Friday, November 14, 2008

Essay

[this was a response to Tyler's very provocative comment on the SLAM dunk; it got way too long so I decided to post it as a blog on its own]

The comma thing is weird. This will date me, but when I was in school, the word "too" was always blanketed by commas. As in, "I think he should stay out of my business, too." and "I was going to get the green one, too, and then I decided not to." Interesting.

So here is my thought on this conversation. It's been a long time since I threw down the mantle of feminism, but I'll put it back on for a second.

When I was in first or second year women's studies I read an article (hypothetical) on a couple who had a baby and decided to raise her androgynously. So they dressed "it" in gender neutral clothing, "it" played with all sorts of toys, and so forth. No one was allowed to change its diaper except the parents and so no one outside of those two knew if it was a girl or boy. At first, the children at school were freaked out by this genderless being, but as time went on and they saw that the child wasn't bound by gender expectations, they gradually wanted to wear the same ambiguous overalls and become as "it."

The thing with the story, though, is that isn't necessarily how it would turn out, much as my twenty year old self wanted it to.

See, as much as we pretend that the differences between us as male/female don't matter or are constructs of society, I'm not sure that we're finding out that is true. Hormones, body shape and size, brain functions - these things are all affected by our biological sex. Now, let me venture a little off the path to say that it is my personal opinion that our strict definitions of male/female are too restrictive, I see it more like a continuum of sex...like some people are totally male and totally female and some fall somewhere in between.

I firmly believe, though, that if a person is a whatever - a writer, a lawyer, a politician, a firefighter - the way they do their job (hobby, whatever) is coloured by their biological sex.
So you make a good argument, for sure, when you say why distinguish his sex, why not just say Nick Hornby is a great writer, but to me, doing that wouldn't be the right thought; it wouldn't express what I want to say, which is that in my opinion, Nick Hornby is the greatest male writer.

Maybe writing does erase our difference sometimes. Sometimes, maybe it highlights them. I guess it depends on how the writer wants to be perceived, and how the reader perceives the writing.

So if all of this is the most trivial stuff you've heard in a long time, Ty, I apologize. It's been a long time since I've been in school, and a long time since I've thought about all of this. Also, I know that as soon as I decide this is how I feel I usually change my mind to the complete opposite. That's why I wrote two versions of my honours thesis; I couldn't decide from day to day which way I felt.

Final point. Having a baby enforced for me the biological divide between male and female. I believe we are more the same than we are different, but we are still different.

Amen.

(gosh, I feel like I'm in school, this is totally fun)

(also, I feel like I totally may have missed the point of what you were saying)

11 comments:

ColReid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler said...

No, you haven't missed my point, and I'm glad to see that we agree on, well, quite a few things actually. I've always thought that the socially constructed gender roles theory was a bit thin. I also agree that a lot of our identity is biologically inherited and that gender can (and should) be viewed as a continuum.

Lately I've been very intrigued by the difference between male and female writing, which is, I suppose, separate from the gender issue as a whole. Your label brought forth a litany of ideas that had been dormant for a while, and I guess I unleashed them in your commentary.

I supposed the questions I'm asking are not whether there is a difference between male and female writing, but what the definitions are, where the boundaries end, and what significance they hold.

Somewhere within my train of thought the genre titled "Chick Lit" keeps resurfacing. Is this what we (or you) mean by "female" writing? I don't think it is, but it may be. How long then, before "Guy Lit" manifests?

spinregina said...

maybe Nick Hornby is guy lit. fitting.

when I talk about chick lit, myself, I am referring to the Kinsella's and Fielding's and so forth. whole separate genre, in and of itself. are there enough male writers writing books like that to qualify for a guy lit moniker?

here's a question for you - could a woman write a guy lit book and vice versa?

summoned by poopy baby. later

lotusloq said...

I think our genders are very deeply ingrained in us. I like the idea of the spectrum though. Just watching my kids, I can see that they do things that are inherently masc. or feminine without any reasons as to why except it is what is in them.

I think there are stories that women tell more powerfully than men and vice-versa, but I think that a talented author can tell any story well.

I think that usually it is more difficult for a man to write chick lit or a woman to write guy lit--at least with a genuine voice, but it's possible.

Tyler said...

Caught a neat story in the Leader Post today about one of my former profs who's currently researching how men (father's specifically) are being portrayed in contemporary culture. Thought it would be relevant...

spinregina said...

I saw that too, got me thinking. [see, I would have put another comma in there]

I took an intriguing class back in the day, with Alison Hayford at the U of R. An examination of men in contemporary culture. The gist of it was that there are three main types of father. Traditional, modern, and a mix of the two. The breakdown was interesting, and this goes on ten years back, now, and so I think it has changed substantially since then. Ten years ago it was very either/or; traditional and the mix were the dominant themes.

Today, I might suggest that the mix is the dominant while traditional flags. But what does interest me, and what picqued my intest when I saw that article, is that men are floundering (some men) in a sea of low expectations. Or is it a sea of high expectations that sets them up to fail? I don't know. But we see university rates dropping for men, marks are lower, and, this is purely anecdotal, a sense of immaturity. Now is it a chicken or egg question? Did the television shows (media portrayal) of father's create this problem, or are they are reflection of what is going on? I submit that they reflect, but some may have a different opinion...and even more interesting, would ask: is this a backlash against feminism?

Here is the link for that article in the Regina Leader Post.
http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=99e9c555-2bf2-402c-bdff-a7e5f9f9a891

spinregina said...

Lois - try HIGH FIDELITY first.

Tyler said...

I can't say one way or another. I used to blame it all on feminism, and still think that's part of it, but the times have changed and neo-feminists like yourself (sorry for the label) are much different from the original feminists from thirty or forty years ago.

I'd started to write something else, but realized that I don't know what I'm talking about, aside from the fact that this is a noticeable and increasing trend, as Dr. Wells has pointed out. Maybe I'll go check out the lecture...

spinregina said...

Feminism - how has it changed? I wonder about that. Seems to me we have a conundrum on our hands. On one hand, many women work. On the other, most are paid substantially less, most take care of household responsibilities, and if there are children, do the majority of the childcare. So things have changed, but only somewhat.

We have more young women doing better in school and continuing edcuation (some say at the expense of young men, but I don't believe the success of one necessarily implies the downfall of another in this instance...maybe rather that when we gear our learning systems to one or another gendered style of learning, that it gives a leg up to that particular gender). But we also have very young girls dressing like porn stars and an entire generation treating sex with a casual abandon that might shock even the hippies.

Of course, as I age I remember that every generation thinks the ones that follow are on the verge of complete and utter breakdown, so I try to keep that in mind.

I can sense a ramble happening. I'll cut myself off for now.

spinregina said...

In terms of feminism, though, the women of the 60s and 70s, that second wave, paved the way for me to have choices and for that I am eternally grateful. But I have a responsibility to ensure that maybe my daughter doesn't have to worry about making 70 cents on her husband's dollar. Or making choices between children and career, or feeling guilt about the choices she does make...