i don't know what women are. do any of you?

(144 Posts)
chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:26:54

i am asking honestly. womanness is not a consequence of chromosomes or external morphology. it is about feeling you are a woman.

i don't feel like a woman. i don't even know what that would feel like.

everyone i have spoken with has assumed i am a woman, and i have done things some people associate with women like menstruating, being pregnant etc.

i used to think that because of my external morphology and the whole giving birth thing, and people's assumptions and my upbringing that i was a woman but now i am not sure.

if you are whichever gender you identify with and feel you are, and i don't feel like a woman, (i don't know even how they feel) but am i one because i also don't feel like anything else?

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:28:41

i am not trying to piss anyone off, i honestly don't know and have been wondering for a while

those of you who are women, how do you know, is it obvious?

Do you feel like a man? Or just not like anything?

I can't say I've honestly thought about my "womanness" it sounds like you're feeling existential.

Sorry I can't be more helpful.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:45:37

no, i don't think so, so-i don't know how they feel, either!

it's just i have never felt gendered. the world seems to see me as a woman (and i don't mind) i have done woman-y things (eg given birth) but have never felt like a woman feels whatever that means

since you have to feel like a woman to be one, i guess i am nothing?

tribpot Sat 15-Jun-13 15:49:35

So what do you think you're not feeling? Or is that impossible to answer?

Maybe gender queer is the term you are looking for.

You've put that Shania Twain song in my head!

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:53:07

maybe i am asking, those of you who know you are women (because you feel it), what is it you feel?

are there lots of other genderless people like me out there? am i some kind of freak?

back when i thought i was a woman because of what my body looked like and what it did, i wasn't confused about all this- i assumed i was a woman.

this is wrong, and since i don't feel like i woman i am v confused

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:53:52

how do you know you are women and not nothing or something else?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 15-Jun-13 16:00:47

I think I very much feel like a woman. Not when I'm on my own, but as soon as you come into contact with other people, you notice it.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:03:53

the world treats me as a woman, is that what you mean?

i do tend to asume that people whose external morphology looks like mine have had similar experiences, and i feel more sympathetic towards them than i do to men

is that what being a woman is?


UptoapointLordCopper Sat 15-Jun-13 16:07:20

"...as soon as you come into contact with other people, you notice it." Yes. So gender is a social construct. What about sex? What is a woman but that you have a certain type of chromosome and certain organs different from a man's? That's it, isn't it? Then what you feel has not much to do with your sexual organs and therefore not much to do with whether you are a man or a woman? confused confused

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 15-Jun-13 16:09:04

TBH I am fairly sure if everyone treated us equally it'd be no more interesting to be female than to happen to be someone right-handed, or brunette, or whatever.

But then I do get what people mean because when I started thinking about all of this, I was thinking there must be more to it than just genetics or chromosomes because otherwise why would I constantly be aware of gender? The more I look into history and law and language, it seems obvious why I would be aware of gender. But until you look into it, I think it is very natural to assume it's an internal thing rather than a set of external pressures.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 15-Jun-13 16:09:58

Sorry, 'maybe' to chibi.

I think my issue with the sexual organs thing is that I would bet none of us is that 'typical' woman whose body does exactly what the biology textbook says. So it's quite hard to identify with that totally.

sleepyhead Sat 15-Jun-13 16:11:01

I know what you mean. I've always been confused by the whole "woman trapped in a man's body" because of it. I have no innate sense of "womanness" that I'm aware of.

I'm not a particularly feminine sort of person - I do things that other women do, but I do things that men do too. I think in a way that women are meant to think (stereotypically), but I think in a way that men are meant to think too.

I can only assume that "womanness", if not biology, is something that you only notice if you don't have it. confused

(honestly, honestly, honestly not meaning to start a trans* bunfight)

Now you've got me thinking. I don't really know if I "feel" like a woman or not. I probably do because I have never questioned it but I really couldn't tell you what it feels like.

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 16:12:08

Do you mean that you don't self-identify with things that other people perceive as being "womanly"? I mean, when I was young I was never "girly", I was very much a tomboy and things that are the external trappings of "womanhood" never really bothered me that much (makeup, fashion, shoes etc.)
As an adult, they still didn't. But I did discover that I could look good, and wanted to do so, as a woman. I never tried to hide that I was one (except that one night when I missed the last train home and had to walk 3 miles at 2 in the morning), unlike a friend of mine who is a lesbian and who really despised any "womanliness" in herself.

I can't really answer your question either, as I'm not sure what it is that makes you feel that you don't know what being a woman is.

sleepyhead Sat 15-Jun-13 16:13:54

Actually, that should be womanness is something that you only notice if you do feel it but your biological sex is male - of course, that could just be me and most women may feel an innate sense of "woman".

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 16:15:10

Bugger, my brain got sidetracked - what I meant to add was that I have often been told that I have a very male attitude, male brain, "a good bloke to go drinking with" (although not quite a "ladette"), had male friends but not many boyfriends. I don't identify with many feminine traits; I do stuff I like to do, regardless of which gender it is typically associated with.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:17:29

i do have a vagina, ovaries, a uterus etc and my reproductive organs have proved functional.

there are people walking around with the same who are men though. there are people walking around who have a penis, and produce sperm who are women.

i have done some things people associate with beibg a woman,other thibgs which they dont but one constant is that i have never thought to myself 'ooh i feel all womanly womany woman woman'

the closest i have ever felt to feeling anythibg was being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding, but i did not feel like a woman, but rather an animal, specifically a mammal (not in a bad way, it felt amazing and i coukd watch nature programs and think, comrade! lol)

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:19:16

how can you tell you are women? are you all just sort of assuming you are? what are you basing it on?

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:21:23

am i definitely a woman because i don't (i think) feel like a man?

is a woman a not-man?

Thistledew Sat 15-Jun-13 16:23:30

I agree OP. I don't recognise any feeling in myself that I would characterise as 'feeling like a woman'. I think the only thing that comes close for me is a biological urge to bear and nurse a baby. I know that it is not a strong a feeling for me as some women - it has only been a physical feeling for me on a couple of occasions.

