Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Gender Issues

Removing gender from the equation

One frustrating things about isms is how pernicious and pervasive they are. In addition, people will make constant excuses why what they do isn’t sexism or is somehow benevolent or benign. (Speaking specifically of sexism. When it’s racism, it’s usually how they didn’t mean it that way or they didn’t mean you. Also irritating and exhausting, but in a different way.)

I remember reading a comment section at Slate before I self-banned myself from reading the comments on that site. It was about sexism and there was a guy who said that he held the door open for his female friends, and he was not sorry about it. Now, presumably, if they’re his friends, they don’t mind (though perhaps they just don’t want to make a fuss. If it were me and it was just a casual friend–liek a friend of a friend situation, I would internally roll my eyes and ignore him). But if he’s doing this for random people or people at work (and I think this was a letter about the latter? I don’t remember. Wait. Was it Ask A Manager? I don’t think so. Not that it matters).

He could not be talked out of his position that this was a nice tihng he was doing for these women. No matter how much he was grilled on it by the other commenters, he doubled down on it being respectful. I think he even said that was how he was raised. When it was pointed out to him that there were many women who were pointing out that they didn’t find it respectful and would not want him to do it, he kept repeating that he was doing it to be respectful.

He could not get it in his head that if the recipient of his gesture did not find it respectful, then it wasn’t, indeed, respectful. It’s surprising how many people don’t get that. Personally, I hold the door for anyone who is within five feet of the door when I get there. I don’t care about their gender. It’s just polite. But if someone were to make a big fuss about it because they were male and perceived me to be female, well ,then we would have an issue.

With this guy I mentioned (I’ll call him Eric because that’s the name he used), he made it clear that he did not do this for his male friends. In addition to being old-fashioned, it’s just weird if you’re in a group of friends and you only hold the door for some of the people and not the rest. Would he do that for, say, black people and not white? Highly doubt it. The excuse that it was considered respectful fifty years ago doesn’t hold water at any rate beacuse things change. Customs change. Would he also not give a job to a woman because she is  supposed to be at home taking care of her children?

And what if he doesn’t know the gender of one of his friends? Does he ask them? Or just assume? I would be annoyed as hell about it. Like I said, if he was an acquaintance and it was a one-time thing, I probably wouldn’t say anything. But I would definitely demote him in my mind.

He kept repeating that he was being courteous and gentlemanly (or something like that). Which showed that he was more wedded to the idea of looking good than actually being good. Not that he would look good these days for that kind of behavior–at least not like it was viewed fifty years ago. But how very white male of him. what he thought as a man about how he terated women was more important than how actual women told it made them feel. He didn’t care if it was actually respectful of the women he was purportedly saying he was treating with respect.

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Agender as default

More on gender. But a quick note first. My internet was not the problem–it was my keyboard. Apparently, it was fritzing out so it was hitting the internet availibility button without me knowing. Then, it died completely. The keyboard, I mean. I am so hard on them. They’re supposed to last BILLIONS of keystrokes, and then they die in less than a year. I don’t think that’s keystrokes, though. It’s probably because I eat near my laptop and shorted the USB cable on the keyboard. Fortunately, I have my desktop keyboard until my new laptop one arrives.

Since I figured it out, I have not had any issues with my internet, knock on wood. I also talked with Xfinity and restarted my machine, too, so at least one of those things did the trick. Probably a combo of all.

I maundered on more about gender yesterday. Today, I’m going to maunder some more. Then, I’m going to call it a day and move on for now. Not really, obviously, but I’m getting tired of thinking about it. This is how I end up on almost every identity issue, by the way.

I (not-so) blissfully go about my life not aware of why I feel so weird, but acutely aware that I don’t fit in. Ever since I was a little girl, I was unhappy in my own skin. I had no idea why, but I just wanted to crawl out of it. I would have clawed it off if I could and if it would have mattered, but that wasn’t possible, obviously.

I didn’t know why  I was a freak; I just was. It took me decades to realize that my parents were not interested in American culture at all. Well, my father wasn’t, and my mother did whatever my father wanted her to do. Sometimes, begrudgingly, but in the end she always gave in.

In this case, my father was very much nationalistic Taiwanese. He was for the Taiwanese Independent Movement, and I remembered marching on the streets of St. Paul for the cause. I firmly believe that he would have went back to Taiwan as soon as he got his PhD if it weren’t for my brother and me. The fact that he went back right after I (the younger one) graduated from college was indicative that he was only here by force.

