Category Archives: gender roles

Does Feminism Need a Rebrand?

Straight off the bat, fist in the air and hollering like a macaque, I am a feminist. Of course I am a feminist. Gender equality is something we should be ashamed that we haven’t reached. As a species we have put twelve men on the moon, observed distant galaxies, cured diseases that were once thought fatal, and created ABBA, yet equal pay, equal corporate and political representation, and even not hacking a girl’s lady bits to pieces in some parts of the world STILL prove elusive.

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

That is what people are conditioned to hear whenever issues of equality and prejudice are brought up. The words “I am a Feminist” to many people is just giving them permission to tune you out, talk over you or repeat some ‘witty banter’ about women not knowing their place.

Indeed it is seemingly acceptable to sneer and ridicule, as if holding said beliefs are an open and aggressive challenge to the sneering party. There are three groups of people who it is deemed totally okay to heap scorn upon with no ‘legitimate’ objections.

Feminists – Environmentalists – Vegans

Yup, even we much scorned and oft mocked Transfolk are starting to get ‘normal’ people fighting our corner (keep it up guys, you’re stars!).

Now, I could bang on about how those big three labels are consciously and constantly discredited by a patriarchal, fossil fuel loving, steak chomping cabal of wealthy (mostly) men, who use their assets to influence media and politicians, but all people are conditioned to hear is:

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Since when were universal human equality, environmental preservation or just not eating animal products considered to be bizarre, far out political extremism?

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, okay I’ve lost a lot of the readership by this point, so I won’t labour it.

The actual core message of Feminism in particular, is one that even most naysayers would agree with, but the word has been toxified. A grotesque stereotype has been carefully crafted and bandied about as if it were cold, hard fact. When a negative portrayal of something is so crafted for so long, it begins to self-perpetuate and those who spun it can sit back in their gentleman’s clubs, joke about all the women they have groped and then run for President.

We live in a world of brands, slogans and logos. If something cannot be summed up by a simple image or a brief tagline, it fails.

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand A: “There are numerous causes for our current situation, not least of all is…

Conditioned Public: “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand B: *Shrugs* Brown people.

Conditioned Public “YAAAAAY!”

Ye get me bro?

Now, Feminists can be massive pricks. Believing in women’s equality does not automatically prevent you from being rude, aggressive, divisive, cruel or elitist. In the Venn diagram of “Pricks and Feminists” there is a little bit of a crossover.

feminist pricks

Yes, there are several high profile Feminists that seem to get an awful lot of media time because they outright despise Trans people (so much for your genitals not dictating your destiny eh?). There are those who would rather fight against the women that don’t adhere to their own narrow views of what is, and is not acceptable for a Feminist to be.

But what of the rest of the Feminists who stand in solidarity with their Trans kin, who embrace a woman’s right to choose her own form of self-expression, set her own standards of beauty and fashion… those who argue that it is no less oppressive to ban an item of women’s clothing, than it is to enforce its wearing? Because that is most of us, isn’t it?

Of course that pesky old hyper-male governed media only give coverage the to the divisive and hypocritical…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, so we can’t go in with the complex ideas off the bat. It also doesn’t help that the letters ‘F.E.M’ get a whole other heap of scorn all to themselves when placed in that order. They have been made to mean ‘weak’, ‘contradictory’, ‘stupid’, ‘less than’… The whole language of being female, or even feminine has been toxified. Men suffer as a result of this too. The pressure to be emotionally distant, repressed, stoic, insensitive and unaffectionate creates an ‘ideal’ that one would have to be a narcissistic sociopath to live up to… and yes guys, since you’ve always been told that everything is really about you when it isn’t, this actually is, at least in part. I am glad that so many guys nowadays actually get this and proudly label themselves as feminists, but the status quo as ever pushes back against challenges with increased vigour and severity. Let’s push forward together.

I am no marketing genius of course (I couldn’t sell shit to a Dung Beetle), and I never sought to offer a solution to the whole ‘rebranding’ option, but in a world where short answers trump correct ones, I feel it is inevitable that we must come up with some way of approaching our argument that cannot be toxified and filtered out of debate.

Or, in other words…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Oh, just a side note. I spent waaaaay too long looking for an easy to use Venn Diagram generator online that didn’t require some kind of coding or payment for use so I gave up and did it in MS-Paint like a techno-illiterate from the late eighties (which I am). I’m not sure the gag was worth it, except that I really REALLY can’t stand Germaine Greer.

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Filed under Activism, Body Image, equality, feminism, Gender, gender roles, Inequality, trans community, trans issues, Transender, Transsexual

#Transgender – Are Trans People Pressured Too Much to Adhere to Gender Stereotypes?

