In Defense Of Gender Stereotypes

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My kids are straight-up gender stereotypes.

My 7-year-old son can add up three-digit numbers in his head. He can build a Magnetile structure that Frank Gehry would envy. He is fiercely competitive on the baseball, basketball and soccer fields. He hates being told what to do, makes insensitive comments to his friends and family members and lashes out like Donald Trump whenever he doesn’t get his way. His superpower is his confidence.

My 9-year-old daughter is the teacher’s pet. She read the entire Harry Potter series last summer. She believes in magic and fairies and mermaids and leprechauns. She just tried out to play Veruca Salt in the school play and is writing a screenplay of her own with parts for all of her friends. She only wears dresses and plays with her hair incessantly. She is a pleaser, by nature, and she cries easily when she feels something is wrong. Her superpower is her empathy.

But if I didn’t use pronouns and tell you that one was my son and one was my daughter, I think it would be largely obvious which one was which.

These are just two children. But if I didn’t use pronouns and tell you that one was my son and one was my daughter, I think it would be largely obvious which one was which.

(Except in the many cases where it’s NOT obvious.)

Which brings me to this article: Like Tomboys and Hate Girlie Girls? That’s Sexist.

Because I have a girlie girl daughter, I don’t want to make her “wrong” for quitting soccer or not caring about the outcome of board games like my competitive son. But there’s a lot of backlash to promoting “femininity” in a world where masculine is perceived as good. Says the NYT piece:

“Why are some of us so disapproving of feminine girls and so approving of masculine ones?

The answer is that we have internalized a kind of sexism that values masculinity in both boys and girls, just as it devalues femininity in them.

But perhaps my culture of lefty liberals has a problem. While there is a proven and troubling connection between preferences for traditional femininity and girls’ low self-esteem, liberals’ hand-wringing over girlie girls could be an overcorrection, a backfired strain of third-wave feminism.

Believe me, I’m giving my daughter books about strong women. We’re watching Jessie Graf on American Ninja Warrior. She knows the history of treating women as second-class citizens and is a natural-born feminist. But she’s still very much a girlie girl. And I don’t want to pathologize her sensitivity and proclivity for feminine things – which, by the way, makes her just like her mom. Continues the article:

“While some scholars have argued that masculine women are lowest on the social totem pole, with their inherent lack of power in the world and their failure to live up to impossible standards of beauty, masculinity still carries prestige and femininity carries the whiff of subjugation, regardless of the gender it’s applied to.

In our attempt to free ourselves from the history of women’s oppression, we may have internalized a sexism that makes us want to shut off whole strains of items and experiences — to steer clear of pink or ballet or lipstick — and to associate the feminine with the bad. Some of that is because we do not want our kids to pick up on the messages usually cleaved to those things, that a girl must be a decorated object, pleasing to the male gaze. The original Barbie, after all, is anorexically thin, white, blond and literally unable to stand on her own two feet. But some of it is unexamined.

The problem is the way we devalue anything that’s associated with women and girls. All children are better off when we don’t stand in the way of what makes them happy because of our own gendered prejudices.”

The moral of the story isn’t that stereotyping is good. Men can be stereotypically feminine. Women can be stereotypically masculine. The argument is that it’s okay for men to act like male stereotypes and women to act like female stereotypes. There’s nothing wrong with being what you are.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Rampiance

    My now-grown children have been mostly stereotypical all their lives. My daughter plans to be a full-time mother of a large family, and my son is achieving his dream of entertainment entrepreneurship.

    Along the way I made sure they had a wide variety of exposures to choose among, because I didn’t want them to be limited the way I was: forced into a masculine shell with nearly no experience with the feminine until my late thirties. I am coming to an equilibrium after a LOT of exploration. I’d like to discover and become ME, with all my mystery and complexity, without unchosen disguises and ill-fitting roles.

    1. 1.1
      Dawn

      I don’t see anything wrong with girlie-girls or masculine boys. All kids should be exposed to all sorts of activities so they can decide what they like, what they’re good at, and what they want to pursue.
      I say don’t let some magazine article tell you how to raise your kids; they’re your kids!!
      Enjoy them 🙂

  2. 2
    jo

    The author of this NYT article is, IMO, making a false dichotomy. (How many times have I used that phrase in these comments…) Most females – and possibly many males? – have both the traits of the tomboy and the girly girl in them. We don’t feel a lot of angst about when we trot out one or the other; we just act and dress as is appropriate for the occasion.

