Archive for the ‘ politics ’ Category

On why women who like women sometimes like women who look like men


This post arose from a discussion I had with a friend which may have been the first time I truly pondered the ‘why’ in why are some lesbians and bisexual women attracted to women who look/dress like men

So to start, is it a problem for women to be attracted to women who look like men? The answer is, of course, no; people are attracted to an array of things in any given individual, some of these look or behaviour components may be masculine, others feminine. Rarely are people or their attractions so clear cut as 100% one thing or the other. So why is it perceived as strange? The short answer to this is heteronormative logic, which is in itself faulty. I argue that the question itself is void when removed from the context of heteronormativity.

…And this is where this debate gets a little complicated because to explain this properly I have to go back to the basics. I am assuming many of you will have a certain level of knowledge with the terms that follow (largely taken from queer theory and feminist theory) so I won’t be explaining everything in excruciating detail (otherwise this would end up being a really long post), but for those who are unsure, follow the hyperlinks for more information.

Sex as spectrum

Heteronormativity is any of a set of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into [two] distinct and complementary genders (male and female) with natural roles in life. It also holds that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between a man and a woman. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles.

All of this is based on the concept of there being only two biological sexes, i.e. male and female which innately gives rise to the gender identities masculine and feminine.  Herein is the first fallacy. There are actually at least five broad sex categories, which are, according to developmental geneticist Anne Fausto-Sterling, male, female and the three types in between (commonly grouped under the catch-all term of intersex and colloquially known as hermaphrodites); male pseudohermaphrodites(‘merms’), female pseudohermaphrodites (‘ferms’) and true hermaphrodites (‘herms’). The actual number of live intersex births varies according to the criteria used (a breakdown of which can be found here), but for a working figure we will use  1/1750. Even within one subgroup of the intersex population, the percentage of male and female characteristics can vary massively, so Fausto-Sterling, among others, posits that sex is actually a continuum or spectrum, not a neat two category affair as we have been lead to believe.

That idealized story [of only two sexes] papers over many obvious caveats: some women have facial hair, some men have none; some women speak with deep voices, some men veritably squeak. Less well known is the fact that, on close inspection, absolute dimorphism disintegrates even at the level of basic biology. Chromosomes, hormones, the internal sex structures, the gonads and the external genitalia all vary more than most people realize. 

‘But I’ve never even heard of an intersexual outside of films and television’ you think. This is because between the 1930s and 1960s medical practitioners took it upon themselves to assign one of the two prevalent sexes to intersex babies and apply surgical and hormonal treatments to such ends. Prior to this intersexuals had been living quite happily with their lot (see bottom of page 4, here). In the twenty-first century, medical practitioners are increasingly leaning toward not performing sex and gender reassignment owing to the psychological trauma caused by bad calls, so intersexuals will be an increasingly common occurrence in our everyday lives—whether those intersex people choose to be overt about it is another matter. It seems, however, that we are playing catch up: other cultures (e.g. India, Pakistan, Thailand) have had more than two recognised sexes for decades.

Gender as spectrum

Western society has since the Victorian era been very prudish when it comes to anything to do with sex and part of this prudishness was reflected in the need to be able to allot all people into manageable, safe categories—i.e. (in terms of sex) men and women—with the outright denial of any variation as detailed above existing. After World War II, the heterosexual model of the family, with the man as the breadwinner and woman as the housewife was heavily reinstated and reinforced, partly to repopulate and partly in retaliation to women’s fight for liberation. This reinforcement of the patriarchal order operates in terms of gender as directly consequent of sex, each of which is the complementary opposite in a binary, cisgender system. Cisgendered people, known respectively as cismen and ciswomen, are people whose gender identity matches their biological sex, e.g. a biological man with a masculine gender ID. The thing that’s patently obvious these days is that there are more than two ways gender identity can play out and they often, particularly outside of the heterosexual experience, have nothing to do with the biological sex of the actor.

In 1990, Judith Butler‘s groundbreaking Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity forever changed how gender would be perceived and discussed. The book itself makes for tough reading, but beginner-friendly synopses can be found on Wikipedia here and in this short post by Julia of Autostraddle. The bottom line is that gender is something we perform, not something we are as a direct result of the particular array of fleshy protuberances and crevices we may—or may not—have dangling between our legs.

On closer inspection of even just the people you might find yourself on the street with at any given time it’s obvious that some men are more masculine than others, some women are more feminine than others. In recent years the fashion colour palettes pitched to men and women have become much more interchangeable, notably, men can now wear pinks without being considered gay; they can even take care with their personal grooming now without aspersions being cast upon their bedroom habits. Is he gay or just well groomed? You’d actually have to ask. The same goes with women. With the advent of ‘boyfriend fit’ jeans—previously such unfitted attire solely the realm of lesbians—and hipster fashions (adopted by lesbians largely thanks to Tegan and Sara Quin) it becomes increasingly hard to discern lesbians from edgy straight girls. And then there’s the increasing muscularity of celebrities, who are despite this overt masculine display of physical power are still considered attractive as women.

