Men, Noise, and A Simple Request, Really

I finally figured it out — why the men in my neighborhood react with such escalated lack of consideration whenever I ask them, politely, to limit their noise.  I’ve asked snowmobilers who are out racing around the lake and having a good time going VROOM VROOM to please just turn around a few seconds before they get to the very end of the lake, which is where I live; I’ve asked dirt bikers to please ride up and down and up and down on a section of road that doesn’t have a bunch of people living there; I’ve asked men who are building new houses to please put the compressor behind the house (so the building acts as a berm) rather than on the lake side (which means, of course, that the noise not only skids across the lake with wonderful efficiency, but also that it then bounces off the hills, echoing amplified all over the place); I’ve asked men to at least close their lakeside doors and windows when they’re using their power tools inside.  (And I’d like to ask them if they really, seriously, need to use a leafblower — we live in the forest, for godsake.)

And almost every single time, not only has the man not acceded to my request, he’s escalated his noise-making and/or responded with confrontational aggression.

Do I live in a neighborhood with an unrepresentative number of inconsiderate assholes?

No.  Here’s what’s happening.  (As I say, I’ve finally figured it out.)  Partly it’s because I’m a woman asking a man to do something.  Most men do not want to be seen taking orders from a woman; even to accede to a woman’s request is apparently too much for their egos.  My male neighbour has made similar requests and the responses have been along the lines of ‘Sure, no problem.’

And partly, it’s because making noise is perceived to be an integral part of being a man.  I’ve long known ‘My car is my penis’ but I never realized that that was partly because of the noise of the car.  I didn’t know that men routinely modify the mufflers of their dirt bikes in order to make them louder.  And then I happened to catch a Canadian Tire advertisement on television (I seldom watch television) and was absolutely amazed at the blatant association of masculinity with power tools, the promise that ‘You’ll be more of a man when you use this million-horsepower table saw’ or whatever.

So the resistance to my requests is because I’m essentially asking that they castrate themselves.

SlutWalk: What’s the problem?

1. SlutWalk was reportedly initiated in response to a police officer’s comment about not dressing like a slut if you don’t want to get raped. The underlying assumption is that one’s attire — specific items or style — sends a message. And indeed it does.  High heels, fishnet stockings, and a heavily made-up face are considered invitations.  So if a woman is wearing ‘fuck me shoes’, she can hardly complain if someone fucks her.  But is that the message the woman is sending?  A message that she’s sexually available to everyone?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Frankly, given the ambiguity, and the nature of the outcome in the case of misunderstanding, I wonder why women take the risk.

It’s much like wearing one’s gang colours in the territory of a rival gang.  Of course it’s going to be provocative.  Is any consequent assault legal?  No.  Is it deserved?  No.  Should it have been anticipated?  Yes.  So unless the intent was to make a point about the wrongness of gangs and violence, a point best made by arranging media presence for the incursion into the other gang’s territory, well, how stupid are you?

Granted, most women who dress in a sexually attractive way don’t go that far (fishnet stockings and heavy make-up), but why go any way at all?  Why does a woman dress in a sexually attractive way?  Why do women put on high heels, show their legs, wear bras that push up their breasts and tops that expose cleavage, redden their lips, and so on?  What does she hope to attract exactly?

My first guess is that she hasn’t thought about it.  She dresses in a sexually attractive way because, well, that’s what women in our society are expected to do.(1)  In which case she’s an idiot.  Doesn’t deserve to be raped, but really, she should think about what she does.

My second guess is that she dresses in a sexually attractive way because she wants to invite offers of sex.(2)  But then, she shouldn’t be angry when she receives such offers, either in the form of whistles and call-outs or in more direct ways.  That she may respond with anger or offense suggests that she wants to attract only offers she’s likely to accept, offers only from men she’s attracted to.  But, men may cry, how’s a man to know?  Um, try to make eye contact.  If you can’t do that, she’s not interested.  If you do make eye contact, smile.  If she doesn’t smile back, she’s not interested.  Surely that kind of body language isn’t too subtle to grasp.

And yet, many men seem to have such an incapacity for subtlety that if you act like bait, they may simply reach out and grab you.  Are they entitled to do that?  No.  Any unauthorized touching is a violation.  Is clothing authorization?  Well, sometimes.  Consider uniforms.

So it would be far less ambiguous if a woman who wants sex just extended the offers herself.  Why take the passive route of inviting offers from likely candidates?  Why make men try to figure out whether they’re a likely candidate?  Why not just let them know and go from there?

