Understanding Differences Between Genders

via Obese women experience much more negative social stigma than previously thought, study finds

Every once in a while, I get very frustrated trying to explain to a man in my life why weight/size issues can be very different for men versus women. And I absolutely hate to respond with “You wouldn’t understand, it’s a woman thing.” because for the most part, size-issues and self-worth issues are a universal thing, regardless of gender.

Intersectionality For MeBut, there still ARE some things that are issues of gender. And, sadly, this is where intersectionality becomes a reality for many of us.

Usually, when people start talking about intersectionality, their audience’s eyes start to glaze over, unless they are talking to a group of like-minded people.

The situation is this…

Using me, and where I fall in the connections of who I am, I’ve grabbed the easiest parts of me to understand to show you what I mean.

No human being can be defined in just one single way.  You can’t pigeon-hole someone simply because of one label or sub-set  of humanity that they fit in.  In my case, in this simplified form, I am a member of the following sub-sets:

  • In the physical gender set, I am a female.
  • In the economic class set, I am poor
  • In the body size set, I am fat.
  • In the ethnicity set, I am white.
  • And, in the age set, I am over 40.

I could go on and on defining which other sets I might belong to, and in fact I had originally wanted to show at least 8 of those sets, but realized it would become too complicated of a visual.

But the POINT of it is showing how we – the whole of humanity – have both similarities and some pretty radical differences.

And what happens, when you start to come across the -isms is that people expect everyone who belongs to one of those sets is going to think exactly the same.  Which is, unfortunately never true.

A male feminist will not be able to understand on a visceral level the experience of a female feminist.  Why?  Because of underlying social norms.  Do yourself a favor sometime.  Even now, when there are people who are trying to raise their children without the influence of the whole gendered idea, watch how both boys and girls are raised.  It’s not just the obvious things like not allowing a boy to play with dolls, or a girl not being allowed to play with cars.  It’s things like telling the boys “Never hit a girl” instead of talking to both boys and girls and explaining that physical violence is ONLY appropriate in certain circumstances.  It’s telling a girl that she shouldn’t be outspoken, instead of teaching both boys and girls how have rational and reasonable discussions.  It’s about excusing behaviors with “boys will be boys” and not only teaching the boys that they are allowed to be abusive, but teaching girls that men abusing them is a perfectly appropriate way to have a heterosexual relationship. 

Same thing goes for the body positivity movement.  Societal norms tend to destroy a person if we don’t fit the “normal” body type.  I’m not just talking about fat, but about any body that isn’t perfect.  Someone who has never had a mastectomy won’t be able to understand viscerally how someone who has had one feels.  The shattering rise of eating disorders isn’t just about understanding that they are out there, but every little piece of our Internet-connected world forcing us to allow ourselves to be bombarded with what advertisers/marketers thing we WANT to see as the “perfect body.”

I could go on, but I won’t.

In reality, even if someone is part of the exact SAME subsets of humanity that I am, my situation and theirs will STILL be different, because we each have our own personalities and our own unique perspective on the world.  I know other women who are part of my exact subsets of humanity, and there are some very radical differences, simply do to our own perspectives on the world around us.

Different does NOT mean wrong.  It just means learning to understand that there ARE differences, and that perhaps “the way it has always been” isn’t necessarily the right way to go about life.  Just because someone has lived a different life than you have does not mean that their perspective of our society is wrong, but that perhaps they have a perspective that needs looking at to attain social justice.

Categories: Body Positivity, Feminism, Gender Inequities | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Understanding Differences Between Genders

  1. Pingback: Context, Intersectionality & Fear | The Demonized Other

  2. As a fat guy I get that I do not know everything that fat woman go through.

    In your post you stated “…weight/size issues can be very different for men versus women…” What bugs me that in these conversations the issue of men and fat seems to always be already be totally measured, defined and classified. The subject of male fat is always prepackaged and ready to be used as a talking point in any subject relating to fat women.

    When I talk about being male and fat, I have no need to define or establish fat women’s place in Society.

    • Your response has merit. The over-sized male does seem to be stuck in a stereotype. I can’t, honestly, say that I know what experience that a fat man has in their lives. I can go on what I see, and what I have personally witnessed, but because I have never been male, I cannot say exactly what these men feel.

