gender stereotypes

Fit Friday: Tank Tops and Taking Up Space

It’s May, and Idaho has made that quick and awkward transition from cool-and-almost-springy to my-kids-come-in-from-recess-hot-and-smelly. I have third-graders who needed to start wearing deodorant this spring, which is a new one for me. My second year of teaching, I had that fun conversation with my fifth-grade boys about DEODOROANT>AXE**. Their big takeaway was, Ms. Danielle taught us how to get chicks in middle school! But, it got them to start showering daily and give up the Axe in favor of pit stick, so I marked it a success. I’ve had fourth grade girls start their periods before. But third grade… I was just not expecting it this year.

That first group of students I taught? They’re sophomores now, for three more weeks. Most of them are taller than I am. You can insert any number of cliches here about how they’ve grown, and how old I feel. It’s been fun, though, to watch them. That’s one of the perks of working in a small school–I can see them every day, if I make a point to be in the hallways between classes or after lunch. We have high school students who have transferred to our school, too, over the past seven years who have added to the mix of personalities. And to the dating pool. I bring up this last point  because that’s a Big Deal in the middle school and high school. When I taught these students, boys and girls played together and were friends. Now, it seems everything is viewed through the lens of dating and pairing up and sex. This is not just the perspective of the students, but also the staff. When you are teaching students who are preoccupied with who is dating whom and the tangled webs thereof, it’s important to pay attention and to be proactive and involved.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not in these classrooms. I don’t interact with these students much. And there is a lot I’m missing.

What I see is this (in the hallways, staff meetings, and handbook revisions every spring): Girls have been chastised for wearing tank tops; boys are not. Girls’ clothing is sexualized; boys’ is not. Girls try to take up less space; boys try to take up more.

Toxic body image affects girls and boys. Girls see one version of the ideal body, and learn to lose pounds and inches and to take up less space. Boys see one image of the ideal body, and learn to build certain muscle in certain places. Self-perception and self-worth often hinges on these limited definitions of acceptable physical femininity and masculinity. (I’ll expand these more in the future, and provide more nuance).

In my anti-diet support and resource group, we talk a lot about giving ourselves permission to Take Up Space. To wear tank tops, even if our arms are not toned. To wear the clothes we want before we reach our goal weight. To wear the clothes we want without allowing our body parts to be scrutinized or sexualized. Do you know why we have to consciously give ourselves permission to do this, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60?

Because this kind of body shaming and sexualization starts in high school. When we talk about the dress code, we talk about girls wearing tank tops, and the boys getting distracted. We talk about the girls not having enough “self-respect,” about the girls using their clothes to get attention, about it detracting from the learning environment. When we talk about the boys wearing tank tops… we don’t. We have not, in my recollection, talked about boys wearing tank tops. A former student wears tank tops and sleeveless muscle shirts almost daily. I have never seen nor heard him told to cover up or change shirts during the day. I have seen multiple girls forced to wear t-shirts or hoodies or zip-ups over tank tops that were deemed inappropriate.

It starts before high school, when I am expected to tell a second grade girl that she cannot wear a tank top on a 90ºF day because of the dress code. Second grade girls (generally) do not have bra straps or breasts, and they definitely do not have sexy shoulders. Second grade children do not think about their own bodies in that manner, unless the adults in their lives create environments where those aspects are amplified.

Are there adult men and women who find shoulders, breasts, cleavage, or clavicles attractive? Yes. Are there adult men and women who find well-defined biceps, triceps, and pectorals attractive? Yes. Do we objectify every adult human that walks past us in a tank top? I sure hope not. Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same?

Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same? I might raise a stink if the dress code comes up again. I might bring it up myself. Our girls should be allowed to take up space; they should not have to “hide” their bodies. The boys should not have free reign to take up as much space as they want by wearing shirts that reveal their entire torsos from a profile view, especially if we’re using the idea of “professionalism” as the rationale behind other pieces of the dress code. Melissa Atkins Wardy at Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies had a pointed piece about reframing dresscodes as “Don’t Wear Saturday on a Wednesday.” It strikes a sensible balance between allowing girls to retain agency of their bodies and clothing, respecting boys’ ability to control themselves and treat girls as humans, and teaching students to dress for the situation and venue.

Happy Spring! I’ma go garden in a T-Shirt while it’s still cool enough to do so. Once it’s mid-June…sports bra. Lots of sunblock. Not because it’s sexy, but because it’s just too hot. Also I have six-foot fences, soooo..

