and-gender

Four decades of feminism later I am reading the comedian Angela Barnes’ blog. “I am ugly, and I am proud,” she writes. She goes on to say: “The fact is I don’t see people in magazines who look like me. I don’t see people like me playing the romantic lead or having a romantic life.”

At the top of the blog is a picture of Barnes. And the thing is, she isn’t ugly. Neither is she beautiful. She’s normal looking. She’s somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, just like lots of women you see every day in real life.

It made me think of this year’s Wimbledon ladies’ final between Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli. When Bartoli won, the BBC commentator John Inverdale infamously said, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’re never going to be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”

The first thing I thought was: this woman has just won a tennis tournament! And she’s being judged on her looks! And then I thought: but Bartoli is attractive. Sure, she’s not at the very highest point on the scale – she doesn’t look like a top model. But she’s pretty. And, in any case, why should it matter? She’s a top athlete. Surely that’s what counts.

A sports commentator refers to a pretty woman as “not a looker”. A normal-looking woman thinks she’s ugly. Why?

Because, even though the world is full of normal and pretty women, the world we see – the world of television, films, magazines and websites – is full of women who are top-of-the-scale beauties. And right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the situation is more extreme than ever. If you’re a woman, a huge proportion of your role models are beautiful. So if you’re normal looking, you feel ugly. And if you’re merely pretty, men feel free to comment on how un-beautiful you are.

As a normal-looking man, I find myself in a completely different position. Being normal makes me feel, well, normal. Absolutely fine. As if the way I look is not an issue. That’s because it’s not an issue.

As a normal-looking man, I’m in good company. Sure, some male actors and celebrities are very good looking. Brad Pitt. George Clooney. Russell Brand.

But many of Hollywood’s leading men, like me, look like the sort of blokes you see every day, in real life. Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Bruce Willis, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Martin Freeman, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Brendan Fraser… In fact, you might almost say that most leading men are normal-looking blokes.

It’s true of television, too. Bryan Cranston, who plays the lead in Breaking Bad – he’s a normal. James Gandolfini – he was a normal. And chubby too. Kevin Whately – normal. Ben Miller – normal. TV cops all look normal. Ray Winstone looks normal. Tim Roth looks normal. They portray people who are interesting for what they do, not what they look like.

Oh, and think of sitcoms. The Big Bang Theory features four normal-looking blokes and a stunningly beautiful woman. New Girl is about two normal blokes, a guy who’s quite good looking, and two women who are… yes, strikingly beautiful.

When I watch the news, on whatever channel, it’s presented by the classic partnership of an ordinary-looking guy and a gorgeous woman. After the news, I watch the weather. Male weather presenters look like standard males. Female weather presenters look like models. Footballers look normal. Footballers’ wives and girlfriends look stunning. Daytime television presenters: men look like Phillip Schofield; women look like Holly Willoughby.

A typical Saturday-night judges’ panel consists of two types of people – middle-aged blokes and young, stunning women. Sometimes a normal-looking or ageing woman slips through the net – but then, like Arlene Phillips, her days are soon numbered.

Countdown had an attractive woman and an ageing bloke; when the attractive woman began to show signs of ageing, she was axed – replaced by a woman who was, of course, strikingly beautiful. Who presents historical documentaries? Guys like David Starkey. Normals. And what happened when a normal-looking woman, Mary Beard, presented a series about the ancient world? She was mocked for not being attractive enough.

In a recent interview Dustin Hoffman, another normal, made a revealing comment. Remember when he dressed up as a woman in Tootsie? “I went home and started crying,” he said. Why?

“Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character. Because she doesn’t fulfil physically the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out… I have been brainwashed.”
My parents … think of a wife as a man’s luxury, which he can afford only when he is making a comfortable living. I have a low opinion of this view of the relationship between man and wife, because it makes the wife and the prostitute distinguishable only insofar as the former is able to secure a lifelong contract from the man because of her more favorable social rank.
— 

In his love letters to Mileva Marić, young Albert Einstein both reveals his tenderest romantic side and articulates his views on gender equality more directly than he ever did elsewhere. (Except perhaps in that wonderful letter to a little girl who wanted to be a scientist but feared her gender would hold her back.)