      Sadly, however, we women have had to define and establish ourselves versus the male experience. The ways our laws, customs and mores are set up, the male view seems to have been the only allowable view. And, as a student of history, I can even see why that has been.

      In my own discussions with fat men about their experiences in our culture, I have been repeatedly told that they don’t feel the need for the same self-esteem encouragement that fat women seem to need. That they, in fact, are often angered by someone doing so. But, when I watch those men, and especially when I become intimate with those men, I can actually see what they say and what they need are two different issues. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the gentleman in question is only a “little pudgy” or medically defined as “morbidly obese.” In fact, in some of those conversations, the thought that they “only have one thing to offer a woman” (i.e. the depth of their wallet) is usually the most vocalized issue.

      It IS sadly a talking point because it has to be. Any time a woman brings up an issue of “the female experience,” the immediate response from a large proportion of men is “I don’t experience that, so it must be a lie.” The only way we can in any way discuss an issue relating to our overall culture is to compare and contrast it to “the male experience.” And when men intentionally hide their emotional needs (another way our culture is just as destructive to men as it is to women), it makes it impossible to discuss it in any other way.

      I would LOVE to see a fat male blogger take on the full route of their experience, both the physical side and the emotional side. Helping to see the REAL male experience actually would help ALL of us!

    • I tried going to your blog in hopes of seeing some of your posts, but it seems to be broken.

      • I have given up on Blogs because just a few Fat Acceptance people get most of the traffic.

        I do hang out on this Facebook Group below that Marilyn Wann created


      • I find that very sad. But then again, I do blog posts mostly to get shit out of my head and onto paper (even if it is electronic ‘paper’). It helps me to look at the things going through my head, and assess whether it is a subjective (personal perspective or bias) or objective (others experience the same as I do) experience or opinion.

        It’s why I appreciate people like you and The Brain in the Jar speaking up and making their opinion known to me. It helps me to continue to evaluate. I am one of those people who never grew out of the “why” stage of development. I want to understand the people around me, and I would like them to understand me. I can’t do that unless I see, hear or read contrasting opinions. But I’m also strong enough to refuse to allow myself to be bullied or attacked by trolls OR used by “black-hat SEO/Marketing types” – which is why I keep my comments to “approval only.”

        I can tell you while you might not have “right now” followers, you can never know if someone is out there searching for someone like themselves. I know that before I started blogging myself, I did multiple Google searches to find ‘people like me.’ And sadly, many of the blogs that said things I agree with were no longer available.

        Yes, there are supposed “rockstars of fat acceptance.” But, even people like The Militant Baker started out with a minimal following. We NEED to make our voices heard. Individual voices may not seem to be heard, but the more voices added to the cause of body acceptance the more we become a ROAR in the ears of society.

  3. White is NOT an ethnicity. I never seen any serious social scientist view ‘whiteness’ as an ethnicity. There are ‘white’ ethnicities, like Irish or German or certain Jews. Whiteness, however, isn’t an ethnicity just as ‘blackness’ isn’t.

    Other than that, this is the most sensible explanation of intersectionality I’ve seen. Plenty of time I saw it, it was just “Well, check out this Disney villain called Straight White Cis Male who hurts everyone. What? Rich Arabic states ignore refugees? Shut up racist”.

    • You are absolutely, 100% correct, that ‘white’ is not an ethnicity. However, I’m also trying to reach a larger audience in this particular post.

      If I’m going to be scientific about it, there is no actual scientific classification as ‘race’, since we are all Homo sapiens sapiens. Even using the word ‘Caucasian’ is problematical, since because of globalization the absolute phenotypes of the so-called races are being mixed, and eventually may end up being one single phenotype for our world.

      But these are academic and scientific discussions, not necessarily understandable for the average human being. Hell, the discussions on “human races” are controversial enough.

      For the people I’m trying to reach, “white” is considered an ethnicity. It’s not technically correct, but then again discussing a photocopying machine by using the word Xerox, or discussing facial tissue by calling it Kleenex, are also not technically correct. But, using those words with the average human gets your point across somewhat better.

      Would I love to be able to be more technically correct? Of course, I would. But, sadly, some discussions must be laid out in a way that expresses the intent for the lowest common denominator.

