On gender identity and changing your sex

Let’s say we are born with a gender identity.  Either

(1) it isn’t a binary, in which case there’s no need to change your sex to attain some sort of ‘fit’

(2) it is binary, but it doesn’t necessarily or always align with sex, in which case again there’s no need to change your sex, or

(3) it is binary and it does align with sex, in which case one couldn’t possibly feel a mismatch—feeling a mismatch would just prove that (2) is the case.

I suppose one could say that for 99%, it is aligned, and those who feel a mismatch are anomalies, but look around at all the women who are not feminine.  Are we all anomalies?  If so, then we’re not really anomalies, are we.  (And even if we are, so what?  How does that necessitate chemical or surgical transformation?)

 

“Men need Sex” — a story about a story

So I wrote a story, “Men Need Sex.”  I started with the mistaken, but wide-spread, belief that men need sex (PIV).  Mistaken because, unlike food, water, and oxygen, without sex, you don’t die.  Then, ‘inspired’ by Roger Elliott, I thought, ‘What if?’  What if men really did die if they didn’t get sex.  I postulated contagion, perhaps social.  Then I postulated a shortening incubation period (between belief, not getting sex, and suicide). And I added the belief that men are entitled to get what they need, which ramped up rape and, consequently, women’s self-quarantine (after begging, to no avail, for stricter gun laws and a curfew for men).  I ended the story with something like ‘And then the women just … waited.’

The SciPhi Journal rejected it.  Which was disappointing, because I thought the story was clearly sf with a philosophical element (“As its primary mission, SPJ wishes to provide a platform for idea-driven fiction, as opposed to the character-driven mode that has come to predominate speculative fiction”).  Future Fire also rejected it, which was also disappointing, because they focus on feminist sf.  But what I want to focus on is the first rejection because it came with the explanation that my story “reads as a fully seriously intended apology of gendercide.”

How was what I described gendercide?  The women didn’t kill the men; they just waited for them to kill themselves.  Yes, they withheld sex, but if you’ll die without food and I refuse to give you food, am I killing you?  Perhaps.  The philosophical community has not yet come to a consensus on that; it’s called the passive euthanasia vs. active euthanasia debate (and the SciPhi editor should have been well aware of that debate).

Framed another way, if you’ll die without being able to hurt someone, and no one steps forward to be hurt, are we all killing you?  Not at all clear.  That’s called the Good Samaritan debate (and again, the SciPhi editor should have been well aware of it), often illustrated by the scenario of a drowning child: if the passerby is a competent swimmer, then yes, she has a duty to rescue, but if the passerby cannot swim, and the rescue puts her own life at risk, then no, she has no duty to rescue.  The essential question is ‘On what grounds would one have a duty to sacrifice oneself for another?’

Does intercourse put a woman’s life at risk?  If she has no contraception and no abortion, that is, if she’s forced to become pregnant and then doesn’t miscarry, well, maybe.  It is not uncommon for a woman to die giving birth.  At a minimum, there is a clear risk to her health: high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia,  stroke, cardiac arrest.  Perhaps the SciPhi editor is unaware of the health risks of pregnancy and childbirth …

But even with contraception and abortion … why is she obligated to allow herself to be hurt (yes, men, sexual intercourse against our will, absent our desire, hurts)  (maybe that’s what the SciPhi guy didn’t get?) so that the man will live?  If it’s a one-time thing, and the man in question is a good man (yes, that would figure into my deliberation), okay, maybe many of us would, and should, say yes.  Ten minutes, in and out, go on, live.

But if it’s an ongoing thing, like the provision of food (which is what my story suggests), then the scenario would be very much like one sex, male, enslaving another, female; men imprisoning women to ensure continued sexual access and, therefore, their continued existence.

All that aside, the editor said “Art is free, and I won’t criticise any apology of anything.”  Okay, then, an apology for gendercide, should that have been what my story was about, would have been okay.  “However,” he continued, “all pieces of writing for SPJ must have at least a grain of plausibility.”  When I pointed out that I’d referenced Elliot Rodger and Alex Minassian, he said he hadn’t heard of either one.  What?  What?  (I keep forgetting that since words like sexism and misogyny aren’t used on primetime tv or in mainstream news, most people [in the U.S. and Canada, at least, because their entire worldview is formed by those two media] `aren’t familiar with the concepts. And it keeps shocking me when I remember that.  But wait, weren’t both Rodger and Minassian reported in mainstream news?)  My guess is the editor just didn’t read my story very carefully.  (Both Rodger and Minassian were referenced in footnotes.)  And why might that be?  Because … oh, right.  It was written by a woman.