    Also, she does not have to worry about femininity being punished in our society. If I’m being honest, being feminine has helped me in so many ways in my career, daily life, and interactions with others… Femininity isn’t punished, it’s rewarded. The only thing that’s punished, if you can call it that, is that it feels un-PC to admit this truth, especially if you benefit from it. But every woman knows it. I think that less feminine women have a harder time of it (or to be more nuanced, women who aren’t willing to express femininity) in our society.

    I don’t know that it’s the exact opposite for men – what I see is that men who act at the extremes of either masculinity or femininity get targeted, and men in the middle of these extremes are more rewarded.

    1. 2.1
      sylvana

      jo,

      as a completely non-feminine woman, I have to agree that not being feminine is definitely considered odd in this society and makes things much harder. Although I do have to say that it only makes it harder with other women, which I find interesting.

      Over and over again, I’ve been surprised at how quickly men stop seeing gender and just treated and accepted me as if I was one of them. As soon as they realize that I’m not acting and actually think/feel/respond/behave the way I do, they have no problems accepting it, even respecting certain qualities.

      Women, on the other hand, often either try to tell me I don’t really think/feel the way I do because that is unnatural for me, or they simply look at me like I’m some weird oddity. Although I have to admit I consider most women weird oddities too, since I can’t relate to them at all … lol

      1. 2.1.1
        AdaGrace

        @sylvana, I’m neither strongly masculine nor strongly feminine. Though I agree, men seem to be easier to understand and far more accepting of my oddities than women, with occasional exceptions in either direction. (not to mention a disproportionate number of non-binary folks among my friends) I have the feeling you’d be one of the exceptions, fwiw.

      2. 2.1.2
        jo

        sylvana, I’m surprised that women would try to tell you as a non-feminine woman to do things differently. There are non-feminine women in my life (friends, co-workers, etc.) whose differences from me I enjoy and admire. And it seems that on this blog at least, you’ve been able to relate to the other women commenters well.

        1. AdaGrace

          @jo I’m not surprised at all; the vast majority of the people who’ve tried to police my behavior have been women. (Doesn’t mean I’ve seen all women try to police each other’s behavior, just that it’s been more women than men who have)

  3. 3
    Yet Another Guy

    @jo

    Have you ever pondered why it is okay in your world for women to be extremely feminine, but not okay for men to be extremely masculine? Do you believe that this difference has more to do with women than men? Being extremely masculine does not automatically translate to being a dick. In fact, the guys who come off as dicks are insecure, poseurs when it comes to masculinity. I consider myself to be extremely masculine and so does my girlfriend. In her words, there is nothing feminine about me. She is the prototype for strong successful woman and a prime example of the phenomena that MilkyMae brought up about women who have success and power not being interested in feminist, non-masculine men. I personally believe that masculinity is a paradox for a lot women. They crave it, but are often vexed by it. I know that my girlfriend falls into this camp. She finds masculinity to be frustrating at times, but she wants nothing to do with “woke” men, as she neither feels safe or aroused in their presence.

    1. 3.1
      sylvana

      YAG,

      I don’t think that it’s not all right for men to be extremely masculine in society. The true dominant male is highly admired.

      The problem is that people mistake narcissism and a**holes with dominant. They also associate high masculine with only the BAD masculine traits, rather than the healthy combination that makes a wonderful dominant.

      And just like that, masculinity is now something bad. The primitive dude catcalling, whistling, and drooling making women feel unsafe is associated with a “masculine” man. When in fact, he’s and idiot a masculine men would take out for being disrespectful, disruptive, and fear-inducing for no reason other than the fact that he’s not brave enough to take on someone his own size.

      1. 3.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @sylvana

        True masculinity can best be described is quiet assuredness (i.e., a man that other men know can take care of business if necessary, but also one who has no need to flaunt it). That is why a lot of what is taught about masculinity on the PUA websites is little more than tripe.

        1. sylvana

          YAG,

          exactly. It’s the person you trust with your life. Not the one you fear.

  4. 4
    jo

    YAG, I wouldn’t know. As we’ve discussed in other posts, I have no problem with masculine men, in fact, like them – and they like me, and have always supported and cared for me. Rather, they have a problem with each other. At work, that has led to shouting matches and grudges that have lasted for years, and attempts to undermine each other. In other settings, it can lead to violence.

    You would need to ask the men why they don’t like the extremes (both masculine and feminine), because they’re the ones who take it out on each other. For a woman like me, it hasn’t mattered.

    And we’ve talked about this before too: I too have been disenchanted with many of the so-called ‘woke men’ I know, who when the chips are down, are not more caring or supportive of women or people in general. Sometimes they can be downright vicious to women. What is annoying is their virtue signaling, which turns out to be all show and no substance. But there are genuinely woke men who are not like this, they tend to be quieter about their beliefs and just care for others without broadcasting it. That, I see as manly.

  5. 5
    Bbq

    Straight up facts are men and women can connect but there not the same mentally and never will be.
    The attempt to pretend otherwise (by some) will end up creating greater gender splits than we have now. It’s inevitable.

  6. 6
    Dawn Harris

    Rampiance – my comment was to the LW, sorry I put it in the wrong place

  7. 7
    Natalie

    Hi Evan, first of all, please let me congratulate you – it sounds like both of your kids have got many talents, and I wish them every happiness and fulfilment in their lives.

    The feelings you have on behalf of your daughter is very similar to the feelings I have on behalf of my Mum. My mother is a “girly girl”, she is a real lady, has a warm, nurturing personality, and provided me with a stable home and happy childhood. Although Mum worked for the most of her life, our family was and is her primary focus and I am extremely grateful for that. And it does feel sometimes that if a woman in the modern society has a traditional set of values and priorities her contribution she is not appreciated fully.

    However, I think that any gender stereotyping is actively harmful to both girls and boys. I grew up in a post-Soviet country, with the remains of the culture when the state for its own reasons expected women to participate in the economy on par with men. When the purposes of this set up are debatable, the silver lining is that when I was a little girl it didn’t even occur to me that women may be naturally not as good at maths. I scored well in all maths tests, and generally enjoyed logic problems, so parents enrolled me into a selective school with an emphasis on maths. I did well, enjoyed attending (and even winning some) math competitions, and went on to study economics at uni. I don’t consider myself some amazing genius, but my two favourite subjects were probability theory and game theory, and I consider that I have some ability in this area because it took me less effort to understand what is being said during the lectures than to an average student in the class. I even ended up helping some boys to prepare for their game theory exams! When it comes to languages, I feel a bit cheated – it takes me much more effort to learn and remember a new foreign word or a grammar rule than to my husband (he did physics at uni, but as a hobby he is learning Greek and I sometimes work on improving my French). So much for the promised language skills!

    I find math intellectually stimulating, it is a valid part of my life, and I am happy when I come across some interesting piece of maths in my day to day work in the same way I would be happy meeting a dear old friend. But like with anything, there were some “bad” days at school when I was not getting something and had to sit down at the weekend and work diligently through it. It makes me cringe to think that if I believed that by some rule of the universe I am not as good in math naturally as the boy who sits next to me in the class, I would give up, not put an extra effort when needed and not had this part of my life as a result.

    My post is becoming too long, but briefly, I believe that stereotyping is actively harmful for boys as well. For example, a boy may decide that putting in good work is for girls, and they can achieve everything based on raw talent only. Any success requires application, and the common belief in the society which makes boys think that working hard is being “girly” and “teacher’s pet” undermines their chances to realise their full potential.

    Therefore, I think it is important to fight any existing stereotypes and not to have any expectations based on gender. I appreciate that in the modern world some professions are still more likely to be held by men, but any predictive value derived from any assumption based on a stereotype is not worth loosing an unbiased view, in my opinion.

    1. 7.1
      sylvana

      Natalie,

      very well put. Like you said, it’s important to let kids be who they naturally are, rather than telling them they “should” be this or that. Programming can make a huge difference.

      And it seems like Evan is doing just that. Supporting his kids in what they naturally gravitate to. I think that sometimes gets lost these days. People can end up either pushing kids to be “this way” or pushing kids to be neutral. Rather than simply letting the kid decide and supporting their individual strengths and preferences.

      1. 7.1.1
        Natalie

        Yes, agreed.

        And I understand the point Evan makes. For example, I really like flowers, so I buy them a lot myself, and include visiting gardens into any travel plans. However, I sometimes feel shy mentioning it as people may assume I am to “sweet” or “typically girlish”, when I really should not be second-guessing myself.

        It’s just maybe the pendulum swung too much the other way not to give any ground to any prejudices, basically to ensure that Evan’s daughter, when she grows up and if she continues being interested in writing and using her vivid imagination for creating stories would be taken seriously by the editors, etc. and given opportunities.

  8. 8
    sylvana

    Interesting. If it wasn’t for you mentioning the dresses and the hair, I would NOT have been able to tell which one is the boy and which one is the girl. In the extended circle of people I know, I don’t know many that actually fit general gender stereotypes all that well.

    I know more women that fit the description of your son and men that fit the description of your daughter (short of the dresses and hair). Along with a bunch of men who fit the description of your son. But I think I only knew two or three “girlier” women.

