ladies’ room

I was reading for, studying for, my research paper about gender tonight. And it occurred to me how our interaction last night was so gendered. Out with the two of them, I became the “girl” more than usual. When I put on my comfortable suit of femininity, the differences between my behavior and theirs are highlighted, juxtaposed. I feel that I become more myself when I’m around them. Is that possible? Is that safe or good?

Walking into the restaurant some tall, built gentlemen held the doors open for the three of us. It wasn’t necessary. I didn’t feel like it was motivated out of a desire to be polite. Something incomprehensible was said to me so I sped up. I felt a little panicky. “Hide me, I look straight!” and Kay put her arm around my shoulder.

When I am alone, or lacking the company of butches, I do not wine and cry about things like that. I stomp around in my heels like the bitch that I am. So why did that come out?

Later there was some discussion on whether or not the restroom might be “safe”. We were in a relatively safe neighborhood but depending on how keen the eye of anyone who might be in the ladies room, it might become awkward, uncomfortable. Why can’t we divide bathrooms by whether you stand or sit while peeing? I guess it’s not that simple.

The discussion in class today was about how gender relates to social class. Some wanted to do away with gender, but I argued that we simply must learn how to wield it safely and with respect for others. “But I’m a nanny, I have a little boy who likes dresses” and “Yeah if we did away with gender we would become more unified”… really all they meant was that we are not finished detaching gender from biological and physical sex. Not to say that gender is not born in the body – to an extent I think it actually is – just not the same gender for everyone in either sex grouping. For me, yeah, the majority of the femme that I project was born in my body. It is integral, intertwined with my sense of self. I know it is the same for women who are not femme, or who are something else entirely.

And I was reading tonight about male impersonation in contrast with butch realness and I think I fell in love all over again.

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9 thoughts on “ladies’ room

  1. gender is such an interesting thing, and it’s interesting to see how differently it plays out in the “real world” than it does in class discussions and chats with our friends.

    Sorry i’ve been MIA!

  2. gender is such an interesting thing, and it’s interesting to see how differently it plays out in the “real world” than it does in class discussions and chats with our friends.

    Sorry i’ve been MIA!

  3. or just not divide bathrooms? i was in a gay club once that had (only) a unisex bathroom, with a divider between the stalls and the urinals. it was totally cool, because you didn’t have to see anything you didn’t want to, but it was totally laid back aobut the gender stuff.

    also, male impersonation vs. butch realness sounds super interesting!

  4. “Hide me, I look straight!” — Oh, I know that feeling!

    But I do wonder about the ways in which other people make me feel more myself, sometimes in completely contradictory ways: there’s a tall, muscular friend who makes me feel like the most frivolous, ornamental, girly thing ever, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. I actually play up to her solidness in response, talking with my hands and tossing my hair around. But talking to her on the phone always makes me feel like we’ve both forgotten my femininity, and are just two assertive minds, which is sometimes all I want to be, none of this gendered sloshy body’s mess getting in the way.

    I also want to know about butch realness; is this a pretty well-known idea? I haven’t come across it before.

  5. i will do some further research on the butch realness thing and get back to you on it.

    and MP, I definitely relate with you about the telephone thing. Lacking the substance of bodies and physical nearness, we become similar. In each other’s presence we become different. At least that’s how I experience it – tell me if that’s not how you meant it.

  6. Hey Miss A., this is D.

    What are your thoughts about male impersonating? Is this the same as drag shows where women dress up as boys? Quite frankly, I find it annoying as hell–“Ooh, look at me, I just drew on a mustache with eyebrow pencil! Teehee!!” “OOh, look at me, I’m subverting the gender binary, aren’t I clever?” But, if someone finds that entertaining, whatevs.

    Butch Realness happens to be an area of interest *cough* of mine. Check out this myspace: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=41839905

    One of my favorite movies is the documentary “The Aggressives.” You should check it out, if you haven’t already seen it.

  7. D. I seriously appreciate your comments because they almost always help me to push past the surface. I have seen the trailer for “The Aggressives” but I have yet to actually watch it. Since you reminded me of it, I may go out and purchase it this instant.

    As far as annoying drag kings with painted mustaches, Judith Halberstam has said some important things about “butch taxonomy” and types/styles of kings, among other things that I will need to gather together and formulate a concise statement.

  8. I think we’re similar to begin with, but when physicality is in question it’s almost automatic in some ways to react to the differences, rather than the similarities.

  9. Aww. *tear* Thanks. I love reading this blog– it provides the intellectual stimulation (that sounds gross, but w.e.) this burnt-out law student sorely needs.

    I have forgotten my blogger sign-in so I will have to continue posting annonymously. Blogger is confusing.

    The Aggressives was the single most important work to my “dyke acceptance” process. So I really hope you like it.

    –D.

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