Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: agender

Insidious gender norms

Gender is a hot topic right now and it’s something that I’ve reached an uneasy alliance on. I’ve settled on genderqueer, which, while it’s not exactly what I want, is the closest. That’s my M.O. for many issues, by the way. Close enough for government work.

But, there is much food for thought in the subject, obviously, and it’s having a moment right now. Especially with all the terrifying legislation being crafted such as the Don’t Say Gay bill in Florida. Which, is totally not about being queer, claims the Republicans, which is obvious bullshit.

The thing, though, is that as frustrating and infuriating as those bills are, there is another level of gender bullshit that is more insidious–gender norms on the level of ‘women must wear makeup’. Ask A Manager’s readership is overwhelmingly female. Something like 70-80%. They are also progressive, white, high-paying, and white collar. They are very much feminists, but for whatever reason, there are a few pockets of ignorance or refusing-to-see that just annoy the fuck out of me.

The number one is that anytime a woman or female-presenting person writes about not wanting to wear makeup at work, but worrying that they may be penalized for it, without fail, commenters offer ways to wear a little bit of makeup, but, honestly, it’s not really wearing makeup. Like only foundation. Or only mascara. Which, it’s still fucking makeup! I don’t understand how ‘I don’t want to wear any makeup’ keeps getting read as ‘Maybe you could wear a little makeup?’. I say that, but it’s rhetorical. I know why it’s happening. Patriarchy. The idea that it’s not possible for a woman to have her face be all naked and shit! Horror!

In this case, it was a letter by someone who identified their pronouns as they/them. They work in the luxury beauty industry, mid-level, and have gotten comments about their skin that they find intrusive (including suggestions for hiding bags under the eyes and acne) whenever they go into the office. They are female-presenting and uncomfortable with the idea that they may need to conform to gender beauty norms and asked if not wearing concealer may harm their opportunities at their workplace. They also noted that they don’t like wearing makeup now for many reasons. They just wanted to know if they had to wear concealer when they went into the office.

The very first comment asks why they took that job in the first place whereas the second one uses the wrong pronoun for them. Then there are several comments suggesting tinted moisturizer (!), sunscreen (!!), and other makeup-adjacent solutions. Which…I mean…just, no. They clearly state that they don’t want to wear makeup and just wants to know if it’ll negatively impact their career.

There were a few people pointing out that this was sexist in that men would not be asked any of these questions, even in a luxe beauty industry. Also, that that doesn’t mean makeup and that the OP might not have a client-facing role. Some commenters also pointed out that you can work in an industry without personally using the products.

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I was talking about my relationship with gender (none) in the previous post and I want to continue that discussion here.

Being in the hospital changed me for life. One reason was because of the total loss of privacy. I had a team of 2-to4 people 24/7, and one of them was checking my vitals every four or six hours. I don’t remember which. It felt like four hours, but in reality, it was probably every six hours. I had to wear what was essentially a diaper with a tube up my ass to collect my poop. A few days after I woke up, they started guiding me towards the commode/bathroom when I needed to go. I tried to do it on my own once, which was disastrous. I won’t go into details, but I got blood on the floor (I was on my period. Hey, I lost all body squeamishness in the hospital). When I finally called in the nurse, she looked at the scene and sighed. She said she knew I was a strong independent woman, but maybe press the button the next time. I felt really bad about that one–but I did actually make it to the toilet!

My point for bringing all this up is that I had issues with my body and gender before going into the hospital. I’m not going to say that everything vanished after that incident, but I lost a lot of those issues during that two-week hospital stay. To be blunt, I had strangers handling my parts of my body that have not had another human being’s touch in a decade. I had strangers literally wiping the shit from my ass. Men, women, and maybe nonbinary people. I didn’t know or care when they were helping me on and off the toilet.

They were helping me in a way that’s so intimate when I was at my most vulnerable. They were all professional (which you hope for, but is, sadly, not guaranteed), but more than that, all but one treated me with compassion. They used language like ‘Let’s give you a boost’ both literally and metaphorically, without a hint of condescension or weariness. As I said,  they were helping me as I was shitting, which is a very vulnerable time. They never made me feel like I was a bother or that they hated dealing with my excrement. They treated me like a human being, with dignity and compassion.

I mentioned the one exception and in his case, it was just my impression that he considered it his least-favorite part of the job. Which, fair! I wouldn’t want tot wipe someone else’s ass, either. But, he never treated me with disdain or contempt. He was fast, efficient, and thorough–which is all I want in an ass-wiper.

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My recent medical trauma has changed me in many ways. None of them are visible from the outside ,but they’re still there. Things such as the pandemic. I was a hermit during the first year-and-a-half due to the intense fear of COVID-19. Not that I went out much in the first place, but I scaled back to only going to the pharmacy once a month. I was so hyper-aware of the fact that COVID was rampaging through the country and I gave it too much thought. I mean, yes, it’s a bad thing, but it’s not the only thing. I can give myself some grace before the vax because it was terrible.

Once the vax was a thing and I got both, I eased up a bit. By a bit I mean I went to Cubs twice (in a month) and my brother and I picked up lunch from the local Thai restaurant once. So it wasn’t as if I had gone wild, but it was three times more than in the last month (I also went to the pharmacy).

Then, I ended up in the hospital because of non-COVID-related pneumonia (followed by two cardiac arrests and a stroke) and suddenly, COVID was wiped from my mind. Partly it was because I was drugged to the gills and not thinking about anything much, really. But also, everyone around me had masks on but I didn’t have to wear one except when I was being transferred from room to room. And, given everything that happened to me, COVID got shoved to the backburner.

Now that I’m out of the hospital, I am still much less concerned about COVID than I was before. Granted, I’m doubly vaxxed so that’s one reason–which is valid. But it’s also that I got some perspective. COVID sucks and is really a strain on our society. However, it’s not going anywhere. We had a chance to eradicate it, but we didn’t. My brain doc agrees that we’ve moved from pandemic to endemic and the best we can hope for now is that it’ll be like the flu. I still mask up when I go out and I’ve been out more than I have in the past (in part because of my doctors appointments)  and I sometimes forget my mask–probably because I didn’t go out much before the hospital.

One big thing that was weighing on my mind before the hospital was my gender identity. I have never felt comfortable with the label ‘woman’, though it didn’t reach the level of dysphoria. It wasn’t ‘man in a woman’s body’ kind of feeling–it was…let me see if I can explain this. It’s going to take some time as is my wont and it goes back several decades.

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