He went on to say “As a 100% gay male, I can assure you that your statements about ALL men are quite off the mark …”  Quite apart from the fact that any statements I made about ALL men were in the context of the story, a fiction, I never made any statements about ALL men; in fact, I quite deliberately say “Of course not all men” at one point.

“On the other hand,” he continued, “the funny notion implied in your story that women don’t need sex is also wrong”— oh do tell, please, go ahead and mansplain women’s sexuality to me.

“Myself and quite a few of my gay male friends have had experiences of being sexually harassed by women. Therefore, women seem to need sex as well.”  Therefore?  Okay, at this point, I’m thinking the editor of a philosophical science fiction journal doesn’t have a philosophy degree.

In a subsequent email (because yes, I responded to his rejection letter, refuting his points; I’m tired of just letting these things happen without challenge), he said “At any case, there is too much hate shown by the narrator to be humanely appealing.”  Need I point out all the sf in which male narrators show too much hate of women to be humanely appealing?  (Yes, men, any time you write a story or novel in which the males subordinate or sexualize the females, you’re expressing hatred of women.)

And, in yet another email, he said “There is no lack of publishing venues that would gladly accept any kind of male-bashing. SPJ is not one of them.”

To which I replied, “It’s just … disappointing that you didn’t see that the story is actually an argument against male entitlement and an exposé of, and a cautionary tale about, toxic masculinity.”

Reducing sexism: non-binary sex and sex-neutral language

That sex is binary makes sexism so easy. What if sex existed on a spectrum?

But, you may reply, it doesn’t.  Contrary to so many transactivists, sex is a matter of biology, and you are either male or female; barring the exceptional, one has either XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes.

True, but saying that sex is physiological rather than emotional, an objective reality rather than a subjective feeling, need not imply that it’s binary. [1]  Imagine a spectrum: people with XX chromosomes and functioning female reproductive anatomy at one end (implying a certain level of estrogen); people with XY chromosomes and functioning male reproductive anatomy at the other end (implying a certain level of testosterone); in between, pre-puberty people (neither completely female nor completely male yet, post-menopausal people (no longer completely female), people with hormone variations from the norm (due to natural levels or injections), people with surgical variations (for medical reasons or cosmetic reasons—we may want to distinguish between the two), and so on.  There could be multiple (physical) determinants of sex, and people would be more or less male or female depending on their particular constellation of chromosomes, hormones, and anatomical bits.

In many ways, such a world would surely be more complicated.  For instance, competitive sports would have to be completely reorganized not according to sex, but according to height, weight, muscle mass, etc.  But surely, it would be, eventually, manageable.

Another way to reduce sexism would be to adopt sex-neutral language, because if you didn’t know whether the person was male or female, you couldn’t discriminate on that basis.[2]  This would involve the adoption of sex-neutral names and sex-neutral pronouns [3] and the elimination of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ (as in ‘police officer’ instead of ‘policeman’).  We would retain ‘male’ and ‘female’, of course, but mentioning sex would be relevant only in biological/medical contexts (and personal contexts regarding sexual interaction); to use ‘male’ and ‘female’ in everyday discourse would seem, as it does now, rude.

 

 

[1] Nor need it imply essentialism in the sense that physiological sex is essential to one’s identity (for example, although I am female, but I have never referred to myself as a woman because as far as I’m concerned, my sex doesn’t define me except in medical contexts; it does imply essentialism in the sense that physiology is essential to one’s sex.

[2] In many cases, given the spectrum mentioned above and the hoped-for elimination of gender, it might not even be possible to know whether the person was male or female if you actually saw them.

[3]  Though, please, not ‘they’ because of the consequent singular/plural confusion; there’s no reason we can’t introduce three new words, such as ze, zim, and zer.

