“He commanded that I give up my car, my tv, my guitar, etc, I complied with only a whimper of protest. I didn’t have the rights to own things anymore. I was a wife now, and my husband was my spiritual authority. …So later, when my husband gave me lists for what I had to clean to perfection before being allowed to go to bed at night, etc, I submitted because I thought that was what God wanted… According to the teachings of this camp, the only time a wife has the right to say no to her husband is when he’s asking her to sin. And giving a detailed list of how the kitchen had to be completely sanitized and toothbrush-scrubbed before I could climb the stairs for bed (where he was waiting for me, ready for some action), was not sin. Right? My heart would sink to my stomach as I climbed those stairs, finally done with my job, and, get this, again… I would be so ashamed of myself for MY sin at not being a cheerful and amorous wife.” – Journey
In 2014, MMA fighter Tamikka Brents got a concussion and a broken orbital bone after a two-minute beatdown from Fallon Fox. Fox was born male, or “Assigned male at birth” (AMAB) in transgender language.
“[My son] was getting bullied at football. They called him a ‘shemale’ and wouldn’t pass him the ball because they thought he looked too much like a girl. – Christa d’Souza, discussing her long-haired 10 year old.
In the UK, 300 members of the labour party allegedly quit because the party included transwomen on all-women shortlists. “They claimed without a gender recognition certificate “any man can simply claim to be a woman” and make a shortlist… some female activists … believe allowing transgender women on to all-women shortlists for certain parliamentary seats will make it harder for other women to stand for office.”
“I went to seminary, but no church in my denomination wanted me as a pastor because I am a woman” – The lament of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women who hope to be preachers.
All the above stories concern people who, in some way, was affected by issues of gender. I will start this post by defining gender. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define it this way:
Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. – WHO
Unsure origin, found on pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/593771532091257445/?lp=true
In short, for the discussion I will have here, “sex” denotes biological truths – genitals, the chromosome that is usually XX or XY (but could have a few other, rarer permutations), and secondary sexual characteristics. “Gender” are socially constructed expectations of women or men – if you call mascara and high heels, or a nurturing nature, feminine, you are discussing gender, not sex. If you call a dominant personality or mathematical ability masculine, you are discussing gender, not sex.
At times, it is not the whole society, but the individual who defines his or her gender. A transwoman, for example, usually has a fully male body and says he is a woman, hence being a “trans” (trans = other side of) woman. “Trans” is a verbal admission that your body (your sex) and whatever else you think make you female (or male, or neutrois, or genderflux, or demiboy, or ambigender, or …) are not on one side.
(I think transgender folks probably has a misconception about those they call cisgender. But that is a topic for another blog entry.)
All the following groups are affected by gender:
1) Everyone who is pressured to fulfill a certain role which is regarded as suitable for their sex:
From a boy who hear he is supposed to be tough and not show emotions, to a woman who is asked to submit one-sidedly to her husband, to an autogynephile (a man who gets sexually aroused from thinking of himself as a woman) who get ridiculed for going to town dressed “as a woman” (quotes, because in order to believe he is dressed as a woman, you need to attach a gender to clothes) , all of them are affected by gender, by the expectations we connect to the sexes.
2) Everyone whose competencies is undervalued, or their problems under-estimated because of their sex (or gender):
These are, more often than not, women. For two examples, many woman writers found their manuscript has a better chance of getting accepted for publication if it comes from a man. And some studies find that doctors take the pain of male patients more seriously.
3) Everyone who need a safe space, away from a sex or gender who are generally stronger/ more likely to commit crime:
In this issue, the trans lobby often mention the example of transwomen who will feel safer in, for example, a female prison. I can see the point, but a counter-argument is true for another part of their group: Transmen also feel safer in female prisons. Should a biological woman – who in most cases did not have plastic surgery to look male – who feels, in her heart, she is a man, be sent to a male prison?
What about biological females? Would we be less safe if we allow penis-having people to self-identify whether they want to enter our spaces? The argument is not even that transwomen are dangerous. It is that dangerous men would, assuming anyone could choose to enter female spaces (with complaining women called bigots), do so for nefarious reasons – not because they are trans. This does not create a safe space for any women, trans or so-called cis.
