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.


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


  • Active
  • Destructive
  • Doing (rather than being)

So these seem pretty straightforward, right?


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.


More fun with gender labels

So, I saw this post on Tumblr:

anonymous asked:Please tell me what it means to be a woman if it doesn’t mean a person with a vagina. If you remove biological femaleness from the definition of “woman” you’re left with stereotypes related to femininity. If you then try to remove the stereotypes, you’re left with a word that defines absolutely nothing, and is useful to no one. & making a word that is important to the discussion of systematic oppression into meaningless window dressing is fucking bullshit.coolben94 answered:nothing means anything. welcome to the world.manslator:


Behold in wonder as Anonymous reinforces the archaic ideal of gender as determined by genitals! Marvel at the simultaneous dismissal of cis women as merely a bag of stereotypes with a vag attached!

Manslation: Women, please explain your humanity to me because right now all that’s coming to mind is a walking vagina wearing lipstick and high heels. I can only understand you so long as you are reduced to a sex organ and a bunch of bullshit cliches. If I can’t stuff you into a box based on your genitals, you’re of no use to me. Watch as I pretend to care about discussions of systemic oppression while transphobia pours from every single one of my orifices.

I wanted to reply as follows but am frankly too chicken to do so under my real name – as I’ve written before, I have trouble couching this shit in ways that people won’t get pissed by. Writing about it here feels less vulnerable.

So here’s the thing.


woman doesn’t mean “person who has a vagina (whether factory-installed or surgically-installed, so to speak)


woman doesn’t mean “person who embodies [cultural stereotypes]

then what the fuck does it mean?

Swap woman with man and vagina with penis and I have the same exact question.

No, seriously.

Men and women (and folks of various other genders) have different vibes to me, and certainly have different qualities and are raised differently and and and…

but where the fuck is the dividing line?

I am a firm believer that we all have the right to identify our own gender. If you come up to me and say “I am a woman” or “I am a man” or II am genderfluid” or whatever, I’m not going to say “prove it!” or something. I might, if I know you really well and am feeling courageous and am pretty sure it won’t make you angry, I might be brave enough to ask, “what makes you say that? how do you know?”

I ask because I have no fucking idea what gender I am. I have no innate sense about it. I can look at myself in the mirror and think, “yeah, I see why I read as a woman, and why I sometimes read as butch,” but I don’t have an innate identification with either of those. The only gender vibes I get for myself are negative (as in, “I’m not…“).

I am 110% accepting of the gender someone tells me they are.

I just wish someone would explain how they know, because then maybe I could figure my own out.

Women’s Events

If I remember correctly, the last women-centered event I went to was a tech conference for women. It didn’t say women-only, mind, it was just women-focused. Men were welcome  but I didn’t see any there, and almost all the sessions were about being a woman in the tech community(ies).

I felt really uncomfortable. Like I didn’t belong.

Somewhere back in the day, all-girls/all-women stuff didn’t bother me. I was in Girl Scouts, I had girls’ nights out, etc. I can’t really pinpoint what happened or where or when, but now, if I’m in a group of all women, and it’s brought to my attention that it’s a Women’s Event ™ in some way, I clam up. I feel like a spy. I have massive passing privilege, and I feel guilty and shitty as a result.

Even just hanging out with a small group of friends — if it’s me and two gals and we’re just being gals, it’s all good, but as soon as someone says it’s a “girls’ night out” I feel like I should go home.

This is on my mind right now because yet another creative mind on the internet I adore is having a women’s event. This happens often enough that I’m unsure whether to force myself to identify “properly” and just go, or stop reading things that are ostensibly for women.

I mean, things that affect women affect me — I’ve had sexist jokes made in my presence in the workplace (and managed once to speak up and make the person feel like the shit he was being), people talk down to me in some circumstances because I’m female (like when my boyfriend and I went car shopping for my new car, the salesfolk mostly talked to him, even when they learned the car was for me), the presentation of women in pop culture affects me because they’re closer to my physical body than the men are and most people assume I want to look like them, etc.

So I read a lot of things aimed at women, and find them thought-provoking and helpful and interesting and and and.

But then these awesome people have retreats or conferences or whatever and the description sounds great until I get to the “like-minded women” or “safe space filled with women like you” or whatever and I just close the tab and try not to fall into a funk.

It’s like they hung up a “Girls Club – Everyone Else Keep Out!” sign, like Calvin keeping Susie out of his treehouse.

Boys clubs exclude me because of my outsides, girls clubs exclude me because of my insides.

I’m sure the lovely people running these events would want me to come, would be horrified and sad if I said I felt excluded, but that’s not the point. They’re welcome to draw whatever boundary they want around their event. I know safe spaces for women are vital in a sexist society, and I don’t want to infringe on that. Hell, a part of why I feel so bad is that I know on some level I would be infringing if I went, and I feel guilty for wanting to go.

I feel sad when it seems like I don’t belong, and I feel confused and distressed to know that they would say I belong even as I know in my gut that I don’t.

Shit like this makes me wish I could just be normal so I could go to the damn retreat.