I also wonder how much of this is an actual 'woman feeling', as I know that my DH actually feels a desire to create and nurture a child. Do we have the same feeling, but are just able to express it and connect it to our bodies in different ways? Or is it actually a different feeling?

My friend, who is biologically unable to become pregnant, also says that she has feel the same urge, both before and after she became aware that she could not become pregnant.

The only other times I really feel aware of my gender is situations like when I am walking alone at night, or competing against men at sport. That is obviously a social construct, or a recognition of different body morphology.

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 16:24:52

I'd go with assuming I am, based partly on morphology and biological function and partly on societal response to me in general.

Generally I don't feel especially 'womanish', though nor do I feel 'mannish'. I'm glad of my breasts and uterus as I plan to use them for growing and feeding babies, but that doesn't have much impact on my currently childless life.

Thinking about it, I don't particularly like the idea of looking in the mirror and seeing a man, whereas seeing a blond or black woman would be odd but not unpleasant. I don't know whether that's innate or some internalised 'men and women are fundamentally different' rhetoric.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:27:22

i am not goadibg anyone,i am asking in good faith

i am asking here because i feel uncomfortable asking people i know in real life if they feel like the have a gender because i don't and i have been wondering for a while and feel a bit disturbed by it

i am happy for anyone to idetify as they wish

itbis because i don't seem to identify (but go with the flow of other people's assumptions) that i asked- i wanted to know if this is normal

i guess i am afreak and i am sorry and will ask for this to be deleted

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 15-Jun-13 16:28:32

I've got nothing to add so far, but am really enjoying the way this discussion is going so far.

I think it is interesting in other societies where they have third (or more) genders, I.e hijras in Pakistan or where people can choose to be seen as another gender, like the Sworn Virgins of Albania who took a vow and dressed and were treated as men.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:29:53

i feel really shitty now, i hope my stupid questions haven't been hurtful

honestly i just wanted to know if there was anyone else like me


Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 16:30:25

Chibi, you are not a freak. You are you. You don't need to get this deleted because one poster has been rude about your post - it has opened up an interesting line of thought for the rest of us.

Thistledew Sat 15-Jun-13 16:32:34

I dream very vividly and very lucidly, and remember my dreams very clearly. On several occasions I have dreamt that I was a man - including having a functioning penis (yes, the dreams may have involved sex at some point blush). In these dreams I have behaved in ways that I would not do in normal life - slightly differently from my normal personality- but I have no sense at all of 'feeling like a man' in the dream. I acknowledged that I was a man, but didn't 'feel' any differently than how I do when I am dreaming in my actual persona. I certainly didn't feel any discomfort or revulsion at having male genitalia. This probably proves absolutely nothing at all, but like the OP, means I really struggle to understand how you can 'feel' like a woman or a man.

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 16:34:18

YY, GoshAnne - and the Fa'afafine of Samoa, boys who are brought up as girls and are seen as a third gender.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:34:25

well, i already have reported. i have never spoken about this in real life and there is no bloody way i would now!

Did you look up genderqueer/non-binary? Did that fit with how you feel?

Well if this isn't a thinly veiled anti trans post then I apologise.

But that's what it reads as, the whole 'I don't feel like a woman despite being one so perhaps I'm not' is very standard anti trans rhetoric.

Especially what with it being in FWR.

If you've got most of the relevant body parts and live as a woman and have had children etc then it's fairly safe to assume you are a woman. Hth.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 15-Jun-13 16:37:48

My initial thought was that of EleanorHandbasket - which I think is fair enough as there have been many bunfights discussions on that area. However it is good that you have clarified and I think MN should keep it, it's interesting.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:39:25

not really- the website i found seemed to imply that these are people whi have a definite identity (ie they know they are men or women, or men sometimes and women others) or that that do things/behave in ways that do not conform to gender expectations

i don't feel an identity one way or another, and do some gender appropriate things but not others

FuturePerfect Sat 15-Jun-13 16:39:48

Not finding it goady OP. You don't sound confused or conflicted, just that you see the gap between being the individual you are, and belonging to a social construct of 'woman'? I know that, when I am left to my own devices, I feel I am inside my head looking out. But when I am dealing with other people, I am more conscious of myself from the outside - from their viewpoint - so as 'a woman' and all that that entails. Don't know if many men feel this? They may well do.

I suspect there are lots of people who don't strongly identify with their socially-ascribed gender, and don't hate the thought of being the opposite sex. Gender is made into a much bigger thing than it would probably be if not for the weight of history and tradition.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:42:11

no, it is not safe to assume i am a woman just because i have certain reproductive organs and have had children. that would mean that if i were childfree and had a hysterectomy/ooectomy/mastectomy i would stop being a woman and that is ridiculous and offensive

i posted here instead of chat because i figured i was less likely to get 'have a vagina, you are a woman simples' level of discourse

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:45:17

if i woke up tomorrow with a 'male' body once i got over the initial shock of htf did that happen i don't think i would feel bothered and could go the rest of my life in that body without feeling like a horrible mistake had been made, or longing for my old 'female' body

having said that i have no desire to present as or be percieved as a man

kim147 Sat 15-Jun-13 16:46:41

Male bodies aren't all they're cracked up to be.

TheYamiOfYawn Sat 15-Jun-13 16:46:42

I don't go around feeling womanly all day, or anything like that, although I get biologically influenced woman-feelings such as PMS, the desire to bear a child, breastfeed etc. There are things that annoy me about being perceived as a woman, but those tend to be due to prejudiced about what women are like rather than because the idea of being a woman is alien to me. My trans friends mostly talk about a huge feeling if wrongness about the make/femaleness of their body rather than the per options that go along with that, and they don't really behave vastly differently since they transitioned in any significant way. So to me, feeling like a woman means nit really having to think about it all that much because it's a label that feels fairly accurate.

CajaDeLaMemoria Sat 15-Jun-13 16:47:13

I feel like a woman.

