Hey, remember last year when I complained about all the boring whore costumes women sport on Halloween?
For the record, I went as Lara Croft, and I was awesome! This year, just to prove that pretty much nothing I write makes any sense at all (ha!), I have selected one of the sluttiest costumes I could find at our local Halloween Superstore:
Yes, I am dressing as Sexy Gretchen, the trampy beer maiden! You know what made the decision for me? This particular store is one of the only costume emporiums that CARRIES PLUS SIZES in ALL the “sexy” categories.
And you know how much I hate fat shaming, right?
Giant ladies have every right to cram their butts into skimpy costumes and continue on with their delusional belief that having massive tits makes up for the rest of the body.
Ah, that was mean. Fat people are still people, but seriously SIZE 18 SEXY GRETCHEN COSTUMES!
That can only mean one thing: yes, Mr. JB and I are going to wear the SAME COSTUMES!
The reaction from our friends has been pretty interesting. Mr. JB actually has a long history of cross-dressing for Halloween, beginning with his award-winning turn as Carmen Miranda in the 9th Grade.
He has also taken his turn as Wonder Woman, Little Red Riding Hood and Little BoPeep, all of which have been absolutely hilarious, given his size and how normally conservative he is in appearance and dress.
Our younger friends all think matching costumes is an outstanding idea, and a few of them are even hatching plans to acquire their own sexy Gretchen costumes. The Monster Ball may be awash in sexy beer maids this year. Clever Guy was over last night and he insisted on donning the costume and the blonde braids to pose for pictures which we immediately sent out to family and friends. Clever Guy’s mom gets exceptionally giggly over her son dressed in silly costumes.
It’s really not that big of a deal, right? Well, our older friends get downright hostile. BigDaddy from down the street, who has two sons of his own, was actually rather angry when he saw the costumes. Of course, his own sons dressed as Marilyn Monroe and The Evil Queen (from Snow White) last year, and they were totally gorgeous, but there is definitely a generational divide when it comes to the whole idea of cross-dressing, even when it’s done in jest.
Younger men don’t feel the slightest bit threatened by donning the wardrobe of the opposite sex, while older men seem to feel that wearing a dirndl and some sheer stockings with cute little bows somehow hurts men and masculinity.
I think there is a happy medium, and it comes down to how fiercely we believe that gender is something that can be consciously determined. The men who are angry and threatened by Mr.JB’s antics are reacting to a certain concept of gender that is 100% rigid, and while I can agree that certain aspects of masculinity have been carved too deeply into the concrete of our social psyche, I do NOT believe that the extreme alternative of believing NOTHING about gender is innate or inherent is a better way of understanding how gender works.
Some ideas about masculinity really are very destructive. Men are more naturally stoic and less likely to allow their emotions to govern their actions than women are. That has all kinds of benefits when it comes to demonstrating leadership qualities and accurately assessing risks and being willing to shoulder a disproportionate amount of work and responsibilities.
Being stoic and governed by rationality is a net positive, but it becomes destructive when men believe that is the ONLY acceptable way to be. The most brutal consequence of defining masculinity so rigidly is suicide. When men get staggered by life, and decide they no longer wish to continue, they tend to be extremely good at making effective plans to end their own lives.
Male suicide is a public health crisis reaching epidemic proportions, yet it still receives very little in terms of funding or attention. Pink ribbons line the landscape from one side of the country to the other, despite the fact that the mortality rates are pretty much the same.
Deaths from suicide (mostly men) in 2010: 38 364
Deaths from breast cancer (mostly women) in 2010: 40 170
It’s really kind of sickening that masculinity itself gets blamed for male suicide, when the problem has far more to do with a broader society that defines men only in terms of the utility they can provide for others. Here’s an actual quote from a study exploring why men commit suicide so much more frequently than women:
One way of taking back one’s own masculinity is to take one’s own life.
Yes men, if you really want to prove you are a man, please do it by killing yourself.
The majority of the report examines how working class men have lost their traditional manufacturing jobs, how divorce devastates men in particular, how downsizing squeezes male middle managers out of the corporate structure, how schools and colleges are failing to provide men and boys with the training they need to take their places in the new economy and then comes to the conclusion that masculinity is the problem.
Yeah, that must be it.
