Binary Bullshit

Yesterday I listened to a podcast episode that talked a lot about masculine/feminine energy, and how it can be problematic to use those terms because we have so much baggage attached to them thanks to patriarchy. Things like yin/yang, solar/lunar, etc were proposed, but I kept thinking “but wait, WHAT ENERGY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Because pretty much everything they were assigning to either box was either also present in the other one or actively contradicted something already in the box!

Here, I’ll try to show what I mean.

Feminine/Lunar/Yin:

  • Receptive-but-not-passive
  • Creative/nurturing
  • Being (rather than doing)

Masculine/Solar/Yang:

  • Active
  • Destructive
  • Doing (rather than being)

So these seem pretty straightforward, right?

WRONG!

Receptive-but-not-passive as an opposite to active doesn’t really work.

I think farmers would be startled to hear the sun is destructive.

Last time I checked, men and women both do shit and are things.

Another example: feminine energy was described as nurturing.

Until pretty recently, a lot of nurturing roles in society were held by men – they were powerful roles, so men had them instead of women. Farming, teaching, animal husbandry, etc. were manly things to do. Now they’re not.

Also: isn’t nurturing active? Doesn’t it require output? You don’t nurture by receiving or being. You nurture by doing. ARGH.

This all just slides back into my frustration that you can’t really assign anything to masculine/feminine without some pretty major contradictions.

Furthermore, insisting on a binary all the damn time is pretty narrow-minded.

Like, presumably the opposite of nurturing is destroying… or maybe it’s ignoring something and letting it die?

Receptive and active aren’t necessarily opposites – what about a great big snake swallowing something? That’s receptive in that the snake is receiving the thing it’s eating, but I suspect the prey wouldn’t consider it inactive.

If “being” and “doing” are opposites, what do we call mindfulness? You can walk mindfully and be both fully present (being) and in motion (doing).

As the podcast went on, it got harder and harder to pay attention because my mind kept running off on tangents.

I seriously could not come up with a single trait/characteristic/descriptor that was exclusive male or female. Most of the standard ones offered by society are patriarchal bullshit and easily dismissible, but so are a lot of the ones offered by alternative lifestyle folks. Between confirmation bias and unconscious sexism, it’s almost impossible for us to really shed our binary-gender lenses, I know, but still.

Of course, ultimately society’s expectations have  huge impact on us, and there’s something to be said for the argument that yes, gender is made up and a societal construct but it still impacts people so we should quit bitching about it. I know a trans person who transitioned in part (as they explained it to me, anyway) so that other people would react to her in a way that felt appropriate.

I’m woo-woo enough to admit that folks who identify as masculine and folks who identify as feminine have different vibes to them. I can’t figure out which vibe I give off, though, and I sure as shit can’t figure out what I am using the bullshit boxes society offers.

Clearly I’m having a GENDER IS STUPID CAN WE JUST STOP PLEASE UGHHHH day. Time to go pet the cats and get back to focusing on my dayjob.

Intersectionality

“Intersectionality” is a term you’ll hear a lot in progressive circles — it refers to the way that various privilege/oppression spectrums (spectra?) intersect with each other. Like, a straight black male has male privilege and straight privilege, but lacks white privilege. That’s intersectionality.

I feel like I have a certain amount of body-issue intersectionality going on:

Item: having a female body feels weird and kind of wrong to me sometimes.

Item: having a fat body feels weird and kind of wrong to me sometimes.

Item: having a fat and female body feels weird and kind of wrong pretty much all the time.

Now, both of these items are affected by the culture I live in — both fatness and femaleness are deprecated in American culture (I live on the West coast of the US). I’ve been into Fat Acceptance for a couple years now, and into Feminisim for even longer, but there are many, many years of negative messages to combat.

Plus, being fat emphasizes my female-ness. It makes my already-bit breasts even bigger, makes my already-wide hips even wider (but not my waist, or at least not by as much, so I wind up with an even more hourglassy figure than I did already, which is even more female).

When I hit puberty and kind of freaked out that I was gaining weight, it eventually struck me that it wasn’t so much that I was gaining weight as I was filling out — and that I had, on some level, sort of assumed I’d fill out in a male way (broader shoulders, getting tall, etc), not a female one.

I spent a few years being really thin due to some health issues and that felt weird too — I still had some pudge on my hips, belly, thighs, and in my breasts (never dropped below a C cup, even when you could see my ribs), still looked very female.

So maybe it’s just having a body at all that feels weird? I wonder sometimes if that’s the issue. I spend a lot of time in my head due to the fact that I spend a lot of time on the computer and have had chronic health issues of one sort or another for most of my life (skin allergies, chronic pain, joint problems, you name it). Being in my head is less unpleasant than being fully in my body — not just because of my health but because of my gender and fatness.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As I’m writing, I keep thinking of other issues that intersect here, creating a weird sort of spiderweb of unpleasantness and self-loathing. Argh!

I guess what I’m trying to say with this entry is, this shit is hard and complicated to tease apart. I want to come into a good relationship with my body, even the mediocre one I had a couple years ago would be a huge improvement on today. Having a shitty relationship with my body has ripple effects that show up in both obvious and surprising places.

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