You are right - I never had to tell anyone I’m “cis!” I was born, a doctor looked at my labia and told my parents “It’s a girl!” AND THE LIFELONG PERVASIVE SEXISM IN MY FAMILY, SCHOOL, WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE BEGAN! Thanks for opening my eyes to how lucky I am to have skipped the “invasive” questioning and gone STRAIGHT TO THE RELENTLESS “REDUCTION OF MY IDENTITY TO MY GENITALS."
Just exactly what do you think sexism is? Female humans are 1) visually differentiated as such starting from birth so 2) we can be groomed as second class citizens. The method and degree of grooming will vary based on other factors such as geographic location, economic class, race, religion, health, et cetera -- but in any case there is the inescapable physical reality of femaleness, the all-pervasive requirement that said femaleness be visually signaled at all times, and the immediate expectations of others in response to that visual signal, of a striving towards helpless beauty and loving servitude.
Hey Janet, you know those white people who complain about affirmative action because poor white folk have a hard time of it too? Economic class is extremely important, and our discomfort in addressing commonalities of economic struggle across race is a problem. But those white people are still incorrect. They are incorrect because they do not know what it is like to grow up not-white in a white supremacist culture. To shine a constant strobing light of Otherness to the Powers That Be.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT, JANET? MEN – no matter how difficult they find masculinity -- DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GROW UP FEMALE IN A MALE SUPREMACIST CULTURE.
I wish you would’ve asked an articulate feminist about her experiences growing up as a “cis” female, because you and all your identity-zombie followers need a blast of some basic honest truth.
First of all, I’m not a “cis” woman, I’M A WOMAN. AN ADULT HUMAN FEMALE. I do not need to qualify my membership in a basic biological category that applies to more than half the human population because less than one percent of males experience sex dysmorphia. I grant those males the term “transwoman,” and that is all I’m granting.
I’m a woman – a white woman born to a working class American family. A less happy accident of birth might have seen me killed for simply being born female, or married off at age 12. Based on nothing but my “physicality.”
But I was born to a white working class American family – So I was lucky enough to grow up merely doing all the chores while my brother was coddled. Being punished for outdoing him in any way. Sleeping with a kitchen knife under my pillow after checking the lock on my door one-two-three-four-five times (thrice over, and this is how OCD grows) because he was armed -- I unwrapped dolls at Christmas, he unwrapped weapons -- and bound to prove the dominance of his penis.
Yes, his penis. His genitalia. That Which All Of A Sudden Is None Of Anybody’s Business Even Though We Can’t Even Talk To Or About Babies Or Dogs If We Don’t Know Their Sex. My brother and I might as well have been raised in different households. And we both knew the reason why: Penis wins over vagina.
So yes: Lucky. Lucky to be told at age eight that all any boy wanted was to get into my pants and ruin my life, and three years later to be asked what was wrong with me that I wasn’t dating. Which pretty much sums up a woman’s position, huh.
I got my period at age eleven and hid it from my mother for two years. She hit me when she found out. I was hit for any and all infractions, of course, and this was not an unusual experience in my peer group. Not all the world is an upper-class helicopter-parent preciousized playground. I bound my budding breasts with ace bandages whilst she hung newly-purchased Wonderbras from my chair at the kitchen table. 1. Sex will ruin your life! 2, Why aren’t you sexy enough? When life gives you lemons: stuff ‘em in your bra. L-O-L.
Though I was thin I’d never have the sexy body of the 25 year old beauty queens playing teens on TV. With puberty came not only the painful menstruation and cystic acne of PCOS but the intensification of ulcerative colitis and the humiliating gassy-belly and speed-waddles to the girls’ bathroom between classes. I gave in to the persistent existence of my boobs only to have the most popular DJ on the radio announce with a smile in his voice that small breasts such as mine were deformities to be cured with surgery. I had pale skin that would never tan – though I laid out under a baking sun every day for two months straight the summer before high school in a valiant effort, my only reward was burn after burn – and black leg hair that shown through my translucent epidermis even when I shaved twice a day.
Thus being female and “becoming a woman” – a process at which I felt hurtled against my will, a black hole in space or a meat grinder in a horror movie – was always bound up with feeling “trapped in the wrong body”. I felt not only hideously ugly but hilariously so, like a tiny cartoon of simultaneous (unwilling) sexual availability and greasy un-lovableness. I would lie in bed night after night dreaming of miracle cures that would smooth the constant eruptions on my face or allow me to finally achieve tan, smooth legs tucked into perfectly white Keds (I won’t get into the self-tanner misadventures). Buying a bra that fits is a dream that continues to elude me.
Looking back at photographs now, I was perfectly normal looking. Sometimes even cute. This doesn’t change the fact that for something like ten years looking in a mirror was a physically and psychically wrenching experience for me.
Though I didn’t have beauty (or couldn’t see it) I did have brains. My parents could downplay my accomplishments and make fun of my aspirations all day long-- my teachers always encouraged me. Until middle school, that is.
BECAUSE PUBERTY DOESN’T JUST BRING BIOLOGICAL UNPLEASANTNESS. IT’S WHEN THE SOCIAL SHIT REALLY HITS THE SOCIAL FAN.
