Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Piffle About Gender Identity

I think I am in love with this blog. Mostly just for articulating this in a way I never could;

A term coined by a good friend of mine is "Wendying", which is the process by which a masculine-identified person expects a femme (or a small group of femmes) to deal with hir problems and take care of hir without hir ever having to confront hir issues or actually acknowledge their roots. This ties in with the Peter Pan idea of not having to grow up, and the communal expectation that femmes will get masculine-identified people to settle down and become responsible adults. Which, of course, places the burden of encouraging adult behavior on femmes, assumes that all masculine-identified people are interested in femmes as partners, and that all femmes are interested in masculine-identified people as partners.

I've never lived in that sort of queer community (that most of my close friends are queer is more of a disparate, happy coincidence), but this applies well to many heterosexual situations I've seen, or been involved with. It also chimes with a phenomena I've nattered to Drew (Newfoundland separatist, PETA enemy and the nicest MRA in the whole wide world) about; the way young men are seen, and portrayed in the media, as being 'riskier', less stable, less adult, than young women. In some places - New York City and the UK as a whole are two - women in their 20s earn, on average, more than men of the same age. It doesn't outweigh the income plunge that begins in the 30s, but it's real. Another odd effect is that men who take arts degrees earn less than men who do not go to university at all. One could speculate that the man who goes to university for the same reasons many women go to university - transferable skills, learning for the sake of learning, a little freedom without too much responsibility - become that media stereotype of the wasted student who never gets up before noon. Meanwhile 20y/o men who are in a trade, or a career that doesn't require a degree, are considered to have passed The Great Masculinity Test and can be rewarded with man$s.

Marriage has a way of conferring adulthood on a man, and conferring responsibility for another life on a woman.

I have quoted SCUM on the subject of gender identity before now, on Deadjournal, but there is no harm in doing it again;

Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female. He attempts to do this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live through and fuse with the female, and by claiming as his own all female characteristics - emotional strength and independence, forcefulness, dynamism, decisiveness, coolness, objectivity, assertiveness, courage, integrity, vitality, intensity, depth of character, grooviness, etc. - and projecting onto women all male traits - vanity, frivolity, triviality, weakness, etc. It should be said though, that the male has one glaring area of superiority over the female - public relations. (He has done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men.)

(It's worth mentioning that the manifesto also supports asexual supremacy; Solanas is pretty clear about the fact that she'd had relationships with men and with women before settling into asexuality.)

As I've said before, that passage isn't about gender, it's about privilege and power. Any person with agency will exhibit those 'female characteristics', and any person without will exhibit the 'male' ones. (Like being a player character in life rather than an NPC.) It's as if Solanas is describing the shock of seeing women sailing under their own steam. What does this have to do with 'Wendying'? Simply that asking someone to be your supportive, empathic Wendy is going to steal from their objectivity, integrity and assertiveness in relation to you, while all the while allowing you to be frivolous and weak (not that those are bad things) through them, without ever facing up to it yourself. Wendying is that public relations job Solanas is writing about.

Wendying is also my worst nightmare, biggest heterosexual headache, and a skill base I possess that I insist on using only on my own terms. I fail at queer identity, really I do; I look very femmy ('Earth mother' more than anything, much as I loathe the concept), but I'm far more drawn to butch ethics/dynamics, esp. in relation to other queer women. I'm that girl who'll stay awake while you nap, or offer you her shawl when you're cold, or listen without getting empathically sucked into your problems, or being responsible for them in any way. I bake a lot and repair or mod my own clothes; I also love videogames, repel wasp/spider incursions for my insect-phobic flatmates, hitch-hike, enthusiastically do basic electrical repairs, and loudly lambast the (many, many) people who address me as male on CiF. I tend to admire butch women and fancy femme ones (but not always). I should possibly make a post about how I [emotionally/spiritually] get off on being hospitable, and why, and why it may be extremely fucked up.

I also, as ever, have giant issues with the way my father Wendied (wendyed?) me when I was a teenager and will take a metaphorical knife to the metaphorical bollocks of anyone who tries to do the same, except that I can't, for I am butch and thus fundamentally bad & passive at negotiating with my own problems. Back to RadMasc;

This idea that masculine folk take care of others to the exclusion of themselves goes far beyond sex. The stereotype is definitely of someone who does not openly express emotions, does not go to others for help with hir problems, and is protecting others to the exclusion of protecting hirself. In fact, the archetype of a butch is of someone who is a guardian of the community, has a job that enables hir to support others (despite the realities that many masculine butch and/or trans folk face intense job discrimination for being visibly queer and gender variant), shrugs off emotional and physical pain without complaining or asking for help, and in general giving constant support without ever needing any of hir own.

-that [excepting the difficulties of visible queerness - I get the much more benign, but sometimes suffocating, difficulties of invisible biness instead] is the kind of ideal I have for the sort of lifestyle I'd like to lead. (I am made of fail, so atm not, but it's what I'm after and I'd be mildly surprised if I don't wind up there sooner rather than later).

One last thought; the other place I've encountered that 'butch woman', unable to reach out for help, but good at supporting others, emotional persona is in descriptions of the general behaviour pattern of the abuse survivor. I am reluctant when it comes to claiming that my teenage life involved emotional abuse, except that by most definitions it did. I like to think that I would've been like this anyway, but better at it.


Eileen said...

Interesting article that you linked about the earnings of men and women with art degrees vs. without.

I think that possibly that statistic hides more than it reveals, however. (I realize this is not entirely linked to your post, but as I am personally invested in making money with an art degree, it stood out.) One of the first numerical statistics I got thrown at me as an art major (this was 6 years ago) was that although %80-%90 of undergraduate art majors are women, %80-%90 of recognized artists with gallery shows in New York City are men. I don't know how accurate these numbers are globally, but in New York this is just about spot-on.

The women with art degress may make more money than unskilled women, but the chances that they're making their money through the production of art are small.

Perhaps this statistic indicates that there are more jobs available for women with "throw away" degrees than for men in the same situation. Which does link nicely back into what you're saying here about how these men are viewed. I guess I am on topic after all. :)

thene said...

I fear that wires may be getting crossed wrt to the slightly differing definitions of 'arts' on each side of the Atlantic; I first saw that article linked by an English Lit student, for instance. Your point is well taken - art might not pay for men, but it sure gets them noticed?

Eileen said...

Ahh, right. The "liberal arts" vs. "arts" terminology that I always forget about. I think the stats might work in the liberals arts as well - I mean, how many women in writing classes, vs. how many men getting published?

Art appears to not only get men noticed, but pay a very small percentage of them very, very well. The percentage is tiny, granted, but still better than the percentage of women who do that same.

The real conclusion might be that it's just well-on impossible to make a decent living in the arts, no matter what your gender. Eeek.

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