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Saturday, 23 June 2007

Rated

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • pissed (3x)
  • torture (2x)
  • queer (1x)

Ok, maybe "pissed" is a (sorta) bad word. And I can see how political discussions involving American application of torture in prisons (at home and abroad. Let's not forget that prison rape is so tolerated that it's practically officially sanctioned.) might alarm small children. And everybody else too, I hope. But "queer"? My very self is inappropriate for kids?

I thought this was the 21st century, but, um, yeah. Maybe the perl script thought I was using it as a pejorative term.

Speaking of queerness . . .. Well, somebody was speaking to me of queerness last night. She wanted to talk about gender theory, but was really drunk, as was I. This could have been amusing, but then she wanted to switch clothes with me. At which point it got more stressful. She got a cisgender guy to put on her clothes. Hilarity ensued. I mean, he was kind of funny being all hairy-chested in that frilly shirt. But on the other hand. I mean. Is it automatically funny if somebody is cross dressing? Cuz, yeah, I do it every day.

And many folks wonder why I do it. Is it some sort of political statement? Is it the result of a theoretical position? Do I do it because I am brave and strong?

Let's be clear: I am neither brave nor strong. If I were brave and strong, my sense of self would be able to withstand any choice of clothing. That it cannot speaks to fragility. I dress the way I do because of an internal imperative. I don't know why, but I know it's not negotiable. If I were brave or strong or theoretical or political, switching into frilly clothes on a lark would be nothing more than a lark. The suggestion would not make me want to flee.

And what about other baggage? Pip of Great Expectations writes:

Are there white middle-class butches? If so, where are they? I found Judith/Jack Halberstam’s book, Female Masculinities, particularly disappointing in this regard. It seems that J/J identifies as butch (??). But although she shows how butch history has been ignored by middle-class feminism, she doesn’t admit that being an academic means that working-class butch history doesn’t simply belong to her. She doesn’t use this opportunity to share her own experience of butchness, and instead uses the (often extremely personal) stories of others to illustrate this story. It’s this kind of behaviour that allows white middle class men/women/butches to claim a rich history and identity, while hiding our privilege over others of the same gender (just like white women using pictures of black mothers to symbolise the fertility or spirituality of all women).

I don't know about claiming the word "butch." I mean, butch women all have way more gravitas than me. And I'm really scrawny, which is a strike against it. Also, women who are actually, indisputably butch intimidate me no end. But all that aside, what Pip is talking about here is female-bodied masculinity, which is something I think I can claim.

The class baggage surrounding it has been on the periphery of my vision. When I wrote my post about how to cross dress, I stated, "You have two goals when it comes to clothing: 1. Pass, 2. Avoid getting treated like dirt . . .. Therefore, you want to convey not only masculinity, but also . . . social status. Simply put: life is easier if you look rich . . .. Therefore, you want to avoid dressing in a sloppy manner. It will drop your status . . .." In those ellipses, I was talking about ageism. On the rare occasions that I pass for male, I'm read as a teen boy, which has drawbacks. But when I don't pass, I'm also treated as a low status person (followed around stores by security, that sort of thing) if I'm dressed in an overly casual fashion. I knew that dressing as a businessman tended to help, but I didn't quite make the class connection there that Pip does.

Obviously, gender expression and class are not as linked in their incidence as Pip suggests, or I wouldn't exist. But if people are subconsciously making the connection in their minds, this explains why folks think I'm a thug. Because they're homophobic, transphobic, classist asshats.

(Be nice to me, or I'll call you names on my blog.)

Anyway, I think real lesson here is that I shouldn't try to talk about gender theory when I'm drunk. Or maybe ever. It's ok when I or people in my general position theorize about my life, but when people from outside do it, well, that's different. For me, it's my life, which makes the stakes somewhat different than a casual person who wonders about the meanings of gender statements. I'm not making a statement, I'm just trying to get through my day.

3 comments:

sfmike said...

I love "the real lesson here is that I shouldn't try to talk about gender theory when I'm drunk" but this is the best post about your take on "gender theory" I've read, so maybe drunkenness in this situation is not the problem. Maybe the lesson is something more elemental, like "I'm not making a statement, I'm just trying to get through my day."

Daniel Wolf said...

Les --

I have the feeling that my getting an "R" rating and your getting a "PG" rating says something semi-profound about American culture, but I'm not altogether certain what that should be.

Should my ambition be to move the rating towards a "G" or an "X"?

Les said...

It says that American culture has knee-jerk reactions to certain phrases, context and content be dammned. Or maybe that's just the rating algorithm.

Discussion of anything non-mainstream is iffy, anyway.

I'd be wary of any ambition around these ratings. To strive for a G is to forego substance and to strive for NC-17 is to strive to shock, which is also to forego substance. Because substance has no place whatsoever within this framework.