    But I will admit that I wouldn’t often associate with women like that, because we have absolutely nothing in common. The men who are more like your daughter are at least still men, so I can relate to them.

    The one thing I really don’t associate with men, in general, though is the lashing out when they don’t get their way. That, to me, is a classical “bitchy” move, usually displayed by women or feminine gay guys. That kind of goes against the masculine/dominant problem-solving nature.

  9. 9
    Yet Another Guy

    @jo

    I believe that we may be mixing the need for dominance with masculinity. I know that I have been guilty of competing with colleagues when I was younger. That was mainly due to social immaturity. The male social hierarchy is brutal. It takes time to learn how to win in the battle of ideas without things getting vicious. We need to remember that this kind of viciousness is just insecurity wrapped in aggression and that it has nothing to do with masculinity. While some men never grow out of it, most develop the social intelligence needed to win in the battle of ideas without things turning nasty.

    1. 9.1
      sylvana

      YAG,

      Yes, this.

      And it’s interesting that you mention the “need” for dominance. And therein lies the problem. A dominant IS dominant. Will he/she fight? Of course, but only if needed. Then you have a bunch of people who are not naturally dominant but want to be, and you get insecurity leading to viciousness (the “need” for dominance. They have something to proof).

      What I find interesting is that this is only contributed to masculinity if it’s a man displaying it. Women are just as bad, including those who start physical fights. And anyone who’s ever been in bar knows that women tend to fight as much, if not more often, than men. Other women display viciousness in other ways. Yet the same traits are not considered to be caused by masculinity if it’s women displaying them. Which is total nonsense, since it’s the same exact energies that drive behavior in both sexes.

      1. 9.1.1
        jo

        sylvana, maybe it’s all a matter of nomenclature. We don’t call it masculine if THAT many women start physical fights (as you claim), because then wouldn’t we rightly call it feminine, since many females share this trait? That’s why I question all these rigid gender identities, per all the comments below re: trans and non-binary people. Across all humans is an innate ability and easily turned-on mechanism to physically fight, even for a more traditionally ‘feminine’ woman like me.

  10. 10
    SparklingEmerald

    I never understood the reasoning that went on (mostly in the 80’s ) that women had to dress and think “like a man” if they wanted to taken “seriously” in the workplace. Remember those awful days when a woman couldn’t buy any suitable professional work attire that didn’t have bulky shoulder pads, and a boxy, masculine cut ? I do. I remember when all the blouse AND jacket had shoulder pads, so wearing both together made me look like a foot ball player. And that was considered “feminism”. You could succeed like a man, as long as your tried to look, act and think like one ? I took a seam ripper to those shoulder pads, and for some reason started saving them in a drawer (thinking maybe I could sew them all together in some sort of quilt, as they usually were made in colorful and even patterned fabrics) I never did make a puffer quilt out of the shoulder pads, but when I became a new mom, I used them for nursing pads 🙂

    I got really sick and tired of having to “emasculate” my work clothes, because finding professional, yet feminine looking, work attire was near impossible. So I was ripping out shoulder pads, and taking clothing to a seamstress to have darts put in to make them look less boxy :(. I had a friend who was a system analyst, and she had to stop wearing her floral, soft cut dresses to work, because they told her she wouldn’t be taken seriously. She was very smart and talented, why did she have to wear a boxy suit to have her work taken seriously ? Why can’t a woman be taken seriously in heels, pearls and feminine looking dress ?

    Anyway Evan, your kids sound great ! And your daughter might be a “girly girl” but she is also a leader and a go getter if she is WRITING and directing plays to be in.

    1. 10.1
      sylvana

      SE,

      This really is an interesting discussion. Personally, I’d have to say that I’m guilty of the same prejudice. I wouldn’t say that I can’t take a woman a in a flowery dress serious, but . . . oh, heck. No, I can’t take her serious. She’s a frilly girl…lol No offense.

      Once again, I think this comes down to a matter of energy and dominance. The softer energy most women who wear feminine outfits give out tends to inspire confidence only in feminine matters. Stuff that needs dominance and assertiveness, not so much. Same for women who wear super-sexy business suits made for women. The main energy that comes across is sex. Neither of those inspire much confidence when it comes to needing someone dominant or in charge.

      What the broader shoulders and shoulder pads mimic is straight up dominance (in a physical sense, in this case). That’s why they were used in men’s clothing through the ages, and still are to this date.

      If I need someone who has more natural dominance, I’d look for a woman (or man) who dresses in a way that doesn’t emphasize softness or sex. Just like I wouldn’t hire a male construction or farm worker who shows up in a business suit. No way that guy is ruining his manicure to get the job done. As I said, it’s not so much the dress itself, but the energy behind it that gives people pause, in my opinion.

