The View is Different from Venus to Mars

Gender roles and gender differences have always fascinated me. I’ve written about these subjects several times. Most recently, I wrote a post entitled What Do You Do? about the many steps women take to avoid sexual assault. Men rarely have to think about these things.

If you search my blog for posts about gender, or click on my feminism heading, dozens will come up. Some of these include: Sworn Virgins in Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo; Secure in My Manhood; Buying in to Gender Violence Phraseology; and Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

Recently I had the opportunity to have a very interesting conversation with someone who has a unique insight into gender roles. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Mr. Anonymous. As you will soon see, he has had the opportunity to contemplate this topic even more than the majority of us have. I learned a great deal from this conversation, and so I asked him if he’d be willing to be a guest author for today’s post. He was kind enough to agree. So without further ado, here’s Mr. Anonymous.

_____________________

Today I was in the grocery store looking for this herbal tea that I usually find in health-food stores. As often happens, a woman approached, needing something on a nearby shelf. I was far enough away for her to easily pass me, but she still felt the need to apologize and grab her item quickly. I assured her that she was not in the way. She replied, “That’s good.”

She said it like it was a relief. Here I was, needing a haircut, and I hadn’t shaved in several days, so I looked kind of rough. I felt rough in that store today. Yet this woman, who was about my age, saw a man looking at the items from afar and apologized for getting in my way when she had no reason to.

Not everyone is like that. There are rude types of people in all walks of life. But there is also an obvious pattern of male privilege that I experience every day. I was not born with this privilege, since I am trans person from female to male.

I have gotten some odd vibes from dudes working in hardware stores. As a man, I’m expected to know about tools and such, and I’m not really up to par on these things. So I have learned to do a little online research before I venture outward. Men don’t expect to have to explain things to another man. On the other hand, it’s assumed that a woman would need help. Women are almost treated like children. I find it insulting. I was often insulted before I started passing as a man.

I have seen butch hardcore lesbians more mechanically inclined than I am. Sadly, in the Deep South, there is a great deal of pressure to maintain the stereotypes of men and women. Because of this, I see transmen put on acts to be like the guys. (In other words, work on cars and be an ass.) Well, I think, “Ask Sally, that butch woman. She will help ya out with that transmission.”

I dress masculine and never had an impulse to carry a purse. I remember things I used to do without realizing that they were “what men do”. I was told that I walked like a man when all I was doing, as far as I was concerned, was walking. My sisters wore makeup. I tried against my will to do the female thing, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard with me. Just give me a big loose flannel shirt and some jeans and I am ready to walk out the door.

One of the most alarming things about being on the other side of the rainbow is the fear I create in women just by walking down the sidewalk. If a woman is walking alone in front of me, she picks up her pace. I can feel her fear. I slow down, take detours, or sit down if there are steps or a bench until I feel she is far enough away from me so that she can relax.

A part of me wants to tell her that I know how she feels. I was born female. I know that fear. I was someone who was looked at and hit on by strangers. I felt degraded by people asking to pay me for sexual favors. That was disgusting.

I remember, in my early twenties, riding the bus home from work every day. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. I’d be standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus and several times men stopped, thinking I was a street walker. They would try to get me to go with them. Even after telling them I was only waiting for the bus to go home, they still persisted until the bus showed up.

I remember men asking me if my husband is home when I had no husband. I would reply yes. I would paint the imaginary husband as some rough around the edges redneck that didn’t take any BS. That was my life in Louisiana in my younger years.

I was not brought up and treated as male because I was born female. It’s most heartbreaking to me that women are often raised to be so passive and molded into being the shadow of men. They shouldn’t feel the need to apologize and get out of my way.

On the other hand, when I was seen as a woman, women would treat me quite rudely. I guess it has something to do with the pecking order or something. I don’t know. I never understood it. But wow, those same types of women became passive and apologetic once that they saw me as a man.

People make different assumptions about men and women. As a woman, if I told people I had bought a power-tool, I was always asked why. As a man, I can say the same thing and I get an OK.