 

2. Many people may not have been aware of the police officer’s comment. So what are they to make of SlutWalk? What are they to understand is the point?  (Prerequisite to deciding whether to support SlutWalk or not.)

a) “It’s okay to be a slut!” Given the ‘sluttish’ appearance that many women present during the walk, this understanding is understandable. But whether or not one wants to endorse that message depends on the definition of ‘slut.’  See“What’s wrong with being a slut?”

b) “We’re proud to be sluts!”

c) “No woman deserves to be raped, regardless of her attire!” This is probably closest to the intended message, but in this case, better to have called it a “Walk Against Rape”. Better, further, to advocate changes that would make rape more likely to be reported and rapists more likely to be sentenced commensurate to the injuries they’ve caused.  Perhaps better still to advocate a male-only curfew.

Of course, “SlutWalk” is far more provocative, far more attention-getting, than the ho-hum “Walk Against Rape”, but I don’t think the organizers considered the difficulty of reclaiming an insulting word.  And ‘slut’ is a very difficult insulting word to reclaim.  Harder than ‘bitch’ and ‘nigger’ and even those reclamation  efforts haven’t been very successful.  Mostly, success has been limited to conversations among women in the first case and conversations among blacks in the second.  SlutWalk is not conducted in the presence of women only.  So, really, did the organizers expect people in general to accept (let alone understand) their implied redefinition?

The organizers also didn’t think through the male over-dependence on visual signals.  The gawkers and hecklers who typically undermine the event should be expected.  The inability of men to process any verbal messages (even those just a few words long) in the presence of so-called ‘fuck me’ heels should be expected.

Consider that even Gwen Jacobs’ action to make it legal for women to be shirtless wasn’t immune to sexualization, despite the clearly non-sexual nature of her action; men (BOOBS!) hooted, men (BOOBS!) called out, and the media, no doubt reflecting a decision made by a man (BOOBS!), or perhaps a thoughtless woman, continues to use the sexualized “topless” instead of “shirtless” when reporting about the issue (BOOBS!).  Imagine the response had Jacobs gone shirtless while also wearing short shorts exposing half buttocks.  It would have been, to understate, a mixed message.

And that is, essentially, the problem with SlutWalk.  High heels, exposed legs, pushed-up breasts, and a made-up faces sends a message that one is sexually available (which is why it’s appalling to me that it has become convention for women to wear heels and make-up in public every day all day) (those who accept that convention accept the view that women should be, or at least should seem to be, sexually available every day all day).(3)  And if it doesn’t send a message that you’re sexually available, what message does it send?  That you’re sexually attractive?  Back to the top—what are you hoping to attract?  (And why are you trying to attract that when you’re at work, working?)

d) “Women have a right to tease!” That seems to be the message SlutWalk conveys, given the likelihood that women who present themselves as sexually attractive aren’t actually trying to be sexually attractive to everyone or, at least, aren’t sexually available to everyone. And that’s a message that many women would not  Especially those who know about the provocation defence.

There’s nothing wrong with extending invitations to sex.  Doing so in public in such a non-specific way—that’s the problem.  Especially given men’s inability to pick up on subtle cues and/or their refusal to understand the difference between yes and no, let alone yes and maybe.  Maybe when men can handle a sexually charged atmosphere without assaulting…  Maybe when other men penalize, one way or another, those who can’t handle a sexually charged atmosphere without assaulting…

In the meantime, we’re living in an occupied country, a country occupied by morally-underdeveloped people with power who think women are just walking receptacles for their dicks.  So women who make themselves generally available, or present themselves as being generally available, are, simply, putting themselves at great risk (and, yes, in a way, getting what they asked for): some STDs are fatal; others are incurable; most have painful symptoms.  And pregnancy has a life-long price tag.(4)

 

(1) There’s a difference between attractive and sexually attractive.  At least, there should be.  Perhaps because men dominate art and advertising, the two have been equivocated.  (No doubt because everything is sexual for them. ) (Which may be to say, everything is about dominance for them.)

(2) Maybe part of her smiles to think of herself as a slut.  She’s a bad girl, she’s dangerous, she’s taking risks, she’s a wild girl for once in her life.  But that’s exactly what they want.  Sexual access.  No-strings-attached sex.  We fell for that in the 60s too.  Free love, sure, we’re not prudes, we’re okay with our bodies, we’re okay with sex, we’re ‘with it’.  But they never took us seriously.  They never considered us part of the movement.  Behind our backs, they’d snicker and say the best position for a woman is prone ( Stokely Carmichael) (read your history, learn about your past).

(3) Of course there’s the possibility that if/when women forego the heels, bared legs, accentuated breasts and butts, and make-up, men will consider a little ankle to be an open invitation.  Which just means the issue isn’t attire at all.  It’s being female.  In a patriarchy.  (Which still means SlutWalk is off-target.)