      1. 10.1.1
        SparklingEmerald

        Hi Sylvania – Thanks for your response.

        You probably have a point, I am a girlie girl and really don’t care to dominate others. However, I was a very competent support person and while I never rose to a supervisory or managerial position, I did become a “lead” in my department. I really never wanted to go higher than that, although I did post up to a higher position, but not one where I needed to boss other people around. In my lead position I trained people in my department to do their jobs and acted as a liason between our department and IT. Since my office was basically “business casual” with casual Friday, and a million other days they deemed an “OK to wear jeans day” I don’t think my manner of dress really hampered me. (Now that I have retired, everyday is jeans day) So no one in the office (men or women) wore boxy suits and big intimidating shoulder pads. Also, none of the managers had their huge desks up on an elevated platform, and there was none of the strutting around the office scowling at all the underlings. Maybe that is why I enjoyed working there.

        On the other hand, I have worked in offices where there was a clear pecking order and it seemed to be a dick waving contest every day. Also a very unpleasant work environment, with everyone pushing their weight around, just for the sake of pushing their weight around. The place was a cut throat jungle. I am not proud of this, but when the head honcho of our company was jailed for white collar crimes, I actually had a case of schaudenfraud (sp ?).

        I can see the girly-girly dress being seen as non-dominant, but in some case it is seen as dumb and empty headed. The idea that a woman can be softly feminine and smart/competent seems to elude some.

        1. sylvana

          SE,

          I completely get what your saying, including the office/work culture.

          And I do have to say that I don’t have a problem with the smart/competent part. It’s mostly when it comes down to needing someone who will be able to stand up to others or in a more cut-throat environment.

      2. 10.1.2
        Yet Another Guy

        @sylvana

        “What the broader shoulders and shoulder pads mimic is straight up dominance (in a physical sense, in this case). That’s why they were used in men’s clothing through the ages, and still are to this date. ”

        Some of us look like we are wearing shoulder pads when we are not. Shoulder pads are for men with weak shoulders. 🙂

        1. sylvana

          YAG,

          sadly, shoulder pads make some of us women look like overdone linebackers too… sigh

      3. 10.1.3
        Natalie

        I was just thinking, how much of it is a question of gender and how much – of appropriateness. I would probably think that a Hawaiian shirt is not as good a choice for a man to wear to the office as, for example, a neutral shirt or a T-shirt if the workplace has dress for the day policy (which becomes more and more common even in the most competitive places). So the same goes for men as for women.

        I can completely emphasise with aesthetic feeling and with a desire to present your better self wherever you go, including the office, but it seems reasonable to come dressed for the primary purpose, which is work.

        Also, clothes do not have to be revealing or bright to be flattering. My favourite example is Simon Baker – he is unnoticeable, one of many, in his younger “pin up” years, but how elegant, and charming, and charismatic he is in his later years in the Mentalist show, and his restrained outfit adds a lot to this image.

  11. 11
    SparklingEmerald

    YAG said “While some men never grow out of it, most develop the social intelligence needed to win in the battle of ideas without things turning nasty.”

    Unfortunately, most of our politicians (male and female) have not learned this. 🙁

  12. 12
    S.

    I think gender stereotypes, like most stereotypes, are harmful most for those who don’t fall within them. And when people apply then across the board without even knowing the actual person.

    Being yourself is fine. I’m a girly girl to the nth degree, always have been. I don’t always have the time or inclination to always express it but I am and I benefit from that privilege.

    But I’ve seen my trans and non-binary friends, definitely be at a disadvantage by not fitting within gender norms. It is sometimes life-threatening to be on the street as an openly trans person, especially a trans person of color.

    So sexism and homophobia exist. Some of us have the privilege of not having to experience the full brunt of that because we naturally (and that’s a lot of socialization too, not *just* nature) fall within the current gender norms.

    I tend to be more protective of those more at risk. My concern is for them. No one is going to kill me for being a girly girl. But I remember the young 18-year-old who was set on fire while asleep on a bus by strangers simply because they were wearing a skirt.

    So . . . it all depends. Gender stereotypes aren’t necessarily ‘wrong’ but how people can act from what they think they know of stereotypes can be harmful.

    1. 12.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Sigh. I write columns for the 99% of men and women who identify as men and women.

      One cannot possibly communicate effectively (or say much of anything) if you intend on writing about every exception to every rule.

      Yes, it’s tough for trans people. That has nothing to do with why little girls are being judged by society for being feminine and masculinity itself is considered toxic in some circles.