 

Transsexualism is a problem only because sexism is a problem

Transsexualism is a problem only because sexism is a problem.  (Transgenderism is no problem at all: females have been wearing pants and so on for ages, and there’s nothing preventing males from wearing dresses and so on.)

If being female didn’t put people at greater risk of sexual assault from males, it wouldn’t matter whether male-bodied people were placed in women’s shelters and women’s prisons or allowed in women’s washrooms and change rooms.   In fact, there wouldn’t need to be women’s shelters and separate prisons, washrooms, and changerooms.  (Although there could be, for reasons other than fear of violence: there could be male, female, and mixed sex facilities across the board.)  There may not even be a need for sex-segregated services; we would need only sex-tailored services.

If being female-bodied didn’t disadvantage athletes for most sports (as we have come to know them), it wouldn’t matter whether they had to compete against male-bodied people.  In fact, there wouldn’t need to be sex-segregated sports.

If being female didn’t mean unjustified subordinate treatment, there would be no need for compensatory programs or data collection to monitor such treatment.  And so it wouldn’t matter if male-bodied people skewed or eliminated such data collection (by making it illegal to record sex) or diminished the funding for such programs (should that be a consequence for refusing to serve male-bodied people).

In short, if there were no sexism, it wouldn’t matter whether males said they were females and females said they were males.[1]  Just as it doesn’t matter whether brown-haired people said they were red-haired (except maybe to a psychologist interested in delusion).  (It would be a problem, however, if white-skinned people claimed to be black-skinned, because racism is a problem.)

Further, to the extent that transsexualism involves transgenderism, it depends on sexism.  If not for sexism, there would be no need to change sex in order to change gender.  If not for sexism, there would be no gender: the various attributes that are grouped together and then aligned with one sex or the other would be just individual attributes, as likely to be present in, or desired by, any given male as any given female.

 

[1]  But there is sexism, so it does matter.  By identifying themselves as female, and demanding access to women-only services and activities, ‘transwomen’ are oblivious not only to biological reality, but also to sexism.  Or perhaps they are simply insensitive to women’s fears (which in itself suggests that they are not women, but are, in fact, still men).  Because how can they not understand that someone with male levels of testosterone and male muscle mass is unwelcome in places where women would be vulnerable to their propensity to violence?  Especially since there is much evidence showing that males prone to violence against women see nothing wrong with using deceit to gain access to women, and no evidence that males who are in various degrees of transformation are any less violent.  (Of course ‘transwomen’ are also at risk of men’s violence, just as effeminate men have always been, but that’s a problem that men, not women, need to solve.)

So … until sexism has been eradicated from our society, ‘transwomen’ will just have to abstain from sex-segregated sports and wax their own balls (or, here’s an idea, go to waxing clinic that has personnel with experience waxing testicles—that is, a men’s waxing clinic).  Is that too much to ask?

As for public restrooms and change rooms, if ‘transwomen’ are afraid to continue using the men’s rooms, they should lobby for trans’ rooms, not the right to use women’s rooms.  As for prisons, I suppose ‘transwomen’ could lobby for separate trans facilities within men’s prisons.

 

Sports Competition, Sports Scholarships

In my novel Gender Fraud: a fiction, several people discuss the negative effect of gender recognition legislation on women’s sports (in a nutshell, it allows men to compete in women’s events and often they win … sponsorships, scholarships …) and one person suggests that sports should be categorized not by sex but, instead, by directly relevant factors, such as muscle mass (proportion and position), height, weight, even foot size (for swimming) …

I’d go further and say let’s just forget sports competition altogether, because, really, can we ever make it fair?  Determining what we have is hard enough; determining what we’ve been born with and what we’ve developed is near impossible.  Why not just have athletic activity?  Why this obsessive desire to figure out who’s best?  Who wins?  (And who’s a LOSER …)  Enough with the ‘You get a medal and all those advertising contracts because on a given day you ran a certain distance a tenth of a second faster than a bunch of other people.

Sports scholarships in particular have got to go.  On what grounds is admission to an institute of learning justified by athletic achievement?

