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We are not our genitalia

So I wrote the post below 6 months ago, then never got around to editing and publishing it. I am very passionate about equality, but rarely post about it because honestly, it can get fucking depressing and blogging is supposed to be a fun hobby for me. (If you follow me on Instagram, that’s where you’ll see more on the topic.) But 6 months ago, I felt inspired and wanted to share my thoughts – it’s not perfect, but hopefully it provides some interesting food for thought. This week seemed like a good time to get it out there, with all of the terrible political attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Hope you enjoy!

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Photo by Andrew Branch on Unsplash

 

I read a fantastic article the other day that got me in full-on sociologist mode.

I highly recommend it, even though it’s pretty academic. But it covers a very important concept in our society – that men and women are very different, because of their biology.

Now, I’m not going to argue that males and females aren’t different. Males have different genitalia than females – females give birth, males don’t, etc etc. However, notice that I switched from the terms “men and women” to “males and females”. You’re thinking: who cares? “Men” and “males” are synonyms, and so are “women” and “females”.

And here’s where I’m gonna stop you and give you a free sociology lesson – and you will learn what my friends and family had to go through from 2010-2012 (who am I kidding, it didn’t stop then) when I was getting my master’s in sociology. Free and unsolicited sociology lessons were thrust upon innocents all around me during that time…

But YOU – you might want to hear this, right? Right??? Cuz you love me, and you love learning.

That’s what I thought.

So here’s the lesson – there is a big difference between sex and gender.

Sex = male/female, which refers to our chromosomes or genitalia.

Gender = women/men, which refers to how we express ourselves to the rest of society. This includes how we dress, talk, dance, eat, sit, stand, walk, work out, flirt, do our hair… it’s part of our identity, which is shaped by us, and our environment.

So back to this idea that is so important – are women and men different, on some core and essential level, because of their biology (aka sex)?

This is a very prevalent idea, that shapes our culture in a ton of different ways. The idea that we are inherently different because of our sex is the foundation of everything from family structure to war to deodorant to self-help books to our country’s entire labor force.

So you might be thinking, “Ya, of course everything is based on that, because it’s true – men and women are born different, and we are built to do different things – we’re just different, down to the very core.”

Some things are true. Males, on average, have more muscle mass and can lift heavier things and stuff. Females are able to give birth and males can’t. Males have more testosterone, females have periods.

But now, can you look at those things and then conclude that women are better at working with children? Can you conclude that men are not “built” to be as good at listening and empathizing? Can you conclude that men are not as sensitive, shouldn’t cry as much, are just designed to have trouble staying faithful in monogamous relationships? That women don’t have what it takes to run a government or a company? That women are predisposed to focus on one primary goal: to find a husband, keep him faithful, and have children?

See what’s happening here? We are extrapolating A LOT. And I know that hormones and genetics and all of that have a big effect on who we are and how we behave. However, I think that too much weight is put on this one aspect of our biological bodies (sex) and how it impacts who we are in society.

And you know what throws a big ‘ol wrench into this whole idea? The fact that intersex people exist. Newsflash – there aren’t just two binary sexes. There’s a whole grey area, a whole population of people (and not a small one) that is neither male nor female. So who are they? Should they raise kids? Should they have long hair? Should they suck it up and “be a man”? How does this work for them?

There is also the transgender community. A man can technically give birth if they wanted to – because perhaps they were born with female biological characteristics, but they identify as a man. And if you talk to someone who is transgender who is undergoing hormone therapy, you will realize that physical sexual characteristics can be completely created by hormones – if you are born a female and identify as a man, you may undergo hormone therapy and can become a physical male, in almost every way. Body hair, fat distribution, chiseled jaw line, even an adam’s apple! It’s tougher for transwomen, but what you realize when you look into what these communities experience is that so much of what we see as genetic or biological can be performed in a way, just like the cultural aspects of gender.

Let’s break this down even more. Our culture tells us that we are born a man or woman, and that makes us so distinctly and essentially different – that it is a binary and clear distinction that determines who we are. Okay – then why, if you asked me, could I walk, talk, and act like a man? I can mimic all of that behavior. Because all of that is cultural, learned behavior – it is performed. It is not something we are born with.

If you add in hormones, voice training, months or years of living as the gender that doesn’t traditionally align with your sex – you honestly, in a lot of cases, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. You probably are unaware that you have interacted with multiple trans people in your life. They just seemed like “normal” men or women.

