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.
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.
I had a nightmare last night that I was held down and sexually assaulted, and when I tried to speak out, I was mocked, threatened, lied about, and publicly humiliated. And a huge group of white men smiled approvingly while it happened.
“Can’t you just investigate?” I asked. “I’ll let the facts speak for themselves, if only you’ll take the time to look. I have nothing to hide. Do you?”
So they pretended to look, but they were in a hurry. They had other priorities. My pain, my trauma didn’t matter. They didn’t care.
I felt like I was brutalized all over again.
If only I had been taken seriously, if only a full investigation had been done. Even if my attacker was deemed innocent, I would have felt heard. But that’s not what happened. These men didn’t care about me in the face of their agenda.
Let’s just say Kavanaugh is pure as the driven snow. (We’ll never know, now.) Why not take the time for a full investigation, then? What harm would it do? In fact, it would do a great deal of good.
Because, today, I’m every woman who has ever been assaulted. I just want to be listened to, with respect. I want the world to acknowledge that what happened to me matters. Couldn’t Kavanaugh’s inevitable confirmation have waited a bit longer for a thorough investigation so that sexual assault victims the world over could feel acknowledged? What harm would that have done?
Before any justice is appointed, we all should be justly taken into consideration. That’s it. That’s all.
And that’s what didn’t happen. Instead, every aye vote felt like a stab to the vagina. Rest assured that we will all bleed our way to the voting booth.
Shame on all of you who were so busy praying that you’d get a judge that would vote your way that you were willing to step on millions of women to do so. Shame. You have shined a light on the darkness of your soul, and none of us will ever be the same.
We are a country divided. We all know that much. Some of us don’t care. Some of us encourage it. Some of us aren’t quite so willing to let go of those who are on “the other side”.
I’d like to think I was in that third group. I really would. But I admit that I struggle. My opinions and beliefs are as strong as the next person’s. I don’t really understand people who don’t think the way I do.
I want to believe that my views could be swayed by hard evidence. But I wonder. Because I don’t think I’ve ever persuaded anyone else by presenting facts.
I don’t usually stop liking or loving people just because we don’t agree. I do my best to judge people on the content of their character. Are they kind? Do they mean well? Are they trying to be their best selves? These things are vitally important.
But every once in a while someone I care about will voice an opinion that horrifies me to the very marrow of my bones. It’s usually related to racism or intolerance or cruelty. And this leaves me in an awkward place.
I hate, hate, hate confrontation. I really do. So in these situations I can either a) ignore the comment and secretly lose respect for that person, b) wash that person right out of my hair, or c) speak up and risk losing that friendship, but maintain my integrity.
Well, I can’t choose option a. I’d develop ulcers. It’s just not in me to pretend something I don’t feel. Option b would certainly be the easiest route. Unfriending a person is so simple now that most of us only interact via social media. God knows people have done it to me. Even relatives. It doesn’t feel right to me. If I ever cared about someone, I kind of feel like I owe them more than just disappearing without explanation, without at least trying to understand why they feel the way they do. So that kind of forces me into option c.
Ugh. I loathe option c. It ties my stomach into knots. It makes me stew over what to say for hours. It makes me feel sick. It’s just so important. It’s a pivotal moment. I don’t want to screw it up. I try to do it in a decent one-on-one kind of way, rather than in a public forum. But it’s still hard.
I’ve had mixed results with option c. Sometimes we agree to disagree. But I feel better, at least, for having spoken up. Sometimes I’ve experienced blowback of epic proportions. That’s never fun. And it tends to result in the severing of the relationship. But as a wise man recently told me, “A true friend should be able to have a respectful conversation.”
As this country becomes ever more divided, those respectful conversations seem to be becoming fewer and farther between. They aren’t easy. But if we ever reach a point when they become impossible, I think we’ll have lost one of our most important qualities. We’ll have taken a really ugly step back from what it means to be human.
A friend of mine used that phrase in one of her recent Facebook posts, and I immediately thought it would make a great title for one of my blog posts. I’m very relationship-focused at the moment, having just started a new one. I really, really want to get this right, so I’m putting a great deal of thought into it.
I believe it’s very important to respect that every healthy relationship will be multi-layered. Not everything is going to be deeply intimate and highly significant. It’s not all inside jokes and passion and the stuff of love songs. No. Some of it is driving to the post office and making chicken soup when your partner has a cold and cleaning his or her pet’s poop off your carpet. It’s delighting in each other’s company, but it’s also deciding what’s irritating enough to speak up about and what is better to simply adjust to.
I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’m in my 50’s and I never expected to have this opportunity again, or the fact that I’ve lost someone quite abruptly in the past so I know how fragile it all can be, but one unique feature of this relationship, for me, is that the mundane seems to be every bit as sacred to me as the sacred is. I like shopping with him. I like doing yard work with him. I like cooking with him. I’m just as happy holding his hand while watching TV as I am going to a major event.
I’m hardly an expert, but I think the trick is to not take anything for granted. Even the basic stuff. Because the bulk of life is the basic stuff. Just the fact that it’s life and you have someone special to live it with makes it worth cherishing.
I firmly believe in self-expression. I think every adult human should have a right to dress however he or she pleases. I just wish more people would put some thought into exactly how they express themselves.
I’m not referring to that annoying habit that some men have of wearing sandals with knee socks. (I think that looks absurd, but your fashion rights should extend to bad taste as well.) I don’t mean wearing colors that obviously clash or make you look like bozo the clown. (Again, your option.)
I’m talking about when your clothes send an ugly message about what you think about yourself and the wider world.
