Eater of Trees

Posts Tagged ‘gender

…well they aren’t the same thing, they’re hyponyms* of a broader category and we’re generally mostly just concerned about the broader category; forcing sex and gender to be different things serves to marginalize trans people by forcing gender onto their body parts.

And doing so usually involves copious ignoring of facts, because everyone who decides my sex must be male apparently sees a penis and stops; they don’t bother to notice that because of hormones I have breasts, and body odor and skin texture that’s within the norm for women, and because of lasers my hair coverage is again, normative for women.

This isn’t to say that a woman who doesn’t have those traits body is still not female, of course.  Just that very frequently the idea that sex is what’s in your pants serves to completely ignore everything outside of said pants, which, actually makes it relatively clear how objective said fact really is.  But even if your body entirely conforms to the general societal expectations of men’s bodies, you can still call your body female; and telling someone who does so that their body is male is very much cissexism.

And I do want to be clear that people may not necessarily identify their sex as the same as their gender.  I’m not entirely sure at this point whether I do or not, myself.  Respect people’s identities and don’t take this to mean you can yell at people who call themselves “male-bodied.” (Calling other people who don’t identify that way things like that? Yeah yelling may be appropriate) The point is, however, people can identify both their sex and gender however they want and the actual gendering of specific classes of body parts is a socially constructed convention and IT IS COMPLETE BULLSHIT and HIGHLY OPPRESSIVE TO TRANS PEOPLE.)

*it occurs to me “hyponym” may not be a well known word.  It’s like… there’s a broader category that the words that are hyponyms belong to (eg. “chair” is a hyponym of “furniture”; “furniture” is a hypernym of “chair”)

(crossposted on tumblr)

So anyway, Cabbage was just applying for a job and one of the steps prior to getting an interview was like… fill out this questionaire where you say you’re extroverted and organized and have no disabilities.

I maaaay have taken down the problematic questions.  (There were about fifty questions total, problematic and un-.  About half were problematic in some way or another.)

Anyway it came out with ten questions that were blatantly discriminatory against people with autism, most of which would also be discriminatory against introverts or people with other social issues (because they related to liking being around people or knowing how to deal with people.)

Four of them were things like “I’m organized!” which would be incredibly discriminatory against people with ADHD—after all, organizing things as a job and keeping your house clean are so totally the same skillset. (sarcasm)

Five were discriminatory against people with mental health issues (“I’m calm when I’m stressed” = “I have no anxiety disorders” or “I’m cheerful all the time” = “Depression? Nope don’t have that”)

(Though I mean, you could maybe make a case that those can effect your ability to preform a job, because they certainly have for me; but there’s still like… a certain threshhold where your issues won’t be that disruptive but are still there.  Also? HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE IF YOU’RE TOO ANXIOUS TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE MOST DAYS?)

Also they asked about grades in school, which, I mean, doesn’t really seem like it would necessarily have much effect on the ability to do the job if they weren’t good, and often, you know, they can suck because disabilities with no or minimal accomidation.

SO: I am rather creeped out and certainly do not feel like this company is remotely as “equal opportunity” as they’re pretending.

And speaking of creeped out, here’s the creepiest questions: (They were “agree or disagree” type questions, for the record, so they’re in the form of second person statements)

“Any trouble you have is your own fault” = WOOO VICTIM BLAMING! Also: When we act like exploitative shits, or possibly when someone else in the company is an oppressive asshole, will you make trouble? We don’t want people to challenge the status quo here.

“People are often mean to you” = YEP BECAUSE THAT’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER. (I have honestly no idea which answer they’d prefer; probably “disagree” on the grounds of they don’t want, you know, oppressed or marginalized people who’ll be angry at them :\ Regardless though it’s incredibly creepy.)

“When someone treats you badly you ignore it” = YOU MUST SUBMIT TO ALL OPPRESSION!

“You don’t care if people offend you” = DITTO! (I mean, “offend” is often used as code for “abuse and/or oppress and/or hurt” in popular culture.  Personally I don’t actually give much of a shit about offense.  But usually “offense” isn’t just that.)

And finally: “Your friends and family approve of the things you do.” = Approval from people who may have mistreated you for years or generally treat you poorly and who you don’t particularly have much say of whether they’re in your life of not? THAT IS SO IMPORTANT. (obviously this is mostly a problem for people with shitty families, but considering, you know, 40% of trans people have been disowned…*)

Also the whole thing ended with “Are you a woman?” and “Are you hispanic/Latino” which had an “I would prefer not to answer” option, but also is like… they’re going to look at Cabbage’s legal name and probably just assume both of those.  So like… not entirely confident that discrimination there would be avoidable. :\

Cabbage adds:

I really, really, really, really, hate online job applications because they are so completely discriminatory and so common. Every single online application I’ve taken has been exactly like this. You really have to basically be extroverted, normative, able, well organized, and have a perfectly normative past in order to look good on these applications. I hate having to lie because I’m really bad at it but I know if I don’t bullshit my ass off there’s no way I’m going to get an interview even though I know I’m an excellent employee. How is this equal opportunity if I can’t even get an interview because, despite my qualifications, I don’t fit the unattainable mold they expect their ‘preferred’ employees to fit in?