      I’m liberal but everything doesn’t have to come down to who is most victimized in the intersectionality scale.

      I’d be out of business if I couldn’t write about the very real struggles of educated, successful (mostly white) women.

      1. 12.1.1
        S.

        I know who you write for. I was just sharing *my* thoughts in the comments which I thought I was invited to do. And as a person of color, yes, I do speak for those not here and those who are most adversely affected. I always will. I have the privilege of completely identifying with the gender I was assigned at birth. I love being a girly girl, and I think I said that above. But as someone with that privilege, yes, I can speak in support of those who don’t have that privilege. I’m not attacking your opinion, I’m just trying to open the discussion to include others. Kinda like when other folks discuss being white and middle class. Nothing wrong with that. I’m not either of those things. Sometimes you want your situation to be seen too, at least in a comment, goodness.

        The people I know, I don’t know, I don’t think of them as ‘exceptions’ to the norm. I think we have a culture that makes being different hard to express and I’m glad that is changing. There may be more trans and nonbinary people than we know. Maybe someone reading this blog, who knows.

        I am a girly girl, just as you describe. Dolls, pink, all of it. I have never once felt judged for being too girly. In the workplace, masculine traits are definitely prized, yes, but I still didn’t feel I was being judged by society if I looked or acted feminine. On the contrary, women complimented me more the more feminine and closer to the gender norm I presented. They still do.

        Your business works for you. I honestly have no issue about that. But yes, I will usually comment about my particular experience and those of my friends just like everyone else here does. Otherwise, in my opinion, it just becomes an echo chamber. Not necessarily intentionally (meaning how the comments go aren’t your responsibility), but in general, and not just on this blog, that’s what it starts to feel like.

      2. 12.1.2
        Natalie

        Evan, on a slightly unrelated note – I really like your clarity of thought, frankness and honesty. I discovered your blog after coming across your video on confidence, when preparing for a big presentation 🙂 I’d say, the advice from that video applies to all situations. I thought it was a very positive and yielding way of looking at things.

        Is there any chance that you will branch out to cover non-dating advice?

  13. 13
    SparklingEmerald

    I really don’t understand trans people. If gender difference are really purely a social construct, a pure invention of society, and so unimportant, then how can anyone be a man trapped in a woman’s body or vice versa ? Aren’t we all just people trapped in a person’s body ? Seems to me that trans people are subjecting themselves to radical chemical and surgical alterations to their body just to fit society’s dictates of what a man or woman should be. Why not keep the body, and be a man who acts like a woman or a woman who acts like a man ? Gay people say “I was born this way” (and I believe them)

    Maybe the rigid gender roles is what cause trans people to feel the need to surgically alter their bodies with surgeries and chemicals.

    I am not saying I condone the violence that is perpetrated against trans people,( I don’t condone violence against ANYONE, except in self defense) I just that I don’t understand why sex re-assignment surgery is even necessary if gender roles are just artificial, meaningless social constructs.

    1. 13.1
      jo

      SE, this is exactly what I have always wondered too, but never wanted to say out loud because I don’t want to not support trans and non-binary people. I do support them. I just wonder why they can’t stay in their bodies as is (after all, regardless of whether we’re cis or trans, we all have some issue with our bodies even if we like them overall) and act the way they want to act.

      I conclude it’s because of these gender stereotypes placing overwhelming pressure to behave in certain ways. At least one reason we ought to relax them is so that people can avoid those radical chemical and surgical alterations, as you mention.

    2. 13.2
      sylvana

      SE,

      I’ve always wondered the same. As pretty much a man in a woman’s body, I’ve never been fond of my boobs, and the whole idea of something growing inside of me completely freaks me out. No way I’d ever go through that. I had debated changing, but it didn’t seem worth it to me. First of all, I’d never really have functioning “equipment”. Secondly, there are certainly downsides to having something that sensitive dangling between your legs…lol. So there are major downsides to transitioning as well.

      But mostly, I would be a gay guy after I changed. (And most transgender people are straight). If I wanted to attract men, I have a heck of a lot better chance as a woman.

      So overall, between the surgeries and all the other downsides, I decided it’s easier to stick to the body I have. Going through all that trouble seems completely illogic, especially for women.

      Now, men might have more upsides to transitioning.

    3. 13.3
      S.

      Not all trans people change their bodies. I’m learning there is such a wide spectrum of trans and non-binary people. (Not always the same thing.) So I wouldn’t assume.

      That being said, well, as a woman I notice a lot of women changing their bodies unapologetically with surgery. So why not? I could say to those women, why not keep the boobs and lips you were born with, you know?

