Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: gender

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 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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Fashion frustration

It is not a secret that in fashion, personal care, and hygiene, women pay mor ethan men do. I’m intentionally using the binary because that’s what most products are marketed at and as–men and women. A woman’s t-shirt will cost more than the male version because, ostensibly, it takes more tailoring. Uh huh. You would think it would be the opposite because it takes more fabric/material to make men’s clothing (in general) than women’s, but no.

There’s a phenomenon called the pink tax that posits that women pay more for the same item than men do. I just read a paper that says it’s not true because the products aren’t truly the same. But ,she hastened to add that her next area of study is WHY women feel it’s necessary to buy products that have more ingredients–such as deodorant with moisturizer. She says it isn’t that the items themselves cost more but that women have a bigger basket of items, that have a wider range in price.

Her broader point is that if you buy an item that is truly the same (like a basic deodorant), you’re not paying much more either way. So in my example of the fitted shirt, maybe it’s that it’ss because it’s not exactly the same as a men’s t-shirt? And you could argue it takes more time and design? Or it could just be because they can. That makes more sense to me at this point.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I’m buying black booty shorts. I have a bunch that I’ve bought before that are great. I can no longer find them. They are simple black women’s boxers that hug the ass. I can’t find them in black any longer. This is one of my biggest aggravation about clothing–it’s so hard to find women’s clothing in just. plain. black.

In fact, this was the reason that I started shopping online in the first place. Decades ago, I was looking for a pair of black tennis shoes. So simple, right? Well, not if you’re a woman, apparently. I went to the mall with my mother. We went to so many stores, and I could not find a single pair of black tennis shoes. It does not help that I have fat feet, but still. I could find teal tennis shoes. White tennis shoes. And, sadly, many pink tennis shoes. But one pair of black tennis shoes? Nope!

I went online and never looked back.

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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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To not be or not to be

I’m struggling. The reasons are long and complicated (and, yes, family-related), which I’m saving for another post. I will note that I had an actual meltdown while last talking to my mother. The result was my sleep immediately going to hell (had my first four-hour night sleep in a while, and how the hell did I EVER used to live on that? Regularly?), my brain fragmenting, and my energy completely dissipating. But,  again, not the focus of this post.

In this post, I’m musing about all the ways I’m just…not. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.

Every since I was a wee little Taiwanese American girl (well, not so wee and not so little) growing up in the lily white suburbs in Minnesota in the 1970s, I was different. Some of it can be seen in the previous sentence. Hell, a lot of it. I was fat, unhappy (difficult childhood), Taiwanese American, super smart, and just…weird. I didn’t watch much TV and we rarely went to the movies. I didn’t listen to pop music until much later. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I ever heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in the sixth grade.

Side note: I just spent a ridiculous amount of time Googling exactly when the song came out and discovered it charted in America in April of 1983, so my apocryphal story could theoretically be true. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a way of underling my otherness.

My mom made my clothes including dresses which I hated. Still hate them. Skirts are fine-ish, but not my first choice. I wore one to my nieces wedding, but honestly, if I had some really swish (both literal and metaphorical), I probably would have worn them instead. I don’t wear makeup or use beauty products of any kind. There’s a reason I’m mentioning this, which I’ll come to later.  I got fun of for bringing Taiwanese food because this was waaaaaaaay before ‘ethnic’ food became so popular.

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I am, but. And, again, but.

I’ve struggled with identity all my life. Growing up as a fat, brainy, weirdo Asian chick in a very white Minnesota suburb was all but guaranteed to make me feel like a freak. I got picked on almost every day, and the days I didn’t, it pretty much was me wandering around lost in my own thoughts and never quite understanding what was expected of me. I like to joke that I was raised by wolves, but it’s pretty true. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade. The first movie I remembered seeing was Star Wars (the original, whatever the fuck it’s called) when I was seven or eight, and I hated it. I also saw Superman at the time with my youth group roughly around the same time and had nightmares for a month.

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like movies and TV for the most part. I once told a professor I had in grad school that I didn’t like movies, and she looked at me as if I said I ate puppies for fun. She said it was like saying I didn’t like sandwiches, which was a bad analogy for me because sandwiches are delicious. I realized then that my opinion was objectively Bad, and I should keep it to myself.

Side note: I wasn’t going to get into why I don’t like movies and television shows for the most part, but it’s actually an integral part of this post, so here we go, the Cliff Notes version. I have a vast imagination, and I like to let it run wild. It’s one reason I can write fiction almost endlessly, and I’ve only had one serious writer’s block in my life. Tandem to that is that my brain never. stops. thinking. Worrying, ruminating, chewing over every goddamn thing. It’s exhausting, but it’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life as well.

Put these two things together, and you might be able to see why I don’t really care for movies or television. The whole time I’m watching a movie, the criticizing part of my brain is chattering on and on about what is wrong whatever I’m watching while the other side of my brain, the creative side, is thinking of a dozen ways it would have done the scene differently–and better. I can never forget that I’m watching a movie or television, and I never really get into it.

To that end, most of the shows/movies I like either are based on the premise that the theatricality is part and parcel of the show (one reason I love musicals), or the writing is good enough to pull me in and allow me to override the chattering in my brain.

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A (chat)room of my own redux

I was participating in the producers-only stream for RKG yesterday when an interesting thing happened. Somehow, Discord came up and a woman who participates heavily in the FB group said she didn’t feel comfortable in the Discord chatroom. Buncha dudes said you just had to jump in and blah, blah, blah. I told the first woman that I agreed with her, and a third woman chimed in to agree. Dudes kept insisting that the room was so welcoming and ignored what we three women were saying. When one woman tried to point out the cliquey nature, dudes were like, “But we became friends! But just join in!” without really getting what the women were trying to say. They took their experiences to be the standard and factual while dismissing our experiences or trying to excuse them away. It was a microcosm of privilege in a concrete setting, and I have rarely seen it so starkly.

I want to point out that I’m not saying they’re terrible guys or raging against the machine. They all seemed like nice dudes, and I say that sincerely. My point in this anecdote is how ingrained such behavior can be and how difficult it can be to make someone see privilege where they only see normality. I thought about bringing up the gender component, but didn’t. In the end, we dropped the conversation with no one being convinced that they were wrong.

And, I don’t think anyone was wrong. The dudes were right in that the Discord chat is inviting and welcoming IF you can fit into the culture. Which is very laddy. Which is not the same as bro culture, but it’s still off-putting. And we women were right that it’s not welcoming if you don’t fit into the culture.

Side note: It’s been weird that the two YouTube groups I like both left their big companies (IGN and Buzzfeed, respectively) to go private within six months of each other. As I noted in my last post on this subject, The Try Guys’ targeted demo is young women whereas RKG’s targeted demo is young men. The Try Guys have been away from Buzzfeed for roughly eight months, and I realized when they came back from their Christmas break that I don’t like them nearly as much now as I did when they were with Buzzfeed. I thought about why that was, and I realized there were a few reasons. One, they’ve become more of A BRAND and less of just four goofy guys trying interesting things that get them out of their comfort zone. They have merch now, and they push that merch in their videos. Yes, in a jocular way, but it’s still them hawking their merch. Two, they had a video in which they showed the stuff they did before Buzzfeed, and Eugene’s was disturbingly brilliant. It showed in stark relief how different the stuff he’s doing now is. I wasn’t the only one to notice, and he had to tweet out why he thought what he was doing now still aligned with his vision.

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