So these women are okay because though they’re extremely muscular (masculine trait) they still have long hair and otherwise look like women (feminine trait)?

So we have a gender spectrum (it’s more three dimensional than that, but let’s work with a spectrum for the sake of ease). On one side we have masculine, on the other feminine and between these extremes a whole host of grey areas including (but not limited to) androgyne, bigendered, genderqueer and neutrois in the centre and varying degrees of  ‘masculine-of-centre’ and ‘feminine-of-centre’.

So is the problem women being attracted to women who look like men? No, the problem comes when the women-who-look-like-men concerned don’t have enough feminine aspects to compensate for their masculinity, don’t have enough phi or are not considered beautiful in the current media climate. Social constructionists conceive of the sexual subject as a culturally dependent, historically specific product —what’s attractive now will almost certainly not be considered attractive by the mainstream in fifty years’ time. Related to this is that natural selection has often lead people to select partners of equal visual attractiveness.

one example of a ‘why is *she* with *her*?’ couple

Does not compute: The erroneous application of heteronormative values to homosexual desire

Trying to apply the heterosexual ‘men like women’ logic to homo- or bisexual desire is doomed from the start.

Queer theory‘s main project is exploring the contesting of the categorisation of gender and sexuality; identities are not fixed – they cannot be categorised and labelled – because identities consist of many varied components and that to categorise by one characteristic is wrong. Queer theory holds that there is an interval between what a subject “does” (role-taking) and what a subject “is” (the self). In the 21st century, with psychology having been such a popular field of study for over a century, why, when we see a woman who dresses as a man, do we see just a man (“might as well be a man”)? The answer is pareidolia.

Pareidolia ( /pærɪˈdoʊliə/ pa-ri-DOE-lee-ə) is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- – “beside”, “with”, or “alongside”—meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong (as in paraphasia, disordered speech) and eidōlon – “image”; the diminutive of eidos – “image”, “form”, “shape”. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.

Just because someone looks like a man in terms of dress, doesn’t mean they are like a man in any other respect. Masculine woman still have women’s bodies, women’s minds. Why should they wear their hair long and paint their nails just because of some archaic precept that their genitals should determine their behaviour and style choices?

As Fausto-Sterling notes, “in the everyday world gender attributions are made without access to genital inspection”, so what do you actually know about the person you’re looking at? Just about nothing. A woman may look at willowy and petite as feather, but fight like a tiger behind closed doors. Conversely a masculine or butch woman may look hard as nails on the street, but be the submissive partner behind closed doors. Sweeping judgements based on outward appearance do not work. I look like I listen to metal and punk, but I actually listen to drum and bass much more. You can’t tell. And it is these infinitesimal factors that make up a person, not what fit of jeans they wear or whether they buy men’s shirts or women’s blouses, drink pints or cocktails, have low or high voices. For many people, the varied coalescence of different attributes (some tradition, some not) is the hotness in itself.

Okay, so got that? Sex is a spectrum, gender is a spectrum, and all that ancient social guff tying peoples’ outward appearance to their presumed genital alignment is just that— guff. Black and white are but the shattered remnants of a hopefully never-to-return time. People like people, nothing else matters.

Peace :):-

For more on this subject, follow the links below:

http://jezebel.com/5184318/oprah-aks-if-lesbians-like-women-why-do-they-date-women-who-dont-look-like-women

http://www.experienceproject.com/question-answer/If-Lesbians-Are-Attracted-To-Women-Why-Do-The-Majority-Go-For-Other-Butch-Lesbians-That-Look-Like-Men/155561

http://www.autostraddle.com/what-does-a-lesbian-look-like-autostraddle-roundable-17702/

http://www.autostraddle.com/evolution-of-the-lesbian-hipster-33279/

Building the Master’s House: How the Construction of Heterosexuality Happened >> Autostraddle


Autostraddle — Building the Master’s House: How the Construction of Heterosexuality Happened.

Above is a post from Autostraddle that I feel is important for any self-aware and interested person in our society to read. The allusion in the title is to an article by Audre Lorde, mentioned in my post on the patriarchal critique in The Color Purple, the full text of which I have managed to unearth here.

