This Election and Gender

With the election and a close, all I can say is that I am heart broken. Both candidates had their horrible aspects. Neither was necessarily good for women or minorities (Clinton’s feminism is white and imperialistic, and she has harmed many countries that are not our own). However, I am mortified that Trump won. He makes blatant racist, and sexist comments and much America doesn’t seem to be bothered. People I know who voted for him didn’t seem to vote for him because they thought he was the lesser evil. They voted for him because they thought he was great, and they are mad and people who are saying this it is not okay that the man who is now the leader of our country is sexist, racist, and accused of sexually assaulting women. His racism and sexism are justifying the racism and sexism of others.
Men are trying to lessen his evils. Men are making jokes on FB and twitter about pussy grabbing now. Saying “well it’s not happening in real life,” as if the fact that men now feel okay to say these things at all is not in itself horrible. Gender is already on its way to becoming a more oppressive construct. Don’t tell me, or any other women, that this isn’t a problem. I have already had to fight these constructs, and my fight has been a very privileged one.

Dr. Sadie Wearing and Niall Richardson’s book Gender in the Media states that people often confuse gender and sex. Sex determines whether a person is female, male, or intersex. Gender refers to the expression of femininity or masculinity as prescribed by cultural patterns and prescriptions. People wrongly attribute this expression of femininity or masculinity as contingent to the individual’s sex. However, it is not biological, it is an expression of an assuming of a construct that is taught to individuals by their parents, siblings, peers, and of course the media.

I remember one of the early times I realized there was a difference between boys and girls. There was another set of twins in town who were a year or two older than us. My parents took us to their birthday party. Their names were Sam and Samantha, a boy and a girl. I remember vaguely thinking, as we greeted them, that my twin and I must also be boy and girl. I knew for a fact that my sister was a girl. She loved dresses more than I did and the preferred the pink Power Ranger. I thought that I must be the boy.

I remembered that with this “realization” I felt a small relief. Boys were around to run around. Boys got to go places: my father was often at work while my mother stayed at home and my grandfather coming home from work was often a big to-do. While being a girl didn’t seem horrible, being a boy was definitely more celebrated.

However, I soon found that I was, in fact, a girl. I was disappointed, feeling as if I had been robbed of my opportunity to be special. Thus, it took me a long time to become comfortable with my sex, and this was because of the gender implications that came with it. I made a plan. I had time until I hit puberty and knew I could fool people into thinking I was a boy until then. I remember, when I was nine, being extremely excited when a lady around my mother’s age laughed when I was aggressively playing some toy drums and said: “Boys will be boys.” I had succeeded; I had entered the gates of freedom, and I wasn’t caught. I felt the same rush every time I managed to escape Target with an action figure and no one asking my mom where her son was.

Needless to say, it took me a long time to become comfortable with my sex because of the gender implications that came with it. I didn’t want to be trapped in the perceived limited world of being a girl. My family was confused: why did I eschew everything feminine? Why did I refuse to wear makeup when I obviously wanted to? Why did I refuse to wear girl clothes when I was obviously uncomfortable in hip-restricted boy pants once I hit puberty? I was afraid to give up this illusory pass to freedom that I had been given the moment I realized my twin was the “girlie” twin.

This continued way past childhood and my early/awkward teenage years. It didn’t die when I turned 16. It was made even more complicated by the fact that I have always been attracted to the opposite sex. I definitely wanted to be female with all of the convenience it offered in dating men, but I didn’t know how to accept the proper gender roles that came with dating them. I remember the first time I decided I was going to get a boyfriend–I was thirteen and decided to beat him in a game of wrestling, which I was sure would impress him. He would see that I was strong individual and would respect me. By the end of the day, we had kissed. I’m not sure if he was actually impressed with my strength; I think he just wanted to boast he had got a girlfriend before his best friend had. This led to a couple of awkward years of his mother picking out his gifts for me, which were usually tops that had glitter and butterflies on them. I was more confused than ever.

There was no amazing transformation where I happily assumed my sex and gender. I could not reconcile the two no matter how hard I tried. I went through a brief stage where I started wearing girl jeans with band t-shirts and converse. I was comfortable with this until my grandmother told me that I should wear something besides band t-shirts and forced me to buy sandals as my “boy shoes” were not acceptable. No matter what I did, I was violating rules, whether they be my own, my peers, and my family.

Now, I am happy to be female. I have realized that being female does not weaken me. However, I am not happy to conform to all the gender roles that are pushed up on me. I am not happy with my constrictions. I am not happy that American citizens voted for him because they liked the theme of gender-role-constriction that is associated with him. I am worried for America, and I am afraid for women, especially minority women. I realize I am in for a much longer and harder fight.

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