As a man, I can add my input to conversations without being contradicted. Women get contradicted no matter how right they are. Many men do not want to be intimidated by the intelligence of women.

I am not a very social person, but I observe and feel compassionate about the issue of gender roles that are forced upon people. How many female geniuses in history, prodigies even, have been passed up and never given the chance? Women are half of humanity, lest we forget.

Evolution seems to be in the favor of men more than women because men are physically stronger. Men use that strength to their advantage. The bad ones belittle women because those women do not have the strength to physically defend themselves. (Although in fairness, some women will rip a dude a new ass. Even after years of my being on hormones, these same strong women could whoop my ass easily.)

Generally speaking, though, that feeling of power can bring out the worst in a man. Because of this, women are conditioned to be less, be passive, obey, and act like perfect good girls.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the shadow or if I am casting the shadow. It can be confusing. I might go to a bar and have a drink or go home and sip on hot tea. Either way, I’d like to be respected as a human first. But if I realize I am making someone feel like a shadow, I will move out of the way so they can feel the sun. That applies to all the women who have apologized to me when they had no reason to.

Everyone should be entitled to simply be respected as a person. It should be that easy. But it’s not.

Venus Mars

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Do a Search of Women and Drawbridges

A friend of mine recently did a Google search of Women and Drawbridges, and what came up was disheartening. Not one word about the many amazing female bridge operators out there. Sadly, nothing about this blog, either.

No. It was all about the stupid things women have done on bridges. Especially this woman, who famously got stuck on an automated bridge as it was rising.

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She has become the poster child for all the foolish pedestrians who ignore warnings when a bridge is opening. (And did she have to be wearing that tacky shirt while doing so? Jeez.) I see them every day. (She also happens to be the perfect argument for why drawbridges should never be automated.)

Another thing that pops up is the woman who died after falling from an opening bridge. (Please take those gongs seriously, folks. Getting to your destination on time is rarely worth your life!)

And then there’s this insane and obviously faked video of a woman jumping across an opening bridge. “Do not attempt”, it says. Uh, yeah. That’s putting it mildly.

For what it’s worth, after years of observation, I can say with a certain amount of authority that stupidity on drawbridges knows no gender.

The reason I find these search results so frustrating is that I’ve been a bridgetender for 17 years. I’ve worked with dozens of other female operators, and we are every bit as capable as our male counterparts. And yet inevitably I’ve encountered people in positions of influence who openly state that they don’t think women should be bridgetenders.

What is this, 1950?

Yes, it’s a male-dominated profession. I have no idea why. It’s something that I’ve had to adjust to throughout my career. There’s a constant push back from certain sources. It can be exhausting.

One male coworker refers to a female coworker of mine as “the little blonde,” which completely discounts her intelligence and capabilities, and reduces her to her physical attributes. It makes me want to scream. Another coworker referred to an assault incident between two women as a “cat fight.”

For God’s sake. What an ignorant world we live in. I’d clutch my pearls if I weren’t so busy cleaning the motor oil out from under my fingernails.

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Sheroes

Recently, Norma McCorvey, who was “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, passed away. Even though she became pro-life at the end of her life, what she did for women’s rights in this country was phenomenal. So she is one of my Sheroes (as opposed to heroes) despite her change of heart.

I have a lot of Sheroes, to be honest. Malala Yousafzai looms large in my life. She’s only 19, but she has done so much for education for girls the world over. She nearly died for it. She’s amazing.

Women and girls need to be inspired by females. We need to take ownership of our abilities. We need to see how strong we are.

What follows are other sheroes, in no particular order and despite controversy. Please add even more in the comments section!

