Wednesday, November 10, 2010
More on identity & labeling
We look at this bunch of stuff above and think "girl's stuff." Below, here's some "guy's stuff":
What gender do you assign to this?
Here's a doll for girls:
A toy for boys:
And, of course, before we can even identify ourselves, we must make sure that no one treats babies in ways inappropriate to their gender, so we have. . .
I've been called out on some of my thinking by someone named Dirt, who writes this blog. Though I think her methods are a bit too confrontational, I agree with a lot of what she is trying to do. I searched my own blog archive and found, interestingly, that I wrote a post about gender identity on the day before my birthday both last year in "why do I have to identify as anything?", and the year before. The '08 post did not get published. Here is an excerpt from what was called "being a woman, whatever that means":
". . .there's a part of me that thinks that all the study of identity itself has created some monsters that were never there in the first place.
Monsters? Yes. When I think about myself as a teenager, take that person, and drop her into the university of today (or ten years ago), the pressure to see myself as transgender would have been enormous. I can hear some of you balking internally. Wouldn't it have been better if I had others to identify with? I say the answer is "no."
Sorry, but I'm fairly firm in my belief that folks under the age of 25 or so are terribly impressionable, worry too much about what others think of them, and have a deep need for belonging. Most of the young transmen I've met are as conformist to their in-group normalcy as a frat boy is to his peers.
Of course, this isn't news. Most people need to belong to something."
I'd written about this many times. Another old post had a picture of a book with the subtitle "queer strategies for resisting assimilation."
"Dirt" pointed out to me that most gender identifying in talk and identity is based on stuff. It's not that I didn't notice that. I've brought up the blue/pink silliness before. I should refrain from calling it "silly", for here's where it all starts.
How can we resist assimilation (otherwise known as socialization)? Those of us who do not assimilate "properly" wind up being labeled or labeling ourselves. Dirt is upset, too, about women and girls having surgery when "all" that it is going on with them is that they don't fit gender stereotypes. I agree, for the most part. Liking boy's toys, boy's clothes, trucks, tools, etc., etc., blah blah blah, does not mean one is a man trapped in a woman's body. In her email to me, she writes, "not born into the wrong body, but the wrong society." For the most part, 'tis true. Dirt's blog has a good post about the reasons people feel they "might be trans."
So, I've proved to myself that this has been on my mind for a while. A good deal of it is a reaction to what I see as a fad to think of oneself as ftm if one doesn't conform to gender stereotypes, and I am upset by this. I've been hesitant to be strong in my convictions for fear of stepping on anyone's right to "identify" as what they want. But, in view of the enormity of peer pressure that has escalated due to the web, I feel an increasingly strong obligation to write about this. If it was only a matter of identity, and not one that involved surgical intervention, I would not be so concerned.
The feelings of not feeling "right", not feeling comfortable in one's skin, not being sure of one's sexuality. . .all the feelings are part and parcel of coming of age. For some, it is particularly difficult. I believe that there is a growing challenge to expand the definitions of what "feminine" is, if indeed we must continue to even use such words as masculine and feminine. Our need to categorize (and medicalize) everyone and everything seems to be limitless. It is a sickness of our society.
Some say it's "natural" to categorize and see the world in terms of male and female. I'll save that argument for another day.