.
textualdeviance: (Default)
This piece about unflattering photos feels especially relevant to me today, as I'm sorting through vacay pix to find some I feel comfortable posting.

As is the case with most of our travel pics, I'm behind the camera, and 90% of the photos are of landscapes, buildings, etc., with M in a few of them. The majority of our travel photosets don't have me in them at all. It's almost like I wasn't even there, since there's no telling who was wielding the camera. There are plenty of pics of me on Flickr, but most are carefully edited and chosen shots I did myself. No candids. No photos of me actually doing something or being somewhere. And almost none of them are fully public--friends/family only. I avoid being photographed so much it's like I'm attempting to erase myself from my own life.

When I bought photo shoot tickets for Collectormania, I did so because I wasn't sure whether there would be a proper chance for an autograph or any other one-on-one contact with the folks in question, not because I actually wanted a photo of myself with them. They're so beautiful that it seemed like putting me in the pic with them would be somehow blasphemous. I got the photo anyway, largely because I promised someone I'd do a photo shout-out for her. The pic of me is decent, as that goes, but I still don't want to scan it in, because the contrast of how gorgeous they are with ... well ... me ... is just so stark.

As the person in the link above noted, though: I look like that. Flattering or no, and allowances for the odd physics of 2D stills considered, those images of me are more or less what people see when they see me in person. I've not yet become a complete hermit (though I seem to be aiming that way) so other people do see my physical existence regularly. But that's not really by choice. Who I am as a person is so detached from my concept of what I physically look like that they're entirely incongruous to me. Given the choice, I'd rather present myself in a way that reflects who I am, rather than what I look like.

But, some might argue, aren't those the same thing? Isn't what I look like part of who I am? Well, insomuch as it's influenced how I've developed as a person, yes. But that's not necessarily a good thing. My physical self has earned me so much horrific abuse that all I've built from it is a crapload of internal scar tissue. My desire, therefore, to ignore it as much as possible should be understandable. And when I tell people who try to encourage me to live in my own skin, and be more present physically to fuck the hell off, they need to understand why I say that. Only people who are chronically clueless or have been blessed enough by the genetic fairy that they don't get abused by strangers for how they look would think there's merit in that. You may as well tell someone with terrible allergies that they should get out and smell the flowers in spring.

I'm an odd duck: a vaguely post-modern realist. As I've argued about other things before, I recognize cultural and social constructs for what they are--malleable, changeable and in no way biologically essential--but I also acknowledge that just because a thing is built by humans rather than naturally grown doesn't mean it doesn't exist. A building is entirely a human construction, and just as it has been assembled where it is, so can it be dismantled. Yet it's still a very real thing, it still affects its environment, and it still changes, in ways both large and small, the people who encounter it.

The social constructs we have around gender and physical appearance aren't inherent and unchangeable, no matter how much quack evolutionary psychologists may like to argue otherwise. But that doesn't mean they don't exist, or that they don't have the power to do harm. Much as a well-meaning parent might try to teach a child that beauty is only skin-deep, and looks don't matter, and it's what's inside that counts, the reality of life in a gender-stratified environment in which appearance is commodified means that yes, looks DO matter, especially for girls and women. They shouldn't matter, and children should of course learn not to judge people on things over which they have no control, appearance among them, but they also should learn that other people WILL make those judgments. And that those judgments can, in some cases, do some fairly serious damage. If you want your kid to come out without too much of that damage, you help them learn how to avoid it. It's just like teaching a kid about crime. You teach them not to steal, and that stealing is a bad thing, but you also teach them to lock up their valuables, because other people steal whether they're supposed to or not. No, I don't want my kid living under a cloud of paranoia, and the onus of responsibility for abuse lies with the abuser, but I also have a responsibility to keep my kid safe as much as possible--and that includes teaching them how to avoid becoming a target for the world's awful people.