      I don’t think gender difference is purely a social construct. I think it’s both, but the social construct part is often under-emphasized. But hey, if female identified at birth women have the freedom to alter their bodies as they wish, why not someone who is uncomfortable with a penis? It’s their body.

      And again not every trans person does have surgery. I live and let live. For me, I don’t have to understand everything. I’m talking solely for me. I try to understand, but I watch these celebrities do things to their bodies I could never imagine. So I guess I’m used to the social construct? And letting it be. It’s not as important to me at this time, but I also speak as someone who largely doesn’t fit into it in some ways (having dark skin) and also who does fit it into in others (generous of boobs and lips).

      I know many cisgender women who wanted to change part of themselves at some point. It must be even more difficult if you have gender dysmotphia and are truly at odds with the gender you were assigned altogether.

      1. 13.3.1
        SparklingEmerald

        S said “Not all trans people change their bodies.” I am well aware of that. My comment was addressing the ones who do.

        S also said “That being said, well, as a woman I notice a lot of women changing their bodies unapologetically with surgery. So why not? I could say to those women, why not keep the boobs and lips you were born with, you know?”

        I actually do think women should keep the boobs and lips they were born with, but I have no say in their decisions either. I am rather small busted, and my mother actually offered me breast augmentation surgery after one of my cousins had it. I said no thanks. Sure, I often wished I had bigger boobs, but I’m not surgically altering them. Turns out, there are many health risks associated with the breast enhancement surgery.

        I actually think the thing that drives trans people to surgically and chemically alter their bodies, (and yes S, not ALL trans do this) is the same thing that drives women to inject poison (botox) into teeny tiny faint lines on their face, surgically implant bags of poison into their boobs, etc. is the pressure to conform to societal standards of acceptability.

        Many years ago a very close friend of mine told me she was going to get breast enhancement surgery. Since she was a very good friend, I told her she had a cute little figure (she did, she was very petite, so her small bustline fit in well with the rest of her delicate body) and that I didn’t think she needed it. She went into a whiny tirade about how she wasn’t attractive enough to guys, and that she needed this surgery if she wanted to find a boyfriend/husband. (in the past she had boyfriends and one ex husband, so whatever ) I told her, well I have small boobs, and I’ve had boyfriends. She said “But you have great legs, I have horrible legs and my hair is horrible, etc. !” I then told her she should take her money and try to buy some self esteem. We both laughed a little after that. She went ahead with the surgery, and the doctor talked her into going bigger than what she initially asked for. (He told her, no woman has ever regretted going to big, but they do regret not going big enough) She listened to this quack, and he put HUGE boobs, on this petite under 5 foot gal, who was under 100 pounds. It looked atrocious ! Of course, I didn’t tell her THAT, because the damage was done. Honestly, she looked like she could teeter over at any minute. I don’t think she was too happy about it, and we never really talked about it again. I was really sad that my cute friend felt so unattractive and unlovable, that she spent all that money (she didn’t have a whole bunch of money to throw around) to alter her body. I hope she hasn’t had any health problems because of it.

        Rather than scold women for getting these surgeries, I would like to see the day when women didn’t feel the need to live up to such impossibly ridiculous beauty standards, that they would be willing to risk surgical procedures to attain them. I don’t think I will ever live to see that day.

        1. S.

          @SE

          ” “Not all trans people change their bodies.” I am well aware of that. My comment was addressing the ones who do.” ”

          Noted. Just in context of this conversation thought it needed to be explicitly said.

          I agree with the rest of your comment, though I feel so sad for your friend. I’m 5ft and am a 36DD (sometimes 36D). I haven’t weight 100lbs since college but my hips balance the rest. Classic hourglass figure. But even I don’t want to be bigger than that! But maybe that’s me from my experience of having breasts since I was twelve.

          It’s hard to resist society. I smiled when you said the line about buying some self-esteem. 🙂 Therapy! But sometimes bigger boobs do get more male attention if you have them out there like that. I can attest to that.

          I wonder if your friend feels lovable now. 🙁 I do see a bit of difference in that she did her surgery for others and trans folks do it for themselves. I think. (I am just guessing, honestly.). One of my favorite comics is Flame Monroe. Assigned male at birth they did go get a breasts but ‘kept everything else’, as they say. They go back and forth from presenting as male or female as they wish. I don’t know if they did it for male attention or if that’s just what they wanted to feel more like themselves. I mention it because society certainly isn’t encouraging a person to have breasts and a penis, but they got the breasts anyway. For themselves, I think.

