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Pink Toenails

April 14, 2011

This absurd controversy arises, inextricably and necessarily, from the view that maleness is an achievement, a status that can easily be lost by doing non-male things.  Nobody freaks out this way over girls wearing masculine trappings because they don’t see femaleness as a status that can be lost.  YMY contributor Julia Serano’s book Whipping Girl is foundational reading on this subject.  It’s inherently misogynist — the devaluing and rejection of females and femaleness — to freak out about boys wearing girl clothes or makeup.

I’m tempted to say that’s all I have to say about that.  But it’s not.  This isn’t just about the small portion of the population who can’t make peace with the assignment they got at birth.  This is about gender and how it’s constructed for all of us.  Those of us who were raised as men absorbed a lot of ideas about what that means and what we can and can’t do; that manhood is something we can fall off if we take a wrong step.  That pressure doesn’t just disappear because we don’t examine it. 

I have got reasons to care about trans folks’ issues that are not altruistic.  My liberation is bound up with theirs.  Trans issues are everyone’s issues.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2011 1:20 pm

    Few people can differentiate between masculinity and inhibition. Men are raised to be inhibited about a vast range of expression that’s been defined as “female only.” There’s a better example than pink nail polish—skirts. Women raved that skirts were a badge of servitude, back when they were forbidden to wear pants (people don’t even know about THAT!) Now that women have freedom of all styles, a few men want to wear a skirt, some women act like sow bears with cubs about THEIR style monopoly. That fits very well with regular men who don’t want to see any male in a skirt! They want assurance if they see a figure in a skirt, it will be a female, so that they can experience the beginning stages of sexual arousal whenever they see a skirt worn. Show them a man in a skirt, it outrages the beer drinkers.

  2. Brian Murray permalink
    April 15, 2011 2:45 am

    I created a facebook event, Pink Toenail Polish Day, on a whim, because the whole thing struck me as stupid, and now I’m feeling the hate, so it’s less a whim now.

    There is something seriously wrong with this country when myriad actual problems can go ignored but the media spares time for a playful act that no mentally healthy mother would have given a second thought. As John Stewart rightly (and amusingly) noted, it comes off. There is polish remover. /sigh

  3. April 16, 2011 4:39 am

    “Nobody freaks out this way over girls wearing masculine trappings because they don’t see femaleness as a status that can be lost”

    Actually, many people do. It doesn’t invalidate from the rest of your post, but I think it’s important to note that this happens with all forms of perceived gender variance, even if the freaking out sometimes takes a different form. If anything, noting this strengthens your argument that the liberation of cis people and trans people is bound together.


  4. Schala permalink
    April 16, 2011 6:41 pm

    Nobody freaks out this way over girls wearing masculine trappings because they don’t see femaleness as a status that can be lost.

    Most also don’t see femaleness as a status than can be acquired.

    I may well get surgery and change my legal sex – yet if someone knew I was assigned male at birth, suddenly, it wouldn’t matter.

    You can be female, and therefore useful to certain things according to kyriarchy. Less if not feminine, even less if lesbian. Infertile or intersex women, who appear female at birth, fly under the radar in public.

    You can be male, and therefore useful to certain things according to kyriarchy…if you’re masculine. If you’re feminine, you’re unworthy of any kind of praise. If you’re also gay (which will be inferred from feminity, or vice-versa), then you’re treated as better off dead, sucking up resources without contributing equally.

    I think women, for better or worse, are seen as contributing less (even if false), and thus a lesser loss if they don’t. The old paradigm also had them depend on someone else’s income (through marriage), making “sucking up resources” less of a deviation from the norm.

    It’s interesting to hear about cultures that were less touched by Christian missionaries that they valued femaleness in men, did not condemn male homosexuality like today, and had a third sex for what roughly corresponds with transsexual people (litterature hardly ever mentions the trans men equivalent, but there is one – the Samoan articles on wikipedia hint to it, but has nor article corresponding to the opposite of Fa’afafine).

    Men are seen as having to never be dependant, contributing more than they take, at all times. So ill, disabled or undesirable men are seen as weak. And unredeemed by their ability to reproduce, unlike women.

    This is a big whammy against male victims being recognized as victims at all. As being in any way vulnerable, and robs them of the notion that they can have all emotions. Testosterone DOES dull emotions (I can testify to this personally), but it doesn’t get rid of it, or the damage, trauma, etc that results. It only helps on the moment (to keep doing whatever you were doing until such a time where a break can be taken).

  5. Schala permalink
    April 16, 2011 6:50 pm

    A theory I thought up some time ago is that trans women are seen as not only being useless, but also usurping the position of resource-taker (being given gifts on dates, and special considerations, etc). So even worthy of more scorn than an unmasculine man.

    The hatred of transvestism in men, by their wives…remains a mystery to me – given I’ve not been privy to having a wife, or transvestism, and I can’t fathom the reasoning behind it.

    I can only offer that I would be unable to date a woman due to a feeling of inferiority and competition with her – that I won’t ever have with a man. I may not believe that I am inferior to cissexual people, but it can still sting to get told it, especially by a significant other. I will not let myself be put in a vulnerable position where it could happen.

  6. Schala permalink
    April 17, 2011 9:52 pm

    Any answer?

    • April 18, 2011 8:18 am

      My only answer is that I appreciate your input. Your life experiences have given you a perspective on gender that I can’t second-guess, so I’m reading with interest.

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