4) Everyone who need words to describe themselves
I identify as member of a group whose birth was announced as “it is a girl!” Who was told, in childhood, that I should help more in the house than my brothers – because I am a girl. I never had the chance to study for the job I want – all people I ever saw doing the job was from the other roughly half of the population. Who had problems with menstrual cramps and menstrual shame. Who got told that it is my job to say “no”, sexually, as the other group cannot control themselves. Who got told I must accept hair-pulling and being made fun of by the other group, “they are showing they like you.” Many members of my group worry about pregnancy, being abused by a partner, irrational expectations for how hard they should work on outward appearances, and in some other countries, FGM.
I wonder if there is a name for my group? Women? No, say the transgender lobby, as transmen also give birth and get menstrual cramps, and all the rest. And there are people who never menstruated, who can get a partner pregnant, whom society expect to put on pants and men’s shoes and no make-up, who are also women. Women is the name for all who feel in their hearts they are women.
“Wait a minute”, I say, “that is a circular definition. It is like telling me zuxicovs are all who feel in their heart they are zuxicovs. It gives us no idea what a zuxicov – or a woman – is.”
“We call you vagina havers”, says the transgender lobby. Hhmm, it sounds rather crude to me. I prefer “woman.” Plus, everything that has ever been written to give a modicum of help to vagina havers contain the word “women”. For example, knowing what problems we face, some philanthropists put out bursaries for girls/ young women. The intention was to help vagina havers – should we now exclude the vagina havers who feel in their heart they are male from those bursaries? Medical professionals have studied pregnancy – should everything they wrote, containing the word “women”, now be seen as offensive and discriminatory for not mentioning transwomen or transmen?
What about “assigned female at birth”?, asks the transgender lobby. Among the problems with those is that it is not a word, but a multi-word description. Secondly, there are laws in many countries – in my country it is constitutional – to not discriminate against women. There are no laws that prevents anyone from discriminating against a birth assignation. If, for example, a business has both men and transwomen in management, they could be said to not discriminate against women.
5) The autistic community
A disproportional percentage of youths who don’t feel masculine or feminine enough are on the autism spectrum. As I see it, handling of this issue could go in one of two basic directions:
* The child could be told to disbelieve gender stereotypes: He is not “girly”, nor does he fail at being a boy, if he has more fears than other boys, or likes pink toys, unicorns, and glitter. As a parent, you could ensure him that his male body is perfect, so is his autistic mind, and so is his preference for so-called “girly” things. (For an autistic girl, use stereotypical “boyish” behavior and clothes, and call her girl body perfect.) This has the potential of not solving the child’s unhappiness wih who he is.
* The child could be told that he is indeed a girl if he say so/ she is indeed a boy if she says so. The parents could assist the child in believing he is a girl (or she a boy), and encourage others to do the same. This implies that the child’s body is wrong – and this implication is made to a child who already hears his or her autistic mind is wrong. It also implies that sterilization, puberty prevention, and life-long hormonal medication, is the best way to deal with someone who is not happy with his or her body as it is.
How does this overlap with 1. feminist and 2. transgender concerns?
(a) Women – the group feminists care about – are often (a1) pressured to fulfil roles suitable for women – and those roles tend to be subordinate roles; often (a2 )get their competencies undervalued because of their sex, and often (a3) need a safe space away from men. Women are (a4) as likely as men to want to describe/ identify themselves. Some women are (a5) autistic.
(b) Transgender people are often (b1) pressured to fulfill roles suitable for their biological sex – those roles could be subordinate or dominant; could (b2) get their competencies over- or undervalued because of their sex or gender, and often (b3) need a safe space away from biological men – this goes for both transmen and transwomen. Transgender people also (b4) want to describe/ identify themselves. A disproportional percentage of transgender people are (b5) autistic.
Gender-related issues affects everyone or almost everyone. The transgender community is affected, but are only a small percentage of the population. The majority of people affected by gender issues are not transgender. As such, the trans community should get a place at the gender discussion table, but they should not be allowed to silence other stakeholders, like (so-called cis) women.
They, too, are affected by gender roles.