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gender blending

i've been given the opportunity in the last few days to think about my grandmother and ruminate on my impressions of her. being a quick-witted, smart-mouthed type, i often wonder what she would have become if she had been born in another era, or in another geographical location. born in her own time, but in a large city instead of a small town, i can easily picture her donning a suit and sneaking out to drink and smoke cigars with the guys. since she did live in a small town and likely felt the pressure of expectations, she became a wife and mother, perhaps a little more uneasily than others.

for what she might have turned out like in the modern era, i need only look in the mirror. i consider myself fortunate that i'm free to do bar shots, make off-colour jokes, stay out past my bed time and generally behave as badly as anyone, without fear of ostracism from either family or community.

however, there are sometimes signs i get that things aren't quite as smooth between the genders as we'd like to believe. a particularly good example happened some years back, when i was involved in a conversation and one of the people made the comment that he "wouldn't say this if there were women in the room". even i missed the implication for a beat.

now, i'm not indicating that this person was so obtuse as to have failed to realise that i was (and remain) female, but the comment does indicate that he didn't think of me as being the female in the same way as, say, his girlfriend was. somehow, from associating with men and establishing a comfort level, i'd also managed to establish myself as a member of a third gender.

gender dimorphism is not something that has been unquestioned. castrati, castrated males prized for their singing from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, enjoyed a social place outside the confines of gender (examined melodramatically in the film farinelli). hijras in south asia are intergendered and play a role that is neither male nor female within the society (don't take my word for it.) these examples are both very separate from questions of sexual orientation, which is a whole other issue.

an excellent resource on this is the intersex society of north america (which deals primarily with issues facing those born without a clear gender) or gilbert herdt's excellent historical and sociological study third sex, third gender.

the battle of the sexes is beginning to look a little more complex than most people would imagine.


pelao said…
and, to boot, the weight and ways of our friend p-orridge...

intriguing post, it started off with your granny and ended up all funny-willy!...will check the links..byers.

as long as you're here, why not read more?

mental health mondays :: where even the depressed ones are happy

this past week saw the publication of the annual world happiness report, a look at nations around the world and how people in each of them feel about their lot in life. i started following this a few years ago, and this year it occurred to me that it would be fun to look at how the happy places compared to the crazy places. i mean, what if those countries aren't really all that happy, but just have an extremely high rate of psychotic/ delusional disorders?

so, i set to work putting together a comparison. as it happens, that's a bit trickier than it sounds, because information on any kind of disability is more difficult to come by than you might think. and no type of disability is more controversial than a mental illness, which means that there are even more complications around definitions, seeking treatment, prognoses, record-keeping... it's hard to tell how reliable anything you're looking at is. [not that there aren't some good sources.]

and what sources there …


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…