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can we reject gender and still be pro female?

(134 Posts)
Flingingmelon Thu 21-Jan-16 22:35:36

Anyone else have an irrational dislike of all this 'gender is a false construct' talk?

It's been really bothering me recently. Not so much the discussions themselves, rather why I get so irritated in the first place? 

I wonder if it's because rejecting gender in some way feels like rejecting the concept of femininity, by that I mean feeling like a woman in the 'traditional' sense of the word.

I'm struggling not to associate it with the idea that we are letting the side down somehow, fighting for women's equality and then turning around and distancing ourselves from what makes us women.

I absolutely believe and agree that how an individual chooses to identify themselves is no ones business except themselves, but it feels like we are throwing the baby out with the bath water somewhat.

Can we be female, be women, be proud of what makes us women and still reject the concept of gender?

I'd love it if someone could help me make peace with this, although I accept that as usual I'm writing far too late in the evening and this is after all, only my problem, no one else's.

Does anyone else feel the same?

thatstoast Thu 21-Jan-16 22:44:26

But, biology aside, what does make us women?

I don't see how it's possible to reject gender but still cling to an idea that there's something intangible that women possess.

stargirl1701 Thu 21-Jan-16 22:46:14

Hmmm. I am quite anti-gender as a concept...but...I felt a very raw, primal female power when birthing my babies. I feel a strong female sense of pride in my body for breastfeeding DD2.

IamTheWhoreofBabylon Thu 21-Jan-16 22:48:58

Slightly off topic but I've noticed on the baby threads, only the titles I don't read them, they are talking about what gender baby is
Surely this is incorrect and it is sex.

stargirl1701 Thu 21-Jan-16 22:52:02

It is. Sex is correct.

BombadierFritz Thu 21-Jan-16 23:00:57

I am not so much 'proud' of being female, as aware that half the population worldwide are oppressed because of their biology

7Days Thu 21-Jan-16 23:01:25

I think I know where you are coming from OP.

It's like when people don't mind a girl being a 'tomboy' but hate to think of their son being a 'sissy'. Devaluing traditionally female hobbies, sports, career choices etc.

People are socialised into gender roles, no doubt about it. But humans are adaptable any person could get socialised into liking football or liking experimenting with makeup, for example. Both are pleasant pastimes. But the female versions are disrespected in a way that men's aren't.

Is there a fashion roundup after every news bulletin? After Syria, floods, the election, murders do we get an hourly update on hem lengths and new breakthroughs on long lasting lipstick?

I know I'm borrowing heavily on stereotypes here but what else is there when it comes to gender.

BombadierFritz Thu 21-Jan-16 23:03:06

I dont have a problem rejecting femininity as i am quite non conformist and live in jeans/no make up/unconventional hobbies etc.

stargirl1701 Thu 21-Jan-16 23:08:14

I guess birth/bf have been the first time I felt proud of being female. I was a tomboy. I guess I still am. My pride was always in my academic achievement, my rejection of 'traditional womanly stuff'. I had never felt such a female sense of strength and power before in my entire life. Odd. Different. But, good.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Thu 21-Jan-16 23:17:39

I think I know what you mean op. I sometimes hear posters referring to stereotypically "girly" stuff in a disparaging way.

I do understand where they are coming from - that not all girls want to (wear pink etc etc) and shouldn't feel pressured into it. But I don't think you should achieve this by criticising the girly options and making them seem somehow less worthy.

TheWomanInTheWall Fri 22-Jan-16 06:51:26

"I'm struggling not to associate it with the idea that we are letting the side down somehow, fighting for women's equality and then turning around and distancing ourselves from what makes us women."

What makes us women is our biology. The source of women's oppression is women's biology - relative physical strength, vulnerability during pregnancy, birth and child rearing, social structures that control or censure women's sexuality in order to try and control the fathering of children.

Today, in western countries, the role of biology in the oppression is not quite so direct, but slut shaming and comments about single mothers, for example, show clear links.

From here, if two interests have broadly become more associated with men and women, the one associated with men will usually be deemed more important, more of general interest etc. The back

TheWomanInTheWall Fri 22-Jan-16 06:53:27

...pages of every main newspaper every day are devoted to sport, 80 odd % of which is men's sports. I haven't observed any similar, prominent, regular space given to fashion, say.

TheWomanInTheWall Fri 22-Jan-16 06:58:41

Of course "pink bad blue good" is simplistic and "girly" should not be used to denigrate.

But I don't believe pink, or lipstick or whatever is an integral of being a woman so I don't feel I am letting the side down by "distancing myself from what makes me a woman"

nooka Fri 22-Jan-16 07:06:41

I think we need to decouple ideas about masculinity/ femininity from ideas about how men and women should behave. Studies show we all have a mixture of traits that are associated with masculinity and femininity. There's no binary and no spectrum, just lots of people with individual traits, likes and preferences. And we should celebrate that!

