[this post was originally posted on Shakesville with the title Seriously, Learn To Equality ]
In an uncanny timeliness, given today’s discussion thread, I got an email earlier from Shaker PatC, who provided last night’s QotD. Quoted with permission:
Thank you so much for using that as the QOTD! I’m so excited to have been quoted as “her”! I’m working on a paper on 18thC sexuality right now and so gender bending is topical for me (full disclosure, I am biologically and identify as a man). Regardless, thanks for using my idea. Shakesville kicks ass.
I had no reason at all to assume PatC was a woman, and I’m frankly not sure why I did; I’ve had female and male friends called Pat, and my email correspondents collectively skew slightly more male. So big wev to me: lol my gender assumptions.
What was more interesting to me was my reaction to PatC’s email: I was surprised, relieved, and grateful that he wasn’t insulted by having been presumed a woman.
And it was sad to me that I found it notable when his response wasn’t aggrieved.
I can understand people who aren’t playing with or challenging gender getting distressed at or annoyed by being mistaken for the opposite sex in public, to their faces; if one isn’t consciously bucking convention, to be wrongly identified might feel like a negative commentary on one’s general appearance, being called ugly—and that can be a separate issue from being offended at being perceived as the opposite sex. (Though certainly they are intertwined.)
It’s the affronted objections I’ve seen men raise when someone refers to them as “she” or “her” online that never cease to really amaze and dismay me—because there is no offense to take at all, unless one perceives women negatively.
And that’s something I’ve seen happen so often that I was actually surprised when it didn’t.
I don’t know if men can fully appreciate what it means that so many of them regard being mistaken for a woman as a slight, what it does to a woman to read such indignant protestations—”I am not a woman!”—and feel the slithering creep of memory up the back of her neck, as the first time she ever heard a childhood male companion cry out with disgust, “Eww, I don’t want to be a girl!” rings in her ears, recalling that first instance when she began to suspect there was something wrong with her by virtue of what was (and what wasn’t) between her legs.
It’s a total mindfuck. And it never goes away.
I have played video games with men who refused to play female avatars; I have been with a man who was miffed that I classified his predisposition to copiously pre-cum as being “like a woman”; I have been talking about some female bodily function to a male friend or lover only to have him make a face and inform me he’s so glad he’s a man; I have heard male coworkers grousing about how “being a woman sucks,” because of another male coworker with a groping proclivity; I have been exhorted to “not be such a girl” about things; I have known men who refuse to wear pink; I have been told by men who consider themselves feminists that they won’t be raising their daughters “to be girls” but instead raising them “to be people”; I have been told flatly that women are inferior in intellect by virtue of our biology; I have been “complimented” by being told how very much like a man I am in my humor, or rationality, or some other quality; I have listened to men express directly to my face in every way imaginable that they would never want to be a woman.
And most of them have been surprised when I had a problem with that—because, you see, we’re all supposed to take it as read that no one would want to be a woman, given the choice, since we all know they’re the inferior model.
It’s just another indication of how far away from real equality we actually are, that one of the sexes is still largely considered anathema to the other.
Thank you for the glimpse of what could be, PatC.