Because yes, universities are, should be, places for the intellect.  They prepare scholars, architects, engineers, psychologists, mathematicians, biologists, physicists, chemists, doctors, lawyers …  What place do football players have there?  And it’s not like they (the football players) don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money to be there.  Money that could be used for library resources, labs, etc.   So in addition, perhaps prior, to the elimination of sports scholarships to universities, I call for the elimination of sports at universities.  (And so, too, the elimination of sports competitions between universities.)  Sure, let’s have gyms and fields.  Physical activity often enhances mental activity.  Activity.  Competition is not required.

 

 

 

 

 

Crying Rape for Regret

Regarding the view that women ‘cry rape’ when they regret having had sex, let’s concede for a moment that that’s true.  The concession begs the question: why do so many women regret having sex?

Even if it turned out to be a mediocre experience—if the man wasn’t very good at it, due to lack of skill or lack of maturity (in terms of wanting the woman to have an orgasm too)—one would hardly cry rape.

Perhaps the woman got pregnant.  If she didn’t want to get pregnant, one would think she’d either be using contraception or she’d trust the man to wear a condom.  So either the contraception didn’t work or the man didn’t wear a condom (or took it off part way through) or he promised to ‘pull out’ before ejaculation (not knowing that semen can get into a woman’s vagina even before ejaculation).

However, my guess is that the woman thought they were going to make love, and it turned out he was just fucking her.  Worse, she realized (once she realized it was just a fuck) that she’d get a bad rep, to put it mildly: her name would circulated, the guy would post humiliating comments, maybe even images, on social media, etc., etc., etc.  It makes perfect sense: as long as women who consent to sex are considered sluts, they’ll be tempted to cry rape—non-consent.

So men, you don’t want to be charged with rape?  Don’t have sex the woman will regret: make it great sex; use a condom; and don’t consider the woman a slut because she wanted it.

 

13 Reasons Why: How to Make a Movie (and maybe Write a Novel *) without acknowledging the Elephant in the Room 

So I’ve just finished watching 13 Reasons Why (Netflix) and am struck by the completely unacknowledged elephant in the room.  Not one character acknowledges that almost all of the problems leading to Hannah’s suicide stem from sexism and its many tumours – misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege, hypersexualization, objectification, the rape culture, etc., etc., etc.

Consider:

Justin – Being a man is all about getting sex, using women for sex, and bragging about it afterwards to get points, to improve your status (among males).  Exaggerating and lying about your ‘achievements’ is, well, standard operating procedure if you’re a guy.  ‘Bros before hos’ — even if it means letting your girlfriend be raped (because hey, what’s mine is yours) (and women are just property, after all) (otherwise, it wouldn’t even have occurred to him that what he ‘owed’ Bryce could include Jessica).  That said, (weak) applause for his eventual decency, especially given his relative-to-Bryce lack of privilege and the pull of moral obligation for reciprocity (albeit disgustingly overgeneralized, as mentioned).

Jessica – Men are more important than women.  One, getting a boyfriend is the most important thing you can do, being someone’s girlfriend is the most important thing you can be; your status, your value, depends on your relation to a male — which is why as soon as she and Alex hook up, Hannah is dropped like a second-class piece of shit.  Two, what men say is to be believed, they are authorities, about everything; when they open their mouths, truth tumbles out like little golden nuggets — which is why she believes what she’s told by Alex et al about Hannah.   Three, she’s a cheerleader.  Her actual ‘job’ is to cheer and applaud men when they do stuff.  (In fact, many of the girls in 13 Reasons Why are cheerleaders, and many of the boys are jocks.  A whole 90% of the student body is missing.  Why?  Give you one guess.)  (Actually, on second thought, strictly speaking, that’s not true.  Of the eight boys listed here, only three are jocks.  So why did I get that wrong impression?  Because they appear as a group, wearing uniforms.  They appear as a team, a gang, a team, an army.  That’s why they seem more … powerful.)

Alex – Women are to be evaluated solely on the basis of their body parts, on whether their body parts please you/men.   Again, (weak) applause for his regret and guilt, and his speaking up, but, yeah, men like Alex who confront men like Bryce will get beaten up.  Thus, his limited confrontation and his suicide attempt can also be traced to the fucked-up patriarchal culture.

Tyler – Women’s bodies are public domain; ergo, photographs of women’s bodies are public domain.  It’s not like there’s a person inside or anything.