          That said, even Flame was on a show called “Botched” where surgeons fix surgery gone wrong. Soo . . . I’m not sure what to say except surgery is risky as you say and I hope those who go under the knife live pain-free and happy with the result afterward.

  14. 14
    jo

    Sylvana, this is exactly why Wonder Woman’s outfit is so ridiculous. No person, man or woman, would wear a strapless anything or try to appeal sexually if they are seriously fighting. This is just a (primarily male) fantasy imposed on a so-called feminist story.

    1. 14.1
      Bbq

      I saw the last Wonder Woman and there is no way it was targeted at males. The 70s version yes (or at least both sexes).

    2. 14.2
      Emily to

      Jo,
      “This is just a (primarily male) fantasy imposed on a so-called feminist story.”
      True, but when I was a kid, so many little girls wanted to be Wonder Woman, and it had NOTHING to do with her fighting ability. We wanted to be sexy and pretty, like Lynda Carter. 🙂

    3. 14.3
      sylvana

      jo,

      lol. I say that every time I see a so-called warrior woman outfit with high heels. As if.

  15. 15
    SparklingEmerald

    Yes Jo, I hate saying this out loud, because I don’t want my not understanding to be seen as being hateful.

    I started to say that gays say they are born that way, and I believe them. But I didn’t finish that thought. I wanted to add precisely what you said, why don’t they accept the way they were born ? As an “effiminate” man or masculine woman ? I think it is the rigid gender roles that make some people feel the need for such a drastic bodily overhaul, and if we could recognize that yes, many women are typically this way, and many men are typically that way, but there is much variance in how individuals express themselves, and they don’t always align with what is considered “typical” for their gender.

    I went through a phase when I was young (8 years old or thereabouts) where I wished I was a boy. Mainly because this was the early 60’s and gender roles were strictly enforced. I noticed on TV that boys mostly had all the fun, and girls didn’t seem to do much of anything. Boys were allowed to have paper routes starting at age 16 I think, maybe younger, but girls were NOT allowed to deliver papers. (That changed when I was around 14, and me and my best friend got two routes together, and delivered papers together). I noticed in most families, boys had more priveledges than their sisters. (Later curfews, etc. allowed to roam more freely, etc) I quickly got over that when I tried to play a few rough “boys” sports and just ended up getting hurt, and decided that being a boy wasn’t so fun after all. I don’t think I had gender “dysphoria” or whatever, just that I noticed that boys seemed to have a few more perks, and felt left out. I never actually considered changing into a boy, it was just wishful thinking that I eventually got over. I think if society was more flexible on how men and women could be, maybe fewer trans people would feel the need to drastically alter their body. They could just dress act and be the opposite gender if they so chose without the surgery.

    1. 15.1
      sylvana

      SE,

      “I think if society was more flexible on how men and women could be, maybe fewer trans people would feel the need to drastically alter their body. They could just dress act and be the opposite gender if they so chose without the surgery.”

      I think you’re spot-on with that. I also think this is especially true for the men, since as women, we pretty much do have the freedom to live life like a man.

  16. 16
    SparklingEmerald

    Sylvana said “I think you’re spot-on with that. I also think this is especially true for the men, since as women, we pretty much do have the freedom to live life like a man.”

    I remember when I was in my teens, my mom subscribed to Ms Magazine (I think she did it to piss off my dad, and it did 🙂 ) There was an article saying how when girls were “tom boys” it was considered cute but when boys took a liking to typcially feminine interests they were scorned. This was true. But they spun it to make girls the victim of this kind of thinking, saying that mind set just re-inforces the notions that being female is inferior. Well, they sort of had a point, but the UPSIDE was that girls were free to take ballet AND be on a sports team. The could like sewing AND mountain biking. Girls were free to choose from a wide range of interests and were usually supported (depending on their own family dynamic). Boys were pretty much universally shunned if they showed any interest in cooking, sewing, ballet, if they played sports but did not do well (you throw like a girl). In fact, the biggest insult you could hurl at a boy was to call him a girl or a sissy (or a pussy).

    I thought the interpretation that this vicitmized girls by sending a message of female inferiority, (while ignoring the extra freedom that came with this mindset) was a glass half empty mentality.

    In my younger days, I had a mix of interests that would be consider typically male, typically female and gender neutral. As I got older I became more of a girly-girl. I tried my hand at typically guy stuff (martial arts, mountain climbing etc), but I wasn’t very good at them, too much of a scaredy cat, and I don’t like getting injured and being in pain. My reason for dropping those things wasn’t to conform to societal expectations, those things stopped being fun for me.

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