Let me think for a minute: is there a particular ideology circulating in the culture that claims masculinity is something you can just choose to do or not to do? Is there some sort of political philosophy that claims one gender’s ways of doing and being are acceptable and the other’s is not? Is there a view of education that sneers at training and vocational skills, which tend to be the domains of boys?
Help me out here.
Over and over again, reports into the issues and challenges facing men come up with the same solution: masculinity is the problem, so let’s get rid of it.
All of which rests on the assumption that masculinity isn’t something you are born with, it’s something you learn. Something you perform. And with the right social programming, you can unlearn it.
Which brings me to the title of today’s post: if gender is something you learn, not something you are born simply knowing, how is it that some people KNOW they were born the wrong gender?
True story: a member of Mr. JB’s distant family (his mother’s cousin) has two children. The daughter was born with something called Turner Syndrome, which is a chromosomal abnormality in which all or part of one of the sex chromosomes is absent.
The daughter has no ovaries and she has a strangely masculine look to her. She suffers from something called “neck webbing” and the disorder has obviously profoundly affected her life and understanding of herself as a person. She very much considers herself a woman. She is female. She is 100% a she.
By all appearances, the son was a perfectly normal little boy, suffering from no disorders or problems anyone could detect. But for as long as he can remember, he has harbored a terrible secret. He is really a she, too. The son is transgender.
I very sincerely doubt those two conditions, being transgender and having Turner Syndrome are unrelated. Something having to do with sex hormones is very fucked up in the mother and she passed that along to her children. They have different fathers, so it is almost certainly a problem with the mother. I absolutely believe that transgender people are suffering from a very serious illness, and they deserve all the compassion and treatment options that we would extend to anyone else suffering from a severe birth defect.
We are born knowing that we are a particular gender. The idea that gender can be “performed” is true, to the extent that we can don the clothing and markings of our opposite sex. That’s so trite an observation, is scarcely seems believable we need to acknowledge it, but something very malignant has happened in that intersection of feminism and playing dress-up.
Judith Butler is perhaps the most famous of the “gender is a social construct” theorists, and also one of the worst writers you will ever have the pain of attempting to understand. The obfuscation that marks her writing is not a mistake, though. It’s a very deliberate strategy to disguise the real agenda behind the “gender is a social construct” philosophy.
When Simone de Beauvoir claims, “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,” she is appropriating and reinterpreting this doctrine of constituting acts from the phenomenological tradition.’ In this sense, gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.
One gender is acceptable. One gender is laudable. One gender is to be preferred. One gender is favored.
One gender is unacceptable. One gender is detestable. One gender is to be eradicated. One gender is hated.
The idea that gender is something you choose is the very essence of feminism, and it’s the most perfect expression of how much feminism hates both men AND women. Feminism is an attempt to redefine HUMAN as feminine, thereby eradicating any meaningful distinctions between men and women. It’s kind of like insisting that everyone bleach their skin white and voila – racism disappears! We’re all equal now!
Halloween is one of those great holidays that challenges the idea that gender is something you choose by deploying the irony of dressing up as the opposite gender. Performing gender in the form of a costume doesn’t challenge gender difference: it confirms it.
Seeing men dressed as women is hilarious precisely because you can’t just change your clothes and presto, you’ve changed your gender.
Younger men seem to get that we are all humans who exist on a continuum, clustering mostly in the tails with some important overlapping characteristics that allow us the opportunity to relate to one another and love one another. I think we can credit early feminism with freeing us all from overly rigid expectations about how men and women “are”, but we can also condemn modern feminism, very loudly, for not being satisfied with equality and chasing down supremacy.
When there is room in our culture to tell men that one way to capture their masculinity to kill themselves, something has gone very, very wrong. Inciting people to kill themselves is the very definition of hate, isn’t it? When a transgender girl in California is crowned homecoming queen, and then trolled mercilessly on YouTube with exhortations to “kill herself”, we quite rightly respond by condemning the people who hate her as bigots.
And I personally feel no compunction whatsoever calling out feminists who think masculinity is something that can be chosen, or more importantly NOT chosen, as bigots in the exact same vein.
This Halloween, consider dressing up as the opposite gender. Or in a really trashy slutty costume, as long as you can find a date who will wear the matching costumes.
I highly recommend “Sexy Gretchen”. Who doesn’t like sexy beer maids? Even the ones with hairy chests.
Lots of love,