The intersex and trans community are exactly why the distinction between the terms sex and gender are so important. When you learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll see how fluid both of those concepts really are – despite the media telling you how important your genitalia and gender are to how you interact with every person in your life.

Let’s go back to the hetero-normative idea for a moment. You read in the news all the time about studies of men and women, right? “Studies show that women are 5x more likely to x when doing x than men.” Something like that.  What I loved so much about the article I linked to at the beginning is that they called out these types of studies and how you can’t take them at face value. First of all, studies are only news-worthy when they call out our differences. Studies like this would be kind of boring, right?:

When it comes to humans, yes, Fine says, on average men report a greater interest in casual sex than do women. But according to a large-scale British study of more than 12,000 people ages 16-44, the most common number of sexual partners for both men and women was … one. That answer held whether the respondents were asked to report for the previous three months, the previous year, or the previous five years. Both men (80%) and women (89%) also said they preferred to be in a sexually exclusive relationship.

We have our differences, of course – but the argument here is that our similarities are never emphasized. This makes us feel like strangers to each other, like we can’t understand the “opposite sex” – and it encourages us to feel estranged and dramatically different from each other.

Why? If you’re asking me, personally, I say the patriarchy and the interest of those in power to make sure we all feel like only a certain group of people are fit to be in charge, and so we don’t band together to call bullshit. But it’s also used to sell us all kinds of things, like I mentioned before. Why do we need different deodorants???? Razors? Self-help books? Cars? Clothes? Anything can be gendered in advertisements, it’s actually amazing. Once you start looking for it, it’s kind of mind-boggling.

But this article also called these news-worthy studies into question in a different way – I laughed out loud when I read this part:

What about the now-famous studies done on college campuses that show men are far more likely than women to accept the request of an opposite-sex unfamiliar peer (actually a research confederate) to come over to their apartment or even to go to bed together?

Here Fine is at her best, registering this objection (among others):

“What this study is actually primarily showing is women’s lack of interest in being murdered, raped, robbed, or inflaming the interests of a potential stalker…. Social realities mean that women and men in these studies are simply not participating in the same experiment.”

BAHAHA.

Actually, I might be interested in casual sex, but I’m just really not into being murdered, which is kind of at the top of the priority list.

So with everything we just talked about, here’s the kicker – both gender and sex are not that important in a lot of ways, right? So what if I don’t have a penis – I’m really not that different from men, and we are definitely not as different than society wants us to believe.

BUT – with sexism and rape culture and homophobia, sex and gender are very important in other ways – if you are in the minority group in these categories, it can affect everything from getting a good job to being safe in our own homes.

So – this stuff is all so important when reading news headlines and puff pieces and when watching romantic comedies (which are the absolute worst when it comes to this stuff, but I still love them?). Sex isn’t binary, gender is performed, sexism and heterosexism are real and ubiquitous.

Think about why you are hearing the messages you are hearing. Why can’t you just do what you want? Why do you have to have your hair that way, or do this or that in order to be a real woman or man? Question everything, my lovelies.

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…like why Trump announced the trans military ban and the Justice Dept. argued against LGBTQ+ discriminatory protections this week. This particular week. Why now? What are we being distracted from? Who are they distracting? I bet you can guess.

It’s been a rough week, but if we keep questioning, taking no bullshit, and standing up for each other, we can spread love better than they can spread hate.

 

 

 

 

With the wind at your back

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Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

 

Do you ever have those days where you look at your to-do list and your whole being just yells no?

“#1: No….#2: Noooo….#3: That’s a no…#4: HELL NO….#5: Not today cuz no….”

I have those days, a LOT. I have days where I can barely do anything productive at all, and days where I have just enough energy to do the bare minimum, or days when certain categories seem fine but others not – so I’ll clean my entire house but won’t be able to look at the emails I have to reply to.

Some days I’m fine with this, with no guilt whatsoever. But most of the time I’ll have to wrestle with at least some guilt or frustration that I can’t just muster up the mojo to get all the things done. Especially when I have a few days like these in a row – I start to think “all this will never get done in time – I’ll never ever get to these gross things on my to-do list, ever”.

My first reaction is to try and force myself to do it. Sometimes a little bargaining works – “just do this one small thing AT LEAST – then you can at least say you did SOMETHING today”. But sometimes my desire to ignore my to-do list is like an elephant, and I’m trying to just pick up one leg and move it an inch forward with no luck.