Read his love letters here.

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Quick doodles based on this graphic that I found a while ago and wanted to illustrate, because it’s basically what I want to answer to people who’re like “oh so you’re a feminist, does it mean you’re angry at me or that you don’t like them?”. Don’t laugh, I’ve been asked that quite a lot actually. Not especially with these words, but I’ve seen some male friends of mine pretty offended by me talking about feminist issues, as if I was choosing a side that automatically excludes them. Well guys, it’s not.

Because feminism isn’t about women vs men, it’s about both of us vs jerks. Join the team, guys, we all love each other!

Oh and if someone knows who’s the author of the graphic, please tell me, I’d be happy to credit her or him.


8 Tips for Coming Out as Non-Binary 

“Coming out is already a difficult thing to do, and the idea of coming out as non-binary (an identity and experience that most people haven’t even begun to grasp) was absolutely daunting.

In the end, I decided to come out exactly as I was – as a genderqueer, non-binary person. I had already spent six years being dishonest about my gender identity, and I didn’t want to spend any longer trying to navigate more lies about who I was.

Chances are, if you’re looking to come out as non-binary, you might have had similar thoughts: How can I get my loved ones to understand? What language should I use? What do I include, and what do I leave out?

Like me, maybe you’re having doubts that coming out and being understood is possible for you at all.

I recognize and validate how scary this coming out process can be, especially in a society that seldom recognizes our identities.Having come out many times – to coworkers, friends, family, and even strangers – I’ve had a lot of experience now, both good and bad, that has helped to shape my approach. It’s my hope that, by writing this article, you can adapt some of what I’ve learned to make it work for you.

Non-binary people can come out – and they do come out.

Like them, you deserve to live your truth as openly as you desire. So let’s figure out how we can get you there!”

Read the full piece here

17 Pathbreaking Non-Binary and Gender-Fluid Novels

Contemporary literature is an amorphous, expansive thing, and it isn’t always easy to pinpoint how or why it is changing or what it may become. But in the current moment, at least one promising development is certain: literary writing that challenges or refuses stable gender binaries is of increasing critical and aesthetic prominence. The last month alone has seen the publication and widespread critical acclaim of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, a moving, multi-genre consideration of gender fluidity (among other themes). At the end of April, too, American audiences were finally able to access Anne Garétta’s Sphinx —  wonderfully translated from the French by Emma Ramadan — a novel that uses no gender markers to refer to its protagonists. The below list contains, with these books in mind, a collection of novels that feature agender, bigender, or gender-fluid characters and narrators. Not by any means a definitive list, the hope is that it can help expand the conversation started by Nelson, Garétta, and the writers featured here.

Read more.

i think about all the young lesbians who feel like they have to date and have sex with trans women because if they don’t they’re ‘transphobic’ and it makes me so upset

I think people who say they’re trans, and then act all condescending towards “cissies” are faking it. Yup, they’re just pretending to be trans. Just like a lot of people who had an inexplicable hatred for gays in high school actually turned out to be gay, themselves. They’re in denial of being a “normal” cis person, because they’re so edgy and quirky! Abnormal is the new cool!
Especially the ones who say things along the lines of “A doctor glanced at my genitals when I was born, and then decided how I would live my life from that.” Their problem is gender roles. Not dysphoria. The difference is, one says “Someone else decided my gender for me” while the other says “My sex doesn’t match my gender.” One has a problem with how they think society expects them to act, while the other has a problem with how they were born.
Now, let me tell you something. Trans people aren’t weird, quirky, abnormal. They’re not some magical special snowflake. They’re normal people, like anyone else.

theguardian.com
Emma Thompson: sexism in acting industry is worse than ever
Oscar-winning actor says sexism and ‘forms of unpleasantness to women have become more entrenched and more prevalent’
By John Plunkett

“The Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson has spoken out about ageism and the lack of opportunities for women in the acting industry, saying “sexism and unpleasantness” was worse than ever.