So, this is why I don't make many pics of myself public. I know my looks don't define who I am, but I also know other people will define me that way, and that most of the people who do will judge me a lesser creature, and someone worthy of torment, because of them. Anyone worth my time, energy and affection won't abuse me that way, of course, but as I can't live life surrounded entirely by only those people, I still have to make adjustments to avoid the jerks who will. I don't personally think that being fat or having an unattractive face makes me a bad person. I think I'm a very good person, in fact. But I'm not stupid. I know other people do think that, and that if they're given enough of an opportunity, they'll do anything they can to make my life miserable. It's a form of closeting, of course, but it's an essential one. Just as I wouldn't be stupid enough to out myself as queer in a rural town full of violence-prone holy rollers, neither am I going to go pasting my picture everywhere that the attack dogs of the intarweebs are going to see it. I've already been the victim of some pretty hardcore bullying, both online and off. Why on earth would I voluntarily open myself up to more of that? If other people want to martyr themselves like that, fair enough. I'm not going to be happy about pressure to do so myself.

So, no. I'm not going to post vacation pics of myself in public spaces, and when someone does post an unflattering pic of me, I'll ask them to untag it or otherwise make it less obvious who the person in the pic is. People who know me already will know my face, and know that's me. Strangers don't need to connect that face with my name, because far too many of them will use that knowledge to hurt me. I've been hurt enough already. Sue me if I'm trying to avoid suffering any more.
textualdeviance: (Default)
Am slightly obssessed with this topic in the last few days in the wake of John Scalzi's not-gonna-say-"privilege" post about privilege. (This included two of my own followups on my quasi-legit blog.)

Need to actually do paycheck work today, but thought I'd throw this out as a mental exericse on the topic:

All other factors being equal, who's going to have it harder in life:

An MTF, who had the advantage of male privilege as a child, but the disadvantage of expressing characteristics of the underclass gender


an FTM, who had the disadvantage of being female as a child, but the advantage of expressing characteristics of the dominant gender?

Obviously, each person will struggle merely due to being trans, but does the extra shitstorm that comes with being a "girly" boy (as opposed to a tomboy, which is something relatively accepted) erase all other privilege that boy would have had merely for having boy bits and being identified as a boy by others for most of his childhood? Does the fact that FTMs often have male-coded traits/behaviors that enhance power and self-sufficiency (vs female-coded traits/behaviors that enhance dependency and submissiveness) give him a boost?

There are, of course, several living-room pachyderms inherent in this topic--essentialism, for instance--but assuming that femininity/female sex = cultural disadvantage and masculinity/male sex = cultural advantage, does that actually translate to advantages for FTMs before they officially transition? Or would the expressed-gender advantages be rendered moot by the perceived-sex ones?

There are, of course, personal reasons for wondering this. Sometimes I think being a tomboy made my life significantly harder, because my culture violently enforces femininity (though not quite as overtly violently as it enforces masculinity for boys), but it also made my life easier in some ways, because my nature aimed me toward an economic-self-sufficiency-centered life instead of a economic-depdendency-centered one.

Hm. Something to think about.
Oct. 13th, 2011 05:11 pm


textualdeviance: (Flamewars)
Thanks to being nearly done with A Feast for Crows and watching Cersei Lannister do her worst, I think I've just figured out one of the reasons I tend to have issues communicating/getting along with many other women: I'm not passive-aggressive enough.

Women are often taught that being direct equals being aggressive and confrontational (and unattractively masculine), so instead of bringing up a concern with the person causing it, they go about trying to solve it via stealth and subterfuge. And when they do get into direct conflicts, they default to personal attacks and derailing, instead of dealing with the issue head-on.

Me? I generally don't do that. Occasionally, my directness borders on overly blunt and tactless, but I simply don't believe in bullshitting or talking around something/someone. It's a waste of time, and causes far more problems than it solves. But because people don't expect that from a woman, it ends up seeming far more harsh and confrontational than it would coming from a man. Add in the other issues that brings up, with violating gender roles, etc., and it's not surprising that a lot of women would find me infuriating. I don't play by the rules of engagement they're familiar with, and it throws them off their game.

