Recently in Gender Category

Him and Her (But Mostly Him)


First, check this out:

Then, consider this point: It's not the least bit surprising that Parker and Stone get so much about Mormonism right, in ways that entertainment produced by Mormons for Mormons never can. Parker and Stone have talked about doing and obviously indeed do a great deal of research and fact-checking about Mormon doctrines, attitudes and behaviors. Their interest is in discovering and portraying Mormons accurately--including LDS contradictions, such as their arrogant niceness--instead of reinforcing the basic tenets of the faith and avoiding difficult questions. So it's not surprising that the South Park guys arrive at all sorts of great insights about Mormons, and that their portraits of Mormons and Mormonism are faithful and accurate as opposed to faith-promoting and proper.

Over on Main Street Plaza, I've been involved in a series of discussions of mixed-orientation marriages between gay Mormon men and straight Mormon women (or gay man/straight woman MOMs, aka gm/sw MOMs), which many of you will know is a topic I've been writing about for years. Indeed, the discussions were prompted in part by an essay I published in Sunstone a few years ago the subject.

One of my contributions to the discussion was this comment about "You and Me (But Mostly Me)," one of my favorite songs from The Book of Mormon musical. I wrote:

It works perfectly in the show with two male missionary companions, in part because it's an attitude enough 19-year-old Mormon guys have. But imagine it sung with a young Mormon man and his fiancee: it works even better. Both of them very likely accept that she is "the side dish on a slightly smaller plate," precisely because that's how they've been trained to see marriages: he is the captain, she is the mate.

In a subsequent thread, Chanson wrote

Double Double

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this is fucking genius, and interesting for so many reasons, including Ramirez's embodiment of gender duality, and the way everyone is so bilingual that they can all switch languages in mid-sentence.

Faux Trapped Lesbians


Nineteen or twenty years ago I met a guy who described himself as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body." I'd never heard the phrase before, so I had to think about both what it meant and how it might apply to this guy. He looked pretty conventional male, aside from an extremely long ponytail, but since long hair on a guy stopped being totally outre by 1972 at the latest, the ponytail couldn't be read as a reliable sign of gender nonconformity. He claimed that you could get an idea of how good someone would be in bed by the way they danced, which meant he was probably a terrible lay since on the dance floor he was stilted, over-performative, self-obsessed and a tad graceless. I had two friends who were interested in him: one actually went out with him and said he was an OK date; the other only asked him out and was turned down--apparently he liked to be the one to initiate things in any relationship he was in.

When I asked why he called himself a LTIAMB, he said it was because he really liked women and found it easy to be friends with them, and didn't really like stuff like hunting or hockey or homophobia. Also he'd taken a couple of women's studies classes and figured out that the women he liked best--the really smart, edgy, politically progressive ones--liked guys who worked for social justice.

So really, there was nothing especially female or queer about him. The whole LTIAMB was just a way to make himself more attractive and fuckable within the bounds of the heteronormativity.

A week or so ago I ended up having dinner with half a dozen strangers. There were two 40-something guys who were pretty conventionally male--facial hair, cowboy boots, and while each had on a necklace, they were chunky and large and made from bone and wood. One guy was a complete douchebag; the other guy was only part douchebag. Before too long, the complete douchebag announced, "I"m a lesbian trapped in a man's body."

Reciprocity and Gratitude


When I was engaged two decades ago, I was in a position to do things for my fiance that he could not do for me. This was OK with me at the time. I was in love: it brought me joy to do things for my beloved. It let me think of him, and imagine his happiness, and feel close to him.

At some point I noticed, however, that while he enjoyed the things I did for him, he didn't see them as special the way I did. Not only did they not require reciprocity--which we both knew he couldn't provide--they didn't even seem to require gratitude or, more disturbingly, acknowledgment at times. I began to realize that he thought they were his due, what he was entitled to, not something I willingly chose to do for him because I loved him, and that I could have chosen not to do.

I met my fiance in Arizona but he was British, and I knew that at some point before the wedding, he'd have to go back to England. The particular way he decided to go home involved considerable sacrifice and hardship for me. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood that sometimes, things just have to be a certain way. You deal with it as well as you can, which is what I tried to do; I also tried to make things easier for him.

On the eve of his departure, I told him, "I need you to say two words to me."

"What?" he asked, grinning. "Bug off?"

Somehow I missed the fact that the Strokes' first album, Is This It (is this WHAT?), had two different covers, one for the open-minded people across the ocean, and one for the prudes on the west side of the Atlantic.... You know, Americans, who are either Christians or feminists. The former object to anything that might arouse someone, and the latter object to the objectification of women and their bodies.

I found an image of the British cover because the Guardian has named the album the fourth best album of the current decade. I personally found the album boring and forgettable when I encountered it with the prudish American cover, but I will certainly remember it from now on. And I won't be listening to the Strokes ever again.

After reading that article, I clicked on a link to a story about Adam Lambert and what was or wasn't wrong with his kissing a guy during his performance at the American Music Awards. (Side note: I didn't think there was anything wrong with the kiss, and I agree with this assessment about the offensive nature of some of the reporting on it.) To summarize: nothing wrong with men kissing men; why isn't anyone questioning larger issues in the performance, including the fact that

Female Soldiers in the NY Times


This blog entry is intended to convince you to read this essay in the Times, about female soldiers and veterans with PTSD. But it has a very long intro before I segue to that topic, so I'm including the link upfront.