  • Maya Angelou

  • Amelia Earhart

  • Marie Curie

  • Rosa Parks

  • Aung Sang Suu Kyi

  • Jane Austen

  • Susan B. Anthony

  • Margaret Mead

  • Sacagawea

  • Harriet Tubman

  • Jane Goodall

  • Hatshepsut

  • Helen Keller

  • Sally Ride

  • Billie Holiday

  • Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Betty Friedan

  • Margaret Sanger

  • Gloria Steinem

  • Hilary Clinton

  • Angela Merkel

  • Nancy Pelosi

  • Christa McAuliffe

  • Frida Kahlo

  • Sojourner Truth

  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

  • Indira Gandhi

  • Cleopatra

  • Mary Magdalen

  • Eva Peron

  • Florence Nightingale

  • Queen Elizabeth II

  • Queen Elizabeth I

  • Queen Victoria

  • Michelle Obama

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • Anne Frank

  • J.K. Rowling

  • Grace Kelly

  • Catherine The Great

  • Sappho

  • Mother Teresa

  • Billie Jean King

  • Joan of Arc

  • Benazir Bhutto

sheroes

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All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women

Recently I had a moral disagreement with someone, so I left. Later he told me that I “stomped out in a huff”. That kind of fascinated me. First of all, I would look rather silly, at the age of 51, if I “stomped” anywhere. And here I thought I was leaving out of respect for the other person. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of 150 people, and I didn’t want there to be tension for either of us. So I took myself out of the equation.

But it did get me thinking about that phrase. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that a man stomped out in a huff. It even sounds weird. Men might retreat, or leave decisively, or take their exit or deescalate a situation, but they’re never accused of being prone to huffs.

That put me in mind of an article I read recently entitled If Women Wrote Men the Way Men Write Women, by Meg Elison. I highly recommend that you read it. It will really open your eyes to the stereotypes that we all just seem to take for granted. For example, you never hear of men gazing up adoringly at anyone. It just isn’t done.

Here are some more words or phrases that seem to only be applied to “the fairer sex.” (Ugh!)

  • Hysterical
  • Bitchy
  • Irritable
  • Brassy
  • Flaky
  • Airhead
  • Hormonal
  • Emotional
  • Tart
  • Shrill
  • Catty
  • Jail Bait
  • Blonde
  • Brunette
  • Neurotic
  • Not Bad for a Girl
  • Easy
  • Frigid
  • Asking for It
  • Moody
  • Headstrong
  • Plus Sized
  • Cat Fight
  • Gold Digger
  • Intense
  • Gossipy
  • Too Ambitious
  • Slutty
  • Little
  • Irrational
  • Touchy
  • Prude
  • Ball Buster
  • Tease
  • Sensitive
  • Loose
  • Diva
  • Shrew
  • High Strung
  • Ditsy
  • Nag
  • Fishwife
  • Bossy
  • High Maintenance
  • Nasty
  • Fretting
  • Abrasive
  • Breathless
  • Whiny
  • Pushy
  • Mousey
  • Bubbly
  • Illogical

Make no mistake. We live in a sexist society. This didn’t just happen after Trump was elected. The only difference this election made is that now there is no hiding from this fact. The people have spoken. They are okay with a leader who brags about grabbing pussies, and this has caused the scales to fall from our eyes. So now that we have a clear, unobstructed view of the disease, what are we going to do to cure it?

First of all, every woman out there should memorize the words above and strike them from her vocabulary. It’s bad enough when men use them, but it is inexcusable when we use them against each other. We have to stick together if we want to stay strong. And when anyone uses them, we all need to call that person out. We can’t move forward until this type of talk becomes socially unacceptable.

Go forth and conquer gender speech!

Ms._magazine_Cover_-_Spring-Summer_2012.jpg

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Androgyny

“You’ve got a little bit of androgyny going on,” a friend told me recently.

I never really thought about it, but I suppose that’s true. I’ve never been a girly-girl. I don’t wear makeup. I’m more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than I’ll ever be in a dress. People assume I’m a lesbian all the time. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Androgyny has just never appeared in my mental list of self-describing words. I have womanly desires. I’ve definitely got curves, and I’m told I exude a goodly amount of sex appeal when properly inspired. So this is an interesting new lens through which to look at myself. There’s nothing better than having new perspectives.

Now that I’ve posted my profile on a website under the heading “women seeking men”, I feel like I’m examining myself closer than I ever did before. Who am I? What makes me unique? What is open to compromise and what’s cast in stone?