‘Candy Bar Girls’ and the coming spate of profauxlesbianism


“Candy Bar Girls” is an upcoming UK programme about real life lesbians in the wilds of London and touted to be a ‘social inquiry’, not a titillative exposé of some poor saps seeking their fifteen minutes. Only time will tell whether Channel 5’s strapline for the show ‘real girls, real lives, no clichés‘ will disappoint, but let’s be honest, when has a programme based on the ‘drama’ surrounding the lives of  ‘real’ lesbians not included —just for starters— a cast of women who conform to the media-prescribed ideal of female beauty.

Autostraddle is carrying an article today on its own misgivings about the show’s ‘social inquiry’ and I agree with Autostraddle’s foreboding, but in addition I have concerns about what another lesbian programme means for the Saturday night environment, i.e. a resurgence of fauxlesbianism. By fauxlesbianism I mean what the Urban Dictionary terms a fyke, profauxlesbianism (my coinage) being the predisposition towards or encouragement of fauxlesbianism. Profauxlesbianism, by the way, was until this post a googlewhack and as a single word it still is. Score one for the malleability of the English language, but back to the point which is: fauxlesbians cause the validity of actual lesbians to constantly be questioned. ‘I’m a lesbian’ becomes insufficient as an explanation [however partial] for why a girl is not interested in a man who has so many times before seen ‘lesbians’ go home with men. I’m not saying that giving lesbians, er, exposure on national television is a bad thing, invisibility and silence have long been the tools of oppression, but the way they are exposed [often literally] fosters more problems than it solves.

Guest post: RE: “All European Life Died In Auschwitz”


I recently received a chain email entitled “All European Life Died In Auschwitz.”

That’s some title —and not in a good way. This title immediately flags the content up as a hate-filled anti-muslim rant. I read the beginning bit and couldn’t read any more, because it made me too angry. I get sent these chain emails all the time and they always get my goat. The Muslims this! The immigrants that…!

I posted on facebook that no one should send me any more of these poignantly written, but deeply venomous diatribes. And I repeat: I am not interested in your futile hate. It accomplishes nothing but feeding an already frenzied pool of bile.

However, one of the cc’s on the email —Eddy Widdup— did read the whole thing and found it as offensive as me. A few days later I was cc’d with his highly articulate response, which I have reproduced with permission below as it sums up my feeling on the situation, but with more ammunition that I could have mustered:

With the greatest of respect what died at Auschwitz was millions of innocent people. What died in the wars we have fought since then is millions of innocent people. No more no less. Racism didn’t die there and tolerance is a virtue that should be cherished and passed on. Muslim people do not bring intolerance, we are all good at that. Jewish people are not all peace loving innocent as the article would have us believe. Just look at Ariel Sharon and the Hebrew extremism forcing Palestinians from their homes and into Ghettos, no different from what National Socialism did.

Jews may well have given us some of the great minds of the last century but also remember that it was the Saracens who invented particle theory, much of modern medicine and even the parachute.

The article says they bought us stupidity and ignorance. But it was Christians who burnt the library at Damascus during the Crusades, effectively destroying the greatest collection of Ancient learning ever assembled. This included many of the original scripts from the New Testament, which because the soldiers could not read were considered heresy.

Then what about white extremists? Groups like the IRA or ETA? Are we to look at these idiots in a different light as they are white?

It is nonsense to think that Muslims are responsible for the all of Europe’s problems. We have done this before, except last time people donned brown shirts and burnt down synagogues.

It wasn’t Muslims that bought up the worlds food dividends when the property market crashed, callously driving the price of food up world wide. It wasn’t Muslims that gave the 3rd world huge loans then alter the interest rates so they would never be able to pay it back. It is not Muslim economies that are consuming the worlds resources at a rate where most will run out in 50 – 100 years.

The West has caused and will continue to cause the deaths of millions of people world wide, not through religious extremism but something far colder: PROFIT.

Basically what I’m saying is that its very easy to write an article profiling one group as the “cause” of our problems but its far harder to look inside and point the fingers at ourselves.

Sorry mate, but these kind of emails insult me deeply.

Eddy

The original email text is here, should you wish to read it, however it is fairly standard for this kind of thing.

Be sure to read the entire email.
ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ – Please take a few minutes to read this and pass it on.The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008.

It doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate the message to the rest of Europe – and possibly to the rest of the world.

REMEMBER AS YOU READ — IT WAS IN A SPANISH PAPER, Date: Tue. 15 January 2008 14:30

ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ

—By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez
I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth – Europe died in Auschwitz ….

We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims.

In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent.

We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world.

These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.

Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.

We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe .
***********************************

A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they imagine America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves.

Absolutely No Profiling! Pause a moment, reflect back, and take the following multiple choice test.

These events are actual events from history. They really happened! Do you remember?