There's a lot of (legitimate) concern about how men are taught to solve conflicts with violence. This is clearly a bad thing, and should stop. However, there is one advantage to that kind of problem-solving: It's direct, it's quick, and there's never any question about who's on which side. A single punch in the mouth will heal pretty fast. Six months of rumor spreading and other catty social aggression takes far, far longer. If a man doesn't like you or has a problem with you, he tells you. If a woman doesn't like you, you may never know until she's taken you down behind the scenes. She may even be downright friendly with you to your face while she's savaging you socially in other ways. A man will kill you. A woman will kill everything you love. And that? Is horrid.

Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have found quite a few women friends who don't play that game. I've even had disagreements with some, and yet we're still friends, because we got it out in the open well before it could fester and rot. Problem is that it's so hard to tell on the surface whether a given woman will be like that, or whether she's a backstabbing coward. Which makes me really wary of making new female friends. I have to spend enough time on the periphery of them to be sure that they're not like that before I feel comfortable trusting them.

In some cases, that caution has been misinterpreted as being cold or snobby or selfish. My lack of interest in pursuing instant sisterhood with any woman I meet bothers a lot of them. Then again, the ones who are bothered by it are probably the ones I'd rather not be around anyway. Because if a woman expects me to engage in the initial friendship dance the same way other women do, she's probably going to expect me to do everything else the traditional way, too. And the first conflict we have? When I say what's wrong in so many words? Will earn me the social death penalty from her.

So, yeah. This is probably why I tend to have a lot more male than female friends. Just not interested in the mean girls' art of war. Call me Brienne, I guess. ;)
textualdeviance: (Whole Lotta WTF)
I am not "threatened" by your femininity. I simply find it irritating that you not only feel you need to adhere to your culture's prescription for rigid gender roles and presentation, but that other women are required to do this, too.

No love,
That tomboy who dresses "unattractively"

Seriously? I fucking hate women who reinforce sexism, especially if they're doing it with the excuse of A) Essentialist bullshit about how this is how women "naturally" are, and by denying our "true" femininity, we're being sexist ourselves and/or B) Going off about how true feminism means not only respecting her "choice" to tart up/be a domestic doormat, but going along with her plan to require the same of every other woman (or at least create an army of femme peer pressure to encourage it.)

Just because I'm not interested in looking/acting like Barbie or June Cleaver does not mean I'm a traitor to my gender, asshat. Modern Western ideals of femininity have jack shit to do with what we actually are as human beings. Instead, they have a lot more to do with cultural conditioning to make us (and men) believe that we're naturally best suited to be mindless spooge receptacles and/or baby machines. No, of course there's nothing wrong with sex or parenthood, but presenting those things as if they're inherently feminine or somehow essential elements of the life of anyone who has a vagina? Is bullshit. Knock it the fuck off.
textualdeviance: (Connor/Becker secrets)
I think the reason I get so twitterpated when I see men showing each other affection is because it's so, so much more likely to be sincere than any other sort of PDA (in Western culture, at least.)

Women are affectionate all the time, but the affection shown often well outweighs the actual emotion behind it. We often do these things by rote or cultural expectation more than because we feel truly compelled to do it, so any given hug isn't guaranteed to be something genuine.

And straight guys, of course, will show affection to women expressly for the purpose of getting them in bed, so there's no guarantee that's genuine, either.

But it's different when a man's hugging/kissing another man in public. The cultural stigma against this is so great that it takes quite a lot of feeling behind it to get a man to push past whatever the world might think of him to be demonstrative with a man he loves.

The one caveat is that this isn't necessarily true in gay spaces. With the stigma removed there, hugs and air kisses between men can be just as insincere as the same between women. (That said, gay men also know they don't have to fake affection to get laid, so that part, at least, is somewhat less likely.)