(4) I hear the objections already: ‘No, wearing high heels and make-up doesn’t mean I’m sexually available!  That’s the point!’  (And around and around we go.)  Then why do you wear high heels and make-up?  Seriously, think about it: high heels make the leg more shapely, attracting the male gaze, which follows your legs up…; make-up makes your face younger, supposedly prettier, lipstick attracts the male gaze to your lips…  If you just want to be attractive, then what you do to your body wouldn’t be sexualized: you’d wear funky gold glittered hiking boots, you’d paint an iridescent rainbow across your face, you’d do a hundred other aesthetically interesting things…

 

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.

 

This is your brain.  This is your brain on oxytocin: Mom.

I think many women realize that their children make them vulnerable; their love for them holds them hostage.  So many things they would do (leave?)—but for the children.  I wonder how many realize that their imprisonment is physiological.  And, in most cases, as voluntary as that first hit of heroin, cocaine, whatever.

‘But I love my children!’  That’s just the oxytocin talking.  You think you love them because you’re a good person, responsible, dutiful, and, well, because they’re so loveable, look at them!  That’s just the oxytocin talking.

All those women (most of them) who didn’t really want to become pregnant, but did anyway (because contraception and abortion weren’t easily available, and sex was defined as intercourse), and then claimed, smiling, that they wouldn’t have it any other way, they love their children—just the oxytocin talking.

The assurance that the labour will be worth it, that you’ll forget all about the pain as soon as you see your baby, as soon as you hold your baby—all true.  Because of the oxytocin.

Which you’ll get more of if you breastfeed.

And which you’ll get more of if you have a vaginal birth.  Which is why women who intend to give up their babies for adoption or who are surrogates should have caesareans.  It’ll reduce that drug-induced attachment, making it easier to follow through with their plans.  (Why doesn’t any medical professional tell them that?)

“Roused by the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy, the number of oxytocin receptors in the expecting mother’s brain multiplies dramatically near the end of her pregnancy. This makes the new mother highly responsive to the presence of oxytocin.” [2]   And, “Researchers have found that women’s oxytocin levels during their first trimester of pregnancy predict their bonding behavior with their babies during the first month after birthAdditionally, mothers who had higher levels of oxytocin across the pregnancy as well as the postpartum month also reported more behaviors that create a close relationship, such as singing a special song to their baby, bathing and feeding them in a special way, or thinking about them more. Quite simply, the more oxytocin you have, the more loving and attentive you are to your baby.” [1]

So those new mothers who don’t fall in love with their babies?  The ones who want to throw them out the window because they’re fucking crying all the time?  Their brains just didn’t produce enough, or perhaps any, oxytocin.  Post-partum depression?  It’s just oxytocin deficiency.  (It certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  I’d throw the kid out the window too.)

And here’s the kicker: oxytocin rewires your brain.  Permanently.  “Under the early influence of oxytocin, nerve junctions in certain areas of mother’s brain actually undergo reorganization, thereby making her maternal behaviors ‘hard-wired.’” [2]

You become a mom.  Permanently.  Oxytocin makes you sensitive to others’ needs (not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs).  It makes you want to fulfill others’ needs.  (Not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs.)  You become nurturing, affectionate, caring.  (You become a proper woman?  A woman who knows her place?)  Oxytocin changes your personality.  It changes you.  As any drug does.

The rest of us, those of us who live oxytocin-free?  We don’t give a damn.  We’re not into nurturing others—children or men.  When we say we don’t like kids?  We mean it.  And when you say ‘Oh, just wait until you have some of your own, you’ll change your mind!’  They’re right.  Because we’ll become doped up with oxytocin.

So if you don’t want to turn into a Mom, if you don’t want to dedicate your life to others, to meeting their needs and desires, Just Say No.

 

[1] http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/pregnancy/oxytocin-pregnancy-birth-mother

 

[2] http://www.attachmentparenting.org/support/articles/artchemistry.php

 

[3] http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2007/feldman.cfm

Men and Words (?)

As a result of a recent exchange on a blog in which I felt insulted enough by the patronizing tone taken by the moderator that I decided not to participate any further, while another commenter (a male) responded with a mere “LOL”, I asked yet another commenter (also a male) about why he thought our reactions were so different.  “Don’t men know when they’re being insulted?” I asked.

His response?  “We know, we just don’t care. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a
screen. Most of us don’t expect to convince anyone else, this is a social event of sorts for people who like to talk about stuff.”

He went on to say “We don’t expect to change anything, we’re just engaging in venting,
observation, and entertainment. If we learn something new, all the better.”