Courtney  – Being lesbian in public means you risk ‘corrective rape’; can we blame her for hiding?

Marcus – When a girl agrees to meet you for a milkshake, she’s really agreeing to have sex with you.  At the very least, she’s agreeing to have her genitals fondled by you.  In public.  In broad daylight.  And certainly in the presence of the bros you brought along to witness your conquest.  If she objects, well, your outrage is justified.  Because you’re entitled to touch her.  In fact, you’re entitled to touch any woman.  Any time, any place.  Simply because you’re a man.

Zach – She doesn’t particularly like you?  She rejected your advances of friendship?  Well, yeah, FUCK HER!  Because men are entitled to the affection of all women.

Ryan – Sure it’s okay to publish someone’s work without their permission, without crediting them, perhaps especially if they’re a woman and you’re a man.  Because you, men, know best.   What’s best for her, women.  (Oh, and thanks for carrying on the great tradition of ‘Anon’…)

Sheri – Perhaps the only episode that doesn’t implicate the elephant.

Bryce – Women don’t know what they want, but you, you, a MAN (well, a boy), you know what they want.  (And they all want you.  They all want your penis inside them.)  (At least, you “assume so.”)  (And that’s good enough.)  Thanks to the patriarchy, you can be appallingly deluded about your knowledge and your appeal.  You can lie to yourself about it.  Again and again.

Mr. Porter – Yes, he goes to regretted sex first, then to alcohol and drugs, but when he gets to rape, Hannah says she didn’t tell Bryce to stop, she says she didn’t tell him ‘No’ – so what’s he supposed to think?  He suggests she may have consented then changed her mind (which she’s certainly entitled to do) (and which still leaves the door open to rape), then asks whether they should get her parents or the police involved, but she says ‘No’ – again, what’s he supposed to think or do?  And of course, he can’t promise that Bryce will go to jail.  Guess why.  He tells her it may be ‘best to move on’ (but only after he clarifies that Hannah won’t give a name, she won’t press charges, she’s not even sure she can press charges), showing that he too is caught in the mire of our fucked-up patriarchy.

Clay – Clay buys into the Prince Charming shit: he blames himself for not saving Hannah.  (He doesn’t blame himself for not saving Alex – though perhaps he doesn’t know yet…)  Near the end, he says something like ‘We need to start treating each other better, we need to start caring about each other.’ Well, as Bryce would surely tell him, caring about others is for sissies – females.  And in a patriarchy, male values trump female values (and yes, in a patriarchy there’s a difference).

Hannah – She exhibits a lot of passivity, a persistent denial of agency.  She wants Clay to kiss her; why doesn’t she want to kiss him? (She wants to be kissed; she doesn’t want to kiss.)  She wants Clay to ask her to dance; why doesn’t she just ask him to dance?  She wants him to be her Valentine; why doesn’t she just tell him that?  She tells Clay to go away, but then expects him to stay.  Not only is he not a mind reader, but it’s that kind of shit that got us to ‘no means yes’.  (Tony had it right: she asked him to go, he should go, end of story.)  Standing outside Mr. Porter’s office, she waits to be saved, for him to come running after her.

And of course as soon as Bryce, whom she’d seen rape Jessica, gets into the hot tub, she doesn’t get out.  She probably didn’t want to appear rude.  You know, hurt his feelings.  Once he begins, she doesn’t scream STOP; she doesn’t scream NO.  She just … accepts it, endures it.  (And ‘it’ looks like it might have been sodomy, not ‘just’ PIV rape.)  That’s what women, girls, are supposed to do.  That’s what we’re raised to do.

If the girls wore alarm necklaces (instead of short little genitals-easily-accessible skirts) she could’ve pulled its pin (like a grenade) when she saw Bryce start to rape Jessica …  And again when she was in the hot tub …  And, backing up a bit, why do we keep our teenaged girls so clueless, so desperate for … what? that they get into a hot tub at a party at a rapist’s house in just their bra and panties (let alone go to a party at his place in the first place)?   Not to mention, of course, why do we keep our teenaged boys so clueless the moral wrongness of patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege …

So the thirteen reasons why pretty much boil down to one.

And it’s not even acknowledged.