I can't put my finger on why. I don't have children yet, so I haven't done pregnancy or birth or breastfeeding. My periods are medically stopped, so I pretty much do nothing biologically that a woman does... But I do feel like one.

It just feels like an awareness, I think. I am aware that I am a woman. I don't know where it came from or when but I can't remember ever not having it.

I don't know if that helps you, OP.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 16:47:38

Please don't feel like a freak OP.
I don't think people generally go around "feeling" like women or men do they (just know logically what they are) unless it's brought to their attention in a social setting, they're thinking about the ways they fit into their gender role or when thinking about their bodies? I could be wrong of course.

The third gender stuff...it isn't a third gender really is it, if you just allow some people to perform the opposite gender role. It's not a seperate category with different rules than men and women.

Thistledew Sat 15-Jun-13 16:50:40

I think it is unfortunate and slightly dangerous that anyone (and especially women) have to be so cautious in the way that they explore and ask questions about how they fit in with normalised categorised expectations of gender.

Yes, it is important to be aware of one's own privilege - in this case that you were born with a sexual morphology that you content with, but in this case the minority interest does have the protection of and recognition in law - i.e. the Transgender position that you are what you feel is protected by gender recognition laws.

There should be room for anyone to say "this definition does not fit with how I feel about my own gender, and I feel it undermines it". Provided that the discussion is developed in a spirit of enquiry, and respect that other people might have different views, it is hugely important that it should be allowed to happen without the OP feeling criticised, or that she should give greater precedence to the feelings of others over her own experiences and feelings.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:52:24

i was just now thinking i would be probably as weirded out by waking up in a different 'female' body as a 'male' one

i do have some identities- i feel my ethnicity for example, and not because i don't feel french or maori etc etc, it is a positive identification

this one is a total construct tho,my cousin is adopted and he identifies with the same culture and ethnicity as me

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 16:52:39

That's also how I feel FuturePerfect

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 16:54:10

I am a woman. I feel female. I have no idea how much of it is biological, gender or simply perception.

Neither my biological sex nor my gender cause me any distress possibly because they match in the way that society expects. It must be difficult to be in a different position.

Is it something that causes you distress and that you need to resolve ?

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:54:53

that is very interesting, caja

i wonder what that is like

No, you are being ridiculous and offensive by suggesting that's what I meant.

Do I believe people can be whichever gender they choose? No. Do I think trans people should be forced to live a miserable life in the body/gender they believe is wrong? Also no.

Do I think feminism benefits from this constant sniping about born women and trans women and blah blah blah? No. Not in the slightest.

As I said, live and let live fgs.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 16:56:32

i don't think i am trans blistory

i don't know if i am a woman though

Would you prefer to describe yourself as agender OP?

Hmm, I'm inclined to agree with Eleanor.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:00:55

eleanor? i don't know whqt you are reading but it isnt what i am saying.

it took me a good 3 days of working myself upto ask. i asked here because it might be a safe space because i am afraid i would be ostracised by people in real life

i am not asking as a feminist or inthe name of feminism or because i am making a point

i am asking because i have wondered about this for years and it has disturbed me sometimes and i thought maybe i could have some support

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 17:02:39

Do you have to be anything ? What's wrong with just being you ?

Presumably people think you are a woman and if that doesn't cause you distress the why does it matter ?

I only really become aware of my sex and gender when there's negativity attached to it. On my own, littering about, it really is inconsequential.

<not helpful>

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 15-Jun-13 17:03:06

Oh, honestly, anyone who does believe trans people should be forced to live a miserable life is a twit and not worth bothering with.

I do think people can probably choose gender to some extent - but that's because I think it's socially conditioned so there's an element of choice as well as an element of pressure.

What I think is more worrying is people being told 'you must act like this and dress like this' whatever their 'gender' or sex.

I can't imagine what it'd be like to have a man's body, but then again I can't imagine what it'd be like to have a different kind of woman's body.

I'd say for anyone who's upset by wondering why they don't feel the way they think they should, first thing to do is talk about it and work out why you're upset. It doesn't matter if you then decide none of the labels fit. You just need to work out where you stand and what you can do to make yourself feel better, if you can do that without hurting someone else.

What exactly is the problem OP? That you want to feel like a woman and don't, or that you don't have a word to describe how you do feel?

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 17:03:39

Littering ? Meant pottering.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 17:04:39

Why don't know if you're a woman chibi? I assume that you don't feel like a man either. Isn't the fact enough - or do you think you have to go around feeling like a woman all the time? I don't. Do I stop being a woman when I'm for example, alone and busy with work?

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:07:03

it feels like everyone else is in a gender club and i am not- it is upsetting when i think about it so mostly i have tried not to for 38 years now with more success than at other times

holy shit i did not realise how upsetting this would be to talk about. i feel upset.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:08:57

i dont ever feel like a woman feels or like a man feels and i am realising now just what a freak that makes me


Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 17:11:34

Maybe this link will help you a little, chibi?

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 17:11:46

Chibi, do you think you have a misconception about how a woman should feel ? I don't sit surrounded by an otherworldly feeling of womanliness or think womanly thoughts. Nor do I feel any pride or horror about what I am. There isn't a sense of peace or tranquility from having sex and gender matching. There is just an unremarkable nothingness to it. It's the lack of any discomfort or awareness of being a woman that gives me my sense of me.

Does any of that make any sense at all ?

chibi you are not a freak, lots of people on this thread alone have said they don't positively feel like women.

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 17:12:32

And please, you are not a freak. You're just you, like I said before. smile There are other people who feel like you do - if you read the link, I think you'll be the agender type.

FloraFox Sat 15-Jun-13 17:12:33

chibi I don't think what you are describing sounds abnormal at all. I have no feelings I could describe as feeling "like a woman". I don't believe gender categorisations - male brain / female brain - are helpful for women and they are deeply patriarchal.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 17:13:23

I don't feel like I'm in some gender club either. I know what my sex is, but I also fail at a lot of gender role things.