I find this horrifying.  Words have meaning!  Meaning is important!  At first I thought okay, maybe that’s just a philosopher/non-philosopher thing, but then I recalled conversations with male philosophers in which I similarly felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, in which I felt like, the man nailed it, “entertainment”.

I don’t feel that when I speak with women on these matters.  So it’s a sexist thing, not a
philosopher thing.

But it’s not that men don’t take women seriously, it’s that they don’t take each other seriously either.  Suddenly their attitude toward debate—it’s a game—makes sense.

As for not expecting to convince or change, maybe that’s a non-teacher-non-social-activist thing, but again, if it’s a male thing, then again, it’s horrifying.  No wonder the world isn’t getting better and better: the people in power aren’t talking, thinking, acting to make it so.  Their discussions on policy are just “venting, observation, and entertainment”!

I wonder if at its root, it’s part of the male relationship to words.  Women are better with language, so it’s said, whether because of neurology or gendered upbringing; men are better with action, so it’s said, again whether by neurology or gendered upbringing.  So that would explain why women (in general, of course) consider words to be important, and men (in general, of course) don’t.

 

The So-called “Adult Market”

What’s adult about forcing someone to do something she doesn’t really want to do?

What’s adult about doing sexual things to children?

What’s adult about humiliating another person?

What’s adult about hurting another person?

 

We should call it what it is.  The psychopathic sociopathic misogynist market.  The sick fucks market.

 

(I’d intended to be more specific, but I’m concerned that the psychopathic sociopathic misogynist dudes would like that.  Plus, merely describing these things repulses me.)

 

Sweet Sixteen (a short story)

 

It’s John’s sixteenth birthday tomorrow.  He’s coming of age.  His cousin, Jane, who lives just down the street, won’t come of age until her eighteenth birthday, and everyone said at the beginning how unfair that was, but truth be told, and John knows it, guys can do a lot of damage between sixteen and eighteen.

“It’s your sixteenth birthday tomorrow,” his mother had said that morning, in a carefully neutral voice.  “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know!” he’d screamed at her, as if she’d asked the question a hundred times before.  Then he stomped out of the house, slamming the door on his way out.  Standing in the middle of the yard, he’d called a few of his buddies, but they were all away.  Summer camp, vacation, whatever.  So he’d climbed into his old treehouse and sat there, alone, fuming.  It was all he could do not to kick the walls out.

 

What happened was, in 2035 organized religion finally went too far.  That might seem like an odd thing to say, given the institutionalized misogyny of Judaism what with Jewish men thanking their god every morning for not making them female, the Vatican’s decision to prohibit contraception and permit pedophilia, the routine defrauding by various Protestant evangelists, the Puritans’ tendency to cut off people’s ears and bore a hole in their tongues with a hot iron, the witch ‘trials’, the Inquisition’s habit of dislocating limbs and burning people alive, the human sacrifices of the Mayan, Inca, and Aztec theocracies, the Islamic Taliban, jihads, fatwas, burkas—

Ironically enough, it was the Americans’ ramped-up military engagement with Islamic countries that made the long-time similarities between Christianity and Islam suddenly all too apparent.  People started to see the my-god-versus-your-god subtext and were hard-pressed to prove their own god was the one true god.  It wasn’t something they were used to doing, providing support for their beliefs.

So what, you may ask, was the thing that was considered going too far?  Because really, how much further can you go beyond torture and mass murder?

It was this: the American president was not only refusing to sign anti-nuclear accords and pro-environment accords, he was actively pursuing nuclear and environmental destruction to ensure that the Biblical prophecy of the apocalypse would be fulfilled.  He would thus prove once and for all that the Christian god was the one true god.  That there would be no one left alive to appreciate such proof seemed to have escaped his notice.

Immediately upon discovering this insanity, the Scandinavian countries organized a global boycott of everything American, and, upon further thought, of everything from every country that claimed, one way or another, to be a nation under god.

The world became atheist overnight.

And then philosophy finally, finally, took its true place in society.  The ‘Philosophy for Children’ programs run by various fringe ‘wingnuts’ were suddenly mandatory.  The brave initiative in Canada in 1995 to introduce philosophy into the high school curriculum, an initiative that flashed then faded, blazed into popularity: both senior courses became mandatory not only in Canada, but also in the United States, and courses were developed for grades nine and ten as well.  At universities, Departments of Philosophy and Religion finally separated: Philosophy became a department on its own, and Religion was added to Folklore Studies or completely subsumed into invisibility in Ancient History.

And people, ordinary people, began to think.