He had no interest in American culture. Not the food or the pop culture or anything else. He only wanted Taiwanese food, Taiwanese entertainment, and Taiwanese friends. We went to a Taiwanese church, and that was all the interacting he did outside of work.

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Gender fatigue

If I were to be completely honest, I wish I never had to think or talk about gender again. I don’t care about my gender. At all. I don’t think about it other than in context of politics. What I mean is that, sadly, gender is not simply personal.  It would be nice if it were, of course.

Yesterday, I wrote about how to separate the personal from the political–and how difficult it is to do that. Like, each individual woman saying she chose to shave because she did not like the feel of hair on her legs/armpits and because she did not like the reaction she got isn’t a big thing in and of itself. But when the majority of women respond in that way, then it becomes societal expectation.

When my Taiji teacher said that she wore lipstick and mascara or whatever because it made her feel younger, like she was taking care of herself, and more confident. But, men don’t do that and aren’t expected to do that,  so it’s inherently sexist.

The thing is, though, that we all do things that are part of the patriarchy one way or the other. You can’t escape it being a part of this society. Just like we can’t help being racist, queerphobic, and any other ism that any society has. In my case, I have hair hdown to my mid-thighs. That’s very feminine, and I’ve had more than one person comment on it positively. I’ve had short hair before, and I did not get compliments when I did.

In addition, I used my boobs to get drinks in the past and had no qualms about it. I don’t think showing off my ass…ets to my advantage is a bad thing. I don’t know where I draw that line.

I’m naive in that I keep hoping that people will just take each other as they are. I know that people won’t stop judging (I can be very judgey myself), but in the end, if something about a person doesn’t affect you, then why care?

I really don’t get why someone’s gender and/or sexual identity affects anyone other than themselves or whomever they may choose to be with. Me being bi (ugh. I really should find a better word for it) matters why? If you’re not someone to whom I am attracted, than why do you care? Unless you’re just mad because I’m not attracted to you, but that’s not my fault.

I do not get why my gender and sexual identity matter to anyone. Or my lack of procreation. Or me not being married. Or me not being religious. I mean, I get it on a surface level because people are very much about themselves and in-groups. But on a personal level, I don’t get it because who the fuck cares? What I do or don’t do does not affect anyone but me. I mean specifically in the case of whether my gender is female or not, it doesn’t matter to my daily life.

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Gender blendering

A note: My internet is being really shitty this week. Every day, it blinks in and out in clusters for about an hour. Then it’s fine for several hours. Then it does it again for another hour or so. This happens two or three times a day. One day, instead of that, there was an actual outage that lasted an hour. Honestly, I prefer that to the blinking off and on. That’s way more frustrating, and I don’t know if it’s my equipment or ComCast’s fault. I know I’d rather blame them, but it may or not be the case. Oh,excuse me. xfinity. 

Note 2: It’s hot as fuck here. 94 ‘feels like’ 102. The last few days have been brutal, and I’ve been cranking the air like nobody’s business. Normally, I have it on 78 and turn it down to 75/76 when I’m doing my Taiji in the morning and before I go to bed at night. In the past two days, though, I’ve been keeping it at 75 pretty much constantly.

It’s not just the heat. It’s been humid as well. I hate heat of all sorts, but it’s even worse when it’s humid. I hate it so much. We’re supposed to drop to ‘only’ the ’80s tomorrow. Which is still bad, but much better than what it’s been the last few days.

Anyway. Back to gender shit. Here’s what I wrote about it yesterday. I talked with my Taiji teacher about it today (we’re friends as well as teacher/student. We have similar history with being ridiculed for the way we woman, but we had a very different response.

I was saying it’s difficult because I have completely rejected almost everything feminine. Not on purpose, but because it’s just not me. We were talking about makeup, and she said that she wears some of it because it makes her feel younger, more awake, and that she’s caring for herself. Which, on a personal level, is fine. But as I tried to explain, when 90% of women in society do that for the same reasons, then it because a societal expectation that is a burden to other women.

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Ignoring gender

More dissecting gender here. Yesterday’s post ended abruptly with me wondering about why men and women couldn’t be friends or could only be friends with strict parameters. All the caveats and warnings about it made me depressed. I have never gave a shit about any of that. Then again, I’m queer. Even though I don’t hang around in queer communities much, that’s one thing that queers have mastered–how to be friends with the gender to which you are attracted.

