Gender

When I studied anthropology it seemed like just another specialist term to learn. Gender as opposed to sex. I mean really… If you have a penis you’re a boy! As I went on in my studies I became more interested and, as is my wont, jumped into the wonderful ideas about the practice of gender in different cultures and times… It really was part of the revolutionising of how I saw the world. I became convinced that our physiology is the frosting on a cake made of culture. That almost all of our perceptions of gender were produced by power relations and the like.

Funny how our ideas often come full circle. Nowadays I am convinced (and that means something different too) that gender is a profound part of who we are and is linked deeply with our physiology but transcends it too. Where once I sought to see through difference to find commonality I now delight in the rich differences.

I am fascinated by what is might do to one’s psyche to menstruate 300-400 times in your life. I love Camillie Paglia’s opening chapter in Sexual Personae where she is obviously fascinated by the mysterious hidden grotto of women’s vulva as opposed to the obviousness of the male penis and balls… and the FASCINATING thought that this night mirror our psyche’s!!!

And what does this mean for people who identify against their physiology?

Nowadays female gender feels like this rich foreign culture with its own language and perceptions. I love to be an ethnographer revelling in the strange practices and confusing ideas all the while having the feeling that in encountering this otherness I also encounter something of the feminine divine. And it definitely helps that this rich foreign culture mostly belongs to people I find very sexually exciting.

Mmmmm….

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One Response to “Gender”

  1. Heather Says:

    Hmmm….

    I see gender as a cultural construct most commonly assigned based on physiology. Physiology then also feeds strongly into what it means (stuff like males tend to be stronger so men tend to be given strength-requiring roles, females have babies so women tend to be given roles that require/allow that etc.).

    But mostly I wanted to give my personal response to ‘what does it do to someone’s psyche to menstruate 300-400 times in one’s lifetime’.

    I am always somewhere in a cycle. This cycle affects my energy levels, my body shape and weight, my pain level, and how I have sex. For medical reasons, I must not have children. However, so far as I know, I am fertile. I do not wish to permanently remove my ability to have children, as I would dearly love to have them one day, and there is a chance that one day my medical reason for not having children will be cured. Unfortunately, that same medical reason means that it is unwise for me to be on the PIll. So I am left with the options of not having sex at all, only ever having sex with a condom, seriously compromising my health, or constantly being aware of where I am in my menstrual cycle and allowing that to govern my sexual practise. I have chosen the path of ‘fertility awareness’ and am thus uncommonly closely aware of my menstrual cycle.

    On the one hand it fascinates me, this thing my body does. And how total it is. I primarily monitor my fertility based on my cervical mucus – the appearance of smears of mucus on loo paper. But if I wanted to purchase a simple microscope, I could monitor changes in microscopic structures in my saliva and its refractivity! That fascinates the scientist in me šŸ™‚

    On another hand, it mocks me. I have my period right now. My energy is low, my stomach aches and is bloated. I don’t want to eat or move. I can still enjoy touching my husband’s genitals, but I don’t want his hands anywhere near my sore ones. If I wasn’t on strong medication, I would feel like throwing up and any movement of my legs would send waves of pain through my body. [I realise my experience is extreme – I don’t know any women who get worse dysmennorhea than I do.] It’s no fun being like this, yet its only ‘purpose” is to enable me to create a good environment in which to grow a baby. I’m not going to grow a baby any time soon, and as I drag myself through my day I feel like all this unpleasantness is throwing that back in my face.

    And on another hand (should one have three…) I appreciate the way this grounds me. I believe strongly in incarnation, and strive to reject the body/soul dualism that has wormed its way deep within me. My menstrual cycle prevents me from denying my embodied nature. I would like to reject it, but it is part of me and affects how I can interact with the world. I don’t find it an airy fairy beautiful thing, and I don’t relate to Anne Frank’s comments about how she anticipates each new period with excitement, but it does tie my ‘me’ and my body together.

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