Feminists have exposed and fought against patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege, hypersexualization, objectification, rape culture – hell, we named most of that shit – for decades.  Not acknowledged.  Not once.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like Jay Asher was born yesterday and has remained oblivious of such women’s voices.  Ironic.  To say the least.

(I cheered when ‘the male gaze’ was actually mentioned by the girls – but then they got it wrong, they made it sound like it just describes the attracted look on a guy’s face.  Oh for the love of God!)

There are no doubt hundreds of 13 Reasons Why novels written by women.  Have any of them been published?  Made into a movie?  Received great critical claim?  No.  But a man writes about what it’s like to be raped, what it’s like to be subjected to misogynistic shit every fucking day, well, world, PAY ATTENTION!  Asher is himself a shining example of the male privilege his novel criticizes so unwittingly.  Again, the irony.

Furthermore, how many more Sylvia Plaths do we need to see?  Why must we keep seeing women kill themselves because of this shit?  Why can’t we see as many, if not more, saying FUCK THIS SHIT!?  Yes, okay, Jessica was drunk, and Hannah isn’t a cheerleader, but why couldn’t Asher have reversed that?  Because, hey, if a girl can do four back handsprings (without mats even), she surely has the strength (shoulders, abs, legs) and the courage (without mats, remember?) to fight back at least a little.  Why didn’t we see a sober cheerleader, or two or three, bustin’ Bryce’s ass when he tried his shit.  Why don’t we see more movies like Jodi Foster’s The Brave One?   Give you one guess.

Never mind the elephant.  13 Reasons Why is a trojan horse.

 

* I’ve just watched the movie, so don’t know how much of this applies to the novel.

 

Chefs and Cooks: What’s the difference?

Used to be women did the cooking and the baking.  Then men starting getting into it.  And in theory, I have no problem with that.  In fact, I’m all for making everything gender-unaligned.  But now that men are in the kitchen, suddenly it’s important.  So important it’s being televised.

And my god, the drama!  (And they call us drama queens.)  The tension, the conflict… Chefs (yes, men are chefs; women were just cooks) scream with self-righteous anger at their minions, they rush around with great urgency making sure every sprinkle of cinnamon is just right, because, well, it’s so frickin’ important.

The phenomenon defies logic.  Drama, therefore importance?  No, because then the toddler screaming about his toy truck in the shopping mall would rank right up there with nuclear disarmament.

If anything, the reasoning goes the other way around: important, therefore drama.  (Although that’s not necessarily true either.  I tend to present my case calmly and rationally, without drama, but one time, the vet’s wife failed to recognize an emergency, dying or dead fawn in my arms notwithstanding, because I wasn’t screaming.  Another time, the local township council didn’t put up a requested road sign until I called a councilmember shouting at her with anger and distress, since minutes earlier, I’d almost been turned into a parapalegic by a speeding vehicle — my previous half dozen requests, accompanied as they were with just sound arguments, were ignored.)

Or is it that the drama, the tension and conflict, are the consequences of the endeavor now being competitive.

And why is that?  Because men are involved?  Well, yes, men see everything as a competition (except for those who resist their primal brain, their testosterone, and/or their Y chromosome).  Women freely share their favorite recipes.

But it’s not just the cooking shows.  Song and dance, even travelogue shows, they’re all bloody competitions now.  And why is that?  Are we all addicts to competition?  Have we been turned into competition addicts (by male producers) (seeking male sponsors)?

I’m thinking men, therefore important.  Look at what happened to bank tellers: when men were bank tellers, it was important; once women started being bank tellers, it became much less important. Similarly, but in reverse, when women did the cooking and baking, it was no big deal: some were very good at it, some not; sometimes it was a chore, sometimes a joy; it was an art and a skill, yes, but women didn’t make a show — a show — of it.

Actually, food preparation was important before too; doing it the wrong way can be fatal.  Literally.  Which makes it even more irritating that the recognition of importance didn’t occur until men started doing it.

And the bizarre thing is they’ve made the trivial aspects of it important; people don’t die if the cinnamon sprinkle isn’t just so.

Which suggests something else: since they aren’t focusing on the legitimately important aspects, the aspects with intrinsic importance, they have to manufacture importance; and making something into a competition is a way to do just that, a way to make what they’re doing seem important.

