GENDER BENDERS

It is true and obvious that men and women are different. Most people would say what makes a woman a female and a man a male is the presence of a vagina or a penis. But it isn’t really that easy is it?

Beyond our biology, we are created and develop differently based on our cultural understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman. The complexity of how each individual is nurtured in relation to their nature – such as genetics or other functionally relevant changes that can occur to the genome, which can alter the way genes are expressed – make it difficult to study all the differing sexual manifestations the human race can exhibit. Regardless of what science says about the differences in our basic genetics, how different our brain mass might be, who has more white or gray matter, or how our hormonal chemistry might affect us; we are all left to find our own identities.

Sexual behavior, intelligence, memory, aggression, personality, empathy, emotion, and mental health are not gender specific. The bottom line is that most of us are born a man or a woman but we are all mixed up when it comes to feminine and masculine traits. We are all gender benders.

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.~ Margaret Fuller

Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.~Ian McEwan

Without even realizing it many of us assign a feminine or masculine quality to most things. I hear the term “That is so gay!” or “Does this look gay?” nearly every day and it isn’t only straight people I hear saying it. I am not even really sure what it means. I assume it means ‘That is so “feminine”’ but sounds more like “Does this look stupid?” Is this a form of gender shaming?

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.~Gloria Steinem

Obviously, religion has a whole lot to say about gender roles, and ancient history has idolized and condemned each of the sexes at one time or another. Today, as in the past, we are either judged or respected based on the differences we see on the surface of one another. Why? Stereotyping is a learned behavior based on a select set of experiences within a given culture.

Don’t we have more important issues to worry about? Does it REALLY matter what race a person is, how masculine or feminine someone is, or what genitalia someone comes equipped with, or how someone consensually decides to use their genitals? NO! It doesn’t; because if I were in a wreck and there was only one other person there to save my life I am not going to say, “Oh wait… you are too young, old, black, white, asian, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Athiest, feminine, masculine, idiotic, short, blonde, bald, depressed, muscular, aggressive, beautiful, ugly, republican, democrat!”

I grow more and more convinced everyday that it is our insane super-hero ability to locate the differences in one another and then systematically pick each other apart that has caused so much of the difficulties we face today as a society. Anxiety, depression, self image, hostility, and apathy can all lead to lack of respect for ourselves and others at the very least and murder or suicide at its worst. How much of this is programmed into us by culture (i.e. religion, politics) and the media?

When you grow up as a girl, it is like there are faint chalk lines traced approximately three inches around your entire body at all times, drawn by society and often religion and family and particularly other women, who somehow feel invested in how you behave, as if your actions reflect directly on all womanhood.~M.E. Thomas

Did you know that there are around 31 million crimes reported in America every year? In 2005 the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 35% of woman where killed by their husband or boyfriend while 2.4% of men were murdered by their wives or girlfriends. Nearly 92% of rape victims were female and 73% of those where by someone that woman knew. And only about 40% of all rapes and sexual assaults are ever reported.

Twenty percent of all crimes are motivated by sexual orientation. Crimes motivated by gender identity weren’t even considered a hate crime until a few years ago. Sexual orientation and religion are now tied neck-and-neck with each other statistically, while racially motivated crimes still lead hate crime incidents.

Social media seems to only make things worse. Every political or religious debate ends up with everyday people turning into vile, angry, name calling, and judgmental bullies. I see it from the adult population more than I do with the teens. We find our differences and then we use them as a spring loaded diving board into heated debates. Even the most famous quotes by some of the most respected people can lift one party up while putting another party down. We must be very careful and diligent with our thoughts and our words if we are to teach our young children to be more respectful and mindful of others.

In politics, If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.~ Margaret Thatcher

“You ride as a man, fight as a man, and you think as a man- “I think as a human being,” she retorted hotly. “Men don’t think any differently from women- they just make more noise about being able to.”~Tamora Pierce, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

I am a bowl of soup.

A whole bunch of different ingredients went into making me. I am probably a more masculine soup than I am a feminine soup. I am not understated or simple, nor am I elegant or particularly bland. Sometimes I am deliciously warm and other times I am very unappealingly cold. I am probably more of a corn chowder while my husband is a minestrone.

We are ALL bowls of soup. If we could just realize there are a whole lot of things that go into making each one of us we might be able to give people more of a chance. After all, you have to get close enough to smell and taste soup before you can judge it completely. No two soups are the same. For instance, my dad is also corn chowder soup but he has a substantial amount more corn than I do.

We wouldn’t try to change corn chowder into a creamy tomato soup. We would simply accept corn chowder isn’t our thing and go find some creamy tomato. We wouldn’t cuss at the corn chowder, we wouldn’t shame it into hating its corn, or its potatoes. We would simply move on and let the corn chowder be enjoyed by someone else.

It stands to reason that most crime could maybe be eliminated if we could somehow, as a society, stop all the negative labeling and conditioning. If we could learn to respect one another’s differences instead of devaluing them we could be a more productive society. What if we could all start seeing each other as big delicious bowls of soup?

What kind of soup are you?

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Picture note:  In this picture a friend and I swapped gender roles.  I posed as the male while my male friend posed as the woman.  In the end, there isn’t much difference in the two profiles other than hair and obvious dominance of one over the other.  I believe our view of gender is based on experiences and learned behavior.  We need to learn to see with our hearts not our eyes. Sight is wonderful but looks can be deceiving.

Please take a few moments to read some of the other wonderful posts on this blog and consider writing for us.  You can find information on how to submit your own post by clicking here.  Thank you for reading, Love Hasty

Previously posted on September 2, 2014. This post was highlighted by Freshly Pressed for her incredible writing and also for her genuine empathetic point of view. So proud Hasty is one of us. Together we are stronger.

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