Passing is about performance. Passing is about presentation. Passing is about appearance and external markers of identity. Because most of the world only knows each of us through how we look, and we never get to explain our inner nuances to them, then they only see us for what we are the outside. They make assumptions for what our outward selves signify for our inner selves. Our identity and beliefs are assumed from a quick glance. Usually people think of gender or race with the topic of passing, but passing can involve a huge range of personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, disability or ability, job occupation, level of education, intelligence, economic class, and social status. Passing can signify any personal characteristic of identity.
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, published in 1999, is a key text for feminist theory, queer theory, and continental philosophy. She wrote several other books on gender and has a position as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. Her books are regarded as difficult to read due to their long, unstructured sentences and many references to other philosophers that it is assumed the reader knows. Regardless, I still think her work is valuable because of its contributions to the larger field of gender theory and how we think about gender today. I will give a summary of Gender Trouble, explaining the concepts she covers.
Women are constantly presented as sex objects in the media (Advertisements, movies, etc.). This degrades women and can cause many insecurities and issues for women who are constantly surrounded by this hypersexualized, unrealistic image of what we expect women to be. We all know this though because this content is constantly getting called out and criticized. Something surrounding this issue that isn’t so popular is how it hurts a woman’s sexuality as well. Problems surrounding sexuality aren’t just reserved for women, there are so many issues surrounding how we should express our sexuality and if it should be accepted for all genders. This is not only perpetuated by the media industry but by porn as well. These industries help to degrade women, perpetuate stereotypes about all genders, and contribute to the idea that women’s sexuality shouldn’t be taken seriously because it is only there for the pleasure of straight men.
Here we are, back to the patriarchy. Where a woman’s sexuality is only supposed to be explored for men to look at and men aren’t supposed to explore their sexuality at all unless it’s to bang as many women as he can.
Every part of our lives is stereotyped and put into boxes – our class, our education, our gender, our sexuality, and our love. This is frustrating and wrong because love should be the most free, open, and genuine part of life. Instead, it is limited by strict normalized gender roles and heteronormativity. These place implied expectations and create assumptions based on one’s role as the man or the woman in the relationship. Because of this, the possibilities of what love can be are limited. Openness, comfort, and self-love on the individual level also create these characteristics in a relationship. However, these traits are stifled by what is considered “normal” and people’s attempts to conform to it. There is potential to expand the possibilities of how people love through looking at the queer community and through a vision of a post-heterosexual world. I acknowledge that this is a very broad topic. I am only going to do a brief survey of how I think queerness could help us move beyond the boundaries and institutions in place today, but I am aware of the infiniteness of this topic.
Last week I had the privilege to meet with Madeline Scyphers, an activist for the queer community. I had a lot of questions about her community, and Madeline had a lot of answers. I started out by asking Madeline what her identities are so I could get an idea of where she is coming from. She has many, and her response was, “I identify as trans. I identify somewhere between a transwoman and someone who identifies as nonbinary transfeminine. What that means to me is I do feel like the binary gender system of being a man or a woman does not necessarily fit me as a descriptor all the time. I never identify as someone who is a man or a boy, and I really hate it when someone does gender me that way.”
That’s just one aspect of her identity. When I asked her about her sexual orientation, she responded, “The best word I use is queer. I do and have always primarily dated women, but I’m attracted to most people, at least some of the time, but not all people all of the time. Bi and pan don’t really encompass that; only if you explain it to someone. Since I have to explain it to someone anyways, because it’s [the terms bi and pan] implying things that I don’t want it to imply, why don’t you just use the term queer, which is purposefully vague? I can use it, and you don’t make assumptions about what it means.” There’s more to Madeline than her sexual orientation and gender identity. Madeline said, “I also identify as an activist, I am a math student, and that’s really important to me, and it plays into a larger identity of feeling like kind of a nerd.” Continue reading “A Discussion of Language and Inclusion with Activist Madeline Scyphers”→
When I first went to see The Vagina Monologues, I had no idea what to expect. I should not have been surprised to find that it was a collection of monologues about vaginas. The Vagina Monologues was first written in 1994 by Eve Ensler and is based on dozens of interviews. The play addresses issues with sexuality, rape, and violence against women. What is so powerful about TVM is not only the array of topics which are openly addressed, but the contributions the production makes to the V-Day campaign. The movement was established on Valentine’s Day in 1998 in New York City. The mission of V-Day is to end violence to women and girls around the world. As part of V-Day, proceeds from The Vagina Monologues are directed to local organizations that work to end violence against women and girls. Here in Moscow, the production of TVM benefits Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.
A few months ago I explored a topic many women feel uncomfortable talking about, their periods and how important it is to feel empowered, confident and beautiful during that time of the month.
I also shared how a menstrual cup changed my life by making my period no big deal. My menstrual cup saved me money, gave peace of mind, and gave me the opportunity to learn more about my body.
Since that exploration, I have discovered THINX underwear. I have heard of reusable menstrual pads before that work great, but these are underwear designed specifically for your period. THINX said that they see a world where no woman is held back by her body. They claim that they will work proudly and tirelessly until every single girl has an equal opportunity for the brighter future she deserves. This kind of thinking is exactly what I was encouraging back in January. Our time of the month doesn’t have to be miserable, but it can be a small reminder of the beauty of being a woman.
I have not yet tried THINX underwear, but I have done a lot of research for those that may not feel comfortable using a menstrual cup. A reusable pad or THINX underwear is a less invasive way of making our menstrual cycles easier. The THINX underwear is made out of a patented technology that keeps the wearer clean and dry. The underwear is also antibacterial, so you don’t have to worry about feeling dirty. They are super easy to clean and come in many different styles.
After writing about menstrual cups, my friends have came forward and have shared their experiences with alternative feminine products. Since there is a learning curve to using a menstrual cup, I think using THINX in addition to a menstrual cup would be a perfect combination in case of leaking. THINX is a great environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable tampons and pads, and are far safer than the chemicals that are in traditional feminine products.
If you have been experimenting with alternative menstrual products like reusable pads or a menstrual cup, and have found something you love, please share what works for you. You never know whether or not you could help a fellow woman out.