Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category


A place to stand

December 29, 2009

Since embracing my femme style, I have been thinking a lot about where that puts me in both normative and non-normative circles. And, really, it’s kind of a small, unseen little place were most people don’t take you very seriously, no matter what you say. Now, I know and you know that I am not a typical lady. I preform masculinity in personality fairly frequently, but while wearing dresses and cute shoes and other such lady things. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from all my body acceptance reading and all my queer reading/experience, and really just from all that living in general, it’s that appearances matter. They always directly affect how people categorize you, interact with you, form opinions about you, and behave around you.

I’m not going to try saying that we should remove all of this classification from our mental systems, because that is in direct conflict with how I believe we as people communicate effectively. Those mental categories should constantly be redefined and people should not be viewed as having to “fit into” a category perfectly, but they do exist and are essential for communication of any sort (especially good, effective make-people-listen-to-you-and-actually-agree-with-what-you’re-saying communication).

Now, since I present myself as a pretty standard girl, I am treated like a girl. In normative terms, that means that my opinions are probably worth a little less, that I can’t lift heavy things, that I’l break down when exposed to tough situations, and that I will shamelessly do manipulative things whenever it suits me (among other things, like I can’t hook up with people without wanting a relationship and my biological clock is turning me into a baby addict and that I am easy to swindle in large purchasing situations). While people do not consciously make the choice to treat women this way, it happens. One of my most feminist male friends tried to protect me at a concert because I was female, not to be a jerk, but because it was just sort of instinctual. As a feminine woman in mainstream society, it’s hard to be heard properly and it’s hard to stand up for and by yourself, because there’s just not really a lot of room to be taken seriously. Sometimes I talk about feminist things, and know that who I’m speaking with doesn’t believe what I say as much because I’m saying it while preforming typical femininity in appearance.

On the other side, it’s difficult for me to find my footing among the non-normative thinkers. This is probably because of Antioch in a way, because if you dared to be anything less than psychotically alternative, you were playing into the patriarchal system of tools and would probably be the eventual cause of the Zombacolypse. When presenting myself to the non-normative, I always feel like I’m being judged. Well, maybe not always, but enough to make me fumble my words and get nervous. Whether we want to admit it or not, we “alternative” folk tend to harshly judge those who choose not to follow our aesthetic lead. When I’m dressed like a “typical girl,” I know that I am viewed with a grain of salt. I know, because I do it. When I catch myself, I remind myself “this is water” and try listening to the person like I would listen to anyone else I respect and want to learn from. But I am still guilty of performing the same mechanism that I feel trapped within.

So where is the room for femme ladies to be heard? Or to be taken seriously? I dunno. Probably only among individuals who also know that water is.


It’s a bit ranty and not as neat and well-thought out as I’d like, but I’m sure it’ll turn into a better point somewhere down the line =]


The trials of Sporty Spice

September 9, 2009

Last night, while taking a study break (okay, so maybe a study break turned into playing cards for about an hour, then reading 3 more pages and going to bed), I found out that my neighbor, Billy, boxes and has experience in several types of martial arts. I got really excited about this, and asked if he wanted to play sometime. He kind of looked at me skeptically and said “I guess so,” while to my left, Jason started laughing and laughing. He then said that I would have to pull my hair back and bind my chest (I promise you it was oh-so less eloquently stated) for Billy to even consider hitting me, a statement Billy didn’t correct or add to.

I’ve been a martial artist for a long time. I have trained with heaps of people, and the vast majority of them have been men. And each time a new man entered into the school, I had to somehow prove myself to be tougher than the average girl, which was always tiresome and frustrating. Not only was I a girl, but also usually younger and much higher ranked, so there were a lot of strange dynamics when people paired with me. She a young girl, so I shouldn’t hit her, but, oh wait, she’s dominating me in front of everyone, I guess I should assert myself with nothing but brute strength to prove that by weighing fifty pounds more, I can totally take her. When I got to Antioch, I found that this attitude was much more prevalent, because I didn’t have a sensei to assure others of my skill, or the few people I’d trained with for years who knew that I could hold my own. So when I re-enter the boys club that is the world of martial arts, I was met with a lot of “hold on, we’ll train after I prove that I can’t actually be beaten by a girl.” And some people’s attitudes can’t be changed about these things.

This is why I haven’t trained since semester one of Antioch. I let a huge part of my identity fall to the wayside because it’s so frustrating and insulting to try and join a new group of men who train. I know that this is mostly a matter of pride, and that the reasonable thing to do would be to find a group to train with, enter, play the game, prove myself as tough, and be accepted as a training partner (not a girl), and get back to doing something that I love, and something that I still feel defines who I am in a large and sort of profound way.

But I have a lot of pride, and think a lot about my position in the social world as someone to presents herself as a feminine person, someone who accepts when she is called a woman. And when people treat me like I should be less–wait, that’s not right. I mean to say, when people need to prove themselves as more and higher up (after all, they are the Self and I am the Other in the hierarchical sense), I do not find myself in a friendly environment, and can’t train. It is so very important to train in an amiable place with people who can at least generally respect each other, so that we can enter in a learning relationship and not have dumb injuries based on stupid behavior.

I’ve been taught that there is no room for gender in martial arts. I have unquestioningly accepted this, and so when men asserted their power over me, I thought of it as unfair on the basis of a general martial arts courtesy rule. But in such a masculine field, there are of course lots and lots of gender issues. Being a femme woman in a masculine, male-dominated discipline is difficult, because even though we are not supposed to see gender, there is no way to turn that sight off. It’s like asking the world to be ‘color-blind.’ It’s denying the experiences of an oppressed group because the dominant group can’t see aspects of the hierarchy and what is supporting it. Not to sound horribly Antiochian, but it’s being blind to privilege.

But at this point, I don’t really know what I would do to combat this gender-blind view. I don’t want to be treated differently when training because I’m femme. I don’t want anyone to go easy on me, nor do I want them to pointlessly turn up the heat, so it seems as far as martial arts is concerned, I support a gender-blind cause. Instead of wanting understanding from the discipline about my “femme-ness,” I want to be treated the same way that all the boys treat each other. It feels very First Wave to say this, and that bother me, but I think it is the necessary first step. It’s a step that I need so that I can comfortably return to something that I absolutely love and feel lacking without.

And it’s not like it’s easy to find a group of socially aware people who practice MMA just anywhere. Sunshine Coast is super normative, and even at Antioch I felt others’ need to assert themselves over me. I know that there will always be instances when the outside world’s gender perceptions will influence the inside of martial arts. Obviously the two cannot actually be separated (unless I train with humanoid robots? investigate later…), but I need to find people who can at least pretend that just because I’m femme doesn’t mean I can’t take a good hit or two or ten.

So if someone could tell me how to prove that I have a decent amount of masculine characteristics while maintaining the new femme thing I’ve been doing without having to enter into a pissing contest, that’d be great.