Almost overnight, instead of hearing people talk on and on about sports, you could hear them, here and there, talk about things like how sure you had to be about something before you could say you knew it.  Epistemology in the pubs!

And without religion to issue decrees, suddenly questions of right and wrong were, well, questions.  Recourse to legal moralism was common among the lazier minds, but the presumed equivalence between law and morality did not go unchallenged.

People also talked a lot about rights and responsibilities.  It was almost as if they had been wanting to do that for a very long time, but had lacked a vocabulary.  The sudden proliferation of philosophy courses, as well as philosophy blogs, philosophy newspaper columns, philosophy talk shows, and even philosophical counselors (after all, many mental health issues are simply the result of not thinking things through clearly) gave them that vocabulary.

One of the first things to go was the right to reproduce.  “The Smiths and their Biochem Cubes” had become a staple in the grade eleven Philosophy course:

Suppose the Smiths make biochem cubes—biological-chemical cubes about one metre by one metre with an input for the resources required for sustenance at one end and an output for the unusable processed resources at the other.  Why do the Smiths make biochem cubes?  Good question.  Truth be told, the cubes are unlikely to make the world a better place.  And the Smiths don’t sell them.

Should we make allowances for the Smiths with regard to money (salaries, taxes, subsidies, etc.)?  After all, they have, let’s say, ten biochem cubes to support.  If the cubes are to stay alive, the Smiths need to provide sustenance.  They need a bigger house.  More electricity.  More food.

Should we encourage their ‘hobby’?  Perhaps even consider it respectable, a rite of passage to maturity?

Or should we censure it?  Because once their biochem cubes become ambulatory, the rest of us have to go around them in one way or another.  And when we’re all dead, the Smiths’ ecological footprints will have been at least ten times the size of those of us who don’t make biochem cubes.  (More, if the cubes they made go out and make other cubes.)

Suddenly everyone was aware of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous comment, ‘Your right to swing your fist ends were my nose begins’.  That is to say, suddenly everyone understood that the crux of the matter for rights was that, and how, others were affected.  No right was absolute because no person was an island.  Everything, everyone, was connected.  Maybe not directly, maybe not immediately, but if the change in the Earth’s climate had taught us anything, it had taught us that.

So a right to reproduce?  No.  It was a privilege.  One had to earn it.  And even so, it could be taken away.

Shortly after, the abortion question was finally seen as a simple matter of competing rights: the right of the fetus to develop versus the right of the woman to carry on with her life.

And once it was decided that the fetus’ right didn’t trump the woman’s right, that the fetus didn’t automatically have a right to develop, a right to life (why would it? just because some man ejaculated into some woman and started the process?), it was a very small step for people to realize that they themselves didn’t automatically have a right to life.  After all, everyone was just the result of some man ejaculating into some woman.  Everyone was just someone’s biochem cube.

A lot of people resisted.  They struggled to argue for a right to life, an inalienable right to life.  But there was simply no basis for it.  Absent a god to grant it.

 

John wasn’t aware of any of this, of course.  He just knew that once he came of age, he had to prove somehow that he had a right to live.  He had to be useful or valuable in some way.  You got a free ride until then, that was the deal now.  But once you turned eighteen, or sixteen, if you were male, you had to earn the right to life, you had to prove your life was worth—well, worth the resources you used, perhaps, or worth the negative consequences you inevitably caused for others.

It was easier for girls, John thought.  Jane had been useful since she was old enough to dry the dishes, standing on a stool at the sink.  She had a whole list of chores to do: dishes every day, dinner twice a week, dusting and vacuuming on Saturdays, babysitting on Sundays…

She’d even learned to play the piano.  By the time she was fourteen, she was practicing an hour a day, and the last time he was at her house, she played something by Mozart for him.  She was useful and valuable.  And she wasn’t even sixteen yet.

When John saw how good Jane was at the piano—she’d even played some retro Supertramp for him once—he decided he’d become a musician too.  So he got a guitar.  But he had no idea how to play it.  A friend of a friend finally showed him a few chords, but even after two whole weeks, it was hit-and-miss, so he gave up.  Clearly, he had no talent.  Jane was lucky, he thought, she could do shit like that.

He didn’t know why it was different for girls.  Maybe all that stuff just came naturally.  Guys were different.  For example, a couple weeks ago, he and his buddies broke all the windows at their school.  Every last one of them.  They’d had a race to see who could break the most.  And just last week they had a great time turning over everyone’s garbage.  He always felt a little bad the day after they did these things, seeing the mess they’d made, but a guy’s entitled to have a little fun, right?