Gender, at least at the moment seems to constrain people, preventing them from expressing who they are freely without worrying about censure or diagnosis. It's that shoehorning I object to when rejecting gender. Plus the irritation of the muddle between gender and sex.

I don't think of myself as very feminine, but I'm definitely a woman. I'm not sure I'm particularly proud of that though, seems a bit odd to be proud of something that you have zero control over. I mean it's kind of cool that I grew my babies, but I'd have been very happy if dh could have done it instead (especially second time around!).

I do have a sense of fellowship with other women from time to time, but I think that's often in the face of oppression really, whether that's the shitness of biology or the effect of sexism. Sometimes it's common experiences too, but then I also have fellowship with other parents, other people who enjoy my hobbies etc etc.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Fri 22-Jan-16 07:06:51

But gendered behaviour isn't what makes us women.
Being gender critical doesn't mean we all have to wear potato sacks and work boots. I'm totally gender critical but I have long hair, dyed, wear make up, jewellery, dresses and lots of floral prints. I don't feel it's necessary to advertise my stance on gender through my clothing.
I don't do anything that I find oppressive - so no regular hair removal, fanny waxing, fake nails, high heels etc. But not all women experience those things as oppressive.

None of the above is what makes me a woman. It contributes to the way others categorise me and treat me but that's out of my control.

WorkPlayClean Fri 22-Jan-16 07:11:41

I can't stand gender but think even if we managed to get rid of it there'd be more freedom to be what is now 'feminine' rather than less, without having it pushed on you because of being biologically female.

Like being a goth - you're not born with anything marking you out as 'a goth' and (usually) you're not raised with the expectation that you should or must be a goth but then at some point you can decide that actually what some/most people associate with being 'a goth' actually quite suits you and how you feel so you'll behave like one. I'd love that to be the same with what is now the stereotype of being feminine. Then there'd be no general need for transgender issues, problems of whether a boy is 'being sissy' etc, just let people 'grow' names for what they want to identify with while still keeping biological sex. So a man or woman could be an 'A' which stands for 'I'm wild about wearing dresses and heels, obsessed with make-up and my dearest wish in life is to Laura Ashley everything that stays still long enough" if they want to. Everyone else who doesn't need/want a label can wear a minidress while buying Duplo for their daughter and then go and play rugby if they want, male or female, no gender bollocks allowed.

Flingingmelon Fri 22-Jan-16 08:39:09

Morning all and many thanks for your thoughtful replies!

That's toast - good question. What does make us women? It's something these threads have made me spend a lot of time thinking about recently.

I was in a store yesterday buying present for a little girl. I don't often do this. I was looking at the very gender specific items and getting myself wound up about whether her mum would be offended if I bought items with ballerinas and flowers on them, as though buying product designed for girls was letting the side down somehow.

It seems marketing and product development people have a very crystallised idea of what make us women and if I'm questioning that, am I by association  (as Thewomaninthewall quite rightly says) deciding pink bad blue good? Why is pink bad? Because it's been assigned to 'female' or because it's used to divide and oppress us? Do men consider blue to be oppressing? What did pink do wrong? If men wear it more often, can I wear it again? That seems mad to me, I should be able to wear every colour happily surely? (Except lime, I look sick in lime.)

7days - absolutely! It's pink bad, blue good again. Classically female traits are 'bad'. Don't get me wrong, I pick and choose hearts and flowers and lipstick along with cars and action movies and arguing for the sake of winning as much as anyone, but I need to make peace with the idea that rejecting gender is not the same as rejecting being a woman.

I do also wonder what men think of all this? I know DH thinks all this gender concern is feminists getting down a cul-di-sac and we'd be better off concentrating on fighting for safer streets and better child care, but as a man I don't think he understands that we still need to work on the fundamentals. That men seem to have pride in their gender sorted, because no one ever asked them to question it.

Nooka - interesting what you say about 'a sense of fellowship with other women', I've definitely felt the same since having my baby. I'm spending so much time surrounded by amazing, strong, thoughtful women dealing quietly with common but also life changing experiences. Maybe those traits are what should be pinned to our gender, rather what our bubble bath smells like. 

I'm probably coming across as a huge misandrist here but very little of the traits I see at baby groups etc strike me as being overly masculine.

Workplayclean - I absolutely love your Goth metaphor. I think you're completely right.

But I also like it because it's such a close match. In that some people think tendencies assigned to being a goth are in someways lesser, or frivolous, just like being feminine.

Goodness, well done and thank you if you've made it to the end of this post!!

TheWomanInTheWall Fri 22-Jan-16 09:23:41

I'm not sure that men have "pride" in being men (whether that's being biologically male or being masculine).

"Being a man" is everywhere - films, TV, newspapers etc. It's "the norm", particularly being a straight white man. To him, that's probably like asking if he puts any focus on "human identity"!