There is less of a hardline between friends and lovers, which I think is a good thing. It doesn’t need to be so binary. Then again, I’m not monogamous, either. I have no interest in a long-term monogamous relationship. What I really want is a fuck buddy whom I can hook up with a few times a week. Maybe more than one. Set it and forget it.

The thing is that most queer communities are rather small. Especially in places wehre there aren’t a huge amount of us. You’re going to probably have to be chill with being around your exes. And, there’s a reason it’s a trope that queer friends have so many exes in common

When I hear about all these rules that het people set for their cross-gender friendships, it boggles my mend. Even when I thought of myself as a straight woman, I never understood the admonishments that men and women couldn’t be friends.

I mean, I can understand in theory not wanting to cross the lines between friends and lovers as decreed in a relationship. It’s disrespectful if you agree what is and isn’t acceptable in your relationship, then one person deliberately crosses that line. That’s just caring about the person you love.

What I don’t understand, though, is having a complete ban on your partner having friends with people of the gender(s) they are attracted to. It’s pretty insulting to assume that you can’t be friends with people from the gender(s) to which you’re attracted. And, in my case, it would mean that I can’t be friends with anyone.

This is where I get hung up. There are people I want to sleep with and people I don’t. There are people I’m attracted to and people I’m not. There are people I’m not currently attracted to, but may be in the future. There are many things that are inclined to make me more or less attracted to someone, but gender ain’t one.

I’m not saying this to flex. I’m not saynig this to be like I’m above all this. It’s just that…I don’t GET gender. I really don’t. I have checked in with myself over and over again. I like my body. Fuck. I love my body!  I don’t feel body dysmorphia (any longer) or body dysphoria (ever). But I also don’t FEEL like a woman, whatever that means. Every time I try to think about if I feel like a woman, I come up empty.

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More gender rending

I wrote a post yesterday about gender rending. I want to continue on with that today. The reason I want to talk about it is because I kind of have the feeling this is like the kids things. What I mean is that I don’t have kids, I didn’t want kids, and I have never wanted to have kids. I never played mommy when I was a kid because it never occurred to me. I had no desire to do it. Just as I had no desire to play ‘getting married’.

Side note: I have heard that this is supposed to be a thing for young girls–planning your wedding, I mean. I never knew that as a kid because my brother and I were pretty isolated from American culture. We didn’t watch much TV and we certainly did not go to the movies.

Still, I somehow managed to know that I was supposed to get married and have children. My mother embodied all of this to her very being. She had my life planned for me from the beginning.  I was supposed to excel at school, go to college, find a husband in church, then get married and have two children. I did the college thing, but I put my foot down on the marriage and kid thing, much to my mother’s deep dismay.

I did have a crush on a boy from the time I was in first grade until sixth grade, and then various boys (very heteronorm in those days because Idid not know better), but that was more about beingdesperately lonely and wanting to be loved. That was the only kind of love that I knew back then, and now, it’s so far down my list of things to seek out.

Back to my point. I don’t have an innate biological clock. I never have, and I doubt I ever will. When I was twenty, I was with a serious boyfriend. He said that if I got pregnant, he would want me to have an abortion, even though he thought that was murder (he was a Christian). Putting aside the problematic nature of that statement, it actually opened my eyes to something–I didn’t want children. This may sound strange in retrospect, but the elation I felt when I ealized that I didn’t want children was the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m not being hyperbolic here.

I did not want children. More to the point, I didn’t have to have them! No one could make me (ideally). I felt this so deep in my soul that as much as my mother tried to manipulate, guilt, bribe, and almost force me into having children, I stood strong. Still the best decision I ever made in my life.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother’s full-court press to get me pregnant was the beginning of me questioning gender. Not mine, but the concept of gender. It wasn’t until I was fifty that I truly realized that gender, for me, was bullshit.

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Gender rending

Thinking about gender again. I’ve heard from many people that gender is important to them. That they feel their gender in their bones. I know many trans people who have felt misaligned with their bodies, and I find all this fascinating.

I don’t feel gender. Like, I know I’m not a dude. In fact, I internally recoil at the thought of it. Other than that, though, I don’t feel like I am any particular gender.