It took Jane a good two hours to pick up all the stuff that had overnight blown onto their lawn.  Wads of tissue, scraps of soiled, unrecyclable packaging—  So, he thought, philosophically, he’d given her the opportunity to be useful.  Didn’t that make him useful?

Long ago, his parents had told him he had to cut the grass, but he’d said ‘Fuck that!’ and took off.  They didn’t insist.  Truthfully, they were a little afraid of him.

All the young men who in earlier times might have proved themselves useful as soldiers didn’t have that avenue open to them now.  Because now there were no wars.  Killing someone—remember, everyone had earned the right to live now, everyone who was alive had proven themselves to be useful or valuable—killing someone, taking away someone’s right to life, was the quickest way to get your own right to life revoked.

And once people started thinking, they realized that football, hockey, soccer, basketball—these things did nothing to improve humanity.  So that avenue for young men was also no longer open.  The entertainment defence for that level of sport, for that concentration of resources for sport, was tried, but it failed.  As it did for pornography.  There was simply too much violence involved—and in the latter case, too much degradation—to grant entertainment value to anyone but vicarious sadists.

Even so, at the beginning it was easy for guys like John.  On their eighteenth birthday, guys like John would just start roaming the highways picking up the garbage that littered the ditches.  But a generation later, well, the kind of people who had earned the right to live weren’t the kind of people who tossed their garbage out their car windows.

The more ambitious guys got jobs.  But jobs weren’t that easy to find now.  Certainly John couldn’t find one overnight.  And he certainly wasn’t doing well enough in school to argue that he was going to become a scholar, a scientist, or even an entrepreneur.

The truth of the matter was that John wasn’t unusual.  A great many men by the age of eighteen hadn’t done anything, not one thing, to improve life for humanity, to justify their existence.

The same was true, of course, of a lot of young women.  The ones who’d expected to get a free ride by being somebody’s wife and/or somebody’s mother.  In fact, Brittany, one of John’s classmates, would have trouble a couple years from now.  In a previous time, she may have been useful as a prostitute, but once pornography became illegal, prostitution quickly followed.  The similarities were clear, once people thought about it, but also, the demand for it decreased quite quickly.

Even so, even now, in certain cesspool corners of the world, to which John and Brittany could escape if they’d known about them, Brittany could have, would have, found herself useful.  But she’d’ve been raped to death within six months.

And then John would have discovered just how useful he could be.

John kicked at the walls of the treehouse.  Now he wishes they had, he wishes his parents had insisted.  Again, and again, and again if necessary.  That he cut the grass.  Or whatever.  It was their responsibility to make sure he was useful, wasn’t it?  They created him.  It was their fault he was in this situation!

He looked back toward the house.  Then came down out of the trees.  And went on one last rampage.

Tomorrow he’d be sixteen.

And he wouldn’t be missed.

The Trouble with Trans

1. To the extent that a transsexual is someone who experiences body dysphoria, someone who feels they’re in the ‘wrong’ body, someone who feels their body is the ‘wrong’ sex — how do they know? What is it like to feel female (or male)? I was born female, and I don’t know.   So how can they know?  It’s Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ problem. (1)  I know what it is to feel healthy only because I have also been sick.  I don’t know what it is to feel female because I haven’t been male.  Anything that I feel that I can know for sure is due to being female, rather than due to simply being human, is related to having a uterus (which can ache and hurt during menstruation) and breasts (which can feel heavy).

Other things subjectively felt are certainly due to my body — to its levels of estrogen and progesterone, for example, but also to its levels of dopamine and vasopressin, for example.  But given the overlapping range of levels of these biochemicals in males and females (many of which are not differentiated for males and females), again, how can one say ‘I feel this—because I’m female’?

If transsexuals feel like their exterior doesn’t match their interior, why do they (also) get hormone treatment—which will change their interior (as well as their exterior)?  Doing that suggests they want to change their sex, not that they were born with the wrong sex.  Even if sex is brain-based, and they feel like they have a female brain in a male body — it’s the brain that produces hormones.  So if they do have a female brain, it would be producing estrogen, and there would be no need for hormone treatments.

I’m not saying body dysphoria isn’t ‘real’.  In fact, I experience every day the mismatch between what’s inside and what’s outside: I look like a middle-aged woman, but I don’t feel like a middle-aged woman.  Then again, I do.  I must.  This must be what a middle-aged woman can feel like.  (Similarly, if you’re in a male body, what you feel must be male.  Maybe it’s not the male you see on billboards and television, but it is male nevertheless.) (Welcome to our world.)  When I say I don’t feel like a middle-aged woman, I’m using my personal and thus limited experience (my interaction with other middle-aged women) and I’m using stereotypes, pushed at me primarily by profit-seeking marketing departments.