OTheHugeManatee Sat 15-Jun-13 17:13:34

You're not a freak, chibi. It does strike me though that you might get more support on a forum that is more oriented toward genderqueer/nontraditional gender identities. On MN the whole gender identity debate has become very loaded, especially in FWR, after a series of quite heated threads about transgender people and feminism that, while pretty irrelevant to your question, stirred up some strong feelings.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:16:23

that link did help- i might be agendered

OTheHugeManatee Sat 15-Jun-13 17:16:40

I found this book quite thought-provoking on the subject of nonstandard genders, too.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:17:31

manatee if you know of these forums could you message me or something please

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 17:18:26

I'm very pleased that it helped, chibi. That might be a more useful place to ask your questions too, as OTHManatee suggests? Far less likely to get jumped on there. smile

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 17:20:30

oh duh the link was a forum,of course. i was too busy reading the words and not noticing the context

i will check it out, thank you very much thanks

violetwellies Sat 15-Jun-13 17:24:10

chibi. I think for everyone, the experience of gender is individual, so your feeling of womanly/ness or not is only yours, and therefore no one will feel womanly in the same way, if at all.
For me I have never particularly felt 'female' and had no particular concious thought about my emotional/psychological experience of woman. However I spent /wasted a lot of time fighting against the expected physical projection of woman, clothes/toys/friends/games as a child. I positively hated my breasts when they appeared and still find them somewhat revolting. My construct of me is as violet, not as woman. I have found a use for them (breastfeeding) which has made me feel more positive about that part of my body.
But I felt (surprisingly) bereft after my hysterectomy, and that I was no longer woman. Having NEVER particularly identified as one beforehand. I have decided that Im probably a bit odd. But Im ok at that, as Im not keen on joining any herd.

I feel like I live in a woman's body, but my brain, my mind, my essential self is not gendered. Gender to me is just the external packaging.
But I always thought everyone felt like that. It was quite surprising to me when I realised they didn't.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 17:30:47

I don't want to upset OP or anyone else but I'm also getting upset by the whole discussion. So please excuse me...but isn't the whole genderqueer/ agender thing sexist...? Like you need a special identity for people who don't feel like they fit into a gender roles (made up social construct)...? Sorry I may be wrong.
I'm feeling a bit shit atm at my own lack of stereotypical femininity, a bit like a failed woman actually


Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 17:34:08

I don't see how it is sexist, Vegeham - more a case of there are enough people who don't feel that they fit into the already-defined social constructs that a "new" one needed a name?

LeStewpot Sat 15-Jun-13 17:37:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I haven't said anyone's transphobic (I don't think?).

I am prepared to admit I'm wrong, but I read the op and subsequent posts as a goady, pokey dig at the legislation etc around transpeople. Which never ends well and is just exhausting and a bit boring.

I'm tired and ratty today and might be imagining it though.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 17:48:21

Thumb Well I can't articulate it very well atm. I feel really down.
My reaction was that by creating the words/ identities genderqueer and agender for people who don't fit into gender roles or don't really "feel" like a gender it makes it sound like that type of person (which includes me I guess) is abnormal and different.

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 17:49:56

Why not have the discussion ? If it gets deleted, it gets deleted.

There is something seriously amiss if women can't discuss the definition of women.

Thumbwitch Sat 15-Jun-13 17:53:15

Vegeham, different yes, abnormal - well no, but I see where you're coming from. I think, and your feelings around this are still just as valid whatever I think, that if you feel like chibi does, finding out that there is a name for it must mean that there are more people who feel the same way as she does (and you too?) which kind of makes it more normal, because you're not the only one, iyswim.

But if you're also feeling like you're a "failed woman" then I can see how you would be more upset than relieved to hear that there is another term, possibly applicable to you.

Portofino Sat 15-Jun-13 17:55:19

I am a biological female. I have all the bits and have given birth. I never really think of myself as "womanly". I am just me. I have friends of both sexes, I go to work, I do not believe myself to be an inherently better parent or super brilliant at housework because I have a vagina. Interestingly, if I think "womanly" I think first of well dressed curvy women who like shoes. confused

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 17:59:40

You can't fail as a woman.

Where you might think you've failed is because you're expected to demonstrate female traits. Whether a trait is female or male isn't innate but society tells us it is. Or you can consider gender as a line that you fit somewhere on with male at one end and female at another.

Neither have anything to do with sex. Neither have anything to do with failure.


Portofino Sat 15-Jun-13 18:03:08

It IS an interesting question. I work in ICT and am trying to think of occasions where gender influenced a situation or interactions as in a female using "womanly charms" to get something done, or sexism from the other direction.....the worst thing I can currently think of is HR asking me about work life balance when I applied for promotion.

Vegehamwidge Sat 15-Jun-13 18:14:46

Sorry, I probably shouldn't have commented on this thread without thinking a bit first. I got upset because I've been critized/joked about/bullied by people close to me becase they think I behave and think "like a man" and that I should be more feminine. A recent hurtful incident happened yesterday. I know I'm female and that is a sexist way of thinking but it still hurts.

I don't necessarily identify with being a woman - I think of myself as a person and, ridiculously, have sometimes felt surprise at being referred to as female. Have given birth, breastfed etc. So not dissimilar to TrucksandDinosaurs and Portofino, I suppose, in that I see myself as a person rather than a gendered construct.

TunipTheVegedude Sat 15-Jun-13 18:21:01

I'm really upset at the idea you can't ask this question without being accused of being goady. What have we come to?

Portofino Sat 15-Jun-13 18:33:02

Ooh thought of something. Some men let me enter/exit the lift ahead of them.

Portofino Sat 15-Jun-13 18:33:21

So do some women.

Do you know, it is fucking nuts, isn't it?

We should absolutely be able to talk about this. I'm just scared of the bun fights and perceptions of hate speech that this sort of thread descends into.

I'll take my hangover and bad mood and go away. Chibi, so sorry.