*EDIT: Double checking the statistics it’s ~50% experience some of of rejection; 40% for family refusing to speak with them. (according to the NTDS results)

(I also wrote a less formal discussion of what I liked about Portal 2 on my Tumblr.  This document contains spoilers.)

Portal 2 is unfortunately not nearly as inclusive as the first.  The first the worst problem (that I noticed) was that there was some implication that GlaDOS’s amorality was being equated with people with mental health issues.  Portal 2, however, has two points I found problematic: ableist humor (as well as some other varieties of bigoted humor) and the treatment of GlaDOS’s character.  The former was mostly small moments, but they recurred regularly throughout the game, and overall it created an environment that strongly sent a message that if you’re disabled (or otherwise nonnormative) you’re not worth anything.  The latter I’m slightly more ambivalent on, but it still contributed to an environment that made me uneasy.

Spoiler cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

[Crossposted from here]

Okay how is it that we internalized this idea that ‘offensiveness’ is the problem?

Because I mean seriously, when people make, say, jokes about how trans people are not really their gender and such, the problem isn’t offensiveness. It’s oppressiveness.  You’re not offending someone. YOU’RE HURTING THEM.

Equating being oppressed with being offended is a way to derail the conversation and draw attention away from the fact that oppressive actions are hurting people.

Plus it is so subjective, it’s not like there are dozens of men who are offended by the prospect of women standing up to them, or homophobic fucks who’re offended by seeing gay people show affection, or cissexist asshats who’re offended that you’re not comforming to your patriarchal box.

Offensiveness is comparing me to a slime mold. Kind of maybe painful but not really problematic.  Oppressiveness is mocking me because my gender doesn’t match the one I was coercively assigned, or insisting that should be shut away because of nonneurotypicalness. THIS IS THE SHIT THAT RUINS PEOPLES LIVES.

I recently was reading someone talking about how silent protagonists in video are awesome because they let the player assume the role of the character, and the character is basically an insertion of the player into the game or some such.   Which seems reasonable on the surface, except in practice it doesn’t work that way.

My biggest issue is that they completely are not representative of the player.  At least, not if the player is me.  Most notably, almost inevitably these silent protagonists are male. (Examples coming to mind: Crono from Chrono Trigger, Gordon Freeman from Half Life (and sequels), Link from Zelda; I know there are more, feel free to look up ‘heroic mime’ on tvtropes)  They’re also often white, lack disability, and straight, but those don’t quite effect me in the same way.  (Which is to say, I’m not straight and do have several disabilities but the latter rarely would come up in the game’s story–possibly in the game play though–and the former means that I still generally like the same gender as the protagonist.)

The issue that I’ve found comes up is that I completely cannot relate to male characters.  It’s probably especially significant that I’m trans here.  This means that when I’m playing a male character, if I am in some way percieving the character as me, that I’m being forced into a roll that I have a very long history of being coerced into assuming and really would rather not.

For example, recently I was considering playing Half Life 2 again and found that just considering playing it was enough to cause me to panic about how flat my chest was.  Which is a rather unpleasant experience.  (And also: my chest isn’t flat. So it was mostly unpleasantly recalling a time when it was.)

This is, obviously, a significantly more dramatic reaction than many people would have.  But it still highlights something important: a character who is depicted entirely as silent is very rarely depicted without numerous traits that the player may not have. Race and gender being quite common but not the only examples.  And that can completely break the ability to relate to said character.  (It certainly doesn’t have to. And I will readily admit that again, my experience is not typical.  But it’s also not unique.)

Really, once this connection to the character is lost, it quickly becomes problematic.  Especially if the story is at all complex, which is less the case in early Zelda games or Mario, for example.  But when the protagonist barely has any sort of interaction and somehow drives the plot, or even more so when they don’t drive the plot and just do what people around them say, as is more or less inevitable in a video game, you suddenly have a weird situation where the game focuses on a remarkably uninteresting character at the expense of the much more interesting ones around them.

(This can also apply to the much more detail-free AFGNCAAP type protagonist if they turn out to be significantly less GN or CA than the trope would imply.  Which the TVTropes article on this points out is not entirely uncommon.  And for examples, see the advertising of nearly any RPG with character creation ever.)

And this of course doesn’t touch on the fact that most linear narratives are not remotely player controlled, and so inevitably the ‘protagonist’ is not driving the action at all.  Which, much like when some incorrect assumption about the player’s identity breaks your connection to the character, also leads to a very boring character being the focus of things at the expense of those around them.

(When games acknowledge this, though, it can work really well.  Portal, for example, works really well because the focus is not on the players character, but on GlaDOS.  Also I may be a tad biased because the silent protagonist isn’t male. But regardless the game’s focus is not on Chell at all.)