**I have to credit my sister Katrina with the approach to this one. This was said in a very kind manner. I am not the Takes No Prisoners teacher with my kids.

When you rub an onion and an orange together, it doesn’t make the onion smell better, it just makes everything smell kinda gross. Trust me, you don’t smell good. I used to be a middle school girl, and the people around you would much prefer you to shower daily and wash your hair than to smell like a can from a commercial. This is your homework for the next two weeks: Shower every day, wash your hair, wear deodorant. There will be a test, and it will be the asthma of the para across the hall who cannot breathe after you spray that stuff in the boys’ bathroom.

Lend Me an Ear

For the last several years, I’ve experienced intermittent stabbing pains in my right ear. I don’t remember when they started, but I know they’ve occurred at least as long as I’ve lived in Idaho, which is pushing seven years now. Sometimes the pain wakes me. I grip my ear, on the verge of tears. I tug on it, trying to pop my eustachian tube. I massage my jaw, trying to loosen that a bit. I wait for the pain to subside before I can sleep. It’s awful.

My right ear bothers me during the day sometimes, too. I get a marble-sized, subcutaneous bump between my jaw and my outer ear, but somewhat behind the jaw bone, so it’s not noticeable unless I open my mouth and put your finger on it.  The pain seems to center there, but the discomfort is in my middle ear, too. Whenever I have a problem, I go see our school audiologist. She looks in my ear canal, runs a tympanogram to check my middle ear pressure. If I have an ear infection, I can at least bring some preliminary documentation to the doc-in-a-box, and they are duly impressed that I have access to an audiologist at my job.

A few years ago, the pain was worse than it had been and was lasting longer than usual. The school audiologist, amazing as she is at her job, didn’t know what to tell me. I was talking about it at my church one evening, and my pastor asked me a few questions about it. Prior to his life in the church, he had been an ENT surgical first assist in the military. We had talked about ears and audiological jibberjabber many a time, but this was the first time my own ear had been the topic of conversation. He asked if I had a recurring pimple in that area. I did. On or near my tragus, every couple months, usually around the time my ear pain would flare up. He said it sounded like a branchial cleft cyst, something he had excised on many patients, and suggested I see an ENT.

I made an appointment.

I did a little cursory internet research on them leading up to my appointment. If that was, in fact, the problem with my ear, mine was minor compared to some of the gnarly pictures I found online. The majority of cases seemed to occur in the neck. The majority of cases seemed to be pretty sizable. Of course, gnarly pictures are the cornerstone of Google images. Anyway, it seemed feasible that this could be my problem: aggravation of the facial nerve, a pimple that wasn’t a pimple but a cyst, flare-ups when I have upper-respiratory infections.

I never had a chance to tell the doctor any of that.

When I got into his office, I started explaining my ear trouble. He interrupted me and asked me to open my mouth. He felt along my jawline and outer ear area. He asked me a few questions and looked inside my ears, pronouncing them normal. By this time, of course, my flareup had subsided. I tried to explain that. He asked me to open my mouth again and said he was going to put his fingers in my mouth. He did, and pushed up behind my last molars. I nearly shot out of my chair. TMJ, he said.

I tried to explain that I thought it might be more than that. I’ve always believed in advocating for my health and working with my doctors. He interrupted me again with a lesson on ear anatomy, but not really. It was watered down. I work at the deaf school. I’ve taken basic audiology and know the anatomy. You could use more technical language for this conversation. He could, but he didn’t. Then he started talking about the jaw, again with the paternalistic tone. I know what the temporomandibular joint is. My mother worked in the dental field for 30 years and used all the technical jargon around the dinner table. I had braces for eight years to fix my bite, with the idea that we would prevent TMJ dysfunction. Obviously that trick inside my mouth is something. Is it possible I have two things going on here? He laughed at me. Told me to get a night guard. Then I left

I didn’t want to say it’s because he is a man in a field dominated by men. I didn’t want to assume it’s connected to the hints of his southern drawl still lingering after three decades in Idaho. Basically, I didn’t want to believe that he was dismissive and condescending because I am a woman. But in the grand scheme of things, when doctors interrupt their patients, male doctors interrupt more often than female doctors, and female patients are interrupted with greater frequency.