Then my whole day is about this battle, and how I’m failing, and I’m such a lazy person, etc. etc.

But, around this time last year, I started making a big effort to cut out the guilt. And it’s been working out great. I still have to take a moment and talk myself through it, but I am so much better at letting things like this go now. I also trust more in a pattern I know that I have – where I can put things off for a long time, to a point where it seems like disaster is just around the corner, but then have one super productive day and wipe it all out in one sitting.

My sister and I have tried to remind each other of this cycle over the years – we’ll call the other person and we’ll be convinced that this is our life now and we’ll never get anything done ever again. The other will bring up how we always come through eventually with a super productive streak, and there is just no use in worrying. Thank god for sisters.

We’ve both gotten better at trusting this cycle, but we’ve never had a name for it. Then the other day Mary goes “I just have to wait for the wind to be at my back, yunno?”

It was the perfect way to describe it. Everyone is different, but I know that for us, we will just make ourselves miserable if we try to do things before we are ready. Of course we can meet deadlines and all that, but when it comes to that boring adulting stuff, or work stuff that doesn’t have a deadline but you want off your list, etc. – if we try to get all that done on a day where it feels like a battle, then we’re just wasting a day. Our bodies and minds are telling us it needs to rest, even if it seems to make no sense to us. Regardless of the reason, it’s best to (as my sister said) “just chill in the boat and have a margarita”. When the wind comes back, things will be SO much easier, and you’ll go so much farther with a lot less effort than if you tried to move yesterday.

And isn’t that just more efficient? I know that eventually I will have one of those days where I wake up just READY to kick some ass. And I always surprise myself on those days with how much I can get done and how many names I can take.

Today is not one of those days. But today, I’m trusting what my past has proved to me – that eventually I WILL make those doctor appointments, or write that blog post, or finally clean the shower… No use in trying to move mountains when it will just make me cranky.

Wanna have a margarita with me while I wait?

 

 

Trust Issues

 

I watched Hillary’s speech last night. I’ve been watching parts of the DNC to see my favorite speakers speak, and to also witness the historic milestone that’s happening for women in this country. You can think it’s not a big deal, but it is.

 

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Image via Mashable

I almost forgot, while texting my friends during the speech, how important it was. I was sending out snarky comments and jokes about Morgan Freeman and the “fight song” and stuff. Then my friend goes, “Stop being so cynical – we’ve been waiting for this shit since we were little – a fucking woman president.”

It felt like when your mom calls you out, basically saying “stop being an asshole” – and you realize that you were being an asshole and feel ashamed and you’re like, “Sorrrrryyyy mooooommmmmmmm….”

Anyway, I snapped back into the moment. But what I realized later is that maybe I am more cynical then some of my peers when it comes to poltics. Today I was talking to a friend about Hillary, and she said “this is why I love and hate her.” And my feed is full of Bernie uber-fans that are mourning their loss right now – there is just a lot of emotion in the democratic party currently.

It made me think about how I’ve never had strong emotions for politicians like that (at least not for Democrats. I obviously have strong feelings of dislike and disgust for some Republican politicians – can you blame me, when they are trying to tell me who I should be and what to do with my body and sexuality all the time? And trying to make people in my country feel like second-class citizens?).

With Obama, I was smitten. But I was mostly emotional about the historical significance – once I got to grad school, I became more cynical and came to believe that all politicians, or people in large social institutions, are never perfect (what human is) and that they are a product of the larger machine. I stopped seeing them as people to get attached to, and more as facilitators of change, good or bad – I removed the emotions from it.

This wasn’t a hard thing for me – I have this thing with trusting adults, in general. It’s hard for me to do.

….I just realized I said “adults” which is hilarious, since I suppose I count as an adult at 27 years old. Ha.

What I mean is: people my parents’ age, and particularly those in a role of authority. So Anthony’s parents, my friends’ parents, all good – professors, bosses, boss’s bosses – I keep my distance. I just don’t trust them – I expect them to let me down. And a lot of them do. Because they’re human.

Don’t get me wrong – I get very emotional about politics in general. I’ve been known to take things to a weird place when we’re talking politics in a bar and talk unreasonably loud and look like I might cry at any second. I’ve cried in restaurant bathrooms about the fact that rape is a thing. I’ve cried in cars about how hard it must be for transgendered people. I’ve almost cried in class from being overwhelmed by my white guilt. I’m not trying to be like, “look how empathetic I am” – I’m just saying I’m not this stoic person when it comes to the news.