TunipTheVegedude Sat 15-Jun-13 19:17:10

Sometimes I think we should just step back and let people who think internal gender identity is everything have the term 'woman' if they like, and those of us who were assigned the gender woman at birth because of our biology and think it makes a difference what you are socialised as and what your body is like, can just step back and use a different word. Parsnips or something.
Then I think, no, that's ridiculous. The term 'woman' has been used in a certain way for millennia and if we allow it to be changed we are cutting ourselves off from all that history. And besides, women are socialised to be walked all over so I should stand up against it.
And other times I think I should just die in a fire or rape myself with a broken bottle like the hateful transphobe I clearly am....

Portofino Sat 15-Jun-13 19:42:15

I have no issue with men wanting to become women, or vice versa. I have to admit am a bit naive about whether feeling like you are in the wrong body is a genuine, I need to lose my penis thing or whether people would be better suited by a less rigid gender construct in society thing. But if you want to be a woman, embrace being a woman. Fight the patriarchy along with the feminists, don't try to fight the feminists and use innate male privilege to your own advantage.

FreyaSnow Sat 15-Jun-13 20:03:09

Chibi, maybe you could read a copy of My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein, do all the quizzes and come back and tell us the results?

I keep wanting to buy it but can't justify the cost at the moment. It is 25 pounds.

chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 20:12:26

has she updated? i read the original in the late 90s- v interesting

am going to n america this summer, will see if i can get it

FreyaSnow Sat 15-Jun-13 20:22:14

Yes, there is a new version and it has the Ruby Slippers on the front. You can get it on Amazon UK. Did the original version not help you decide your gender (or lack of it)?

Solari Sat 15-Jun-13 20:36:14

I consider myself as someone without a gender identity (and always have done before I knew that there was a name for it).

I was born with a female body and have always lived as a woman (including giving birth etc), but I feel that "I" am actually just inhabiting it temporarily, and am neither male nor female.

If I found myself without any body and was given the choice of a male or female one, I would be more interested in other aspects (ie. physical health), and wouldn't find the sex of it particularly relevant.

TunipTheVegedude Sat 15-Jun-13 20:52:33

So not feeling like you have a gender identity is a thing? confused

I always thought I was a woman because that is the shape my body seems to be and everyone around me treats me as less than a man a woman. I had no idea it was meant to feel like something.

I quite often feel like a superhero usually after three glasses of prosecco but I don't fancy my chances jumping off a building...

FloraFox Sat 15-Jun-13 21:47:23

Tunip I don't think it is a thing. I have no conception of what this feeling of womanliness might feel like but I don't think I have an absence of it. I was raised in a feminist family, my mother was very opposed to the "girls do this, boys do that", pink/blue attitude which was fairly prevalent then and seems to be coming back more. I feel that categorising gender seems to be based on those very same old attitudes and that seems to me to be the wrong way round.

NiceTabard Sat 15-Jun-13 21:53:08

I don't "feel" female. Or male. Or anything really, I just feel like me. I also don't know what people mean when they say they "feel" like a woman.

Interestingly, from the POV of what I enjoy doing and how I think and what I'm good at and so on, I am far more male gendered than female. But that doesn't make me a bloke, presumably.

NiceTabard Sat 15-Jun-13 21:54:37

Surely most people don't "feel" male or female? I can't even imagine what that feeling is supposed to be like. Don't most people just feel like them?

MiniTheMinx Sat 15-Jun-13 22:09:29

I have always thought or felt myself to be female first. Born female, raised as a girl (didn't conform, was a tomboy) I look "feminine" ( even in non-gendered clothes to the extent it's commented on) told I think like a man ( is it possible to tell & isn't that hocus-pocus ) and I know rather feel, I am a woman because everyone around me reflects this back at me.

Do I feel like a woman? not really because I don't know how all other women experience being women in terms of how they experience themselves. I do feel like a women though when I realise that I am treated differently to a man, I feel like a women when I talk to other women and realise they have experienced the same oppression, discrimination, sexism and subjugation. So I guess I only feel like a women because I know I share certain life experiences with others based on our shared biological sex.

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 22:20:54

As I understand it, the problem with your last sentence Mini, is that it doesn't leave anywhere for transwomen to go with their sense of being a woman. Unless I categorise myself as a ciswoman, then I exclude transwomen from the group that is women.

So if biological women don't feel something specific that is "woman" then what is it that transwomen are identifying with that I'm missing ? Or is it simply gender rather than sex ?

scallopsrgreat Sat 15-Jun-13 22:33:07

Really interesting discussion. It s taken me ages to write this because I haven't been able to find the right words and I am not sure if I even have now.

I never really thought about this in terms of feeling like a woman until I got more heavily involved in feminism. Gender as a social construct made so much sense to me. Before that I couldn't understand why I wasn't interested in traditionally feminine pursuits and why boys were always depicted as doers and having altogether much more fun than girls etc. I felt odd because of that. I thought I felt like a woman as I grew older but really it was a reaction to being treated like a woman. So I am with Tunip here. I don't think it is possible to feel like a woman as such. I periodically get reminded I am a woman, physically but how I feel about that is socially constructed, imposed on me by society.

I also don't understand why some people are suggesting gender queer feminism as being a possible solution for you chibi. It sounds to me like radical feminism and abolishing gender would be more suitable. I am not an expert in queer theory but it seems to still be maintaining gender whereas it seems to me that you would feel more comfortable if gender didn't exist and you weren't expected to "feel" like anything/anybody.

I hope you are OK anyway and thank you for starting this thread.

kim147 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:37:41

I never felt "comfortable" as the person used to see in so many ways. It just did not feel right and my life was so confusing and miserable for many years. I just could not put a name to it.

I'm much happier now - despite everything else going on in my life. I don't regret my decision and could never go back. I don't know "what I am" but the one thing I do know is that I now feel normal. And that feeling of normality is something I've been looking for since I was 11.

FloraFox Sat 15-Jun-13 22:45:35

kim do you think you would have felt differently if you had grown up in an environment where gender non-conformity was accepted? You've said before you were at a boys' school (boarding?) so I hope you don't mind me asking this question.

kim147 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:47:56

I'm not going to make this thread about me. Been there, done that plenty of times. I just wanted to put my point in.