I wish I could say my chiropractor was more respectful. But I can’t. Not really. He wasn’t overtly condescending, at least. He let me finish what I wanted to say and he gave me credit for “listening to my body.” But when I told him the diagnosis, he was equally dismissive. Everyone has a TMJ. Everyone has two of them. That’s really the most ridiculous diagnosis. Next time it flares up come here and I’ll get you all fixed up. Then he adjusted my derby injuries and sent me on my way.

So the ENT was dismissive because he had the credentials and knew better. And my chiropractor was dismissive because my ENT had mainstream credentials, and I should have just known better. And here I sit, literally years later with a chest cold that turned into a head cold and another nasty flare-up of the ear from hell.

Yesterday I rounded up my students and we all went to the audiologist’s office. They’ve all been there countless times for broken earmolds or new batteries or their annual hearing evaluation. This was the first time they were not the subject (hooray for scrambling power dynamics!). I explained my problem. The audiologist has her scope hooked up to a television screen, so everyone got a good look at my very angry tympanic membrane (eardrum) and external auditory meatus (ear canal). We compared it to my very healthy-looking left ear. Then we checked my middle ear pressure: normal. The kids joked about my hairy ears and asked if a spider laid eggs in there. But most importantly (to me, anyway) she took me seriously and modeled an equitable doctor-patient interaction.

So, my ear still hurts, seven years later. And you know what? It could be TMJ. It could be a branchial cleft cyst. And the icing on that whole cake happened when I got the bill from the clinic. I owed far more than my $20 co-pay. I had done my homework, though, not only on my symptoms, but also on my in-network providers. I called my insurance company. Yes, they told me, my provider was in-network. But that diagnosis code was not covered. What? That’s a thing? I’ve heard of treatments not falling under an insurance plan, but a diagnosis?? I didn’t even go to the doctor for my jaw–how was I supposed to plan for an out-of-network diagnosis?! My appointment was covered up until the point he uttered and documented the letters TMJ. After that, my appointment went from $20 to $tupid. With a side of suspected sexism to boot.

And now you’ve just had an earful. Welcome to the club.

(More) Hair

My hair looks awesome today. So do my pants. So do the revisions on my paper I sent to my advisor this morning. The patriarchal hegemony is not holding me back from wearing kelly green capris and quasi-pixie-bob buzz-swoop ‘do!

In more easy-to-understand-terms, I have more pictures to show more drastically the before and after of this hair journey (for the longer word-based journey, check out Monday’s blog post)…

Before:

Danielle, 2003. Senior year of high school. I never wore my hair like this but still felt the need to spend three hours getting my massive amounts of hair curled and styled for my senior pictures. I also never wore makeup, except for my senior photos. So basically this is a photo of someone I never met. I think my internalized patriarchy might be showing a bit.

Danielle, 2003. Senior year of high school. I never wore my hair like this but still felt the need to spend three hours getting my massive amounts of hair curled and styled for my senior pictures. I also never wore makeup, except for my senior photos. So basically this is a photo of someone I never met. I think my internalized patriarchy might be showing a bit. 

Danielle, 2009. The long hair, past the shoulders, not quite to the elbows. About 10 minutes later, I chopped off a 10-inch braid and never looked back.

Danielle, 2009. The long hair, past the shoulders, not quite to the elbows. About 10 minutes later, I chopped off a 10-inch braid and never looked back.

Later (not really “After,” since my hair is an ongoing project):

Danielle, 2014. The Swoop, as it is sometimes known, is exactly what my hair wants to do, and I let it.
Danielle, 2014. The Swoop, as it is sometimes known, is exactly what my hair wants to do, and I let it.
Danielle, 2015. The hair is short, sassy, and in your face. I get shit done.

Danielle, 2015. The hair is short, sassy, and in your face. I get shit done.

Danielle, 2015. It took me longer to put on my three shirts than it did to do my hair. Short hair = ME! While sporting this ensemble while in line for the restroom, I got into a conversation about genderless restrooms and Idaho politics. I don't think that was a coincidence.

Danielle, 2015. It took me longer to put on my three shirts than it did to do my hair. Short hair = ME! That night, sporting this ensemble while in line for the restroom, I got into a conversation about non-gender-labeled restrooms and Idaho politics. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Danielle, St. Patrick's Day 2015. You know you're an elementary teacher when the highlight of the week is getting to wear the kelly green capri pants you bought in 2004, with a pair of knee-high St. Patrick's Day socks, and you look totally awesome. A fellow teacher tried to "fix" my hair as we were walking in the building. I said, "No need. It's exactly how it needs to be!"