For example, in this day and age, you can order a t-shirt that says absolutely anything. There are customized print on demand companies that can take your self-expression to the next level. But just because you can wear something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
For example, the t-shirts above definitely send a strong message, but it might not be the one the wearer intends.
I don’t care about other people’s feelings.
I’m an idiot.
I enjoy upsetting people.
I have a really warped worldview.
I don’t see how wearing a shirt like this benefits anyone, including the wearer. It makes no sense.
And then there are these jeans, which apparently are quite popular at the moment.
Here’s the thing. Most women like to put their best foot forward. At least that has been my experience. So if you want to wear jeans like these, I assume that you think your most redeeming quality is your body. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body. I vaguely remember what that’s like. But these jeans (or the lack thereof) say to the wider world that your sexuality is your primary selling point. It would be much classier, in my opinion, to walk down the street naked.
Hyper-sexual clothing makes me very sad. I know a lot of amazing women, and what makes them amazing is not their physical form. It’s who they are. It’s their intelligence. It’s their kindness. It’s their abilities. I bet the model above is a very nice person, but I’m quite sure most people who look at that photo aren’t having that thought.
If you are wanting to draw people to you with your self-expression, you might want to ask yourself what kind of people you will draw to you if you’re wearing these jeans or those t-shirts. First of all, you’re going to intimidate a lot of really amazing individuals. You’ll disgust and repel others. And the ones you attract with those jeans, especially, will not be interested in who you are inside. None of these garments say, “Take me seriously.”
I’m not suggesting that women should cover themselves from head to toe, revealing only their eyes. (Unless, of course, they wish to do so, in which case more power to them.) I’m not saying that no one should voice their opinions. And I’m definitely not telling you to be ashamed of your own body.
I’m merely saying that showing the world that you have dignity and respect, especially self-respect, and inviting them to learn more about you through civil conversation will be, in the long run, a great deal more appealing to those who will be most likely to treat you decently.
And when all is said and done in this insane world of ours, decency is what we all deserve.
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Me: “I need someone from maintenance to come out and remove some car parts from the middle of my drawbridge, as they are backing up traffic.”
“Um… That drawbridge is no longer in our system.”
“Er, yes it is. I think you’re thinking of the Montlake Bridge.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m a City of Seattle Employee.”
“But do we maintain that bridge?”
“Yes we do. Yes, you do. I’m standing on it right now. I’ve worked here for 3 ½ years.”
“Was a tow truck called?”
“I have no idea. The cars in question are long gone. They just left parts behind.”
“Yeah, but was a tow truck called?”
“Not by me!!!! Please, are you sending someone out to remove the bumpers? I have traffic backed up for miles.”
Welcome to my pet peeve. Not being taken seriously drives me absolutely insane. Why would I lie? I mean, honestly, just get the damned bumpers off the road, already!
My whole life, this has been a problem. As the youngest in the family, I was not taken seriously at home. Even though I graduated at the top of my class, I was quiet and shy and not in with the in crowd, so I wasn’t taken seriously at school. As a female in a male dominated workplace, to this day I am not taken seriously at work. Now that I’m fat and old, I’m generally not even seen when in public. I’m completely invisible. It’s maddening.
The reason that I try so hard not to be dismissive of people, the reason I’m extra polite to cashiers and wait staff and the elderly, is that I know what it’s like to be discounted. It’s an awful feeling. And it’s completely unnecessary.
Common courtesy and mutual respect ought to be everyone’s default position. Listening to people and trying to understand what they’re saying is a necessary survival skill, so it shouldn’t be so hard to come by. As the planet becomes increasingly crowded, we need to behave all the more decently, or life will get pretty unbearable up in here, people.
I have always wanted a man who would actually listen to me when I talked. One who treated me with respect. Someone I could be proud of, due to his integrity, decency, honesty, kindness, and intelligence. A mentally healthy, confident, age appropriate, dog loving, nonsmoking, liberal guy. (Bonus points for being child-free and taller than me.)
Pfft. What are the odds of that? I mean, come on. Just the “listening” part excludes most of the world’s population. And finding someone who met all those criteria and then, on top of that, was also attracted to me — inherently flawed, overweight me… I may as well be wishing for a unicorn.
So, my whole life I set the bar lower. And sure enough, I always wound up with less than what I wanted or needed. Funny how that works.
But the older and lonelier I got, the more I started to think, what the hell, I may as well hold out for the unicorn. And if the unicorn never materializes, well, then, I’ll just do me. (I strongly suspected I’d be doing me for the rest of my life.)
But let’s just say, for a moment, that unicorns really do exist. Yes, they’d be rare. But what if they’re really out there? How would you find one?
Well, first of all, you have to be able to describe what one looks like, to you, at least. Done. See above.
Next, you have to feel that you’re deserving of a unicorn’s company. No self-respecting unicorn is going to hook up with just anyone. You have to be special. It took me a long time (I’m talking decades), to feel that I was unicorn-worthy.
Once you’ve achieved that level of self-respect, you need to start spending time in places where unicorns might hang out. Surround yourself with good, decent, loving people. Do not waste your time with fools. Don’t hang out in bars or places where you aren’t forming strong, long-lasting bonds.
And it’s important to be ever-vigilant. That unicorn might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t noticed. (Hard to believe, I know, but be open to the possibility.)
Once you’ve spotted a unicorn, it’s important to be patient. These things can’t be forced or rushed. They’re too important. Calmly state your intentions, and then, if the unicorn wants to come to you, he will. If he doesn’t, the horn is probably fake, anyway.
So did I find my unicorn? I believe I finally have. And may I never forget how magical it is to be by his side.