Hope you understand.

NiceTabard Sat 15-Jun-13 23:03:42

oh mini yes i most definitely am made to feel female when something happens like getting eyed by a bloke. And I've never liked it - being reminded so often that i am not simply me, to others so often I am a female to be judged/treated accordingly.

FloraFox Sat 15-Jun-13 23:21:16

I wasn't asking you to make this thread about you kim but it's obviously your choice how much you want to talk about yourself.

chibi I'm sad that you are feeling like a freak. I really think that most people feel like you.

MiniTheMinx Sat 15-Jun-13 23:31:44

I don't know what it is that Trans women identify with. If gender is socially constructed (I think it is) then they identify with a construct rather than something concrete. I assume for some identifying as a woman is enough, being thought of and treated by society as a woman and finding acceptance of that would be enough.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 16-Jun-13 01:19:13

Mini - I think the wording of your post is slightly unfortunate. It is perfectly OK not to understand something. Being trans is something outside of the experience of most people.

So I would feel uneasy saying a trans person identifies with a construction over something concrete, as it has the implication that they are after a fantasy and I think that's very unfair.

People have to survive in the society we live in now, rather then waiting for some utopia free of constructed ideas of gender and that affects us all, including trans people, in the choices and compromises we make.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 01:28:57

So glad to see the direction this thread's taken, it's really interesting.

I was thinking about it tonight while I was out, and realizing that it's mostly when I talk to (some) men I'm most conscious of being female - I can see them looking at me a certain way, not sexual but just 'you are a woman, you are not like me, you are like such-and-such'. I do feel a lovely sense of relief when I'm talking to women I'm on the same wavelength with, and I never have exactly that experience with men, even lovely ones who're fascinating in other ways. I felt it at the conference I went to at the weekend - that I could just be comfortable in my own skin, and no-one was going to start telling me I'd got it all wrong because I'm a woman, or I should be more this and less that.

So I think I agree with kim that for me gender is something you notice when it's very wrong or very right. For me that is to do with the immediate social group I'm in, but I do think the fact of feeling miserable and not able to say why, and then suddenly feeling right, is exactly how I feel.

And yes, I agree with gosh we live in an imperfect world and we can't expect it to be the ideal where gender doesn't matter.

I've never felt like I'm very feminine, according to what society expects women to be like but I think I have felt a little bit less 'womanly' since my menopause. I'm not sure - it could just be that I feel less sexual ... I don't feel quite as 'at home' in my body as I used to.

Then I wonder how much of that feeling is from finding myself in the invisible older woman category and no longer getting so many societal messages that it's my female body that defines me - although it still does because men don't become invisible in the same way as they age.

It's all very confusing.

I do sometimes wonder how it would feel to take male hormones - whether that would make me feel 'like a man' or just like a different me, iyswim.

bragmatic Sun 16-Jun-13 07:42:12

Your post reminded me of this recent story.


marriedinwhiteagain Sun 16-Jun-13 07:57:05

It isn't something I've ever questioned but I think I feel completely a woman but it's hard to define. I just feel womanly; I have womanly curves and I love feminine things - you know dresses and pretty shoes and nice hair and being homely and having a daughter and flirting a bit and nurturing DH and the DC and enjoying it when a man gets me a drink or generally flatters me. I still successfully worked on male dominated trading floor in the 80s and 90s though and competed in a very blokey environment and now have a good different career and think men and women are equal, albeit different.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 10:26:17

It's funny, but while I like a lot of 'feminine' things - I wear dresses, I like cooking, etc. - I would say they're one of the things that sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, because I get this reaction sometimes as if someone looks at me and has a totally different sense of what kind of person I have to be, to do these things or like these things.

I think it does help hugely having a DH from a very different culture, because it makes me notice how many of the things we think of as feminine or masculine are the other way around - so, in his culture, men hug each other a lot and are very touchy-feely, and they don't have the thing about 'men don't cry'.

I don't get the issue with what mini is saying that. I identify as a woman for reasons that are extremely 'concrete' and physical - it's very obvious to the rest of society. I don't think this is more powerful than the constructed aspects though - maybe less. Because when I'm on my own, my body doesn't bother me, I'm fine with it, but as soon as I come into contact with people I'm noticing it and noticing it makes people see me in this certain way. So I think the construct side of it is very powerful.

I do actually have a bit of a problem with suggesting it's not - for me it's uncomfortable close to telling little boys they're being 'silly' for wanting the pink one but not telling them why. Even you can't justify something for physical reasons, it may be a very real pressure in society that you're feeling.

TunipTheVegedude Sun 16-Jun-13 10:47:18

In relation to Mini's post, though, I think it's important to clarify that a lot of transwomen don't talk in terms of identifying with the things in the construct. Some do, (the 'I knew I was a girl because I always preferred to play with dolls' narrative) but my RL transwoman friend talks more in terms of the physical dysphoria of having a body that feels alien, and the expression of stereotypical femininity is done either to ensure being read as a woman or to jump through hoops to access medical treatment, not because of any belief that wearing dresses is what being a woman means.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 11:02:47

But part of the construct of what being a woman is, is to do with having a particular sort of female body, I think? I don't really know about this, but I am getting the impression that people aren't talking about an average female body such as you get from 'the luck of the draw', but an idealized female body that perfoms all its feminine functions perfectly. And that surely is a construct, because virtually no-one is born with that perfect body and most of us at some point or other are unhappy because we don't live up to the ideal?

I do need to clarify I don't see how 'construct' is a negative term, btw, or anything to do with 'fantasy', and that is not how I'm using it. I think it's very real how we form constructs of how our bodies should be, I don't think it's even meaningful to talk about biological reality as separate from the 'constructs' because we cannot think without constructing ideas.

FloraFox Sun 16-Jun-13 13:55:52

Gender is a construct though, it is not concrete. I find the attempts to police this discussion disturbing especially when chibi has been trying to discuss how the absence of any feeling of the construct is making her feel like a freak.

