Category Archives: Sex and Gender

On “Love” Without Respect (And How Men Do It)

Can love exist without respect?One would say love can’t exist without respect. There is some logic and truth to it – true love doesn’t come without respect for a loved one. However, there is a sad reality of many people who confuse admiration with love and who can feel a deep affection for someone without truly respecting them.

Dare to say, men are the main culprits here.

Men tend to be more susceptible to this (due to different socialization and gender roles). This isn’t really surprising – it’s the way society tells them how to treat women. It goes with the perception of women as ethereal and beautiful, but ultimately strange creatures a man can never truly understand. A man builds an admiration for her beauty, her charm or maybe even her character, but this affection falls short on the respect because a woman is seen more of a beautiful object than a fully human being. This was a traditional way of viewing women and femininity.

Luckily, things are changing these days, but these feelings are still present surprisingly often. This is how you get men who will claim to love a woman but without understanding her as a person, men who want to protect and support a woman but without accepting her agency and opinions, and, ultimately, men who have deep feelings for a woman while still considering her an inferior.

It all comes from the power imbalance and unchallenged gender roles. Women, on the other hand, often internalize these opinions. This is why you still find many women who believe that a man finding them beautiful is the highest praise there is or that being admired by a man is more important than a basic human respect.

I must say I am not familiar with this feeling. I am not a type of a woman men admire or find beautiful. It sure made my self-esteem shaky as a teenager. But paradoxically (or not?), the lack of sexual attraction and admiration often led men to respect me. I don’t mean they necessarily liked me (in fact, I am not particularly liked; I’m too awkward for it). However, any dislike or animosity came from a dislike for my individual character. In other words, I was treated as fully human, for better or worse. As if lack of attraction or sexual interest made men able to see me as fully human, as if it made them respect me on a basic human level.

And yes, I could tell a difference. Fashion magazines tell you a bit of makeup and trendy clothes make a lot of difference, and they’re right. I know what is like to dress up and “prettify” yourself, and yes, it makes men see you differently. Those moments resulted in a heightened interest by men (I am usually ignored – many men ignore women they don’t find attractive), but the type of comments I’d received and the way my opinions had been received clearly showed the lack of human interest. As if being attractive somehow made me less human. This the disrespect I’m talking about.

The main point is that men (or whoever has a problem of “loving” someone without respect) should understand that a person they love is a fully human being not so much different than “their kind”. The whole idea of men and women being inherently different is particularly harmful here because it essentialises gender differences in a way that prevents people to see those of a different gender as “one of their own”. As a result, it leads to Othering and exoticism of the other gender(s). And as we all know, Othering & exoticism = no true human respect.

Not to say women are not susceptible to this. However, women as a group still don’t have equal power in the society; society is still male-oriented and catered to male needs. Men are presented as fully human all the time: they are leaders, teachers, doctors, flirts, fools, cowards, heroes and anything in between. They are still seen as a “default human”. In this sense, women are constantly aware of all the different ways men are and can be; women can’t simply forget men are fully human and they can’t forget all the variety of their behavior. Sadly, the way women are portrayed is still reduced to a few types, often defined in a relation to men: a mother, a wife, a daughter. There’s still a harmful dichotomy – the one that leads to the whole “admiration without respect”, the horrible “Madonna vs whore” dichotomy.

What is the solution? There isn’t an easy one, and it probably requires redefining gender roles from scratch. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. At the same time, I must say I do notice a bit of a change in a good direction. Still, we have a long way to go before this problem is fixed.

PS- My personal litmus test here was to never trust a guy who wouldn’t respect you if you had a one night stand with him. I suppose it’s a bit unorthodox way to go, but it worked for me.

Photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc

Sexism Annoys Me – The New Way

They say people change and evolve, which is probably true. However, sometimes is difficult to understand the change. For example, look at me. I consider myself a feminist (honestly, I don’t understand people who are proud not to be one), but I never defined myself a a feminist in a political sense of the word.

In short, I agree with the battle and I fight for equality, but the whole feminist movement seems to be so fucked up in certain things, and I don’t want to associate myself with it.

But lately… I see that everything around me reeks of sexism, and I’m slowly becoming that one person I never wanted to be who finds everything offensive.

Now, don’t get me wrong: everything IS offensive, one way or the other. The way our world is set, almost everything IS sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. It’s not an exaggeration; it’s a fact. The sooner people realize these things are not some rare abominations but the everyday stuff that make our world, the better.

However, I was able to control my disgust and not to take it emotionally. I laughed at stupidity. Women’s faces never shown in commercials, just their breasts and butts? Now how stupid is this shit? Media telling me I should be thin in order to deserve respect as a human being? Ask me if I give a fuck.

Part of this reaction, obviously, comes from the way I was raised. I’m the only child, and I never felt like my parents wanted to have a boy. (In fact, my mother was always clear on the fact she strongly preferred a girl). I was never told I can’t do something because I’m not a boy. It went without saying I’d graduate from an University and I was encouraged to have career ambitions.

It also has a lot to do with my country. Yugoslavia was a socialist country (though we had our own, non-Soviet dictated version of socialism), and socialism values a worker regardless of gender. It meant that there were many female workers in traditionally male occupations. Female doctors, engineers, scientists, professors – none of this was seen as strange. Hard science and medical science universities always had about the same male to female ratio (but not the “traditionally female” schools, such as nursing or kindergarten teachers – not many guys went to these schools).

In any case, the economic situation wasn’t bright enough so both parents had to work. Which resulted into working moms. All mothers worked, and the pay was equal to the one men received (the whole ex-Yugoslavia region still has a very little difference in salaries between men and women; it’s less than in Western countries, especially US).

None of this means feminist utopia or gender equality, though. Women with careers and working moms were a norm, but women were still expected to do all the household work all by themselves. So, her husband would come back from work and he’s watch TV or read the newspaper, and she’d have to cook the lunch and clean the house. But I digress.

The point is that I grew up without messages telling me I can’t do something because I’m a girl and not a boy. I suppose it made me a bit unprepared for the real world, because I might not be able to recognize sexism or inequality. But that’s the thing: I was usually able to laugh it off, unless it was something extreme, such as violence towards women.

But lately, I’ve been noticing all those things, everywhere, all the things.  The way women are portrayed in media, still treated as sexualized dolls. The fact there is still not easy to find a movie with two female characters talking to each other about something other than a man. That media still treats a man as a “default human being”.

And it just makes me sick. It makes me sick like it never made me sick before, save for that one time when I was 14. I guess what I find strange is that I don’t understand why. Why now? Why do I care, now? Why can’t I laugh at it and think they’re stupid and noooo way I’d buy their sexist product – and then just go on with my life? Why do I invest any energy into this?

Short Notes on Gender Equality

I’ve never really thought about this before, but here it is. This is what gender equality means to me:

A no-brainer.

Parental rights for both genders.

Equal educational and work opportunities.

Watching movies with at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man.

Not assuming all men are rapists until proven otherwise.

Being able to carry your own luggage regardless of your gender.

Being able to cry regardless of your gender.

Having sex whenever you want, with whoever you want (as long as they agree).

Not being valued by your perceived attractivenes.

Not assuming there are only two genders.

Like I said, a no-brainer, really.

(In response to Kia.)

Pubic Hair on Women

Many women today remove, or at least trim & style their pubic hair. It’s almost difficult to believe that not a long time ago (read: 70s and even 80s) pubic hair was seen as a normal, even a desirable thing, at least in western cultures. For centuries, pubic hair was seen as a major turn-on, because of otherwise hairless female body (and some men even described female pubic hair as an arrow pointing down the female most sensitive parts).

Things are so different today that is somewhat difficult to find anybody, male or female, who likes pubic hair on women in its full, untrimmed state. While there are millions of women who don’t remove pubic hair in any way, it’s sure seen as an imperative, and something any attractive woman do.

The reasons for removing pubic hair are quite simple: it’s a fashionable thing to do today and women are seen more attractive that way. Simple as that. It’s not much of a mystery; women always perform certain things to alter their bodies and make them appear more attractive, and today’s standards say it’s what makes women “hotter”.

Therefore, it’s interesting to see this simple motive is not what many women (or men) use when talking about removing female pubic hair. The motive that most of the people mention is hygiene. In short, hairs are dirty and smelly, and should be removed so the area is clean and fresh. Many women believe this, and the last thing women want is to be dirty.

But the truth is quite the opposite: pubic hair keeps your body clean. If body hair was dirty and unhygienic, we wouldn’t have it on sensitive places such as around our eyes and in our nostrils. Eyelashes, and eyebrows are there to protect our eyes from dirt and they help keeping sweat out of our eyes.

Pubic hair works the same, especially on women. Hair is what prevents the dirt and sweat and germs to find their way inside your vagina. A naked pubic area is a perfect place for all sorts of infections, especially since the skin is often irritated after shaving or waxing. Combine that with unhygienic underwear (the one that’s not made of cotton, and sadly, sexy & tight underwear is often not made of cotton), and you have a perfect scenario for a vaginal yeast infection.

So no, pubic hair is not dirty and unhygienic. One would say it’s a body’s natural barrier against dirt and gems.

Besides hygiene, there are other motives that people mention, such as: I want to receive oral sex (hair doesn’t prevent it, as Colin Farrell was happy to inform us), I want to wear bikinis and sexy underwear, etc. Some women say they do care about what men thing, and men of today tend to hate pubic hair on women, so they remove it. While all of these reasons are good, it’s all back to the basic one: it’s a fashionable thing to do today.

Still, many women insist on removing pubic hair because of “hygiene”. Many men, bless them, also claim it seems “cleaner” that way. But, why kid ourselves? Women remove their pubic hair because it’s a fashionable thing to do today, even if it’s not healthy in the strict sense of the words. It’s nothing new: women always do things that aren’t good for their health in order to appear more attractive, and this one is hardly alarming (with good personal hygiene, it’s relatively easy to avoid an infection).

But it’s interesting to note that the real reason here is often hidden: so many people insist hair removal is a good hygienic practice. Why? Is it because they feel fashion (and/or male attention) aren’t legitimate enough reasons? Or because today’s people insist on healthy lifestyle so much they have to proclaim even unhygienic practices healthy in order to go with them?

Tomboys

I am a tomboy.

I’m not one of those masculine, “tough” tomboys. I don’t enjoy many “masculine” activities (such as watching football), and I didn’t like to play with car toys when I was a kid. But I am what you call a tomboy. I used to think it makes me “different” and “speshul”, but it doesn’t: there’s nothing more special about tomboys than there is to girly girls.

However, analyzing the way people perceive tomboys (and the tomboy label itself) can reveal a lot about culture and society. There isn’t one way to be a tomboy (and to be seen as such): some think sexual orientation and, above all, “masculinity”, or interests (and fashion style) are what make a tomboy.

The first thing that is interesting to note is that being a tomboy is more, or less, a neutral thing. However, it also brings some advantages, and only one disadvantage.

The disadvantage is the fact men (and also, women) will often not perceive tomboy as “truly female”. This can bring difficulties in dating and love/sex life for tomboys. Tomboys are often seen as less attractive than “girly” women, and men tend to be less interested in them. Because being “pretty” and getting a man are often seen as woman’s top priorities, it makes it seem women perceived as tomboys have an important disadvantage.

However, I believe the label brings many advantages. Because tomboys are often seen as not “truly feminine”, it can help them in other areas of life, such as work. Sadly, many people (mostly, but not exclusively, male people) don’t treat women as true equals. Women often find it difficult for people (especially males) to accept their ideas, or to prove themselves in professional setting (especially if the profession requires intelligence, education and authority). It’s not because they can’t do it; it’s because they are not taken seriously. So not being seen as “really feminine” helps people see you as a “regular human” and are more open to listen to your ideas.

Also, many women find tiring to be approached and harassed by random (male) people, or to be objectified. A woman as a human being becomes unimportant and a target of harassment. Just because she is perceived as an attractive female. Tomboys don’t have this problem: they can go on with they day without being harassed or reminded their intelligence, ideas and PhD don’t matter at all and that all they are are a piece of meat. Feminine women often don’t have that luxury.

So all in all, being a tomboy is not bad; it’s not “special” and it sure isn’t different than being a “girly” female. It does make people perceive you and treat you differently.

Stereotypes

Here are some common stereotypes about tomboys:

Tomboys are not feminine
It’s the one that make a tomboy, but it isn’t really true. Many tomboys are feminine; they just don’t think you have to dress or act a certain way, or to have some specific interests to be seen as feminine.

Tomboys wants to be men
This can’t be further from the truth. While there are women who’d prefer to be men, “tomboys” in conventional sense of the word are happy to be female. They simply don’t see their interests or way they act (or dress) as something that only boys can do.

Tomboys are ugly and unattractive
Being ugly has nothing to do with it. While it’s true many tomboys don’t like makeup and wear casual clothes, it’s hardly what make someone unattractive. It IS true, however, some men don’t go after tomboys, but there are many who do, and that’s one of the reasons being a tomboy is not such a disadvantage even in dating.

Tomboys like (sports, fights, etc.) and hate (fashion, shopping, makeup)
While it might be true some tomboys enjoy activities that are perceived as masculine, this can hardly be a rule. Many girly women, for example, enjoy sports; and many tomboys like shopping. People are different so what a particular person might or might not like is purely individual.

However, it is true some traits tend to give you a tomboy label pretty quickly (such as, a little girl who doesn’t like to play with dolls), but it has nothing to do with tomboys as persons: it’s the way society assign gender roles.

Tomboys are “tough”
Once again, it’s individual. There are many tomboys who are very emotional, romantic and display other “feminine” traits. Seriously, the fact someone hates fashion and prefers to watch a boxing match instead of “Sex and the City” doesn’t say anything about her as a person.

See also:

Women: How not to be seen as fully human