The Gender Divide

via Transgender Men See Sexism From Both Sides

Is this a surprised to absolutely ANYONE?

Sadly, I do believe that it is a surprise to the male half of our population.  I’ve been repeatedly told by men in my life that gender differences mean absolutely nothing, that a woman’s experience of life is no different than a man’s.

There are times when I have actually said that the men in my life didn’t understand the reasons I was angry or upset, because one gender cannot understand the experience of the other gender because neither of us were raised as if we were the other gender. And, not surprisingly, each and every one of them thought I was attacking their mental ability and their empathy. Since many of the men I spend time with tend to be very empathetic, they couldn’t see that it wasn’t them I was viewing as lacking empathy but our society and our cultural “norms.” They couldn’t see the opposite side of the coin — that I personally can’t fully and completely understand some issues their lives, because I wasn’t raised as a man.

Even with a father who was insistent about teaching his daughters to be independent and strong, I noted differences in how my brothers (who were 8 and 9 years younger than I) were raised.  In fact, one of the most obvious issues was the fact that when both brothers started the first signs of puberty, I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to “cover up” around them.  After being raised to believe there was no shame in walking around the house naked as a jay bird, this was a shocking turn of events.  In my family, naked was not sexual.  The naked body is a “gift from God” and therefore the shame brought on by Original Sin was not required.  Being comfortable in simple skin was simply a matter of being thankful for the blessing of a body.  I still have some of those reasons for why I am personally comfortable completely naked.

So, essentially, he was teaching his sons that the female body was shameful, and that women are to blame if a woman incites lust in them. That it is the woman who bears the responsibility for not only her choices, but the choices of the men around her (friend or stranger). Needless to say, it was one of the many cracks in my view of my parents not being the “best of all people” that I had thought them to be.

Yes, I do know that that situation comes to all of us.  That eventually we learn that our parents are just imperfect people.  That they are as much a product of their environment and their own childhoods as the rest of us.

Having worked in an industry that has less than 20% representation of my gender, and being a subclass of an industry that has even less of a percentage representation of my gender, the “Gender Divide” is something I have had to deal with for quite a while.

By default, the authority that almost every man in IT or in web development is considered solid, even if they have no practical experience and are just out of college.  Yet every woman, regardless of how much practical experience they might have garnered, must prove that her authority and experience is real each and every time she is asked to do something.  Many managers, regardless of gender, tend to take the advice of a male (again, no matter how wet-behind-the-ears he may be) over the advice of a woman.

I have an example of this as well.  I was working freelance for a company (which, frankly, I should have been considered salaried since I was pretty much the go-to person for the company).  Yet every single time a client’s IT expert differed with me — in my own area of expertise — I was forced repeatedly to prove that I knew what I was talking about. When I confronted my manager about it, he was extremely offended.  He told me that I was just “seeing things that weren’t there” or I was being just as sexist, because I had a chip on my shoulder about working in IT with men.

Except, I have always been completely honest when something was outside of my expertise.  I have always been happy to learn something new.  What I am NOT happy about is that I am automatically assumed to not know anything about computers, except by my family (which every IT-related person should understand, since we allmale or female seem to end up our family’s tech support).

So, yes, it comes as no surprise to me that a female-to-male transgendered person experiences a totally different life once they become indistinguishable from other men.  The understanding of the world changes, the expectations put on them changes and the perception of the rest of the world changes as well.

But, although the brains of men and women are actually different (the article talks about it – that the hormonal changes in a trans man do actually make differences in their brain.  Other medical journal articles have studied the physiological differences in genders as well), it’s not just that brain difference that makes it so hard to see that women experience life different than men do.  It is the same answer that there is for the psychological question about whether it is “nature” or “nurture” when it comes to human development – it is BOTH.


Categories: Feminism, Gender Inequities | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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