Commentary

Ryland Whittington and Gender Identity

This viral story is really baffling me, and I feel like I’m practically the only one thinking this.  I’ve been trawling through the articles and the comments and it seems like everyone loves it or hates it.

I’ve never studied gender, and I was really lucky to just be generally content with my lot in life. Certainly I’m no expert on gender, which is maybe why I’m confused, but I assume that most people reading and commenting aren’t either.

I guess, in my head, “sex” is the physical incarnation of your gender. It is whether you are a boy or a girl genetically. Gender is something that has been created culturally. Most people are cool with this, and it’s an easy way to tell what people are working with down there.

Physically, men and women are different, and this has caused them to be treated in hugely varying ways throughout history. Gender equality is a pretty new thing, with gender neutrality being pushed as well.

As I said, I’m lucky. I like a lot of stuff about being a girl, and I like that most men are different from me. My husband isn’t different from me 100%, we have a lot in common. We are equals, and I can’t really think of anything that he would refuse to do on the basis of being a man, besides appearance based stuff. He won’t get a pedicure or wear makeup. He identifies as a man, and I identify as a woman. He loves to shop, and has no problem doing laundry or dishes. I enjoy our differences though.

However, I know that it isn’t always this easy for people. Some people really strongly identify with traits that are widely associated with the opposite gender. This is a problem with our society though, and not with the person. So my question, I guess, is what does it really mean to be a man or a woman?

It shouldn’t matter what you’re interested in or what you want to wear.  How can something that is societally fabricated have such an impact on a young child? Is there more to gender than I am giving it credit for? Essentially–are men and women that different?

Men and women have always been treated differently, but the differences were not always the same as what they are today. Would Ryland have wanted to be a boy if he grew up in a time when this was a thing:

a dandy

 

For real.

I’m not condemning Ryland’s parents, not yet.  However, I have often contemplated to what extent it is appropriate to gender your children. I’m not blaming them, however, the answer is, probably, less than the Whittingtons.

I get it. We always find it easier to put people into categories. People want to relate to each other, and gender makes that easier. I’m lucky, and I’ve never felt personally conflicted about this. However, I believe that this may in part be to a less-gendered upbringing. My mother isn’t a tom-boy and she isn’t a girly girl. She doesn’t wear makeup, and she doesn’t like cars. My dad isn’t hyper-masculine, either, and claims to know everything about style (not even close).

When I was five years old, I hung out a lot with my older brother and a whole  gaggle of boys. I had a couple of girlfriends, but this was never an issue. My “best friend” when I was four was kind of a B. and always made me play Prince Charming so that she could be the princess. I didn’t even know to be offended about this, until my mom got upset, and that was moreso about the girl being so domineering. My boy bff* was buying Barbies before I was and told me he wanted to be a girl so he could pee sitting down. I was like, “it is great, I’m lazy too so I can see why you feel that way.”

I wasn’t raised gender neutral. I played with baby dolls and eventually Barbies, but often with my brother, and these were plot-driven games. Those poor babies were always getting shipwrecked, btw. My mother would never have done something so lurid as to paint my room pink (I did this myself when I was 14).

People should like what they like, and gender shouldn’t even come into it. I respect how troubling it is for kids to be told that they have to like certain things because of their gender. I remember when I found out that pink was a girl-color and blue was a boy-color, and subsequently always wanted the pink towel.

Yes, children are aware of their sex from an early age. They identify as either boys or girls, but what I want to know is, what does it mean? What does it mean to be a girl? I guess,  also, just a tiny piece of me,  as someone who takes a lot of pride in myself and identifies as a woman, just doesn’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be a woman. Not to say that I think men should want to be women, but it’s just that we can all do the same stuff, aside from the peeing standing up/sitting down issue.

I’ve had major pee envy in the past, particularly in the case of events where men get to pee into a trough and women have to use porta-potties. Yes, biologically men have it easier when it comes to peeing in less convenient locations**. However, when it comes to a nice lazy pee, girls have it made. We can go into a stall, and people don’t automatically assume we’re doing a #2. So there are pros and cons, but basically we all have to pee at some point.

I don’t envy Ryland’s parents and I can’t imagine the fear I would feel in their position, in knowing that my child isn’t happy with himself.  However,  I do worry that this is influenced by external pressures.

I don’t have any kids yet, but I’m going to have to think long and hard about  what I expose them to, and how I can make them happy in who they are.

*He is now a well-adjusted gay man.

**Except my friend Jaima who has mastered a standing pee

 

 

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Commentary

Slut shaming is the new gay bashing.

Lately I’ve been trying to get a handle on what’s really bugging me. I’m trying to pinpoint it, so bear with me.

Slut shaming is the new gay bashing.

 

There are two sides to this. First off, slut shaming and gay bashing are both real problems. And, secondly, slut shaming seems to be everyone’s new pet cause. Now that Gays are widely celebrated, the radical left has moved on.

I think that I’m a pretty modern, if pragmatic, woman. While I think that women should be able to sleep around as much as they’d like, that only works in theory. Maybe our culture isn’t ready for it yet. In practical terms, it may never work. Humans are innately selfish beings, we want attention, and we want to feel important. Sleeping around usually doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. It requires mutual respect, and self-respect, and it’s hard to achieve that in a one night stand. It really doesn’t work, and even if it should work, I’m not going to tell you to do it, because it doesn’t work.

Still, it’s pointless to make a girl who sleeps around feel bad about herself, and it’s ridiculously counter productive when guys do this. I’ve seen the worst of it, trust me. I really don’t care what someone does, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, there’s no reason to spew hatred and vitriol.

The problem, however, is the extended definition.

I don’t mind gays, and I have lots of friends who are gay. Sometimes we even talk about sex. They’re just people. Of course I don’t think that they should be hated, but I don’t think they should be celebrated either. They started a dangerous thing, too, because now everyone wants to be celebrated for their sexuality.

And this is what set me off: Question About Lena Dunham’s Nudity Sparks ‘Rage Spiral’

Basically, some guy asked Lena Dunham why she was naked so much on the show Girls.

Lena said: “If you are not into me, that’s your problem and you’re going to have to work that out with professionals”

the Executive Producter, Jenni Konner said: “I literally was spacing out because I’m in such a rage spiral about that guy,” she said pointing to the question-asker. “I was just looking at him looking at him and going into this rage [over] this idea that you would talk to a woman like that and accuse a woman of showing her body too much. The idea it just makes me sort of sick.”

Judd Apatow called the guy: sexist, offensive, and misogynistic, saying that there is a double standard against less than attractive women who wish to be nude onscreen, and that no one had a problem when Seth Rogan was naked in Knocked Up.

 

Well… actually. Yes, I’d rather look at attractive naked people. But when I’m watching TV, I don’t really need to see any naked people, attractive or not. If I wanted to look at naked people, there are other things I could watch. Seth Rogan wasn’t naked that much, so that’s probably why it wasn’t as much of an issue, but did I want to see it? Of course not. What is the point of putting unattractive naked people on TV? I don’t even really like looking at unattractive clothed people, to be honest, that’s why I watch Australian soaps, not British. Anyway, it’s a valid question, but their response tells us that we’re wrong to question why someone’s unwarranted unsexy sexuality is being shoved in our faces. I get it, it’s her show.

My problem is, people get so caught up on being offended, they lose sight of the real issues. Like, really Jenni, you were getting sick because someone said that Lena shows her body too much? Really? That’s the knee-jerk, slut-shaming activist reaction–that there’s no limit to sexual expression, and anyone who even hints at it might make you physically ill.

Slut shaming isn’t okay, by any means, but this broadened definition isn’t helping. When you group in people being taken aback when you shove your sexuality at them with the real culprits, it makes it seem like there is no real problem. People aren’t going to broaden their minds in one go, and when you take into account that the Duke Porn Star is getting death threats, being told to put on some clothes seems like a reasonable reaction.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is a difference, and when you group it all together you water it down. Yes, people should be able to do what they want, but you can expect some detractors. What isn’t okay is the hate. Rape, violence, threats. Those are not okay. You can assume that people are going to disagree with what you are doing. But if someone asking Lena why she doesn’t wear clothing more often makes you sick, you have it pretty good, and also can better understand the way that the viewers feel seeing Lena naked. Sorry Lena.

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