Archives for posts with tag: sexuality

There has been an enormous backlash against Rachel Dolezal ever since she came out and identified as a black woman. Both as a condemnation towards her for having the audacity to don a modern day blackface in order to appropriate black culture, as well as a harsh denial that identifying as a different race is the same as identifying as a different gender.

I’m going to be using the adopted “transracial” term throughout this blog post because despite its original meaning of crossing racial boundaries, it’s really the best we’ve got. Plus, it gives me a good opportunity to address the first critique of Rachel Dolezal’s identifying as a black woman: people claim that because there is no word for “transracial”, Rachel Dolezal must be lying. This of course would mean that before the early 1970s when transgender was added to the English lexicon, it was impossible for people to identify as a different gender. Not having an English word for something does not automatically discard it as impossible.

Rachel Dolezal must also be lying because you can’t feel a race, whereas you can feel a gender. Those who are transgendered typically are aware of the ‘wrongness’ of their body in relation to their identity as early as childhood. What does it mean to feel a gender though? It seems just as ludicrous as feeling a race. As a cis-man, I feel I should be adequately qualified to say what it feels like to be a man, and I am 100% certain that a trans-male would not feel their gender the same as I do. I am told, time and again, that there is no way for me to understand what it’s like to be trans, and that is fair, there’s not. I don’t claim to. But that lack of understanding works both ways. Being a man is not just the hormonal urges and biological make-up; chromosomes dictate gender just as much as genetics dictate race, and both have physiological effects on our selves, but any transgendered person will tell you there’s more to gender identity than your chromosomes. Why can’t it be the same with genetics? Yes, there’s also the social conditioning and cultural attitudes that affect gender as well, and this is precisely why gender is considered a social construct, much like, hey you guessed it, race!

Which leads me to my next point: Rachel Dolezal is merely a white woman appropriating black culture because that’s what white people do. White people wear Native American tribal feathers like party hats, and are shocked when they learn that trivializing sacred traditions for the sake of looking exotic at a rave is considered offensive. But by all accounts, Rachel Dolezal was not trivializing black culture, but was embracing it, thriving within it, and helping progress it. If becoming an embodiment of a member of a culture is by definition appropriation, why is it not appropriation when a man becomes a woman or vice versa? There are gender cultures. We each have our separate hairstyles and modes of dress; we have our own belief sets (for example with regards to sexuality); we have our own rituals, etc. Yes, not all men and women fall into those cultural boundaries, just as not all black and white people fit into their own respective cultural stereotypes. I say again, THEY ARE BOTH EQUALLY SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS. If Rachel Dolezal was indeed trivializing black culture, rather than fully immersing herself into it, then it would be appropriation. However, since she clearly is not, then there is no more appropriating than when someone identifies as a separate gender.

But of course, black culture has a long, sordid history of oppression by white people, so that makes it worse. Black people weren’t given the vote in America until 1965, and the Jim Crow One-Drop law forced even those with the most minute of black ancestry to face terrible oppression. The argument is that when black people are treated like white people, then white people can identify as black. But women only got the vote 45 years earlier in 1920, and if I want to get catty about it, women weren’t allowed to wear pants in school until 1972, and now men want to wear skirts? Women still receive a fraction of the pay that men make for the same amount of work, and there are still disturbing amounts of incidents of violence against women. So if we have to wait until black people have equality for a white person to be able to identify as one, why was gender allowed to jump the gun?

My favourite argument that I’ve come across thus far was that Rachel Dolezal was seeking to gain socially by becoming a black woman. Which is hilarious to me because since when has a BLACK WOMAN been the top of the social totem pole? White privilege and male privilege are no longer the accepted norm? Black women have taken the top spot? Please. And even if Rachel Dolezal benefited from identifying as a black woman, this trans-man wrote an entire article about how sweet being recognized as a dude is, and no one is asking him to hand back his penis card:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/male-privilege-trans-men/

Speaking of privilege, Rachel Dolezal is also condemned because she can just remove her shoe polish or whatever and do her hair like a proper white woman whenever she gets tired of playing dress up, and she can reclaim her white privilege; no harm, no foul. Just like a trans-woman could take off her dress and wig any time she wanted to get back that sweet male privilege, right?