First of all, I love my body. I used to hate it, but not because it felt like the wrong body. I hated it because of fatphobia and my mother incessantly telling me how gross my body was because it wsa fat. Oh, she never said it in so many words, but that’s what she meant. Believe me. I heard it loud nad clear.

Through it all, though, I did not hate the fact that my body is female-shaped. I always loved my hair and was very defiant about my big boobs. I got a tattoo on my left boob in rebellion of all the staring. “If you’re going to stare at my tits, then I might as well give you something to stare at!”

Even when I hated my body, though, it wasn’t because it was woman-shaped; it was because of how deeply fatphobic our society is, especially for women. I did not hate that I had a female-shaped body, but taht it was FAT.

After I died (twice) and came back, I did a 180 on my body. It had carried me through death (twice) without a word of complaint and nary a hitch. Yes, I was in a coma for nearly a week and awake but groggy for a week agter, but then, it was right as rain. Three months after the night of the medical crisis, my parents went back to Taiwan. By that point, I was nearly 100%. Or rather, as close to being back to normal as I could get.

At that point, I was positively intoxicated with my body. About a month after I got out of the hospital, I took a series of selfies (and I’m someone who NEVER takes selfies!) with my hair in all kinds of cute hairstyles. Chun-Li buns, two ponies that were then braided, one pony that was then braided, etc. Even with the Chun-Li buns, they were braided. I have hair down to my mid-thighs, so just ponies means the hair is still hanging down. It’s summer. It’s hot. I hate the heat. I need to have my hair up. That’s true now, but at the time when I did the selfies, it was autumn. So my excuse for my hair then is that I hate anything touching me–even my hair. I don’t hate my hair, but I hate it on my neck. I’m really glad I have very fine hair because it would be such a pain if it were thick and full at this length.

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Hit me gender one more time

More on that gender train. All aboooooard! Read yesterday’s post for more context.  Here’s the thing. In my ideal world, gender would be as important as the person wanted it to be. In other words, if someone deeply feels their gender, then that would be respected. If someone didn’t care about gender, that would be respected as well. I’m someone in the latter category, and I would be happy just to float by in life and never have my gender be commented on.

It’s not about ignoring my gender, exactly. Well, I guess it is. But it’s because in most cases, my gender is not important to what is going on. It’s hard to explain the difference. I was  not ashamed of who I was when I defined myself as a woman. I just was startled when someone felt the need to point it out. Either as a ‘hey ladies’ kind of thing orjust wanting to talk about ‘us women’. The latter wasn’t so startling when I identified as a woman, but the former always annoyed me. It’s an in-group versus out-group mentality. The former is inclusive whereas the latter is othering.

It’s interesting. On Ask A Manager, there are a bunch of women who prefer to be genderless at work because they are in male-dominated industries. That’s why they balk at adding their pronouns to their email signature. Some also use their intitials rather than their names, and while it makes me sad, I understand why they do it, and I agree with it to a certain extent, but if there wasn’t sexism or gender-based expectations…well, then it wouldn’t be this world, would it?

That’s such the issue, and it’s with everything. My idealistic side says, “Why can’t we just treat people as they are? Why do we have to treat them differently because they’re ____ or _____ or ____?” Which is ridiclously naive. Of course we are going to treat people differently based on our perception of the categories in which we slot them.

I talk about heuristics a lot. In part, it’s beacuse I love the word. But in another part, it’s because what are we if we don’t have them? We cannot take each instance that occurs as separate and without context because, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. In addition, it’s useful to make connections where there are some. Plus, groups are stronger than individuals, which is why it’s good to have labels in general. But, personally, there just aren’t any that really feel true to who I am.

It’s always a question of ‘good enough’. I remember when I first realized I was attracted to men and women (thirty years ago, it was just those two categories), I thought long and hard about what I wanted to call myself. I didn’t like any of the options, so I reluctantly defausted to ‘bisexual’.

This is my life. I have a mania for precision and truth because my parents have always been fast and furious with reality. My father just saw things through his lens which never lined up with reality. My mother retconned everything so that if she didn’t like the way it made her look. She would forget it ever happened, which drove me crazy. I started questioning myself because she would blatantly refute something I knew happened.I used to think she was lying or in denial, but recently, I saw this happen in real time. My father chased her into the living room, shouting at her. She was crying, and it just got uglier from there. I stepped in, raised my voice at him, and pretty much shut it down.

