Well, today’s XKCD was enough to make you go “eeeek”. But they’re generally awesome. I just love it when people get it.
Gender isn’t as simple as male and female. Even purely biologically speaking there is more natural variation than that. Sex seems to be more of a spectrum rather than two neat categories. And it’s a social construct. Nature hasn’t given us clear distinctions, obvious characteristics of what should be considered male or female. Instead, we’re presented with a great variety in reproductive and sexual anatomy. It’s humans who try to fit this complexity into two groups.
Intersex conditions are then defined as natural variations that deviate from cultural norms concerning male and female bodies, including variations in chromosomes, hormones and sexual organs. Take these ladies on the right, for example. Would it make any sense to say they are men, just because they have XY chromosomes? Of course not. It shows how amazingly diverse human bodies really are, and how silly it is to insist sex is a simple thing. We should recognise it for the sociale construct it really is.
And that’s just biologically speaking. Gender is so much more than that. Part of it is gender identity, whether you feel like a man or a woman or maybe neither or both. Gender identity is a personal thing, it’s how you feel about yourself, how you perceive yourself. Your gender identity can match the cultural norms associated with body characteristics, so for example I feel like a woman and my body looks like what we call female. If I felt I was really a man, I would be considered transgender and perhaps I’d feel the desire to change my body to match my gender identity.
And then there’s gender expression. The way we’re supposed to look, how we are supposed to present ourselves to the world, is deeply connected to ideas about femininity and masculinity. People want to know, when they look at me, ‘what I am‘. If I’m a man or a woman. If I felt like a woman and my body matched what we call female but I would get a short haircut, stop removing facial hair and would wear clothes we associate with men, people get… confused. Annoyed, Angry, even. Because I’d be messing up their nice boxed up ideas of how you’re supposed to look, what a woman is supposed to be.
I love it.
Headscarfs still cause a lot of debate in the Netherlands, some feel it’s a form of oppression and we shouldn’t allow it. I’ve always felt forcing women to undress themselves when they don’t want to would be far worse. Covering female breasts is a sexist cultural norm as well, but we don’t change that by stripping women naked against their consent. It is my body, and i have the right to show or cover it as I wish. And honestly, the tone of the debate makes me so angry sometimes I just want to cover my hair to make a point – I am not an object, I am not an idea or ideology, my body as a woman is not a political battle ground. This is my head, my hair, my breasts, and if I don’t want to show them to you, you have no right to see them.
I really can’t see this issue separate from sex workers’ rights and reproductive rights and women’s rights in general. The idea that as women we decide what we want to do with our own bodies seems so radical sometimes. Instead of allowing others to decide for us, as if we are children, we get to use our bodies as we please. Whether I want to cover my body, have sex for my own reasons including money, show my breasts in public or stay a virgin is my business and mine alone.
Gone are the ridiculous Dutch laws that demand transgender people be sterilised before their ‘official’ gender could be changed. Previously, transgender people were required to take hormones and undergo surgery, including irreversible sterilisation, before their official identity papers would show their correct gender. The Dutch Senate approved of the new laws that would end these intrusive and abusive medical requirements on December 18 2013, and the new laws have gone into force on July 1st 2014. We still have a long way to go, though. Only people over age 16 may file a request to change their gender, and it must be accompanied by an expert statement. In an ideal world the government would not consider sex, gender identity and gender expression any of their business. They would leave us and our genitals alone, stop registering our gender and abandon the false belief in a simple male/female classification. But this is not an ideal world, and this new law is an important step towards equality for transgender people in the Netherlands.
All prostitution-permits were withdrawn from the proprietors of the Zandpad area in august 2013 because of false trafficking allegations, effectively ending all Red Light Districts (window prostitution) in Utrecht. Around 230 sex workers lost their workplace and had to move to the streets or hotels, resulting in loss of income and more dangerous working conditions. The mayor lied that he hoped the sex workers would unite and become proprietors of the Zandpad area themselves, after which Utrecht repeatedly changed the requirements, rejected proposals from sexworker unions and prohibited sex workers from speaking at counsel meetings. Realisation of a new prostitution area is postponed until at least 2016.
“When we relayed Xander’s preference to the teacher, she indicated that this was precisely the reason for her concern: He didn’t want to join in the boys’ activities. And so it seemed our son’s “problem” was not merely his shyness but that he didn’t behave like a typical boy or conform to the teacher’s notions about how boys ought to act. [..] Rather than question her own assumptions about what boys could and should be like, this teacher decided there was something wrong with Xander. [..] The growing realization that pressures for boys to conform to masculine norms may negatively impact their development — coupled with concerns about young boys’ susceptibility to behavioral and learning problems—suggest our need and readiness for a new way of looking at boys and thinking about their development that both emphasizes their agency and awareness and considers what factors influence and motivate individual boys as they respond to their gender socialization.” – Boyhood is a battlefield: The dangerous expectations of early masculinity