I often find it quite ‘poncey’ when people talk about ‘narratives’ …’what’s your Narrative?’, ‘Gender Narrative’, ‘Social Narrative’ etc. I am fully prepared to accept that this attitude, and indeed the specific wording of my feelings are based on a personal narrative of growing up in a no-nonsense, plain speaking environment. Indeed, I can often be poncey, flowery and pretentious with my prose but when you grow up around the cultural vacuum of a ‘New Town’ like Stevenage where there is sadly a culture of distrust towards anyone who is different, one doesn’t have to season their vernacular too much before being labelled as all these things.

It does concern me, however, on a deeper level than just how self-important it can make one sound. The sad truth is, as a Trans person, we are all judged upon our Narratives. One cannot simply walk in to a GP and, like Ricky Gervais satirically speculated on one of his standup tours say “You see all this? Get rid of this… pop on a fanny!”

In the UK we have to bare our incorrectly housed souls to psychiatrists in order to be diagnosed with a condition that they don’t even want to classify as a mental illness (which it isn’t if the recent discoveries of the variation in androgen receptors is true). This is where we give our narratives.

Did we want to play with the toys of the opposite sex when we were younger? Did we want to dress as the opposite sex? Did we express our Dysphoria to family and friends from a young age? Did we even experience Dysphoria when we were young? Were we effete little boys, or tomboy girls? These are relevant to our past narrative.

There is, sadly, an element of one-uptranship within the Trans community? Woe betide any poor Trans person who didn’t experience Dysphoria until puberty, or who never wanted to dress as the opposite sex when they were younger. Born male? Played with Ninja Turtles and not Barbie? You don’t qualify! I am considerably Transer than you!

Our current narrative is also under scrutiny. How do we present ourselves? Many Transwomen I know, especially early in their transition are afraid to attend GIC appointments and assessments without a full face of makeup and as typically feminine an outfit as is humanly possible for fear that their expression of their gender identity will be deemed inadequate. There is this permeating fear that if you rock up in jeans and a hoodie like half the women you pass in the street, you will be dismissed as ‘not serious enough’.

There is this concept in the Trans-critical feminist circles, that Transwomen are walking parodies of femininity. This is of course an absolutely absurd and downright offensive notion, but does it gain weight from the fact that out current healthcare system seems to be encouraging Transwomen especially to overcompensate? The fact that we are expected to present as feminine fulltime (RLE) for nearly a year before receiving and benefiting from any feminising hormones, has the unfortunate side effect of making us far more visible to those around us than we feel comfortable with. Jeans, T-Shirt, Hoodie, Trainers, hair in a ponytale… is that ok? Are we still presenting as female? Are we negating our RLE? Are we at risk of losing our support or being hurled back to square one? Are we even allowed to have our hair short if we want?

RLE (Real Life Experience) is a misleading concept, as it is not really experiencing life in your preferred gender role, as much as it is seeing how you cope with the shit you are going to get when others perceive you as Trans. Unless you are fortunate enough to be naturally very androgynous, you are going to look like a guy in a frock or a stereotypical ‘butch lesbian’ until you get medical intervention. ‘Passing privilege’ doesn’t often come until later, and for many, not at all.

No one comments on Trans people who blend in, only on those who stand out. I suppose I can count myself fortunate that I can sit near a group of people saying nasty things about Trans people without realising that one of these ‘abominations’ is within muffin launching distance from their ignorant faces. It sometimes feels that the less you think you pass, the more you overcompensate, and the less you actually pass as a result.

Femininity is highly subjective. Masculinity is highly subjective. Is it wrong to push transitioning people to the extremes of gender expression? Is this not the issue many think it is and just an internalised aspect of Gender Dysphoria? Is there not enough consensus on the parameters for gender expression to use it as a suitable judge for the criteria of RLE?

I prefer to wear dresses or skirts, love shoes, don’t usually wear much make-up, play tabletop games, video games, collect Warhammer stuff, love sci-fi and history, laugh at dirty jokes… there’s a mix of typically both genders in there, yet I identify strongly as female… are Transwomen allowed to be Tomboys? Are Transmen allowed to be effete? The gender binary is far from just a Trans issue, we are all a hodgepodge of different traits and interests that have been gender labelled. Compassion is seen as feminine, yet there are many compassionate men whose Gender Identity is never in question. Competitiveness is seen as a typically male trait, but try telling that to a women’s Roller Derby team.

I always knew what my brain needed my body to be, but that is not negated by the fact I liked Ninja Turtles and Action Man when I was a child, and it doesn’t negate my identity if I can’t be bothered to shave my legs for a fortnight.

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Filed under Body Image, femininity, gender dysphoria, gender roles, masculinity, Privilege, real life experience, RLE, Trans, Trans Activism, trans issues, Transgender, transition, Transsexual