A lot of transgendered people have been interviewed, as well as black people, as well as trans-black people, who all claim that Rachel Dolezal can’t be associated with them for a variety of reasons. So she must be lying, because intersectional identity politics teaches us that those from one group get to dictate how those from another group identify themselves. That was sarcasm. If you don’t get it, look up intersectionality. It’ll be good for you. I’m sure being transracial is quite different from being transgendered, or cisracial, but that doesn’t mean those groups have the right to denounce her identity just because it’s different from their own.

The final argument is, of course, she’s just lying. There’s no such thing as being transracial, so she can’t be one. She’s a big fat liar. Except, there’s kinda precedent. Given the fact that race is a social construct, it shouldn’t be that difficult to identify as a race separate from the one you were born with. We actually have names for those kinds of people, and given the seemingly natural transphobic nature of most people, they’re all slurs: Wiggers, for instance, or an Uncle Tom for the opposite. We have Bananas, and those white guys who are super into Japanese culture. I don’t know if they have a name, but most people just call them creeps. In Asia, there is that whole eye-widening craze. Hell, the one instance that I’m surprised NOBODY has mentioned in this clusterfuck of a media shitstorm is Michael God damn Jackson. You could argue that he had his skin disease and that’s why he bleached his skin, but his skin disease didn’t cause him to get facial reconstruction surgery to thin out his nose and lips, or straighten his hair, effectively erasing any remaining “blackness” he once possessed. Michael Jackson never openly identified as being white, but it is not a far stretch of the imagination to envision it as a distinct possibility.

It is possible Rachel Dolezal is lying. Sure. But people are arguing so vehemently about the strictest impossibility of anything similar ever even taking place that you have to question why transracial is different from transgender. Why is a white person identifying as being black so offensive while a man identifying as a woman is accepted (among progressives, anyway)?

My first guess was that white people are simply greater villains than men, but I don’t think that’s true. Slavery, the biggest divide between whites and blacks, didn’t occur just in America. Africa had its own share of slavery, and when white slavers came to the African continent to buy slaves, it was African tribesmen who sold them. I’m not trying to justify or condone anything, but I would like to point out that I can assume with almost 100% certainty that both individuals in every instance of those slave exchanges, for both races, were men. White people have done terrible things, but so have black people, so has every single race in existence, and again, in almost every instance, it was likely being perpetrated by a man.

Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex points out that it is much more difficult for woman to combat against men because gender pervades all the other divisions. Whites and blacks have a clear distinction, as do the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Most combative groups have distinct dividing lines between them. Men and women, however, permeate all those groups. It is almost impossible for men and women to strictly work against one another because of this, and also because quite frequently men and women love each other deeply. The biological connection that men and women share makes it much more difficult for us to hate one another, whereas there is no such courtesy among any other groups.

It’s also possible that people identify more with their race than they do with their gender, and that is why people are getting more anxious over someone identifying as transracial than transgender.

For the group that claims to be the critical thinkers of the modern world, I really feel like progressives have dropped the ball. If you want to argue with me that transracial isn’t a thing, go for it. I’m not married to the idea. I just need to see a better argument that can’t just be put up against transgendered people with just a few words switched out, like I’m going to do here with this Huffington Post article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/12/rachel-dolezal-caitlyn-jenner_n_7569160.html

Gender divisions may ultimately be a construct, Moore notes, but “sex is determined by your chromosomes.” And it’s secondary sex characteristics that primarily determines gender privilege, and the way others in the world interact with your gender identity.

Transgender identity is a concept that allows men to indulge in femininity as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being a woman entails — discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and so on. It plays into gender stereotypes, and perpetuates the false idea that it is possible to “feel” a gender. As a man, Jenner retains his privilege; he can take off the wig and the nylons and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being a woman. His connection to gender oppression is something he has complete control over, a costume he can put on — and take off — as he pleases.

It’s unclear what Jenner believes his authentic gender identity to be — he has yet to comment publicly, and actively dodged the question when a reporter asked him what genitals he had under his skirt on June 10. “I don’t understand the question,” he answered, ending the interview abruptly.

Jenner’s delusion and commitment to living as a woman is profound. And it’s inherently wrong. The implications of a man, donning femininity and then using that femininity in order to navigate women’s washrooms is offensive. 