So in short, I really hate silent protagonists, especially when they’re male, and except occasionally when I don’t.  Because the narrative of “they let the player take the role of the character” frequently falls apart in practice.  Especially when your identity is non-normative or the narrative is at all complex.

We all know about hypersexualized armor.  Oblivion does a bit better on that but it still is kind of terrible sometimes.  For example, this happened:

A woman in metal armor with a low neckline. An arrow is stuck in her upper chest in a part of her body the armor doesn't cover.

I mean seriously that’s exactly why this type of armor makes no sense. (Also I went with heavy armor with this character because it seemed like it would be less sexualized.  So far I am wrong. ._.)

Also, hmmm… maybe I should get a tumblr if I’m going to make microbloggy posts like this…

Something I have heard a lot, often from well meaning people: “Gender is social, sex is biological.” Okay I’ll give you that (mostly).  But then it turns into something like “So your gender can be whatever you want, your sex is the biology, and fixed.”  or even “Your sex is what your genitalia are” (or less often, your genes).  And that is completely bullshit.

Sex is not just genitalia.  That’s something that’s really obvious when you put a couple seconds of thought into.  Genitalia are one part of your body that is pretty much inevitably covered all the time.  Which is to say, for most people you will probably never see their genitalia, unless you’re a doctor or someone who has a specific reason to interact with them en masse.

Ergo, whenever you decide the sex (or gender) of a person, you’re not deciding it based on their genitalia.  Unless they’re an infant who’s just been born, then that’s pretty much the only sexual characteristic you can see.  For that matter, that’s pretty much the case until puberty.  Hence why coercively assigned birth genders are based on that.

And genes are even less important.  Certainly they decide quite a bit about how you develop, but you don’t see them.  A lot of people have probably never seen their genes.  Whether you have one or two X chromosomes is pretty much irrelevant to your interactions with people, except indirectly through how that manifests sexual characteristics.

(I can be pretty certain I have one X chromosome due to the genetics of colorblindness–my maternal grandfather was also color blind and my mom wasn’t, and nobody on my dad’s side of the family was, which is pretty much a situation that’s only possible if you’re genetically male.  But beyond that, I’ve never seen any direct evidence either way as to what my genes are.)

Thus you cannot reduce sex to either genitalia or genetics, as in practice neither are traits used to determine what it is in interactions with people.  But it isn’t just that.  Sex is not one single unambigous trait, it is composed of a large collection of different characteristics (mostly biological, but the line between sociology and biology can get really thin sometimes.)  And these traits are not always unambiguous–intersex people exist for a reason–nor do they necessarily all correspond.  It is entirely possible to have some traits of one sex and some of another.  For example it’s not too hard for trans women to have both breasts and male genitalia, which are both really strongly associated with their respective sexes, but with both it becomes rather hard to rely on either to dictate sex.

(You can, of course, declare people with ambiguous sexual characteristics to be one or the other sex, which you generally can and should do by asking them what they prefer to be.  What you can’t do is reduce their sex to one trait without consulting them on it, especially when other traits directly contradict the one you’re trying to reduce them to.)

Further, many sexual characteristics are really not that unambiguous even on their own.  Even breasts come in a variety of sizes on both men and women, and they can blur together.  And traits like body hair, size, voice, and the like vary more between people than they do between sexes.  As such, sex can become ambiguous on cis people, and what traits you reduce sex to is mostly a judgment call.  And certain characteristics that do have a basis in biology (eg regarding women as more “emotional”, or men as being easily aroused) really blur the line between sex and gender.

The fact is, there is no a priori reason to treat sex as either genetics or genitalia.  The decision to attempt to do so is purely a social construct, and in addition, not particularly practical as neither is readily visible.  And other sexually associated characteristics are even less unambiguous.  Furthermore, such ideas are inherently erasing and discriminatory to trans people who can and are attempting to alter their sex and to intersex people, who cannot really be put into even a biological box in the first place.

This is actually a normal characteristic of language.  Most words refer to a really wide variety of things that may be really ambiguous as to whether the word can apply to them as you move away from the core of the semantic space.  (This is also why I really hate the concept of ‘definitions’ because they tend to create these rigid boundaries between semantic fields that don’t actually exist when you actually speak or think.  Though to be fair they can be useful for scientific jargon.)  This is especially important to be aware of as the tendency for words to imply certain traits that may be pretty fuzzy around the edges or are not universal can easily be used to further oppressive systems, often unintentionally and especially when you are unaware of these things.  (For instance the tendency to assume “person” implies “white” and “male” when not otherwise specified tends to lead to unintentional exclusion of POC and women.)

(Disclaimer: I’m not particularly an expert on semantics–I mostly studied it in high school so I could make my own (naturalistic) languages :P–so I may have screwed up something–and I know I simplified it–in that last bit.)