Danielle, St. Patrick’s Day 2015. You know you’re an elementary teacher when the highlight of the week is getting to wear the kelly green capri pants you bought in 2004, with a pair of knee-high St. Patrick’s Day socks, and you look totally awesome. A fellow teacher tried to “fix” my hair as we were walking in the building. I said, “No need. It’s exactly how it needs to be!”

Hair

The first time I had a panicked birthday was my 22nd. I was a senior in college, about six weeks away from graduating. I looked around at my friends and classmates, remembering how at 18 I had looked up at the seniors and seen them as a world beyond me. They were so adult, so learned, so together. I felt none of those things, and it terrified me. Also, 22 looked like a fat number. That second two looked a lot wider than 21.

I did not freak out at 25. I had just purchased a house and life was awesome. I did, however, freak out when my baby sister turned 25 two years later. But, for the most part, my family are not birthday freaker-outers. My mom did not flip at 40, 50, or 60. My grandmother is 93 and as far as I know she handles each milestone birthday with a positive attitude and a sizable helping of angel food cake.

I turn 30 in less than three weeks.

I am totally losing my shit.

I don’t think 30 is old. I am not grieving the end of my 20s, as far as I can tell. I just feel like I haven’t really made much progress on this whole “adult” thing since I turned 22. And I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be. I’m divorced, I have no children, and I’m broke. I haven’t had a raise, really, in seven years.

In the midst of my weekend freakout, a friend shared some encouragement with me: May you have at least as many lives and adventures as I have had….and am still having. May you be able to reinvent yourself as often as your cells regenerate. When I saw her later that evening, we had a conversation along that topic, regarding hair. If hair represents my regenerations, I am currently in my Tenth Doctor tousled phase. All I’m lacking is a personal hair tousler.

Dream Job: David Tennant's personal hair tousler

Dream Job: David Tennant’s personal hair tousler

That said, my hair has been fairly representative of my life since moving to Idaho, and I am grateful for the conversation this weekend. During most of my life, I kept my hair long  enough for a ponytail, even if it was a short “sumo” ponytail. I am perpetually low-maintenance. I haven’t even used shampoo in seven years, let alone any hair product. To say I have thick hair would be a gross understatement. My hair is grotesquely thick, monstrously thick, thick-beyond-words thick. Whenever I have started with a new stylist, their shock the first time they have hefted my vast coif is worth capturing on film. I have a lot of hair. My current stylist books an extra-long block for me now, simply because we spend so much time thinning, and that’s even after he buzzes out the bottom third of my hair.

Anyway, I put as little effort into managing this mane as possible, which for the vast majority of the first 24 years of my life meant ponytails. Then, I chopped off a ten-inch braid, and my hair has been getting progressively shorter ever since.

During the same time frame that my hair has become strikingly short, I’ve taken control of a lot of areas of my life. I started going to counseling again, I started a 12-step program, played roller derby, took control of my health (sorta), embraced my feminism, appeared in two challenging productions with provocative, award-winning scripts (How I Learned to Drive and The Vagina Monologues), and started graduate school.

Correlation is not causation, but the correlation between my ever-shortening hair and my bolder approach to life is no coincidence.

I am loud and awkward and passionate, and I spent a lot of time apologizing for my elbows and my voice and my opinions. My parents were always shushing me. I no longer apologize for taking up space. I used to try to blend in and shrink back and hide the parts of my body and my personality that were deemed unfit or flawed. I spent too many years hiding in ponytails, oversized jeans, and hoodies. Now I wear what I want and I embrace my hips and my breasts and my tears and my fists when I’m fighting for the underdog.

Every time I’ve cut my hair, I’ve shed a layer of myself. Like a sassy snake. My hair was ridiculously fluffy last Wednesday, and the sensory integration therapist met me in the hallway and said, Your hair is so… awesome today. I replied, genuinely, Thanks! I used to fight with my hair, but I always lost. Now I just let my hair do what it does. Who wants to start every morning losing? One of my students thought that was really funny, in part because she has a mane of curly hair that has at least an 80% correlation to her mood. She’s like Japanese animation. She retold that story three times on Wednesday. The next day, after a good-morning hug, she told me we both won with our hair that morning.