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Gender again

Back to gender once again! Yesterday, I was complaining about Whataboutalism and how baked into our society it is. Oh, but maybe it’s not sexism. But maybe it is??? Today, I’m going for a different angle. The angle I call–what is gender anyway? It’s a personal angle, though there are other people who feel the same way. I want to say, as I always do, that this is just for me, personally. It’s not a statement about gender in general. I understand that most people feel their gender to varying degrees and that is important to most people. With that out of the way, I’m going to get into it.

I do wish I felt a gender. I wish I could say with confidence that, yes, I am a woman. I can’t, though, and I never have been able to. My next wish would be to be fine with not feeling strongly about a gender.

Let me rephrase. I know I’m not a dude. Wishing to be one because of discrimination is not the same as feeling that gender. I know I’m not a guy, but, man, life would have been easier to be a white cis het dude. With money. Yes, just in general. It would negate the negatives I deal with while keeping the positive I already have (money).

But that’s not going to happen, so let’s just toss that out. I’m not a guy. I don’t feel like a guy. Moving onto nonbinary. In theory, this is where I should feel comfortable. Nonbinary, genderfluid, genderqueer. I like confusing people about my energy. Masculine? Feminine? Androgynous? I’m hard to put in a box, which is exactly how I like it.

Twenty years ago, I would have been thrilled to be called androgynous. But I did not look androgynous, genderqueer, or genderfluid. To the untrained eye, I look like a woman. I have huge boobs, curvy hips, finally got junk in the trunk, and my hair is down to mid-thigh.If you only hear my voice, well, you’d mistake me for a guy. But if you saw me, you would assume I was a woman.

Which is tolerable, but not ideal. I’ve read several people who have said that they are fine with other people calling them the pronouns of their at birth gender, but they did not want to claim them for themselves. This is how I feel. I have said this myself. I don’t mind (much) when others call me ‘she’. I don’t mind (much) if someone calls me ‘they’. But I don’t feel connected to either. I don’t like the neopronouns for me. I just…am Minna. My brother of all people said, “You just want to be called Minna.”

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But whatabout–STFU

Yesterday, I was ranting about ‘reverse _____ism’ and how much I loathe that argument. It’s lazy, derailing, and just boring. Today, at Ask A Manage,r there is a question about high-end gifts to team members to reward them for a job well done. It included money, a trip, and an individual gift (that’s the high-end gift) to each person. It was a product the company made (the letter writer said suppose it’s golf clubs), and the men were give the male version and women were giving the female version. She said there was a 30% differential in the worth of the gifts (men’s were more, of course). She asked if she was wrong to feel upset about it and if not, what she should do.

The number of people in the commentariat (with the gender ratio being roughly 79% identify as women, at least on the self-answering survey Alison asked about salary in 2021) who defended the practice to varying extent was dispiriting. There were those who got caught up on actual golf clubs and why this might be fine (when the LW clearly stated golf clubs was a placemarker for the actual object); those who wanted to know if it was an item from the same line or a different one (I still don’t get why this would matter), and others who were whatabouting up and down as if it was just a t-shirt in different sizes.

It was bizarre that the first dozen answers or so were in this vein with one person clearly saying that the LW was just being an ungrateful brat about a gift. First of all, it’s not just a gift, it’s a reward for doing their job well. Secondly, even if it’s “just a gift”, it’s not good for the morale of women to realize they were valued 30% less.

Alison was quick to say that the letter writer clarified it was items from two different lines (the men’s being higher, of course), rather than two equal lines in which the men’s item was valued more. Suddenly, the people questioning if that was the case (or trying to rationalize if they were in the same line) were saying, “Oh, that changes everything.” Why? No it doens’t. Thoughtless sexism is still sexism. Intent matters to a certain extent, but mpact matters more.

Especially when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. There is no excuse for that. I was really happy with the people who pointed that out. also how tiring it is to have people constantly questoniing as to whether it’s truly sexism. One woman got weirdly hung up on the fact that everyone got money and trips, too. So, this wasn’t sexist? Or it didn’t matter as much? Put it this way. Someone abusing you one-third of the time isn’t any more acceptable than someone who abuses you 100% of the time. In fact, in this case, it’s even more irritating because they have shown they can treat men and women (ugh. I’ll get into that later) equally so why not in this case?

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