Suddenly I was fighting teachers and administrators to take math classes or join math club. Asking boys in my classes to pose questions on my behalf, in order to receive answers rather than snickers and snide remarks. Working summer jobs in food service or office support where sexual harassment was as common as winking condescension. I gave up math and science for the humanities and social sciences and when I graduated from a top college with top honors, my parents wrote asking if I was finally ready to settle down, work as a secretary and rent a trailer until I could find a husband.
As it turns out, I would need to work my (female) ass to the bone in jobs that paid me less to do more and better work than my male colleagues for several years before going that route. I married. I threw myself into wifedom, and onto the sword of step-motherhood. I thought if I proved my love through daily self-sacrifice and creative, intelligent acts of support and nurturance I’d be rewarded with affection and safety. I got condescension, resentment and poverty. After three years of misery, I left.
More underpaid, overworked jobs in blatantly sexist workplaces. My net worth? Zero. My self-worth? Less. I became a semi-famous writer’s secret lover. It wasn’t exciting, it was crushing. I was eminently fuckable but not high-status enough for public declaration. I moved away, tried to start over again, saw it over and over: no matter how hard and well I worked, the only reward was more work. (I was even told – to my face – by an HR professional – that my salary was meant to supplement a husband’s income. This was in 2006.)
I met another writer. Flirted with S&M. It brought the relief of temporary self-erasure. That was the most pleasure I experienced during that time: a few minutes of blissful non-existence via the blatant intimate hatred of a supposed “lover.” [Followed of course by an STD and unwanted pregnancy. Almost like biology matters.] This chapter drew to a close when it became clear he expected me to follow him across the country assisting with his career in return for… vagina-tearing sex and casual infidelity. Because that was all I was – a sweet, supportive sex doll. Not my own human being.
Life is not a romance novel; my writer-lover was not a tortured hero. He was just an entitled asshole taking advantage of the huge holes in my heart and my complete lack of hope in my future. He found me attractive and knew I was smart and extremely hard-working, and it made all the sense in the world to him that this qualified me to be a handy cumrag and (unpaid) personal secretary. SUCH ARE THE SPOILS OF FEMININITY.
It was a female friend who eventually bailed me out of debt and a married male friend who eventually set me on the path towards a decent job. My happily ever after is a 9-5er with a little house and some pets all my own. Decent health insurance and a 401k.
BUT WE’RE SEEPED IN A DIFFERENT NARRATIVE, AREN’T WE? FROM BIRTH. THE PRINCESS MYTH.
If you’re beautiful enough, pure, and sweet – birds will dress you in the morning and a prince will rescue you and all will be happily ever after. Of course, these days you need to be eager to take the prince’s cum in your face, but – details.
IT’S ALL LIES.
THERE IS NO RESCUE.
BEAUTY IS NOT ONLY IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER – IT GUARANTEES NOTHING. CERTAINLY NOT LOVE.
DESIRE IS NOT LOVE. LOVE IS NOT RESPECT. NEITHER DESIRE NOR LOVE IS SAFETY.
AND SELF-ABNEGATING LOVE BRINGS ONLY SELF-ABNEGATION.
WOMEN: BASED ON THE GENITALS WITH WHICH WE WERE BORN, WE SPEND OUR LIVES TRYING TO WIN A GAME. THE GAME IS CRUEL. THE GAME IS RIGGED. AND THE PRIZE IS: NOTHING. LIES. DISGUST.
MULTIPLE CHOICES FOR SELF ERASURE.
AND I AM SO TIRED OF FIGHTING REARGUARD ACTIONS.
“Adult human female” is a biological category with important social ramifications. This statement is in no way phobic of any-fucking-thing. It is not essentialist, determinist or any other –ist word some ignoramuses choose to mis-use because hey, actual dictionary definitions are so fasc-ist, bro, pass the doob. Feminists did not invent human reproduction, we did not cause anyone to be born with one organ system or another, we did not assign sexist presumptions to those organ systems, and we are not responsible for somehow curing male dysmorphia through elaborate self-erasing games of play-pretend.
AND NOW TO MY FELLOW FEMINISTS: CAN THIS BE IT? CAN WE STOP ARGUING WITH ASSHOLES AND FOOLS? BECAUSE I HONESTLY DO NOT CARE IF SOME DELUDED MISOGYNIST SCHMUCK THINKS CHASING THE PRINCESS STRIPPER DREAM WILL BRING HIM HAPPINESS. I DON’T WANT TO INDULGE THOSE ENTITLED SCHMUCKS ANY MORE. IF WE HAVE TO MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR THE RIGHT TO DEFINE “WOMAN” AS A MATERIAL REALITY RATHER THAN A MALE FANTASIE, LET’S DO THAT AND BE DONE.
WE NEED TO GET BUSY TELLING GIRLS THE TRUTH. PUSHING BACK AGAINST THE PHOTOSHOPPED LIES AND PORNIFIED HATE. PREPARING THEM FOR SAFE, HEALTHY, REWARDING ADULTHOODS, RATHER THAN "REDEFINING REALNESS" AS A CAREFULLY CULTIVATED, AESTHETICALLY PLEASING FEMININE FACADE OVER PAINFUL, DELICATE LIES.