But even so, in this case, I can know that my interior doesn’t match my exterior: at forty, for example, I know what I felt at twenty, so when I say I still feel twenty, I know what I’m talking about.  I could mean, for example, that my skin feels the same, even though when I look in the mirror, I see that it’s lost its elasticity.  Usually, though, I mean something like I still feel energetic and impassioned, not bland and resigned.  But this takes us back to my point about referencing limited experience and stereotypes.

What we need are thorough and carefully conducted studies of MTFs and FTMs.  Only they know what it felt like when they were male or female and what it feels like after they add or subtract certain body parts.  (To the extent that those parts aren’t connected to the whole in the same way, though, any change in subjective experience won’t be very useful.)

More importantly, only they know what it felt like when they were, for example, flooded with testosterone and what it feels like to be flooded with estrogen.  Sadly, those studies aren’t being done, as far as I can tell (which may mean they’re just not being publicized).  And even if they were, their reliability would be compromised by the nature of subjective report and a self-selected sample, both of which are likely to be further confounded by the subject’s conflation of sex and gender.

 

2. To the extent that a transgendered person is someone who adopts the gender that is traditionally aligned with the other sex, there are several problems.

If gender is socially constructed, then it’s not dependent on sex—so one need not change one’s sex in order to change one’s gender.  In fact, transgendered people don’t even need their own label.  Every woman who refuses to wear make-up and shave her legs is as much a transgendered person as the man who insists on wearing make-up and shaving his legs.  (Assuming that not wearing make-up is not just not-feminine, but is masculine.  If it’s just not-feminine, then perhaps it’s more accurate to call such a woman non-gendered.  So would a woman who wears pants instead of a dress be transgendered?  Still no.  It turns out that aspects of appearance commonly associated with men are more acceptable for women than vice versa.  Perhaps that’s why there are more men than women seeking to cross the gender divide.  Women already can, at least on superficial matters.)

And if it isn’t socially constructed—that is, if is dependent on sex, how do we explain effeminate men and ‘tomboys’?  How is it that many males use their voice and their hands in a very expressive fashion?  How is it that many females are strong and aggressive?

 

3. Are MTFs female? The answer to this question requires an informed understanding of biology, chemistry, and biochemistry that I don’t have. It also requires a definition: how much of how many (and which) primary and secondary sexual characteristics is required to be a member of that sex category?  Is a female who has undergone a hysterectomy and a bilateral mastectomy still female?  Is a post-menopausal and thus low-estrogen female still female?

 

4. Are MTFs women? To the extent that being a woman is a matter of gender rather than sex, maybe. Again, we need a definition: which, how many, how much…   And does a woman need to be a female?

Of course it is possible, by observation and comparison, to identify what it’s like to be treated as a female/woman.  I was born female, raised as a girl, and all of my adult life, treated, by most people most of the time, as a woman.  And what does that feel like?  It feels like shit.  To be patronized, marginalized, objectified…

So perhaps a more useful question is ‘Should MTFs be treated as women?’  Should we pay them less for work of equal value?  Should we mock or at least ignore their contributions to society?  If we want consistency, yes.  If we want justice, no.

On that note, it needs to be said (apparently) that how you’re treated affects the person you become.  Kick a dog often enough, and it becomes a cowering, fearful mess.  The same is true for humans: ignore a person often enough, and she stops speaking up; make her feel like all of her value is in her body, and she obsesses over it; and so on (and so on, and so on).  There is a difference between being a FAAB (female assigned at birth) and being an MTF: a lifetime lived in a female body.  That difference is not inconsequential.  To understate.  And if MTFs had any understanding at all of sexism, they’d know this.  (But perhaps they’ve been too busy dealing with their dysphoria.) (Or they’ve just been, well, men.)

So answering the question of whether MTFs are women is a no-brainer for the people who’ve been women all their lives.  MTFs make demands, not polite requests. (2)  They are quick to resort to insult, threat, aggression.  They compete.  They dominate.  They convey a sense of entitlement none of us has ever had.   They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  They scream “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO KEEP US OUT WE HAVE A FUCKING RIGHT TO BE HERE TO GO WHEREVER THE FUCK WE WANT!”—a response to exclusion from FAAB spaces that is “right up there, ideologically, with demanding that girls and women be sexually available visually and physically, for and with men” (Julian Real, http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.ca/2011/02/who-gets-to-define-women-only-space.html). (3, 4)  In short, it quacks like a duck.

 

In any case, perhaps the most important question is ‘Why does it matter?’ —whether one is male or female, a man or a woman?  It matters only to those who want to maintain a rigid sex/gender dichotomy.  And why would someone want to do that?  To support a sexist system/society.