I won’t do the whole article because a lot of it is too specific to Dolezal’s case, and frankly it’s annoying to bold all those words, but you get the idea. If you want to call me transphobic for making the comparison between transgender and transracial, then I will call you transphobic for automatically assuming that someone who identifies as something they weren’t born as is a liar and a pretender, or worse, mentally ill.

People frequently puzzle over the age-old question about whether or not all men are secretly rapists. Scientists have done multiple studies, and the results have always come back inconclusive. Men can almost always be caught staring at a woman’s chest, catcalling her or telling her her scale out of 10, or even the mildest form of rape: telling her to smile.

Of course, not everybody considers these social interactions as offensive as others might, and people routinely defend them as harmless, or even complimentary. These people are men, and since we basically make the rules, the qualifications for what constitutes sexual harassment gets to be really, really fluid. If the intention isn’t to beat the shit out of her with your penis, then it’s probably okay, right?

So why are women being raped by pretty much everything that men do, and why are men being entirely oblivious to it?

Allow me, a straight, white male, to give you the answer.

The social conditioning that boys and girls go through are entirely different. I’m pretty sure most people know this. Typically, boys are conditioned to be tools (a tool as in a hammer or a screwdriver, not a tool as in a douchebag). We’re trained to go out and do shit; fight crime, solve mysteries, be astronauts, whatever. Women, on the other hand, are conditioned to be temples. They get to stand around and look pretty while men are out fighting crime and solving mysteries. I’m pretty sure most people refer to this as men being the actor and women being the acted-upon, but I’m using the tool/temple analogy because it makes more sense when I eventually get around to linking this to sex.

Society has gotten a smidgen better with its portrayal of women. Women are beginning to solve their own share of mysteries, and little girls are starting to get role models that are more than just incompetent princesses waiting around for some dude with a sword to fix all their problems with marriage. However, since most movies still fail the Bechdel test, we clearly have a long way to go.

Despite all the progress women have made in becoming tools in regards to their careers and livelihood, when it comes to sex, there is nothing. Nobody talks about it, or if they do, there is zero consensus about how women should be having it. Some think that women should be freely sexual beings, others think that sex implies patriarchal ownership, that it is degrading to women. There is a bit of a divide.

Men, we know how to have sex. We’re tools. We go out, we buy a girl a drink, and then she becomes obligated to have sex with us now that we’ve spent all of five dollars on her. Our sexual autonomy is that we go out and we do. Simple.

The temples, on the other hand, are still being acted upon. The sexual autonomy of a women is her ability to give out consent. Consent is basically a one-way street. When consent is discussed, it is almost always in the context of the female. She gets to decide whom she allows into her temple. She’s not going out to get laid, she’s going out to decide who she lets have sex with her. Her autonomy embodies the passive role, rather than the active.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Some people think that the body should be sacred, and sex should follow that logic, and that’s why I choose the temple metaphor. There could be an argument made that men should view their own sexuality in a more revered fashion, rather than just as slavering dogs.

Good or bad, this is the way it is. And so when assholes on the street catcall a girl, they are chipping away at her only form of sexual autonomy: her consent. If the only autonomy a girl has with regards to her sexuality is her ability to either allow or disallow sexual advances, and those advances are being thrust upon her, unasked, as she goes about her daily life, then it is understandable why “complimenting” a girl on her ass might piss her off. It’s basically verbally raping her, and she has no choice but to endure it because you can’t say “no” to a passing comment.

So why are men oblivious? Because we grew up as tools. Since we all know that empathy isn’t real, (or we should) then we know that men will naturally assume that women have the same outlook on sex as they do. I honestly can’t count the times I’ve been told, “well, just imagine a girl coming up to you and saying that” like it’s the same thing. It’s not, because men and women have different sexual autonomies based on our respective conditioning. But most guys don’t understand that, so they remain ignorant to the harm they are causing by something they might view as complimentary, because they imagine the reverse happening to them, without taking into consideration the conditioning towards sexuality that women go through in our society.

As easy as you might think it is to blame individual men for telling random women they’re hot, you have to remember that men aren’t being educated about the sexuality of women, either as temples or as tools, as men are exposed to even fewer female role models than women. And you can’t say, “teach men not to sexually harass women” because most men won’t understand what constitutes actual harassment based off of our own gendered biases.

So are all men rapists? Probably, but at least it’s not on purpose.