And here’s something else that would never happen to a man …

So this guy in our neighborhood has early Alzheimers and dizzy spells.  He’s looking for a babysitter (his word) and someone to cook for him and do his cleaning so he doesn’t have to go into a home.  And he asked me.

I have no experience babysitting.  And absolutely no aptitude for it.

Yes, I do my own cooking and cleaning, but I have no interest in it, at all, and do as little as possible.

So why did he ask me?  Because I’m a middle-aged woman.  Apparently that’s what middle-aged women do, that’s what we are, that’s what we’re for.

Yes, I’ve been friendly with him, stopping to chat or at least wave when I walk by (as a result of which he once asked me if I like sex and whether I’m any good at it—apparently that’s another thing women do, are, are for), but I doubt that friendliness on the part of a man would have indicated that he’s available for babysitting, cooking, or cleaning (or sex).

I’ve got three degrees, I used to be a philosophy instructor, I’ve published several books, and I’m currently making a living as a freelancer.  Would a man with such credentials be asked to be someone’s babysitter and do their cooking and cleaning?

Ah, but this guy doesn’t know I’m all that.  And that’s also telling.  If I were man who has lived in this neighborhood (small, rural) for twenty-five years, everyone would likely know all of that about me.  But I don’t go around announcing these things, and no one’s ever asked.  Because they just assume I’m—well, none of that.  After all, I’m just a middle-aged woman.

P.S. – Spread the word – I invite women to add their own “And here’s something else that would never happen to a man” entries via the comments function.  I’d love for this post to turn into a blog sort of like ‘What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?’

 

Solo Women’s Invisible Economic Expenses

It really hit home when my father gave me twenty bucks for a pizza, his treat.  As if I were a teenager.  Instead of a 50-year-old woman with a mortgage to pay, property taxes,  and monthly bills for oil, electricity, phone, internet, tv, house insurance, car insurance…  Amazing.  He was sitting in my living room at the time.  (My living room.)  A carpenter I’d hired to do some renovations on my house (my house) was outside working at the time.  And yet, he seemed to think I didn’t need, or couldn’t use, any real money.  He couldn’t see me as an adult negotiating my way in the real world, the one with jobs, paycheques, mortgages, and bills.

How did he think I came to own my own house?  Who did he think would be paying the carpenter?  Who does he think bought the car sitting in my driveway?  And pays for its repairs?

I don’t doubt for a minute that my parents have given my brother and my married sister a lot more than twenty bucks over the years (I divorced them thirty years ago, so I don’t really know) (and for that reason, I don’t feel entitled to anything from them, but that’s not my point), starting with the hundred-dollar (thousand-dollar?) gifts they gave them to start their households.  Said gifts were ostensibly wedding gifts, but hey, I had a household to start too.  Why do they get a new fridge and I get a hand-me-down blender just because they’re starting a new household with someone to whom they’ve contracted themselves?

And it’s not just my parents, of course.  The twenty-bucks-for-pizza incident wasn’t by any means the first time my economic expenses have been apparently invisible.  A neighbour (a kept woman) explained to me once that she and her husband were happy to have given the commission from the sale of their property to a certain real estate agent, a woman, (instead of selling the property without involving her, which they could have done), because her husband had recently died, so she was on her own now.  No similar sympathy has ever been directed my way.  And I’ve been on my own since I was twenty-one.

Why is this?  What can explain this phenomenon, a phenomenon that is surely causally related to women’s lower salaries?  The belief, clearly mistaken if anyone cared to open their eyes, that every woman is married?  (And every married woman is completely supported by her husband?)  The insistent belief that women are, or should be, considered children?  (And children don’t have adult needs, adult financial responsibilities…)

In 2009, American single women outnumbered married women (All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister).  So what do people like my parents think?  That banks waive our mortgage payments, and landlords never charge us rent; that insurance companies waive our premiums; that oil and propane companies fill our tanks, but never send us a bill; that we get our cars and bus passes for free; that we don’t have to pay for gas; that grocery stores let us walk out with all the food we want, for free; that our dentists and optometrists don’t charge us for check-ups; and that little elves come in the middle of the night and leave heaps of money so we can pay for whatever else we need.