Category Archives: discussion

A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

Advertisements

Dating While (Apparently) Transphobic

by cacophonies

Note: I tried to avoid jargon as much as possible for anyone new to transgender issues, but sometimes it is just easier. For anyone unsure, cis means non-trans; one’s gender identity and physical sex “match” what is found on one’s birth certificate. Trans is used here to encompass anyone whose gender identity does not match the sex that the person was assigned at birth.

Feministe has just introduced their summer guest bloggers, one of whom is Queen Emily of Questioning Transphobia. Queen Emily laid down some ground rules about the types of comments she would and would not allow, since blogs about trans issues on larger feminist blogs tend to get frequently derailed with 101-style questions about anything trans-related.

Naturally, the post lead to some ridiculous comments that directly contradicted the rules listed on her introductory post.

…One derail, however, got a few snotty replies, and got me thinking.

Commenter Melancholia asked:

Is it transphobic if a cis person will not date a trans?

The answers were pretty much the same across the board:

GallingGalla: “is it self-defense if a trans person will not date a cis person who asks questions like this?”

Kristin: “Yes, you dumbass, it’s transphobic.”

little light: “No on account of we have gross cooties. Perfectly understandable and stuff!”

gudbuytjane: “Oh, and not dating someone because they were a trans woman (which is usually the issue, now) is not only transphobic, it’s kinda foolish, because a lot of us are pretty damn hot.”

There were more, of course. All of them agreed that, yes, deciding not to date someone because they’re trans is transphobic.

The odd thing is that commenter abbyjean, who’s in agreement with the theories above, makes sure to educate the commentariat on the definition of transphobia from a pretty straightforward about.com article, which is: “Transphobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms.”

(emphasis mine)

It really depends on how you look at it. If I find out that my prospective partner’s genatalia is quite a bit different that I had imagined it would be, and that part of their body was important to me (say, if I had a desire for biological children with my significant other), then I do not see the problem with no longer being interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. With that particular example, the same decision would be justified with two cis people.

I get it, I see how people who believe that this is transphobic are waiting for me to remark specifically on the way that trans women’s or men’s genitals are different, waiting for me to slip up and say something that insinuates that I assume that all trans men have vaginas, and that all trans women have penises, therefore disregarding their gender and giving them an identity that I choose for them. I’m not going to, because I know that that’s simply not the case. But to call a cisgender person transphobic for choosing not to be romantically involved with someone because they are trans is problematic on a number of levels:

It’s not about transphobia. It’s about sexual orientation.

I’m a heterosexual female, so I should therefore have the right to tell a woman that I don’t want to date her. I also have the right to desire biological children, which means that it cannot possibly be wrong for me to deny someone the privilege of being in a romantic relationship with me if they do not share that desire, or are unable to contribute to that desire.

Julia Serano wrote in “Love Rant,” a chapter in “Whipping Girl,” that she and a (presumably cis) male friend of hers had a discussion about how she would feel if her partner were to tell her that they were trans.

…he seemed surprised when I replied that I would not be bothered one bit. And it’s not that I would merely ‘tolerate’ a relationship with a trans woman. On the contrary, I would consider it an honor.”

Notice how Serano defaults to discussing trans women in her examples. She openly admits her sexual preference and orientation, but simultaneously demands that the rest of us forget our own.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. She has an admiration for what trans women go through, and she can certainly identify with trans women. She goes on to describe other details about her personal attraction to people. She, personally, would not be bothered if her partner were to inform her that they were going to transition to the opposite sex.

There’s nothing to worry about until she goes on, another page further, when her friend asks Julia (who identifies as a lesbian), “Well, what if you found out that the trans woman you were attracted to still had a penis?” Julia laughed, she says, and then told him:

I laughed and replied that I am attracted to people, not to dismembered body parts. And I would be a selfish, ignorant, and unsatisfying lover if I believed that my partner’s genitals existed primarily for my pleasure rather than her own.

She raises a decent enough point if you’re considering a couple that’s been together for a long time and one partner, unexpectedly to the other, comes out as trans, and all works out well, but her problem is that she can’t stop telling people who and what they should be attracted to, and why, and how. She is a millimeter away from telling homosexual people that everything they are fighting for is worthless and all in vain, because sexual orientation doesn’t exist.

Excluding examples of people who are freaked out by their prospective partner being trans, or people who think trans people are “gross,” “unnatural,” or any number of other things, I can think of a lot of examples where a person would decide not to date a trans person because they are trans:

Heterosexual cis woman whose (to her knowledge) heterosexual cis male husband informs her that he is trans, and will be transitioning to female. Her trans partner may or may not identify as a lesbian, or bisexual. This isn’t relevant. The cis woman is heterosexual; being with another woman is not in her sexual nature. This is not transphobic. This is telling the cis woman that she has no right to have a sexual preference, or orientation.