But in general public spaces? Yeah. Probably means something. I'm talking here, of course of PDA outside of celebrating touchdowns, acknowledging major life events and "man smacks." Full-body hugs, kisses, cuddles, handholding, etc.--those always mean something if they happen in view of random other people. It's not always sexually charged, of course--though it often is--but regardless, there's real emotion behind a pair of men joyfully embracing each other when they're nowhere near a sports field or funeral.

And because so many people these days seem afraid of showing emotion and bonding with others, seeing something that real and genuine is incredibly touching to me. It's a sign that maybe not everyone in the world has lost that need. It's hopeful, in other words.

So... Yeah. Bring on the huggy boys, please. :)
textualdeviance: (*headdesk*)
Sometimes, my weird gender stuff is really damned tiring. Most of the world is cisgender-oriented, and I'm just... not. Which can feel uncomfortably isolating sometimes.

Was just thinking about this WRT to fandom, since I had a slight epiphany that the reason I'm interested in a canon "het" OTP for the first time in basically ever is because it's gender-role reversed (yes, in canon. Yay!) I've seen a couple more of these here and there (would love to see more of the Claudia/Fargo crossover stuff, for instance, and I love Gwen/Rhys in Torchwood) but it's really quite rare.

IME, most adult (AKA: sex-friendly) fanthings are primarily attracted to traditionally masculine men, whereas the more-submissive guys I like tend to attract younger/more-delicate-minded fans who perceive their submissiveness as asexuality (which is pretty much never the case; they're just as horny as any other guy.*) Just not a lot of other fans out there who share my yes-quite-prurient interest in guys like that, which makes the squee-sharing adventures a little less than fruitful at times.

And finding other folks who appreciate a strong woman? Even harder. Some straight guys are into them, of course, but most of the ones who are are the creepy sorts who are primarily interested in the challenge of breaking her (see: Whedon, Joss.) There are, of course, many women who appreciate strong ones (as opposed to finding them threatening, as is most often the case) but that tends to be in the hero-worship/role model vein, rather than the "Daym! I can haz?" one I usually have in mind.

The other challenge? Most of the folks who fit my type are usually gay. Theoretically not an issue for the women, but IME, the married-bi-chica thing tends to act like dyke repellent. Dammit. :(

Ah, well. I spose my life would be a lot less interesting if I happened to be more mainstream. So maybe this is just how things are supposed to be for me. Always a little on the odd side where most folks are concerned.

*Side note: Must say I was very amused watching the first couple of Wilfred eps. In the back of my mind, I could hear Elijah's sexphobic fantwits going apoplectic at some of the stuff he was doing. Heh.
textualdeviance: (bi slut)
My time was a few years before this; I was into Andrew McCarthy, Tommy Howell, Rob Lowe, Duran Duran, etc. But the point still stands: I was totally into those pretty, pretty boys.

And... I still am.

Prolly TMI )

So, if my attraction to pretty boys means I'm a lesbian, does my attraction to tomboys mean I'm actually straight?

Or, does it really mean that I just have a type, and it's the same basic gender expression, just without too much care about the actual physical configuration?

I'll go with door number three, Monty.

FTR, I do have more types than that. Curvy goddess sorts, for instance. Come to mama, darlings.
textualdeviance: (Bridal Illusions)
It just occurred to me: I know basically nothing about mainstream het female culture.

I was just thinking that virtually all of the friends I've had in the last ~20 years have been some variety of queer or non-muggle. The only thing I know about average straight women is what I get from the media. I mean... I know some straight women, sure (hi!), but most of them are fandom/alterna sorts and therefore don't really do the mainstream girl thing themselves.

K is probably the only more-or-less "normal" straight woman I know, and that's different because she's practically my sister, and she's more than a bit of a tomboy anyway.

Most of the guys I know are queer or geeky, too, but I've known a lot more average straight men than women, and therefore their culture isn't as much of an unknown.

No wonder I feel so weird when I'm forced to have social conversations with straight women. They're basically an alien species to me.


textualdeviance: (Default)

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