Bernie was saying everything that I dreamed a politician would say some day – and I never thought it would happen. He really surprised me and gave me hope – that a democratic socialist agenda could be widely embraced. It was almost too good to be true. I didn’t think he would make it to the nominee, so honestly I unhooked from it all. I voted for him in the primary, because if anything, I wanted the party to move more left. And I think that happened. It was amazing, watching his whole movement. But I never like, fell in love with the guy. Out of all the politicians, he would be the one I would get emotional over – but I just didn’t.

With Hillary, I don’t love her or hate her. I am for SURE going to cry my eyes out if she wins, seeing that insanely amazing historical event take place. But it’s not about her. As a person. She’s fine – I respect her. What I hear from some of my friends is “but I just don’t trust her!” And I think – “Of course I don’t trust her. Why is that even relevant?”

Does that make me weird?

I guess we should define trust… Like I expect her to do things I won’t agree with. Do I think she’ll tank the country? Of course not. I think it will be MUCH like the last 8 years. More of the same. Not ideal, but not bad. Just what I have come to expect, at a federal government level. I have hope for change in people’s minds and hearts and through socialization and person-to-person contact – those things then get fought for all the way up to the top – by people at the bottom.

I don’t know – I just beleive that there is no point in putting our trust in a politician – trust as in, “I know they won’t let me down, and if they did, I would be crushed and surprised”. I can find politicians that I will agree with most of the time – but if it turns out that they are secretly fucked up in some way, I’m not surprised. I feel this way about Cory Booker, Liz Warren, Joe Biden, etc. There is just no way I know their entire track record, or that something in the future won’t come up that I will disagree with them on. These are people I don’t know – why would I trust them to always make decisions that I agree with?

I feel the same way about people working in the legal system, people in other government roles, spiritual leaders – people in large social institutions. I won’t put all my chips behind an insititution, or someone representing an institution’s interest – because inevitably I feel that they will do something I don’t agree with. Institutions are slow to change. They aren’t on the cusp of new ideas and aren’t the first to embrace social justice movements – they move slowly, and try to uphold the status quo. That’s their whole thing.

One of my friends says that subscribing to a label – feminist, democrat, republican – clouds your judgement. It makes you follow that group blindly and not research the facts independently. I definitely post things on social media without an independent investigation on my part from sources that seem to me to be promoting the right ideas. Ideas I agree with. That is also not ideal. But I think it is important to embrace labels and movements like Feminist and Black Lives Matter, to promote change that needs to happen. That doesn’t mean I agree with every democrat or feminist, just because I apply those labels to myself. But I get what he’s saying. I don’t think that groups in this arena can be trusted blindly to never go astray from what I believe in.

You know who I do trust? My sister. Anthony. Friends who were there through my grad school idealist phase of realizing how fucked up the world is and who agreed and let me rant for hours and listened. I trust that whatever they are saying to people regarding politics, that they will say what I would say. And that’s an amazing thing. I know that if Anthony is in a room where someone says something racist, or homophobic, or sexist, that he will speak up (he is much braver than me when it comes to these confrontations) and that he will say what I would. I can’t believe it sometimes – it’s amazing.

 

I wish I felt that way about politicians.

 

 

What do you think? Do you think people like me are too cynical about politics, or maybe not cynical enough? Do you trust certain politicians? How do you define trust when it comes to politics?

 

 

{How To:} Revamp your social life

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Last week I told you how I revamped my closet. This week, I wanted to tell you about the amazing idea my sister had a few months ago to revamp my social life.

I have been going through a phase where I really want to build my friendships and get more close girlfriends – I am so used to having a big group of awesome girlfriends from being in college and grad school. Once I moved to Santa Barbara and started working, I had just a couple here and there – some are super busy and hard to hang out with regularly, some moved away – but I am lucky to have a handful that I see regularly. I wrote about this on a post a while back – I was feeling a little insecure and stunted in that category and wanted to meet more people.

Then I talked to my sister, who had a great idea. We were talking about how hard it is to get something going with a new friend you like. So you meet a new neighbor – what do you do, invite them over for dinner? Sounds nice – but a little intense and pressure-y, from my introverted perspective. We were talking about it and I said “I wish there was just a casual way to just see people and get to know them better without having to make a big deal about it.”