Or, the cis lesbian woman whose presumed female partner comes out as trans. Is she supposed to stop caring about how she’s attracted to females, and accept that she’s now with a male, which is in direct opposition to her natural inclination toward woman as romantic and/or sexual partners? Is that fair?

Or the cis person who finds out that a prospective partner is trans, and the cis person had a strong desire for biological children with their partner in the future. This is no longer (in most cases) possible with a trans partner. Is it now wrong for him or her to end the romantic partnership with the trans person in order to pursue their own goals or desires?

Find all the logical flaws in this post that you want, but to make it personal: I just can’t find a way to justify how it is appropriate to tell me that I am selfish and ignorant for liking the fact that my significant other has a penis, and not liking it so much if he decided to change that.

Body Hair

by cacophonies

This post is intended to start a discussion.

Women: do you feel an obligation to remove body hair on your legs, under your arms, on your face, etc? Do you remove said hair? Why, or why not?

Men: Are you concerned at all about your body hair? Do you feel an obligation to have body hair, or even remove some if it is in the “wrong” place? Do you think you have too much, too little, or is this something you’ve never really thought of? When you were a teenager and started growing facial hair, were you embarrassed by it, did you feel inadequate if you didn’t grow a lot of facial hair right away, or were you not very affected by it?
How do you feel about the possibility of losing your hair?

Men and women:

Does it matter to you if another women doesn’t shave her legs, or if a man always looks clean-shaven because he just can’t grow thick enough facial hair to have an aesthetically-pleasing pattern of hair? Or if a women has hairy armpits, or a man has a long, unkempt beard? What do you find socially acceptable, if anything? What’s ok, what’s not, and why, or why not?

If you are a trans man or woman, do you think you would feel any differently about your body hair if you were not transgender?

How are you affected by gendered expectations in terms of your own body hair, and how does it affect your perception of others?

Gendered Language, Part II

by cacophonies

The recent post about gendered language and the common defaulting to male got on quite a tangent. I’d like to raise a few points to maybe clarify, or expand on, what I was saying.

My annoyance at being defaulted to male, like when a customer sends a letter to me, a female, addressed to “Sirs,” is based less on historical context or its relevance to current societal problems or legal issues, and more to do with what the words or phrases mean in modern society.

No, discontinuing the official use of gendered language is not stopping women from “facing legal penalty for being raped in misogynistic cultures,” but it is holding onto, and perpetuating, the idea that women are not equal to men. Whether the person who writes the letter or defaults to male pronouns in speech realizes it or not, or whether or not s/he is actively sexist.

I readily acknowledge the fact that meanings of words have changed with time, and the root of any one word may mean something completely different in a different time than its modified version does now. I agree that gendered language is slowly evolving and becoming more inclusive. I’m also not denying that, 50 years ago, when the same elderly person that called me a sir in their letter to me wrote their first letter to her bank, it was 100% expected that a man would receive that letter and handle the person’s problem. Maybe more women were accepting of that then, and they aren’t now. Times have changed, and I understand that.

My post was, ultimately, touching on a small annoyance that I, as a female, have to deal with in my professional life. Defaulting to male when addressing or describing people is now outdated and, because of the fact that women occupy nearly all positions in the corporate world, sexist, whether intended or not.

Gendered language does, however, grow into larger problems. The little boy who learns that it is expected to assume everyone is male when addressing an audience, a letter, or telling a story, will grow accustomed to the idea that he is the default, and therefore, the most important or most valuable. The little girl that learns the same thing will grow accustomed to believing that she is an afterthought, or not as important, and that she will always have to struggle to be recognized– more so than her male counterparts.

The subliminal messages (whether intended or not) that we get and process as a result of gendered language can, in fact, be problematic on a larger scale. Maybe, if the 20-year old college guy hadn’t been assuming that everyone defaults to male, therefore not realizing that he sees himself as more valuable than women, or sees women as a people who exist for him, he would have listened when the girl that went to the frat party he threw said no, because he would see her as a peer, someone who had the same ability to make decisions for herself as he had.

That’s a bit of an out-there example, but I think it fits. Acquaintance/date rape is a huge problem, and the victims are more often women than men, and gendered language that defaults to men is only aiding in the mindset that that’s expected, or acceptable behavior. Like it’s just another part of being a female that we have to live with, comparable to our periods.

That’s not how it actually is, and that’s not the idea that we should perpetuate with something so easily changed and modified as our language.

Dear Sirs,

by cacophonies

I work for a department in a bank that deals with a lot of written customer correspondence. I sometimes receive letters that start:

“Dear Sirs,”

This infuriates me every time, without fail.

I hate this because it implies one of two things: 1. only men work at banks or, 2. only men should work at banks.

What do you think about gendered language? Specifically, the American tradition of defaulting everything to male? “He” and “man” are supposed to be the general descriptors; do you think this is sexist, right on, or irrelevant?