Wednesday, 27 August 2008

gender troubles back in the day

I'm doing a little sorting through old papers and photographs these days. Apparently I've been thinking through this gender business my whole life--well, I knew that, but apparently I've been committing it to paper from time to time as well.

Exhibit A: In which I foreshadow my interest in social construction, challenge sexism, and betray a certain confusion. Judging from the handwriting, dates from when I was 7 or 8.

What's the difference. It is true that we learn from the way we are handled. But often the problem is that we get thinking that one sex is better than the other. If you are a girl, there's no reason why you shouldn't play a sport. If you're a boy, you don't have to play sports. So if anyone tells you to be ladylike or to be a boy, just say I already am!"

Which, as T. points out, gives the syntactical suggestion that I already am a ladylike boy.

Exhibit B: In which I resurrect the most appalling sexism and use an alter ego to tear myself down. Dating from when I was 15 or 16. The background to this: Ahmad was a character I'd created. He was supposed to be Iranian (I don't know why, apologies for strange stereotyping) and the embodiment of old-fashioned, chivalrous masculinity, complete with backstory full of heroic suffering and extraodinarily good looks. In this scene, he's being interviewed by a friend's son on whether he is a sexist. I'll omit the ponderous introduction and cut straight to the ponderous chase.

Interviewer: You mean you ignore who people really are, and judge them on the basis of their gender?
Ahmad: You misunderstand. I judge people entirely on who they are.
Int: Then how can you judge them on their gender?
A: That's part of who they are, is it not? Would you not say that your maleness is an inherent part of who you are?
Int: Well, yes, certainly-
A: Then my treating you as a man is just a part of my treating you as who you are--you are a man, as well as a student and the son of a dear friend.
Int: But my--maleness--as you call it--it's not the same as your maleness or my father's maleness. They're all different. So too with women.
A: Certainly. And some woman may be timid and frightened and completely submissive while another is strong and proud of her family and respectful while a third is scheming and lustful and lazy. Naturally I would treat each of these differently, yet their personalities are all female, so I treat them all as women.
Int: Well, what if a woman's personality were just like a man's?
A: I'd pity a creature so cruelly deceived by God.
Int: But what if she was naturally like that?
A: Is a man born a cripple not naturally crippled? Is he therefore less worthy of our pity?
Int: All right, all right! But what should I put down? Are you a sexist?
A: No.
Int: But you just acted like you were...
A: You make it sound like something bizarre, when in fact I only act as it is natural for everyone to act.
Int: It's impossible! Thank you, sir, that is all!

Indeed. I had to laugh at the sheer mindless predictability of the stereotypes of the three women. But I do feel pity for who I was when I wrote this, summoning up my ideal male alter ego only to make him pronounce female masculinity a crippling deception imposed by a cruel God. Sigh. Ending self-indulgent walk down memory lane here.


Jess said...

:) - trips down memory lane are healthy.. we all do it from time to time.

Thanks for sharing this with all of us. I've been really enjoying reading about your gender discovery/identity. Keep writing!

femmeismygender said...

Leo, I am just LOVING the honesty in your posts. I second jess, keep writing!

Holden said...

I think it's sometimes surprising when we look back to discover how much of our real selves was there all along.

And I agree with Jess and femmeismygender .... keep writing!

Leo MacCool said...

@holden: right back at you, buddy! august 12?!?