      • I don’t see a reason to dumb it down for the average human. Ethnicities are a fact and a field of study, whereas ‘race’ is a pseudoscientific idea that has no scientific basis. Sure, some people babble about phenotypes but I’ll believe it only when someone can show me a list of the races and their differences.

        The lie of ‘race’ is one of the most harmful ideas in human history, and somehow we continue to speak of it as if it’s true.

        1. Reaching the lowest common denominator. Sadly, your reasoning about reading levels is part of why far too many of my fellow Americans seem to be overly proud of their ignorance. It’s not just ivory tower of academia, it’s that we here in the U.S. have been failing to teach our students to the standards that we used to. We’ve eviscerated our public school system. We’ve destroyed the impartiality of our textbooks. And instead of teaching our children how to think, we’ve turned education into 12 or more years of memorization and regurgitation.

          Here in the U.S. the average adult reading level is 9th grade, and it’s worsening, because the average reading level of our college students is actually 7th grade. And I can tell you from first hand experience that our colleges at this point seem to be useless. I started college back in 1986, and ended up dropping out because I had over-burdened myself and got burned out. I didn’t go back to college until 2004. The difference in expectations we have of college students in that 18 years was absolutely STAGGERING to me. And worse, when I tried to go for a Master’s degree, the classes were at MAYBE an 8th reading level – AND the college I was attending blew me off when I reported that an instructor had plagiarized the entire lectures and reading lists from the textbook he was actually using for the class. Basically, they penalized students for plagiarizing, but encouraged instructors to do so.

        2. Phenotypes: Phenotypes are a genetic reality. But, they aren’t actually ANYTHING more than just describing how a particular person of a particular ethnicity looks. And it comes from years of evolution and mutation based on where one’s ancestors lived on this Earth. The bone structure differs only in slight ways, but ways that a scientist can tell a certain person’s ethnicity by looking at their bones. But it’s environment and climate that has created those slight differences. It doesn’t make for different “races,” because race is a social construct not a physical one.
      • RE: Education. Yes, this is a problem but it’s also rooted in the school structure. The school structure isn’t friendly towards intellectual pursuits.

        You can’t encourage intellectual persuits while having everything under control. An insititution that encourages intellectual pursuits must give their students enough freedom to pursue. If you’re going to just give students a lot of information, it only works if you teach them a specific profession (Like the courses in the IDF).

        Also, yes, even here we do scorn the intellectual. This idea that ‘it’s all subjective’, as if people shouldn’t be able to explain their opinion. We respect basketball players who shoot 1000 hoops in a game, but we scoff at the researcher – HOW dare he be more smart than us?! Elitist!

        RE: Phenotypes: They exist, but as far as I know they’re not enough to create a separate taxonomic category. A lot of organisms come in different sizes and colors, but they’re still the same species. Ethnicity is also about a lot of non-biological factors, such culture/language/religion and other fun things. Ethnicity is largely a sociological subject, not biological.

      • School structure, at least for me, wasn’t the issue. And this from a person who actually attended a “boarding school.” Not a hoity-toity, rich kid type boarding school, a religious one. I’d say about half of the kids I attended the school with (including myself) were there on a scholarship, plus working in the kitchen, plus a loan from my godmother (my Mom’s eldest sister). While there was SOME memorization, the professors encouraged us to think. It was a school more interested in teaching a child to think than in just making them into little drones.

        But, that was the early 80s. Before special interests started eviscerating textbooks to twist history into a pro-white, pro-American biased piece of drek. It wasn’t that the textbooks I learned from weren’t biased, but that they were honestly biased (i.e. history written by the “winners”). For example, history classes were biased to the European immigrants rather than the plain truth about what mistakes were made, and what came out of it – good or bad. But even in history classes, there was a focus on WHY something happened, not just that it happened.

        When a child is not allowed the TIME to think, to plan, to dream because the schools AND the parents seem to think the child’s every waking moment must be planned – children stop being curious about the “why” and stop thinking through things.

        As for phenotypes, no they are not anything more than a definition of whether someone’s genetics is likely to give them blue or brown eyes, or what hair color they have. It’s not anything more than that. It should NEVER be considered a taxonomic category, because those are always going to only define the random mutations within a particular species. It would be like saying an albino isn’t part of the base species.

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