So, I say to MTFs, who are apparently among those who want to maintain such a system/society, if you want to be considered a woman, act like one.  Sit down and shut up.  Understand that your opinion doesn’t count.  Be sensitive to everyone else’s feelings, respect them, accommodate them.  Don’t assume you know more than anyone else.  In particular, don’t assume you know more about sex and gender than second-generation feminists and radfems; they are Ph.D.s (in fact, many of them have Ph.D.s) when it comes to sex and gender, and no man of any kind comes close to their level of understanding: “They lost many of [their] privileges when they started identifying as women, but rather than recognising that this is because of sexism, they decided it was because they are trans. Why? Because, being male, they knew fuck all about sexism” (thebeardedlady, Nov17/09 at https://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/the-fallacy-of-cis-privilege/).

It is no surprise to me that twice as many MTFs as FTMs commit suicide.  I haven’t read many accounts of their transition, but in most of those I have read, I see a shocking naiveté with regard to sexism, gender politics, etc.  It is as if these people had no idea that they were voluntarily becoming a member of the sexed subordinate class.  So no wonder, on top of everything else, they can’t handle, are broadsided by, the sudden and almost complete disenfranchisement …

(So as for the dysphoria, like the person who rejects their leg because it doesn’t feel right, because it doesn’t feel like it’s theirs, isn’t it better to deal with the dysphoria than to go through life as an amputee?)   (Because yes, being a woman in the patriarchy is, in many ways, like being an amputee.  We are crippled.  We are, relative to men, dis-abled.)

Catherine – by chris wind

Catherine, by Chris Wind (from Snow White Gets Her Say)  www.chriswind.net

 

That you don’t recognize me by name is but the first of my complaints about my tale. Oh you know me alright. I’m the main character—in a tale titled with the name of one of the men in the story. But what’s in a name? A lot. Especially if it’s a man’s name. This man’s name is the answer to the question upon which rests the fate of myself and my newborn child. So his name is very powerful, it is very important. My name apparently is not.

Nor is my life. For whether it is to be filled with joy and delight from being with my newborn, or empty with grief and loss from separation is to be decided by a mere guessing game.

Nor are my words important. I denied my father’s boast. I told the King I most definitely could not spin gold out of straw. But he didn’t believe me. Of course not. He chose instead to believe the words of an immature, egotistic, vain man. And I suffer the consequences.

The consequences. To pay for my father’s ridiculous lie, I lose my sanity, my freedom, and my dignity for three nights—and almost my child, forever. (And one sentence—one sentence in the whole tale is devoted to that ‘choice’, that decision to give up my child in return for my life.)

Because I ‘succeeded’ on the third night, I was ‘rewarded’ with marriage to the King. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I also lost my life. Can you imagine what it is like to be married—legally bound to honour and obey until death, and socioeconomically bound with little option but to stay and make the best of it—to a man who didn’t believe me, a man who locked me in a room for three nights, a man so greedy that he said three nights in a row he’d kill me unless I did as he wanted? And that was before he owned me.

But as the tale says, I am shrewd and clever. And I have learned the force of threat, and the importance of a name—especially if it is male. Proud fathers want very much to pass it on. But royal fathers—dear husband, aging Highness, what would happen to your precious lineage if my, your, only son were to suddenly—

Since I am not dead, and am living still…

 

**

Catherine is the name I’ve given to the woman in “Rumpelstiltskin”. One day a vain and proud miller boasted about his beautiful and clever daughter to the king, telling him that she could spin gold out of straw. The poor maiden denied it, but the king locked her in a room full of straw and insisted that she spin it into gold or else she’d lose her life.

Once in the room, she began to cry; then “a droll-looking little man” appeared and, after hearing her story, offered to do it for her if she’d give him her necklace. When the king returned and saw that the straw had indeed been spun into gold, he locked up the maiden with another roomful of straw. This time she paid the little man with her ring. The third time, the king added the promise of marriage if she succeeded, but she had nothing left with which to pay the little man. He asked for her first child, and having no other option, fearing death if the king returned to find straw and not gold, she agreed.

So she was married to the king, and when her first child was born, the little man came to collect. Appalled, she offered him instead “all the treasures of the Kingdom”—but he wanted the child. Eventually he softened his terms and said that if within three days she could tell him his name, she could keep the child.

For the next two days, she guessed all the names she knew and sent messengers all over the land to gather new ones. Finally, on the third day, a messenger returned with the name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’—which was indeed the little man’s name. She was therefore able to keep her child, and everyone laughed at the little man, Rumpelstiltskin, as he made his way away.