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Then she was like – wait, duh. I used to do this in college. You just make a day where you all meet at the same place every week for beers – then you can invite whoever you want, and it’s no big deal. They had Woodstocks Wednesdays in downtown San Luis Obispo, and it was an awesome social hub to fall back on every week. Then I remembered – I had one in college, too! It was Family Dinner Night – every Thursday (I think…) at my friends’ house. We would have a potluck and catch up and everyone would bring new people all the time.

So we thought – this does not need to just be a college thing. And Yellow Belly Tuesday was born.

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As it turns out, Anthony and I and our two friends were meeting at Yellow Belly about once a week anyway, just to catch up during the week. It’s perfect, because it’s walking distance from our house and we are regulars already. Yellow Belly opened sometime last winter I think, and everyone loves the great food and beer. We started calling it our dining room, since our place doesn’t really have one, and we eat there so much.

It was the perfect place for our weekly gathering. Our first Yellow Belly Tuesday was on July 7th, and it has been a hit ever since. I feel like I see people regularly that I wouldn’t otherwise, and I have gotten to know some acquaintances a lot better – and now I can call them my friends. I think it was the perfect solution to my new friend slump – if you are having one too, I highly recommend giving your social life a face lift and starting your own.

Set up your own weekly gathering:

Choose a place.

For us, it was a no-brainer. And honestly, we were pretty selfish about it… since we were starting it, we got to choose our favorite place. But if your favorite place is a super romantic Italian tiny restaurant with candles and white tablecloths, it’s not the best choice. Ask yourself a couple of questions when choosing a place:

  • Is it big enough to accommodate the number of people you want to come?
  • Is it casual?
  • Does it have food?
  • Does it have a menu that most people could choose from?
  • Is it out of the way or in the middle of town?

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Choose a day and time.

We wanted it to be during the week, to break things up and to have something to look forward to. You probably won’t want to have it on the weekend, since a lot of people go out of town or will have other stuff planned. This way you can catch up with a mix of people during the week, and have the weekend to hang out with your typical group and relax. We wanted to choose something mid-week and landed on Tuesday to avoid Anthony’s ensemble’s rehearsals that typically happen Wednesdays and Thursdays. Think about who will probably be the regulars and take a poll with your core group to see what day is most convenient for most people.

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Even if Tuesdays aren’t great for some people, we end up staying so long that most people can at least swing by on their way to or from something else if they wanted to. Ours goes from 6:15-9ish usually. It might sound like a big investment and way too long to be at a restaurant – but it actually happens naturally that way. Even before we started YBT, we ended up staying until around nine just with friends. Consider if you could hang out at this place for that long, or if there would be a changing set of people that would be there for an extended period of time – it’s nice to have a big window to see the most people around their schedule.

Invite people!

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We use Facebook to spread the word, every week. It’s nice to remind people (even those that come all the time) and make posts about that week – for example, if it’s someone’s birthday and we’re celebrating, or if we need to let anyone know that we (the core members who started this whole thing) can’t make it.

Facebook doesn’t let you set up recurring events (if I’m wrong let me know!) so we update the date every week until it doesn’t let us anymore, then we create a new one and start over. Facebook works for us because we can make it public and people can invite their friends on their own. If you choose to use Facebook, make sure to add a few people as the admin so they can update the event if you can’t.

Facetune

Engage with your new place.

Tell the waitstaff about your weekly meet up and tag their social media pages when you take photos or check in. It’s always nice to have connections with a local place that you love.

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I know you are already super pumped about this – but just to seal the deal… Here are a few benefits of this kind of set up:

  • Friend dating someone new? This is a super casual way for you to meet and get to know them.
  • Do you have a friend-crush on someone in the office, but don’t know how to be friends with them in real life? Invite them as you’re leaving work so you can integrate them into your friend group.
  • Want to meet more people? Encourage everyone to bring their office friend crush, their boyfriend/girlfriend and their friends, etc – your friend network can potentially grow exponentially.

 

Please tell me if you already have something like this that you do (weekly bookclubs maybe? Too bad I only read in random phases – beer is more of a constant in my life) and what you like or dislike about it. If you end up launching one of your own weekly hangouts, let me know how it goes!

 

Amazing photos taken by my talented sister, Mary, at Two Happy Lambs Photography

 

 

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