One of the Boys

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Right now, I'm kind of one of the boys. My two best friends here are Tom, who is married, and SBJ, who is not, but as I said, my affectionate mocking of him is tinged with the fond feelings of a slightly snotty big sister.

By a significant margin, most of my colleagues are male. I do have some fabulous female colleagues, but most of them are married with small children. These are women with PhDs, diverse research interests, cool husbands, and very busy schedules. For various reasons, it is harder for these women to socialize than it is for the guys I work with. Although I manage to meet these women occasionally for lunch or coffee, a more common event in my social life is to find myself the solitary woman at a table with three or four or five guys, drinking a round of Arrogant Bastards (a local brew), talking about poetry and tattoos and bowel disorders and gross medical procedures and how the fact that SBJ likes neither Pink Floyd nor Led Zeppelin is one more thing that makes him odd.

I'm sort of not complaining, and I sort of am. I'm not really used to this "hanging out with the guys" business. I'm the second of five children: four daughters followed by a son everyone expected to be another girl. My mother has a very strong personality; my father clearly loved us very much but was never good at showing affection; my grandfathers were downright distant; plus I had all those sisters and no brother until I was almost nine; so I was very female-identified as a child. Then there was the fact that I grew up Mormon, and saw very early that a lot of men were power-hungry bastards. It's not that I never found good men--I found plenty--but I was always very wary of them, until they demonstrated that they deserved my trust.

I was and am straight, which was complicated by the messages I got from the church, particularly when I went on a mission. Men in the Church, I was told often enough, were in authority over me; I should not try to be on an equal level with them. But exerting the authority of the priesthood seemed to render men not larger and stronger, but stunted and misshapen. Consequently that's how I saw them: distorted, disjointed creatures, some of whom one could be romantically attracted to, some of whom one must try to obey despite their failings; none of whom could demand from me the mutual respect and understanding I felt ought to exist between me and other women, who were my equals. The good relationships I achieved with men occurred when they sought to minimize their authority, not when they sought to enlarge it, as so many of them often did.

It got easier to see men as complex, complete human beings when I left the church, but anyone who thinks the sexes are equal, that men don't have opportunities and freedoms that women lack, just isn't paying attention. Patriarchy is strange. The guys I hang out with are good guys, and I value and enjoy their friendship. But it's still weird to spend so much of my time with a large group of men, none of whom are or ever will be a romantic partner.

I'm going to have more to say about this, about gender roles in general and my own gender performance--actually, I've already started saying things here about my own gender performance--but I'm planning on saying even more. It's something I've been thinking about for a very long time, given the fact that I was a feminist by the time I was twelve and that my boyfriend from kindergarten, my date to the prom, and my ex-fiancé all grew up to be gay Mormon returned missionaries. Then there is my dear friend Wayne, who, according to his profile, was "Formerly a bed-wetting, drug-addicted, Mormon Drag Queen."

Yeah. This is a topic where I have something to say.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on August 18, 2005 12:16 AM.

Madge and the Beast was the previous entry in this blog.

Out with the Guys is the next entry in this blog.

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