I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all my articles in KinkWeekly!
This week, I’m going to step outside of power dynamics, just a bit, and muse on an observation that I’ve been mulling over quite a bit. I will warn you that this is a difficult subject, it will likely be a controversial position, and it may trigger some knee-jerk reactions in folks. I ask that you read this with an understanding that I am not passing judgement on anyone who chooses to self-identify their gender. Everyone has the right to be happy in their bodies, and to feel natural in who they are. Please understand, I’m in favor of it…but I do see an issue that I’d like to discuss and would love to get your feedback on. It’s important to also state that I’m discussing gender identification, not sexual orientation.
In my perfect world, gender stereotypes would be eliminated. The notion that “this is what a female does” and “this is what a male does”, or “this is what a female is capable of” and “this is what a male is capable of” would be moot – because everyone could do anything, feel any way, and act however they do. “This is what I do and what I’m capable of, regardless of my sex” makes the most sense to me. This is, to me, the ultimate goal. Your goal may not be the same, I recognize that – but I think this would make a much better world for everyone.
The move towards self-identification makes sense: People have the right to feel comfortable being the person they perceive themselves to be. People are encouraged to step out of the “confines” of their physical self and live and be seen from their minds. I know that’s the best way to live.
However, it strikes me that the very concept of self-gender-identification brings us FURTHER from my ultimate-goal of bias elimination. My goal is to think about people as people – and to value them as people. Yes, they will be male and female (sex), but the notion that there are “feminine” and “masculine” abilities, actions, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses creates biases and encourages presumption based on gender. I want to eliminate those stereotypes. What I find is that, in many ways, self-identifying as male or female gender – or even identifying as genderless – relies on, and supports, the very prejudices, stereotypes, and biases that would need to elimination to reach my goal!
Consider, if someone says that their biological sex is male, but they identify as a woman, they are stating that they have an image – a definition – of what “a woman” is: How the female gender acts, feels, behaves, thinks, etc. They are stating that they perceive themselves in this imagery. Rather than just saying, “I’m male (sex) and I act, feel, behave, and think like ‘X’, ‘Y’, ‘Z’”, and expect to acceptance that way, they assign ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ to the female gender. They LABEL and DEFINE the gender with their imagery (bias) of that gender!
To me, this is working backwards. Even stating that you have no gender, implies that you know what genders “look like” – and you don’t fit that definition. You must define something to exclude yourself from it.
Look, I recognize that the world sees gender and has biases. I’m not naïve enough to think that we’re anywhere close to eliminating the notions of gender stereotyping – and I can see the value in being able to self-identify as a gender – if for nothing less than highlighting that the traits associated with gender are not associated with sexuality. The world needs a slap in the face – I get that. However, I fear that the longer we define “female” and “male” gender traits, behavior, and capabilities – the longer we promote the imagery associated with genders – the stronger the bias becomes – and the harder it will be to eliminate.
What I’d like to see is a world where people stop making assumption about gender ability, capability, attitude, approach, behavior, dress, etc. and treat each person as an individual with equal opportunity to develop their potential in all areas. I want people to be comfortable and natural in their skin – to dress the way they feel most comfortable – to act the way that’s most natural for them – and be measured on their actions rather than their gender. I want to remove the implications of labels – and I feel the best way to do that, is to stop using the labels entirely.
I welcome your opinion.
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com
Mistress of Home and Finance says
I don’t think taking away labels to become a mono-culture of egalitarianism is a feasible approach here.
It’s like burying your head in the ground and proclaiming yourself blind to the wonderful diversity of the world of gender.
The idea that transwomen (the discourse is usually focused on transwomen, not transmen or others) perpetuate gendered stereotypes is a TERF discussion point.
It’s also untrue.
For one thing, having been around dozens of transwomen I’ve found them to be a varied lot, mosaic in their presentation. Just like cis women are.
A lot of the transwomen (and transfeminine non-binary) people I know actively reject gender stereotypes.
They’re better able to articulate the stereotypes than your average person, and bravely flaunt cis-normativity in the first place.
I’d therefore challenge the assumption that transwomen “work backwards” from an idealised image of woman.
I find that the theory of becoming is helpful here: people try self-expression and given enough time and reflection they define themselves.
To start with they will often try emulation of others around them, or of cultural norms.
Yet there’s often a lot of scrutiny on transwomen when they are starting this process.
If one “overperforms” femininity, she’s seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes, despite the fact that she’s simply calibrating her own sense of self expression.
She’s already a woman, and it’s a cultural failing of not having good transwomen role models around to start her process with: if she had some, then she may bypass hyperfemininity entirely in favour of something else.
Or she might not. Some people like hyperfemininity.
For another point, transwomen don’t usually say “Women wear dresses, so I’ll wear a dress to be a woman.”
They say “I’m a woman, and this is my dress. Wearing it helps me get gendered correctly most of the time.”
Like many people, you seem to be conflating the experience of being a transwoman with the desire to dress certain ways, or behave in certain mannerisms.
Most of the time the trans* experience seems to revolve around either:
a) being accepted by others [usually society] as their gender
b) taking hormones and changing their body in gender-affirming ways
It’s not about labelling their gender, or defining it.
I also notice some bioessentialism creeping into this post. It makes me wary to engage further.
Have you already checked out ContraPoint’s video on gender critical/TERFs?
It articulates many points better than I can, and it’s coming from Natalie’s lived-in experience:
Cheers for now