I had reached the point where hearing the “women want to be men” argument one more time would have had me like…
Yet, here we are, having the same dumb conversation over and over again. This time, we have you to thank for flogging this dead horse. Immediately I saw the Twitter complaints going up like a burnt offering, my eyes rolled all the way to the back of my head. I don’t have anything against you and, like you, I don’t want to cause offence but I really couldn’t be bothered to look up your comments. Honestly, I was over your speech before I even heard it.
I was over it because I am tired of you people. I’m tired of explaining to adults in 2016 that gender equality is not about changing one’s sex. There are too many reasons why this is a daft position. First, it assumes that women are stupid enough not to realise that we have ovaries and men have balls – as if we don’t know that our biological make-up is different. Thanks, Captain Obvious. Why don’t you fly in more often to explain why water is wet and the sun is hot?
Secondly, it stubbornly refuses to grasp the fundamental difference between gender and sex. Yes, gender is often seen to correlate with the sexes – but gender is socially constructed, while sex is biological. If it’s hard to get your head around this, think about the difference between calling something “feminine” and describing a person as “female”. We often ascribe feminine traits to female members of our species but one is a set of behaviours we have categorised in one way, while the other is a biological fact.
This is important because the gender equality conversation is more about gender roles than sex itself. Women and men aren’t treated differently because men have penises and women have vaginas. They are treated differently because of perceptions around acceptable traits, behaviours and competencies each sex should have. We exaggerate the link between these traits and physiological facts in order to insist that these differences are “natural”.
Even worse, we consciously or subconsciously classify one set of traits as superior to the other. Feminine behaviour – being emotional, vain and so on – is distinguished from masculine traits such as being logical. You might think this doesn’t matter because “we are different, and each have our role to play” but if one role is inherently fickle, while the other is more stable, you can see how people start to build rationales against women making important decisions or occupying leadership positions.
Every coin has two sides: this prejudice also affects men. Insisting that women can be one way and not the other forces hyper-masculinity on men, which often translates into fragility. It is because of consistently sexist brainwashing that any little thing can be a slight on someone’s manhood, and any hint of an attack on masculinity can be such a big deal.
It is because of sexist brainwashing that we can mock men for crying at their own wedding, or crying at all, but find it entirely normal for women to express their feelings however they want. A woman breaking down is just being a woman. A man breaking down is… Being a woman. It is because of sexist brainwashing that this can even be an insult.
It is because of sexist brainwashing that we live in a society where men face immense financial pressure. Our vanity and thirst for the finest things continues to rise as the economy continues to decline. Still, boys have to hustle. Bottles have to be popped. With what else will a man buy respect (and babes), if not money?
All of this rhetoric matters because it shapes the limits we place on people. We force men to shrink themselves emotionally, over-extend themselves financially and mask their insecurities. We force women to accept second place in a two-man race. It is wrong. Changing this is what people are fighting for, not some ultimate desire to grow a penis. I really shouldn’t have to explain this to you.
I am tired of explaining to adults in 2016 that gender equality is not about penis envy. It is about the frustration that comes with being told a woman’s place is here or there, being subtly or overtly taught that our value lies in securing male attention, and ultimately being made to feel inferior. “Stick to your lane” is great advice, but we want women to actually choose these lanes for themselves and not be forced to tread paths dictated to them by society. If you still don’t understand this by now, I don’t know what else to tell you. Have a nice day, or whatever.
A fatigued feminist
P.S. GURRRL. You slayed that white-on-white outfit though.
If you’ve been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with the comments that sparked this piece, hear from the queen herself. Go forth and carry last no more.