Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Enforcing gender norms in the bathroom

Well, as we all predicted, there have been now numerous cases of self-appointed bathroom police going after interlopers in the women's room.  However,  those "interlopers" are actual cis-gendered women.

You see, for the bathroom police,  any woman who does not match their ideal of what a woman should look like, is Not Allowed.  And apparently if you have short hair and wear boy's clothes, that's a bad thing.

Indeed, I know at least one woman with very short hair who is concerned now about using the restroom in public spaces at all.  I know a graduate student, who presents in a very androgynous way, who sparked a panic in our building last year simply by using the restroom because another student thought she was male. Even me, with my long hair and a very curvy figure-- I've occasionally been thought to be a guy, because I like to wear jeans and I have a deep voice.

Let us be clear, this is not about trans people.  It is not about predators.  It is all about enforcing gender norms.

The fear of trans people is almost entirely the fear of trans women, who have unaccountably (to some) given up the privilege of maleness to be women.  That's a broken gender norm right there.

Those androgynous women, with short hair and male clothes, they are a threat because they challenge the norms themselves.  And of course, if a guy finds them attractive, is it because he secretly thinks they are guys?

There's no accident that the really conservative sects impose a strict dress code on women:  long hair, dresses.

Does this all tie in  to the victory of marriage equality? Because nothing challenges gender norms (which really means, male privilege) like a same-sex partnership. Some same sex couples do have a gender-binary type of relationship, of course, but many do not, leading to discomfort in some straights.  "Which one of you is the man?"  is a question every lesbian couple faces, either spoken or unspoken.

A great article from the Atlantic today thinks so...
America is experiencing a period of profound gender anxiety. Mainstream understandings of “gender” are changing, which may be why Mississippi legislators felt the need to codify concepts that have always seemed culturally implicit. .... 
Non-traditional notions of gender have finally become widespread enough to foment a sustained backlash....The fact that legislators in overreach-hating, small-government-loving states like Mississippi and North Carolina have resorted to the law to protect their notions of gender shows the depth of their panic about these ambient cultural shifts.
Of course this is impossible to separate from Bible-thumping conservative Christianity, that opposes anything that doesn't fit their ideal binary men-and-women model. So, they claim that same sex marriage and transgender rights somehow affects their religious "freedom" (which is really religious privilege).
But more broadly, this is also a question about gender roles. In a recent PRRI / The Atlantic poll, 42 percent of Americans said they believe society is becoming “too soft and feminine.” Thirty-nine percent said they believe society is better off “when men and women stick to the jobs and tasks they are naturally suited for,” including 44 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of white evangelical Protestants. These numbers suggest nervousness about fluid gender identities—and that America isn’t even close to a consensus that men and women should choose the way they act.
And, again, not so much religious privilege, as MALE privilege.
If transgender people are able to use the bathroom of their choice, that suggests women are perfectly safe when former men, or women who have masculine characteristics, enter their intimate spaces. “Part of the threat here is that women are saying they do not need protection from men. That has long been a source of anger for men and women who believe in this notion of female submission to male authority,” said Griffiths. At least in part, “men who are supporting this are reasserting a protective role.”
Read that again:  men are "reasserting a protective role".  Because how DARE women think they don't need the protection, the authority, of straight cis-gendered men.  Isn't it telling that the bathroom wars are ostensibly to protect women from assault by straight cis-gendered men?

The Atlantic article isn't very hopeful that we will figure this out any time soon.  Meanwhile, I have no issue with who uses what bathroom.  There are stalls and they are private, and I'm indifferent to the plumbing details of the person in the stall next to me.

Everyone needs to be free to pee.

No comments: