Back on the 26th, I posted about Women’s Equality Day in the US and what it means. It commemorates our getting the vote back in 1920. Though this was not without it’s local barriers. I also asked the question: What comes next?
When I first asked myself that question a few years ago, the answer was awareness. I had newly realized that I had always been a feminist and been given a new way to discuss the barriers and issues that had always effected me. I have been one of the many women out there who have a feeling something isn’t right but can’t quite articulate what it was. Fortunately for me, this was rarely a leadership problem and more often a problem with peers who didn’t see what I did at work and thought the worst. Still, I persevered. When I realized something was going on and that other women felt it too, awareness of what exactly it was became an obsession.
I dove into books that explained the full economic effects of sexism and that talked about the racism that had always held women back from being more of a united front. I realized that there were other genders out there and what that meant for them and for feminism and for women of all kinds. I did as much research as I could stand. And then what?
Fortunately, I also realized that the life I already lived was the next step in many ways. I’m in a peer marriage. My husband had quit his job a few years prior and took care of our infant son, making me the primary breadwinner in our home. I’m in a male dominated field, working in leadership at this point at a male dominated work place. My entire existence is contrary to the norm and is an expression of feminism and the way forward. And no, this is not women taking over but balancing out the scales until we are equally represented in all things at all places.
I’ve been taking things in small steps. I remember actively trying to stop apologizing for everything I had been socialized to apologize for. I remember getting used to saying that women or men were socialized to this or that rather than letting people call things natural that just put people in boxes. Things like being better able to sit still and learn for girls isn’t natural, it’s socialization. Taking up space and standing our ground are associated with male or masculine behavior, but why? And why is makeup just for women? So I have to ask myself:
Why do we gender behaviors and what can we do to make them more neutral?
Whenever I think about whether this is a gender thing or socialization thing, my mind almost always goes back to these two books.
These books call into question those things we consider gendered. It’s not that some behaviors are or aren’t stereotypical for one gender over another, but where do those associations come from and are they really biological?
At best, the evidence is controversial because different methods can produce wildly different results. So when I think about what comes next, every time I think about it, the answer almost always boils down to these two books.
Remember that valuing women also has to do with valuing that which is feminine and do both. Valuing masculine women over feminine women doesn’t really accomplish our goals.
Remember that anything we can be socialized to can also be unlearned.
Remember that your performance can be primed by statements that say how well your gender does or doesn’t do on a particular task.
Given these ideas, we can either accept gender stereotypes as common things and not care about whether or not they apply to us personally or reject them entirely and not care what people think about us based on gender.
Easier said than done in both cases, but I encourage anyone looking into how they can get passed their socialized behaviors to take a look at these books. They are quite enlightening. Or add them to Goodreads for later: Whipping Girl; Delusions of Gender.