HERE’S THE TEST

1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:
a. Superman
b. Jay Leno
c. Harry Potter
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:
a. Olga Corbett
b. Sitting Bull
c. Arnold Schwarzenegger
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
a. Lost Norwegians
b. Elvis
c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

4. During the 1980’s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
a. John Dillinger
b. The King of Sweden
c. The Boy Scouts
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
a. A pizza delivery boy
b. Pee Wee Herman
c. Geraldo Rivera
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:
a. The Smurfs
b. Davey Jones
c. The Little Mermaid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by:
a. Captain Kidd
b. Charles Lindberg
c. Mother Teresa
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

8. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:
a. Scooby Doo
b. The Tooth Fairy
c. The Sundance Kid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:
a. Richard Simmons
b. Grandma Moses
c. Michael Jordan
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:
a. Mr. Rogers
b. Hillary Clinton, to distract attention from Wild Bill’s women problems
c. The World Wrestling Federation
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:
a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
b. The Supreme Court of Florida
c. Mr Bean
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

12. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against:
a. Enron
b. The Lutheran Church
c. The NFL
d Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
a. Bonnie and Clyde
b. Captain Kangaroo
c. Billy Graham
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

14. And now we can add: In 2009, 31 people wounded and 13 American Soldiers murdered on base at Fort Hood by a Major that was known as…
a: You guessed it – A Muslim male extremist between the age of 17 and 40.

No, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you?
So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people. They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President’s security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 alone lest they be guilty of profiling.
________________________________

The Global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population. They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

Literature:
1988 – Najib Mahfooz

Peace:
1978 – Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
1990 – Elias James Corey
1994 – Yaser Arafat:
1999 – Ahmed Zewai

Economics:
(zero)

Physics:
(zero)

Medicine:
1960 – Peter Brian Medawar
1998 – Ferid Mourad

TOTAL: 7 SEVEN

The Global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000; that is FOURTEEN MILLION or about 0.02% of the world’s population. They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

I’ve cut this down for the sake of brevity:

Literature: 10

Peace: 8

Physics: 53

Economics: 13

Medicine: 44

TOTAL: 129!

The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people. The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels. Perhaps the world’s Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems. Muslims must ask ‘what can they do for humankind’ before they demand that humankind respects them.

Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel ‘s part, the following two sentences really say it all:

‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel .” Benjamin Netanyahu

General Eisenhower Warned Us

It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened’

Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were ‘murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated’ while the German people looked the other way.

Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people. Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.

How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center ‘NEVER HAPPENED’ because it offends some Muslim in the United States ?

Do not just delete this message; it will take only a minute to pass this along.

Now I’m not contesting the numbers —atrocities have been committed and still are being committed on all sides— but unless people on all sides learn tolerance and acceptance, we’re all going to hell/posthumous-penal-location-of-choice in a handcart.

Wake up, people.

Quick post: female character flow chart


Found the below image here, via Twitter and then had to sniff out the whole article by mlawski – not through any force you understand, I just had to know what textual accompaniment it might have.

 

And?

It makes a hell of a lot of good points. Feminism or, as I prefer, equalicism (yeah I made that up, but you catch my drift, right?) evidently has a long way to go! Thanks kindly to mlawski for the insights into modern fiction.

Note: ‘fridge-stuffing’, as seen in the top right of the infographic is best explained here and a whole gamut of mlawski’s Overthinking It articles can be found  here.

Consequences of success and failure in Caryl Churhcill’s Top Girls


Thompson Burk (1996) argues that the women in Top Girls “face a world in which the consequences of success are almost as frightening as those of failure”. Evaluate.

Set in part against the backdrop of Britain’s launch into individualistic enterprise culture and in part against the span of history, Top Girls is described by Churchill as a feminist socialist play (Lupu, 2003) and succinctly portrays the impasse that women have faced throughout the centuries. Churchill, in Brechtian style (Rabascall, 2000), avoids providing easy answers and actively prevents audience/reader identification with the characters, forcing us to analyse what is being presented. In evaluating Juli Thompson Burk’s (1993) claim, this essay will offer context to the play with reference to the norms of patriarchal societies, it will go on to assess what constitutes success or failure for the women in question and the consequences therein and will subsequently conclude in the affirmative.

Want to read the rest of the essay? Go here :):-

We live in interesting times: the world’s first cyber/information war is on


Now this is exciting and different – a war with (as yet) no blood spilt. Everyone should read this article in the Guardian today if they want a clue as to how the world is turning in the twenty-first century. To anyone who was in any doubt that the events depicted in William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash could ever happen, think again. The collaborative online events sparked by the Wikileaks/US cables controversy read like science fiction and as yet the trajectory of these happenings remains unclear and —unfortunately for those who would silence the leaks— uncontrollable.

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