MiniTheMinx Sun 16-Jun-13 14:18:12

Sorry if the wording in my post offends some, not meant to.

I think one of the great things that feminism is doing is questioning and challenging dominant social ideas about what it is to be a woman. To what extent are characteristics more commonly attributed to men often viewed as bad? if women have characteristics more commonly attributed to women like empathy, kindness, subservience are they being limited to performing certain roles within society and why are these characteristics always seen as good? but strangely often as weak?

I do think that womanhood is largely a socially constructed category that changes over place and time, so if I have to ask rather than guess at knowing how other women experience being a woman, its difficult to know whether Trans women are identifying with what they perceive to be a women or whether it really is something more to do with their bodies not matching with their perception of what sex they think they are. ( but it's not possible to change sex, only the sex you appear to be) If they have not grown up and been socialised into the role, if they have never had that dialectical mirroring back to them of who/what they are then they must be starting from scratch possibly with a few stereotypical assumptions thrown in. ie, if I like pink, if I like babies, I cry, I feel deep connections with people, value thinking over action etc,... maybe I am a women.

Trans women talk about passing as women. So how others see them forms a huge part of how they experience themselves. It might be impossible to experience oneself as a women if others are not reflecting and validating that.

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 15:15:23

I definitely feel like a woman.
I have an elderly relative that feels so womanly that she refuses to wear trousers. Ever.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 16-Jun-13 15:43:52

Passing as a woman has a huge safety aspect to it though and just generally having an easier and safer time in society.

Society is not very kind to those who aren't deemed sufficiently gender conforming, whether they are trans or seen as non gender conforming in other ways.

tungthai Sun 16-Jun-13 15:53:37

I feel like a woman. I have periods, I have carried two babies and I look like a woman.

Generally I prefer to be with women than men I find women easier to talk to than men. I feel at ease in the company of older men but have never felt comfortable with men or boys my own age unless I am interested in them romantically.

I hate all that men are from Mars, women are from Venus rubbish. I read the book and identified more with the male descriptor.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 17:23:11

flora - sure, gender is a construct. But I don't see why it should be offensive to say so.

It cannot possibly be entirely physical. But no-one has a physical gender. So what's the issue?

I think it's very problematic to start saying that what we feel or think is somehow less important than anything else.

kickassangel Sun 16-Jun-13 17:32:49

Haven't read whole head, but I think I get what you mean.

I think of myself as a person, or me. I very definitely look like a woman and I am easily identified as one. I had a very stereotypical upbringing which means I'm crap at sport and good at baking, but that still doesn't mean I feel womanly because of that.

I was thinking this morning that when I think about people, I don't first identify them by their gender, but by their roles or bahviour. So work colleagues I primarily identify by their job, whether I respect them, get on with them, and somewhere down the line I am aware they are male or female, but that isn't anywhere near the top of my list.

I have the same attitude to color, it just isn't the first thing I notice about a person, and may not be how I would describe them. I would say they do x y z, then give a physical description.

I think that being a teacher, where you look at the work and progress of a student, influences this. When I meet a new class, I often know how someone works before I have learnt their name, so I focus on their behaviour/work more than the outward aspects.

I am happy just to be me. I know I'm female, it doesn't bother me too much, but if I had to describe "me", I would list things I do or believe before giving a physical description.

FloraFox Sun 16-Jun-13 17:44:45

MRD I don't think it should be offensive to say that gender is a construct and I agree that no-one has a physical gender. I also didn't say that what we feel or think is less important than anything else. How we feel is important and how those feelings relate to our bodies and societies expectations of us based both on our bodies and our conformity (or lack of) with socially constructed views of how a person with our body should behave.

I am a human being with the physical characteristics of the sex which carries and delivers children. This was apparent when I was born so I was raised as a girl in a society which told me there were expectations and limitations on me because I was a member of that class but in a family which told me I should ignore those expectations and limitations and be myself. I am now a woman. I conform with society's expectations of women in some respects but not in others and I continue to be subject to a number of expectations and limitations because I am a woman.

I have wished on a number of occasions that I was a man so that I did not have to deal with various things I don't like about being a woman in our society however I have never felt that I am a man. I should think that having a feeling that you are of the opposite sex when your biology is otherwise would be a very unpleasant feeling. Since I reject society's gender expectations, I have no problem with someone who chooses to present themselves in any manner they see fit. I do have a problem with the concept that because a person prefers those things or has those characteristics that our current society has determined are feminine, that person must be a woman. This reinforces those constructed expectations in a way that can impact negatively on all women.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 17:47:38

Ah, sorry, I was partly thinking back to what gothanne is saying about it being offensive, and trying to work out why.

I agree that reinforcing the idea of gender as a concrete category is not going to help anyone.

MiniTheMinx Sun 16-Jun-13 19:21:28

GoshAnneGorilla I agree society is not accepting. This raises the question though of whether transitioning is an individual choice free of all outside pressures. By wishing to belong to just one of the two binary choices of being a man or a woman, does this entrench the view that certain behaviours and characteristics are natural to men or women. Surely it would be better to have women building bridges and men wearing dresses & baking cupcakes without so much as a raised brow.

I think there is a link between the gains made by women, capitalism and the very narrow definitions of womenhood that are sold back to us. There is a contradiction, as women make certain gains in terms of spending power we find that rather than giving us more choice about how we perform femininity or not, we are being sold a very narrow definition of what it is to look like a women. It seems that as we change our behaviours, expectations & roles, this challenges gender in some respects, whilst other forces act to define us. Its a similar situation with the pressure to both work outside the home and to be the very best doting mother. We are literally pulled in directions that men aren't. Men are surplus to the needs of capital.

I think more confusion will reign forth until gender no longer matters. In the meantime there will be casualties.

TunipTheVegedude Sun 16-Jun-13 19:31:42

Does anyone say transitioning is an individual choice free from outside pressures?

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 16-Jun-13 20:55:33

I think that people feel their gender as something more innate then just how they might externally express it.

I have encountered in my day job some very intriguing cases of gender ambiguity and the various conditions that cause it.

