“It would appear that the real power of gender typing resides less in the child than in the environments in which the child finds itself. The social environment is filled with gendered messages and gendered activities. Even if the child possesses no fixed and permanent gender role, social arrangements will continually reinforce gender differences. in a gender-neutral experiment, social requirements are removed, and so the child does not behave in accord with a gender stereotype. Perhaps it is not internalized beliefs that keep us in place as men or women, but rather our interpersonal and social environments. Because there is considerable variation in what men and women actually do, it may require the weight of social organization and constant reinforcement to maintain gender-role differences.”—Michael Kimmel, The Gendered Society
“She moved the way thought moves, with a quiet fluidity. The Kooks--In Love If she's a blond or brunett Or if she's slim or she's fat It doesn't matter at all When I fall, I fall It's in the way that she walks And then a smile when she talks I'm simply losing my head And I fall You may see me as a thinker Always hiding from his own insanity Like a bucket or a tin can So confide within my personality I met Sally at a bus stop We fell in love And we got married inside my head”—
“I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.”—A Haunted House and Other Stories. Virginia Woolf.
Early on, when I first started my research, some of the women that I interviewed would say things like, “Oh, I never knew that I was really attracted to women until I became close friends with one particular woman, and I fell in love with her…” In my naïveté, I sort of discounted these stories as evidence of repression (which was pretty common at that time).
As the years went by and I would re-interview these women, and as I would talk to lesbian-identified women who would say things like, “Wow, I was never really attracted to men, but now I sort of feel sexually attracted to my best male friend!” I began to realize that there was something really profound going on within these relationships, and that deep emotional attachments had the power to really change one’s entire way of experiencing desire.
It took me a while to really come to grips with this, scientifically; I kept rereading the interview transcripts, trying to interpret them within the conventional models of sexuality that were available at that time, and it just didn’t work. I remember that there was a particular day… actually, I was on an airplane with a stack of transcripts, struggling to make sense of them, and I just put down my pen and said, “OK, I need to throw out everything I think I ‘know’ and just start again, and reread everything, from the beginning. And really listen this time.”
The hard truth is that life is a lot more complicated than scientific models present it as being.
- Dr. Lisa Diamond here.