If you’re into women who wear high heels and perfume and like to giggle, I’m not the woman for you. If you are looking for someone who likes to pretend to be helpless, look elsewhere. I’ve spent too many years taking care of myself for all that foolishness.

Actually, it isn’t foolishness. It’s just on a different part of the psychosocial spectrum than I happen to reside on. Everyone has their purpose and their place. My niche just doesn’t happen to be decorated with lace and silk, which is great, because it leaves more of that stuff for the women who want it.

[Image credit: dapperq.com]
[Image credit: dapperq.com]

How Do Men Do It?

At the risk of setting the women’s movement back 50 years, I have to say there are certain characteristics that are more traditionally male that I’d much rather not take on. Having recently thrown my hat into the dating ring, I’ve been trying to make the first move a lot more than I ever had to in my younger days. This goes against all my instincts. I’m so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it from here. But my current philosophy is nothing ventured, nothing gained, and therefore I’ve been putting myself out there. Or at least I’ve been trying. So far all this has gotten me is a boatload of rejection.

Men may not like rejection, but they’re more used to it. Life is really a numbers game, and they have been made to understand this since early childhood. I, on the other hand, have had the luxury of sitting back and letting relationships come to me up to this point. And I had no idea what a luxury that was. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s giving me blisters.

There is other man stuff I would never be able to incorporate into my character. I am totally cool with asking directions. I can’t imagine my default position being that I should act as though I know what I’m talking about even when I’m not sure. That would close me off from all the many fonts of information that come in the form of friends, family, and coworkers. I’d feel completely isolated if my only brain trust were my own brain, as formidable as it may be.

I’m also not particularly competitive. I’m happy when others win. I’m surprised when others resent it when I win.

Despite the fact that I deal with discrimination everywhere from the workplace to the used car lot, I have to say I’m really glad I’m not a man. It’s just not in me.

'You two need to get over yourselves and just ask for directions.'

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

There are few things in life that annoy me as much as an intelligent female who acts stupid because she thinks it’s cute or expected of her. There are women in this world who think people will like them more if they avoid being seen as the smartest people in the room, which indicates to me that they probably aren’t the smartest people in the first place.

I suppose this behavior bugs me because I prize intelligence over just about anything else, and I can’t imagine giving that away. I also can’t imagine wanting to be in the company of someone who would prefer that I be less than who I truly am. And I would have a hard time respecting someone who would actually fall for an intelligent person who is dumbing herself down.

Ladies, there are plenty of people out there who are going to assume we’re not very bright just by virtue of your gender. If you doubt this, walk into 9 out of 10 mechanic’s garages and ask a question and see what happens. There’s no point in taking part in the reinforcement of that categorization by acting the fool.

If anything, being a strong, independent, intellectual woman means that you shoulder quite a bit of responsibility. Just by being in this world and interacting with others, you are setting an example of what women are capable of, and how they should be perceived and treated. Each day you are making a small impact, and chipping away at a stereotype. Future generations will benefit from the impression you make every single day. Whether you know it or not, you are blazing a trail. For God’s sake, do it with pride, dignity, and intelligence.

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[image credit: quotes-lover.com]

Independence

It’s Independence Day here in the United States, and everyone seems to amp up their patriotism on this holiday. I tend to look at the day a little differently. Yes, it’s the day that we declared our independence from England, and rightfully so. Otherwise we’d be a lot more uptight and talk funny. (Joke, British readers!) But I think that we can all agree that independence is a beautiful thing.

In fact, independence is one of the things I value most in this world. I love being able to make my own choices and do my own thing. I actually enjoy living alone. No one dictates my wardrobe or my diet or my sleeping patterns. I have command of any and all remote controls. I get to burp and fart with impunity. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to do anything, as long as I’m not breaking any laws. I come and go as I please.

