May 20, 2016

frustrating gender things (it's 2016 you'd think humanity would be in a better place now but no)

(disclaimer: it's late, my brain is so tired, i might not be v coherent, pardon any long strings of sentences / grammatical errors)

In one previous job, he heard his boss call female colleagues “old cows” and refer to a middle-aged job applicant as “Dame Edna” after she’d left an interview. “Evidently men say things like that to each other all the time,” he says. Other trans men say they’ve heard male co-workers sexualize female colleagues when no women are present. “There’s some crude humor, some crass humor,” says Cameron Combs, an IT consultant in Olympia, Washington. He says he’s heard male colleagues do “appraisals” of women in the office or observe how female co-workers used their “womanly wiles” to rise up the ladder, conversations he says he never would have heard when he was a woman. “When they saw me as female, it was kind of an automatic stop,” he says. “It’s a little less censored, the jokes I hear, the comments.”

“Being privy to the conversations that men have amongst themselves really does give me an indication of how they think about women,” he says. “And sometimes it can be really scary.”

So I read this article.

And I guess, y'know, I should evaluate it. Look at exactly how the survey was conducted, point out possible loopholes. Cultural factors, too - just because it's this way in one culture doesn't mean it's this way in mine.

Because I'm terrified. I'm terrified to imagine how guys think about girls or what guys say about girls when they're in groups, even just a regular female friend. I'm afraid that my gender matters. I'm afraid that my femaleness matters in my friendships with my friends that happen to be male. That there's a factor of sexuality or attractiveness because of it. That I am standing on a rung on a ladder of females and female expectations in a guy's eyes, simply by virtue of being a female. Regardless of where I am on that ladder. That I am put there on that ladder at all irks me. Why can't I just be...a person?

I believe that my guy friends are good people, nice people who don't objectify a girl (or me, anyway). And I trust that good, God-loving Christian guys understand that all people are God's own children and immensely cherished by Him, and that they strive to see women in that manner, to be respectful in their perception / consideration of them. I believe that with my close guy friends (regardless of whether they're Christian or not), those I trust and those I truly chill with, and especially in those friendships where both of us know we'll never get together, there's none of the sexual factor going on. We're past that. I believe that they consider me as a person, and define me by my soul, more than any sexual implications by virtue of the fact that I'm female. Like, my guy friends are my friends not because they're guys, but because we happen to click. Same for my female friends. Duh. If I felt suspicious about the way a guy's perceiving me as a person I probably wouldn't hang around him much. I am uncomfortable when I know that The Fact That I'm A Girl contributes to a friendship.

It makes me thankful that I'm very average-looking / flat-chested / that I blend into the background easily. When random male friends make any remark about my appearance, even if it's a positive one, it makes me want to fight against it. Once a friend said he preferred me with my glasses on. I was pretty pissed off, even though I find wearing glasses more convenient and I only wear contact lenses to look and feel better. I wanted to make it clear that I wouldn't deliberately look a certain way for him, for anyone, and my glasses were my business only. I felt uncomfortable knowing that the way I looked was being noticed at all. Someone else once said they liked that I was skinny, and just that bit skinnier would be perfect. I was irked by the statement then, and if they had said it now, I would have thrown a shoe. I eat what I want to, my body shape isn't anyone else's business, I don't care what you think about it. A guy I was once somewhat romantically close to showed me a chat with his friend; all it said was "goodness man, she looks good!" but I flipped. I was like, the heck, stop objectifying, that's just a picture, what does he know about me. I was legit pissed. Maybe I was overreacting. But I get uncomfortable with the fact that someone is considering my appearance at all (especially if it's because of my gender), and not just seeing past these to the heart, where souls and personalities interact. I realise that I actually am very happy when my guy friends don't notice when I've cut my hair or when I've got makeup on.

Once You Zhuan dropped by my school and I had just gotten back from something and I went to change into a random T-shirt and FBTs and he said "ah, you look a lot more comfortable" and I was thankful. Thankful that he had made no comment about whether I looked better or worse, but simply that I seemed more comfortable in what I was wearing. He wanted me simply to be comfortable. I realise that now I don't care at all how I look when I'm around him, because he doesn't seem to care or notice. (I guess it also helps that he doesn't care what the world thinks of him, what with his extreme social awkwardness and five knives and tattoos and ten-odd piercings.)