GreenTomatoJam Fri 22-Jan-16 09:26:54

I mean it's kind of cool that I grew my babies, but I'd have been very happy if dh could have done it instead (especially second time around!).

Hear Hear!

I've always been a loner, and not particularly feminine (although, thinking at what I can do, I would certainly be described as 'accomplished' if this were an 18th Century novel). I don't agree in denigrating traditionally women's things like knitting and cooking (I've been knitting for longer than I remember), but I also don't agree in calling them women's things (unlike things that only women can do - like growing a baby).

I don't think gender is an innate thing. I don't think the different sexes are innately drawn to certain hobbies or clothes. I don't think any hobbies necessarily have intrinsically more value than others.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 22-Jan-16 13:55:35

I dont have a problem rejecting femininity as i am quite non conformist and live in jeans/

Unless you have been transported back to 1950 there is nothing unconventional in women wearing jeans. Given the number of posters on FWR who never wear feminine clothes a dress would be more unconventional.

It's commonplace on MN (both FWR and AIBU) to see posters despairing about their daughters' choices if they are feminine .

The campaign is called "Pink Stinks" not say "Pink Stinks and Blue does Too". The website of course explains they don't really mean that and you can wear pink (if you insist).

OP I understand your viewpoint.

grimbletart Fri 22-Jan-16 14:29:39

I think the bad press pink is getting is that it is ubiquitous and overwhelming, something that was unheard of when I was a kid: even when my middle-aged daughters were kids it simply took its place among the colours.

I was looking for a card for my sister in law the other day and got so exasperated at the lack of colour choice I found myself saying to the assistant "have you got any cards that are not bloody pink"? I apologised immediately but explained how fed up I was with the lack of choice. She said she quite agreed, she was sick of it too!

Oh, and Lass - I wore jeans in 1950! And teenagers wore them, rolled up to just below the knee and accompanied by fluorescent socks (preferably lime, blue or orange). grin

kesstrel Fri 22-Jan-16 14:36:11

It seems marketing and product development people have a very crystallised idea of what make us women

No, they're just going for as much of a gender divide as possible, because that helps them to sell more products when it comes to children's clothes and toys. They want people to feel they need to buy new clothes/toys if their children aren't the same sex, and throw the old ones away. That's why there are so many skeletons and monsters with sharp teeth on little boy's clothes - marketers/designers are constantly looking not for "masculine" imagery, but instead for the most extreme "non-feminine" images they can find, in order to put parents off "handing down".

almondpudding Fri 22-Jan-16 15:37:25

There are some really good posts here, especially from Nooka and also the comparison to Goths.

But there's still something that doesn't sit right with me, and I'm not sure what that is.

It seems to me that most women want to have more to being a woman than just biology. They do want to express themselves in ways that conform to what other women are doing.

I understand that protecting the rights of people who want to step pretty far beyond gender norms is absolutely essential, and it has some overlap with women's rights, but I'm not sure I'm convinced abolishing gender should be that central to women's rights.

Women's rights should overwhelmingly be about improving things for the majority of women, who aren't going to benefit much from the right to not be judged for being into polyamory, or whatever the fashionable gender non conforming thing of the moment is, because they never wanted to do it in the first place.

It seems like there's a false choice between feminism is all about trans people (irrelevant to most women) or feminism is all about disassociating femininity from being a woman (also irrelevant to most women).

sleepyhead Fri 22-Jan-16 15:50:04

I wish they hadn't called it "Pink Stinks" - I recognise what they're trying to do but it does denigrate something that is closely associated (wrongly imo) with femininity, ergo it denigrates femininity.

I would like to see sex divorced from gender sterotypes - a feminine man should be no more remarkable than a masculine woman. A masculine woman should not be seen as less of a woman as a feminine woman. A feminine man should not be seen as less of a man than a masculine man.

Nothing wrong with girls liking pink and sparkes, but there is also nothing wrong with boys liking pink and sparkles. It's not the pink and sparkles that's wrong, it's the gendered boxes that we put them in.

Nothing wrong with women wearing skirts, makeup and having umpteen frilly cushions on her bed, but also nothing wrong with men wearing skirts, makeup and having umpteen frilly cushions on his bed.

It's harder to think of masculine equivalents for women - probably gendered behaviour norms would be the best examples as we've hopefully got over the woman-can't-be-soldiers / woman-can't-wear-"men's"-clothes / woman-can't-play-football stereotypes. But they're there.

almondpudding Fri 22-Jan-16 16:00:44

Unless very large numbers of women start expressing themselves as masculine and very large numbers of men start expressing themselves as feminine, it is going to be seen as unusual.

So to bring about the change you think is positive, aren't you inevitably going to have to treat the gender nonconforming people as somehow superior.

Which is what is happening, isn't it? That Jack Monroe, Caitlyn Jenner, Laurie Penny and so on are treated as morally superior or more worthy of a political voice than feminine women.

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