The Sense and Sensibility and Nanny McPhee star said the world was in a “worse state than I have known it, particularly for women”.

Thompson is the latest female actor to speak out about sexism in television and film, following comments by stars including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Helen Mirren and director Jane Campion.

“I don’t think there’s any appreciable improvement and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young,” she told the new issue of Radio Times. “So, no, I am not impressed, at all. I think it’s still completely shit, actually.”

Thompson said: “When I was younger I really did think we were on our way to a better world and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women and I find that very disturbing and sad.

“So I get behind as many young female performers as I can and actually a lot of the conversations with them are about exactly the fact that we are facing and writing about the same things and nothing has changed, and that some forms of sexism and unpleasantness to women have become more entrenched and indeed more prevalent.”

Read the full piece here

“Astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering work with the idea of spinning galaxies and dark matter deeply impacted the scientific community at a time when she was rejected from Princeton on the grounds that she was a woman. Rubin’s dedication and devotion to science extends to mentoring women in the field and being “available twenty-four hours a day to women astronomers.” (Photo via American Institute of Physics)

As seen on the National Women’s History Museum Facebook page

Signs of Transsexuality in Domestic Cats

Transsexuality is unseen in other animals because “gender” or the idea of an “animal society” is seldom studied. I work with cats everyday and I am studying cats and I will say now, you can believe me or not that domestic cats show evidence of transsexuality.

Intersex conditions make up 10% of the population of cats and as a species, domestic cats especially have extremely high levels of intersex individuals in comparison to most other species. Unlike many other species as well, intersex individuals commonly live after birth even in feral colonies.

Now, basically cat society is matriarchal. Female cats are on top and live in complex social family groups in the center of an area. This is where they have their kittens and live in little polyamourous, bisexual communities with other female cats. Where they share the raising of the kittens and exhibit sexual behaviour with one another to strengthen bonds. Female cats, neutered or unneutered, homed or unhomed are less friendly than males, are better hunters than males, are smarter than males and less affectionate towards humans.

Male cats live on the outskirts and although there may be two male cats who live together, they do not live in a large family group. Most toms are rivals attempting to win the favour of the female queens in the center. They are friendlier towards people, friendlier towards other cats (when neutered) and tend to be less intelligent, they’re not as good a hunter.  

Now as I said, cats have a higher level of intersex conditions but also a higher instance of male cats and female cats exhibiting opposite behaviour. It is not extremely uncommon to find a male cat babysitting kittens for females something which with any other male would be extremely dangerous. With any other male, the female cats would drive him out and possibly severly injure him. For some reason, with these males, even though they’re intact. They don’t try and mate with the females but exhibit bonding behaviour common with two females.

Or a female cat to be prowling on the outskirts attempting to impress the female cats within the colony. Fighting with other males over a female.

In the end however, it is extremely difficult to judge whether these cats have dysphoria as we can’t ask them or judge what mental stress they’re going through. Although I have personally trapped feral males in female areas of colonies with self-mutilation around their testicles, not caused by irritation or fleas or mites.

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100 Queer Characters of Color Who Show Why Hollywood Should - and Must - Diversify

“When we think of LGBTQ media representation, the examples we think of have one thing in common. Brokeback Mountain and Modern Family. Queer as Folk and The Kids Are All Right. Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris. We think of the fearless performances of Hilary Swank in Boys Dont Cry and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. We think of Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent and Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart.

The common factor among all these works: a decidedly limited color palette. Nearly every character is white.

This list is an attempt to broaden the examples we about out of queer representation in entertainment. It is a celebration of the writers, directors, producers and performers who have nevertheless found ways to tell diverse stories. It is also an indictment of the lily-white vision of gay Americans mainstream media has perpetuated for decades.

Perhaps most importantly, this list should be taken as a reminder that despite great progress in the realm of representation, there is still plenty of work to be done. Our screens both big and small should accurately represent the varied queer experience that our colorful rainbow flag purports to symbolize.”

See the full list here