There is still very much the desire to "treat" such conditions by deciding which gender the person is closest too, yet quite a few in the intersex community feels it's wrong for their bodies to have been interfered with and they should have been allowed to decide for themselves.

YoniMatopoeia Sun 16-Jun-13 23:00:39

I agree with other posters saying that my feeling of being a woman only comes from how others see me and treat me.

Fascinating thread.

HullMum Mon 17-Jun-13 06:37:26

I'm a woman. I have a vagina and all relevant bits. I know that 500 years ago the teen age version of me would probably be burned as a heretic for "dressing like a man" and probably living as one as well (according to that societies standards ). I only wore men's jeans, short hair hoodies. I was still a woman just because you know, I was. I wouldn't say I "feel like a woman" although when dealing with infertility I did for the first time feel like less of one...for some reason. but is that natural or a reaction to the way society sees every female human as a potential mother. As an adult I love cath kidston and bunting,I don't see those as womanly, I think society has decided they are feminine though. I haven't changed who I am since being a teenager I just like different things now that society seems to believe are gender conforming although that's a lot to do with society easing up on what is acceptable for women and how what we see as normal now might have once been seen as masculine.

I think I would struggle as a straight man as I think what "makes a man a man" is a much more rigid lifestyle then I could adhere to. men aren't allowed to enjoy "female" things for fear of catching the dreaded vaginaitus or the gay.

Am I talking nonsense? have I answered the question? it's the middle of the night here and I'm so tired

TunipTheVegedude Mon 17-Jun-13 08:57:49

'I think I would struggle as a straight man as I think what "makes a man a man" is a much more rigid lifestyle then I could adhere to.'

Not nonsense at all, I think that's very true and relevant.
Men are the more privileged group in relation to women but induction into idealised manhood is not particularly pleasant.

I think this is one reason why a lot of women have an instinctive sympathy for transwomen - sort of 'don't blame you for not wanting to be a man, I wouldn't either'.

badguider Mon 17-Jun-13 15:47:07


I have no idea what it 'feels like to be a woman'. Honestly, none at all.

I would never describe myself as trans-"phobic", I sympathise with transexual women and wish them all the best with finding themsleves/happiness/whatever they seek - but I honestly do not for a second understand what those who say they feel about the 'wrong' body are describing.

I am a female who was raised in a very gender-neutral way (In the 70s) and have some male-dominated hobbies. I studied a VERY male-dominated subject at university but now do a job that is more equally done by both male and female. I have friends who are men and friends who are women but mostly socialise in mixed-sex groups and most people in my social group socialise in mixed-sex groups.

I do minimal 'feminine grooming' as in I don't wear high heels, make up or 'style' my hair, but also I do not look male or even 'butch' - with my figure and features I couldn't but I also choose to have shoulder length hair and wear a mix of clothes, many of which are 'women's' in a subtle way (shape, pattern, colour) even when not overtly feminine.

Currently I am pregnant.. is that a 'woman' thing? Or is it just a 'female' thing? For now, even though I'm the pregnant one there's not a lot different in how my husband and I are approaching impending parent-hood....

So, OP - you are not alone in not knowing what it means to 'feel womanly'... but personally I have never felt the expectation to feel womanly so don't feel anything missing.

FreyaSnow Mon 17-Jun-13 23:28:13

Changing my mind for the twentieth time... What it comes down to for me is that I've lived in one place for a long time, during which time I've been pregnant and breastfed. The vast majority of people I know have seen me breastfeeding or pregnant, so I am visibly reproductively female. There is nothing I can do other than move and not speaking to anybody I know ever again that is going to change that.

No amount of no longer coercively assigning gender at birth or bringing in different ways of organising gender is going to change the fact that pretty much everyone I know knows I am reproductively female. As I am already going to be perceived in that way with all the baggage that goes with it, I don't see any purpose in making any kind of statement to other people about the extent to which I am a woman (whatever people take that to mean) because that would just give me an additional category, not remove the one everyone already considers me to be in.

Whether there is any benefit to making that statement to myself, I don't know. I don't think I'm capable of dividing up everything about me into male and female thoughts and experiences. I'm not sure what a man or or a non-binary person gets to think or experience that I don't.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Mon 17-Jun-13 23:56:40

Tunip, thanks for your post of 10:47 Sunday.

Woman is entwined with what I am, I think. It's comfortable that way.

WhentheRed Tue 18-Jun-13 00:24:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 01:03:40

There is a limitation to the freedoms that men and boys have in this area though, isn't there? I mean, THESE days, no one blinks an eye at a girl in trousers or historically "masculine" clothing, but men who would like to wear skirts and dresses and other traditionally feminine clothing cop all sorts of hassle.
So when it comes to choosing whether or not to wear traditionally masculine or feminine clothing/garb, women have the advantage there.
One of the few areas we do, though.

WhentheRed Tue 18-Jun-13 01:25:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 06:46:17

No, I didn't mean that wearing a dress was a freedom for women - I meant that females have the choice between wearing a dress (feminine) or trousers (masculine) in most places now without prejudice; whereas men don't have that choice.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 06:48:23

And yes, I agree with your first paragraph there. Other men do not like to see men "feminise" themselves - and indeed some don't like to see women in trousers - because it is seen as weak and "girly". Yes, women are still definitely seen as the underclass by too significant a proportion of society and the trappings of womanhood are seen as signs of that second-class status.

FreyaSnow Tue 18-Jun-13 10:05:21

Possibly getting into the trivial here, but I don't view wearing a skirt as a restriction. I almost always wear a skirt or a dress because I find them more physically comfortable. I can understand that people who were made to wear them for some kind of dress code and didn't like wearing them would find that restrictive. I don't wear them primarily for the sake of appearance but for physical comfort.

ThirdTimesABrokenFanjo Tue 18-Jun-13 15:14:10

some skirts and some dresses are very comfortable, but many are built for looks and not comfort and combined with the rules for women. knees together, don't show your knickers, don't bend over, can't reach up. they're very restrictive

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