Post-script: There are a lot of generalities in here. Forgive me.

There was a video I watched a few months ago (that I can’t find, otherwise I’d link to it) of a woman giving a lecture about women and objectification. She spoke at length about the perils of sexual body imagery, and how the cultural trend of the sexualization of women is destroying the psyche of women and girls everywhere. At the end of the lecture, she removed the make-up she was wearing as a final statement against contemporary beauty standards.

But if dressing “sexily” turns someone into a sex object, then how come dressing stylishly doesn’t make someone a “stylish” object? Or someone who dresses in skinny jeans and plaid a “hipster” object? Or someone who removes their make-up at the end of a lecture a “feminist” object? There is a discrepancy in there somewhere that concludes that only when someone exudes sexuality does it make them an object.

Jean-Paul Sartre suggests that we can only ever relate to people as objects, so to consider one aspect objectifying over another is moot. I tend to agree with him. Have you ever ran into a professor while you were in a grocery store? Did it seem a little… weird? Or your doctor, or maybe an employee from the butcher shop that you routinely frequent? When you see someone outside of the context that you’re used to them in, it tends to make people uncomfortable. The reason is because you’ve objectified them in relation to their profession: the teacher object, the doctor object, the butcher object; when they don’t coincide with the object into which you’ve made them, it weirds you out a little bit.

Maybe you think this only relates to the simple relationships in our lives, but think of your dad. Imagine running into him at a strip club. Or your sister being at a strip club in a slightly different context. This obviously doesn’t work if your family is very open about their relationship with the peelers, but say they aren’t. You would feel uneasy, and part of the reason would be because you can’t grasp your relationship with those people outside of the context that you’re used to them in. Being at a strip club does not coincide with how you have defined the Dad object. You can say your dad would never do such a thing, but how can you actually know that?

It’s impossible to grasp the consciousness of another human being, so all we really do is just guess based on the evidence of that person’s actions, come up with a little box that we assume that person fits into, and presto chango, that person is now an object that we can comprehend. That’s how it works.

So the problem isn’t objectification, and the problem isn’t objectifying a person down to the simplest of terms because we do that with our teachers and doctors and butchers. So all that seems to remain is the sex. Awful, dirty sex.

The biggest targets of controversy when it comes to the objectification of women are pornography and prostitution. These are women (and some men) that get paid to have that awful, dirty sex, and that’s apparently terrible. When one adult purchases a service from another consenting adult, money exchanges hands, and then both of them leave happy, that is the greatest sin of all. I’m talking of course about capitalism, which is a horrible economic system and should be abolished to make way for glorious communism. Selling sex is peanuts in comparison.

So outside of the inherently flawed nature of capitalism, these two acts are unhealthy because some guy is getting his rocks off. Which is… actually considered very healthy. And so long as he can separate fantasy from reality, his perception of women shouldn’t change. Most people don’t actually freak the fuck out when they discover their teacher doesn’t sleep in the school, neither would somebody be so surprised that the acts going on in pornography or in an escort’s bedroom don’t exactly line up with reality.

Or is the problem that prostitutes and porn stars degrade the very nature of sex by keeping it out of the realm of harmonious love? They’re not melding two souls to become one in the most physically intimate act that love and passion can create. And if that’s your idea of how sex should be, that’s fantastic. Honestly. But when you impose your own beliefs of how sexuality should be practiced on an entire culture, doesn’t that seem a little… phobic? Their sex doesn’t affect you in the slightest, and you should get over it.

So objectification is normal, selling things I will grudgingly admit to being fine, sexual release is healthy, and non-intimate sexy times is a-okay. So what’s the problem?

The problem is when sexual objectification occurs outside the realm of sexuality. When it’s used to sell cars, or beer, or things that have absolutely nothing to do with getting a hard-on and doing something with it. When it is literally everywhere you look. When the world is swamped with the image of the sexualized woman, when you have to go out of your way to find a woman in the media that isn’t sexualized to some degree, *THAT* is the problem. The world needs a variety of imagery so that people can see that there is more to being a woman than just a vagina on display, but we don’t need to devolve to puritanical dogma to achieve it. You certainly don’t need to throw out the heels and nylons. Even birds flaunt their plumage from time to time, but they’ve got amazing singing voices too.