I'm thankful for Crescent, four years of no guys. (I actually had no male friends in those four years.) Never being concerned with how I looked in front of a guy or which girl had more male attention, never needing to navigate gender expectations and perceptions as an acne-ridden fourteen-year-old. I am thankful for the experience of the relative homogeneity of a girls' school, and I think it has shaped how I think significantly. They say you can tell a Crescentian from a mile away by the way she sits. Yeah, I'll sit like an uncle if I want to. Why should there be a gendered way of sitting? They say Crescentians are loud and can sometimes be quite coarse. Not very ladylike, y'know, talking a little too loudly, laughing a little crassly, sitting with their feet on the bench. I say that's how one grows up in a world free from gender expectations that don't actually matter. I am loving. I am gentle in spirit. I am generous.* As Jesus is. Why does it matter to you how I sit or eat or laugh?**

The prospect of my male friends thinking about girls, about potentially me, in a gendered way really bothers me. That a guy might look at a female friend with lust or with any sexual factor without her realising. And it's not just about sex. It's about how he sees her, perceives her as a person, subconsciously. How her person matters to him. There's a degree of objectification that I'm uncomfortable with. An attractive woman becomes an object of feasting, of satisfaction, and there's a whole power dynamic going on, okay. It's so much more. (Of course all these is not limited to the male person on the female person. Women do this to guys too. And I disagree with it for the same reasons.)

James Gardner is a newscaster in Victoria, Canada, who had been reading the news as Sheila Gardner for almost three decades before he transitioned at 54. As soon as he began hosting as a man, he stopped getting as many calls from men pointing out tiny errors. “It was always male callers to Sheila saying I had screwed up my grammar, correcting me,” he says. “I don’t get as many calls to James correcting me. I’m the same person, but the men are less critical of James.” 

 Dana Delgardo is a family nurse practitioner and Air Force captain who transitioned three years ago. Since his transition, he’s noticed that his female patients are less open with him about their sexual behavior, but his bosses give him more responsibility. “All of a sudden, I’m the golden child,” he says. “I have been with this company for 6 years, no ever recommended me for management. Now I’m put into a managerial position where I could possibly be a regional director.”

“As a man, you’re assumed to be competent unless proven otherwise,” she says. “Whereas as a woman you’re presumed to be incompetent unless proven otherwise.”

Okay I was going to type more about this but I've been on this page for 2 hours now and I was supposed to be doing an assignment and now I just want to sleep. But okay. I've never known or experienced this sort of gender discrimination. Perhaps because I was in a girls' school (seriously, the girls' school experience is so beneficial, to a woman's confidence and identity-formation and just, it's good, ok). Perhaps because in ACJC the Students' Council president was a girl (and an incredible one too!) and I was the head of a subcommittee of ten. The four subcomm heads were equally split gender-wise, and both in the Executive Committee and in the entire Council itself, there were considerably more girls than guys. My class had more girls than guys. (It was also an arts class, but I never really interacted with the science classes.) And maybe it's convenient for me that the humanities and my future probable career path in teaching is extremely female-friendly. So no, I've never felt unfairly discriminated against because of my gender; I've never felt like my gender mattered for anything, even for (most of) my friendships, so, yeah, this article frightens me. As I was reading the article I felt like hiding in a hole with a few cats and ducks. I felt scared, suspicious of men (even though I do trust those I'm close to), wary of the future and Other Men and the corporate society that seems to hiss with unfriendliness towards females and the great big Working World where I'll have to dress nice and put on makeup and navigate a completely different social sphere.

ok i'm v tired i need to sleep goodnight


*Not always, of course. There are many times I am unloving and ungentle and ungenerous. Not the point. And I'm, y'know, being rhetorical / literary / ya just go with it k

**There are other instances in which being a woman differs from being a man in the biblical sense, when they come together in imitation of the relationship between Christ and the Church. I'm not going into those right now, and that's also far too deep and dense to go into on a space like this, and I also don't know enough as of yet to talk about it here. And that's very different from arbitrary cultural gender expectations, which I am discussing.


Anonymous said...

Much more of this please

Hannah Karen Ho said...

<3 come to yale-nus and sit at the cafe any given day, you'll get a sufficient dose HAHA