A lot of people in this world, especially women, do not have that luxury. In many cultures women are treated little better than prize heifers to be passed from their father’s house to their husband’s house, there to be turned into housekeepers and baby making machines. I would chafe under these restrictions. It’s one thing to be a wife and/or mother when you’ve freely chosen to do so. It’s quite another when you are forced into it simply by dint of tradition or economics, and it’s even more unpalatable when it’s thrust upon you at a very young age.

So on this day, I tend to celebrate not only our nation’s independence, but my own. And I can think of no better reason to set off some fireworks and eat some gloriously unhealthy food! Happy Independence Day to you!

drawbridge fireworks

Happy 4th of July from the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida!

[image credit: coj.net]

10 Quotes That Should Piss Off Any Woman With Sense

What breaks my heart is that this blog entry could practically write itself.

  • “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.” –Republican Mike Huckabee (Gee thanks, Mike. It sure has been no fun being a victim of my gender up to this point.)
  • “If I was a woman over 50, I wouldn’t need gynecological services.” –Republican Allan Rothlisberg (So, Allan, can I assume your prostate disappeared at the same time my vagina did?)
  • “Legitimate rape rarely, if ever, results in pregnancy.” –Republican Todd Akin. (Oh, where to begin.)
  • “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.” –Rush Limbaugh (Now let’s figure out how to stop you from talking.)
  • “Do your husbands like you working full time?” — Democrat Joe Biden on a visit to Japan (What is this, 1950?)
  • “The women in my family are doing great. That’s what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don’t really see this, that there’s some sort of war on women that’s, you know, keeping women down.” –Republican Rand Paul (SUCH a relief that your family is a valid statistical sample for the rest of the country, Rand. It makes life so much easier.)
  • “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was.” — Failed Virginia Republican candidate for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson (Really?)
  • “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women. It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and ‘We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care — and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?’” – Ann Coulter (There’s nothing more idiotic than a women-hating woman.)
  • Liberal women “have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness — to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient. That’s what we need you to do. Because if you don’t, then the debt will continue to grow…deficits will continue to grow.” –Republican Allen West. (Sounds like time to invest in cast iron cod pieces. Do it for the economy.)
  • Birth control is “not okay.” “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” –Republican Rick Santorum (Sounds like you really have your finger on the pulse of how things are supposed to be, Rick.)

This is 2014, isn’t it? Keep reminding me. It’s easy to forget.

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[Image credit: thepoliticalcarnival.net]

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Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

It happened again this morning. I was leaving the bridgetender house at the end of the shift, wearing my extremely unattractive uniform and safety vest, and someone drove by and looked at me in shock. Fashion police? I doubt it. For some reason some people don’t expect women to be bridgetenders, as if it takes a certain type of genitalia to open and close a drawbridge. (If so, I haven’t gotten the memo.)

This isn’t the first job in which I’ve found myself in the minority. I used to work for the Florida Department of Transportation. I was a Maintenance Management Systems Engineer, which means I spent a great deal of time in the field doing crew studies to make sure that work crews were properly accounting for their use of materials such as asphalt, for example, and were accurately recording their time and equipment use so that we could efficiently budget for similar jobs in the future. I was highly visible to the public, out there on these testosterone-infused work sites with my hardhat on, clipboard in hand. And at the time I had very long hair. More than once I saw people swerve their cars or tap their brakes.

For the most part these expressions of shock amused me, but they also made me kind of sad. Why is it so hard to believe a woman can do these types of jobs? I might understand it if I were required to lift 100 pounds up over my head 20 times a day, or wade into a crowd of fighting Hells Angels and start knocking heads together, but this was a job that required intelligence, organization, and standard physical ability, all of which I have.

The fact is, some people just can’t be convinced that women are capable of holding nontraditional positions, so there’s not much I can do to change their minds. What I can do is continue to put myself out there. The more I’m seen, the more people will get used to seeing me and other women like me.

Sometimes when I’m out there in my safety vest, I’ll see a little girl in the back seat of one of the cars that’s driving by. When that happens, I always smile and wave, and I think, “See me, girl, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

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Nope. Not me. But it may as well be.

[Image credit: bangordailynews.com]