An essay I wrote is running today in the print version of the NY Times (at least, it's supposed to--I confess I haven't yet ventured out of the house to buy it) but the online version appeared Friday. I'm not going to link to it here, because my blog is semi-anonymous, meaning I keep my last name out of it, though I know most of the people who read it know who I am, or can figure it out pretty damn easily.

The Priesthood is Magic


Here's the basic process of how you get a PhD at an American university:

1. You graduate from high school or get a GED.

2. You graduate from college with decent grades.

3. You take the GRE.

4. You apply to universities and get accepted somewhere.

5. You do coursework for a few years.

6. You pass your comprehensive exams.

7. You do a lot of research and write a prospectus for a dissertation.

8. You write the dissertation.

9. You defend the dissertation.

10. You get a diploma.

It generally takes somewhere from four to fourteen years, and you change considerably over the process--supposedly you mature and your ideas become more complex, and you also get poorer and more cynical and tired of living without decent insurance. But after that, you're considered an expert in something--not necessarily something important or relevant to your life in general, but something. You even have a title to demonstrate that.

In other words, you have to earn the degree, and there are tests and requirements to help ensure that people do. And while some PhDs are more prestigious than others, the power or relevance of any is greatly limited outside of certain contexts. Having a PhD in art history doesn't help you make wise decisions about retirement investments. Plus, most people don't really give a shit that you decided to go to school forever.

Here's how you get the priesthood in the Mormon church, which supposedly is this great power that can affect almost every aspect of the priesthood holder's life:

1. You're born male.

Stunted and Misshapen by the Priesthood


The concern I closed my last entry with was this:

I began to wonder if it was the fact that I DIDN'T have the priesthood, and therefore DIDN'T have a certain respect for it, that has made me willing and able to call these guys by their first names. I wonder if men respect the authority of the priesthood more because they have it.

In 2002, Sunstone published an essay of mine in which I recount standing up in a zone conference and saying to my second (as opposed to my much cooler first) mission president, when he got Melchizedek on our asses and started issuing punitive, brutal directives, "President ___________, why are you doing this? This is stupid. It's wrong."

This was analogous to a private standing up during a briefing by a colonel about a military mission and saying, "Why are you commanding us to do these backasswards things? This is stupid. It's wrong."

In other words, it was a big fucking deal. Now, to my mission president's credit, although he responded by shutting down the meeting in order to shut me and everyone else up, he also admitted right then and there that I was RIGHT, and he never said another word about the horrible policies he had once wanted to institute.

We discussed the incident later, when I apologized. As I wrote in the essay,

Will Someone Please Explain This to Me?


Here's a strange little video I found in the British Press on bras for men.

I don't know what to say.

Gender, Fiction and Reading Preferences


Yesterday I came across this article (published a week or so ago) in the Guardian UK about gender, fiction and reading preferences. Frankengirl and Mysticgypsy, you'll be pleased to learn that Jane Eyre was the novel most often cited by women as having the greatest influence on them. The novel most men cited as influential was The Stranger by Camus.

The report is fascinating and draws some interesting conclusions: Women's favorite novels were "surprisingly varied" and women found it easy to discuss the influence fiction had on them, "producing a number of key moments in their life at which they unselfconsciously acknowledged that fiction had offered them guidance or solace," while men's preferences were limited to a much smaller cluster of works, and "men were more reluctant than the women to discuss the influence reading might have had on them." As for why that might be,

Jon Elek, lecturer in English at University College London, told us: "I guess that if you admit to having a watershed novel, then you're admitting to having a watershed moment, which is something that a lot of men don't necessarily want to admit to. And to admit to having five [as respondents were asked to do] - oh, come on!"

The researchers summarize some of their findings thus:

Our final top 20 of men's reading clearly shows a majority of books with strong active narrative themes - books that might traditionally be described at quintessential boys' books. No surprise there, perhaps. Except that both our recorded interviews and questionnaire responses show these choices being made on the basis of a conscious commitment to novels that take the reader in a direction of personal development. Men's reading choices tend to identify themselves with novels that include intellectual struggle. Personal vulnerability is represented as a more or less angst-ridden struggle against convention, a sense of isolation from social normality. Catastrophe and the struggle to rise above circumstance characterise the plots.

Part of the reason for this, we decided, was that, to a far larger degree than women, men's formative reading was done between the ages of 12 and 20 - indeed, specifically around the ages of 15 and 16. For men, fiction was a rite of passage into manhood during painful adolescence. Many men admitted that they had read little fiction since, though mature men returned to fiction reading in later life, and expressed increasing enjoyment in reading for "self-reflection".

Between 20 and 40, many men we talked to openly showed an almost complete lack of interest in reading which drew them into personal introspection, or asked them to engage with the family and the domestic sphere. On the other hand, those who had remained avid readers could see distinct patterns emerging in their choices which differed from those selected by women.

A final conclusion is that

men use fiction almost physically as a guide to negotiate a difficult journey (but would rarely admit to this downright being the case). They use fiction almost topographically, as a map. Many of our women respondents last year explained that they used novels metaphorically - the build-up to an emotional crisis and subsequent denouement in a novel such as Jane Eyre might have helped negotiate an emotional progress through a difficult divorce, or provided support during a difficult period at work, or provided solace when things seemed generally dull.

Even if you get bored by the reseachers' commentary on their study, make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page and read the summary of both Jane Eyre and The Stranger--very witty!


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