Last semester in Feminist Theory, we regularly returned to the theme the personal is political. Hair is one of those personal-political feminist issues. Any time a Hollywood actress shaves her head for a role, she gets major headlines. When Jennifer Lawrence cut her hair in a pixie style (was that in 2013?) just because she damn well wanted to cut it that way, I’m pretty sure the internet broke. The fact that cutting one’s hair is considered so newsworthy makes it pretty clear how much a woman’s hair means in our culture. And when we add race to the equation–because I love me some intersectional feminism–the implications and consequences of short hair are magnified. In 2012, Rhonda Lee, a small-market meteorologist in Louisiana, was fired after defending (in a Facebook comment) her choice to keep her black, ethnic hair short and natural. It seems to me, at least in certain contexts, short hair is where the personal becomes political.

Women with short hair get noticed. I am okay with that now; I don’t have to hide. I may not be where I thought I’d be, but I am certainly not where I was.

Danielle, 2009. The long hair, past the shoulders, not quite to the elbows. About 10 minutes later, I chopped off a 10-inch braid and never looked back.

Danielle, 2009. The long hair, past the shoulders, not quite to the elbows. About 10 minutes later, I chopped off a 10-inch braid and never looked back.

Danielle, 2015. The hair is short, sassy, and in your face. I get shit done.

Danielle, 2015. The hair is short, sassy, and in your face. The underside is totally buzzed. I get shit done.

¡La tarea de español me enojó anoche!

In addition to my graduate coursework, I am taking Spanish 102 at the local community college. This is my completed homework from last night, practicing comparatives and superlatives:

[redacted]

I can tell my Spanish is improving because I nearly shit myself with frustration at the content of this assignment. I’ll type my best attempt at a translation in just a bit. Please bear in mind that I do better just reading for meaning; even in ASL (with which I have over a decade of experience) I prefer to simply converse and not translate/interpret.

Eugenia Hello, Carolina, you are as thin as your sister. How did you do it?

Carolina Thanks, Eugenia. See, I started eating more vegetables than fat, and I eat smaller portions than you have there. I also go to the gym as often as my sister.

Eugenia I think you look better than her.

Carolina Maybe, because my sister sleeps less than me, and she likes to go dancing until late. And you, why do you not start your diet (or Why don’t you start eating better)?

Eugenia Thanks for your advice. See you.

Carolina See you soon.

Then I got a bit rage-y and vented all over my Facebook timeline. I was Facebook friends with my prof for a couple years before I took the course, so he witnessed my rage and suggested contacting the textbook company.

One such Facebook post: OH MY FREAKING COW THIS ENTIRE SPANISH ASSIGNMENT IS ABOUT HOW SHE LOST WEIGHT AND GOT TO BE AS THIN AS HER SISTER!!!!

Another post: Holy Snackwells, is this ever ludicrous! keyboardfacesmash

Now, slightly more contained, here is my breakdown, in English, even though my prof also suggested channeling my anger into a well-constructed Spanish business letter. I prefer to spout my frustrations in my first language, not my third.

  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women chronically dieting or trying to lose weight. The first complete sentence after the greeting Hola, is a comment on the Carolina’s weight loss and asking how she did it.
  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women comparing themselves to other women. Eugenia compares Carolina to Carolina’s sister, and Carolina does it to herself (refer to FOUR examples in the green text above).
  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women judging other women. Caroline says that she eats smaller portions than Eugenia is eating right now, and later asks Eugenia why she doesn’t start eating better.
  • Weight loss is all they talk about. Eugenia asks about her friend’s diet immediately after saying hello. The entire conversation is based on how Carolina looks; not one mention of her health or well-being is mentioned.

Surely we can come up with better ways to practice comparatives and superlatives than to resort to tired stereotypes of women, appearance, and weight loss.

Women, Sex, and Cars

Content Note: sexism, sexual symbolism in theatre

I bought a car this weekend.

The experience was fraught. Little Purple, my trusty steed for the last dozen years, had been ailing for the last year. I had spent close to $1000 on three major repairs since school started, and then she choked out in my driveway on a recent Friday. I cried several times. I tried all the tricks I’d used on her glitchy electrical system over the years, but she was down for the count. Even before I got the call from Cody in the Service Department, even before the tow truck brought her there, even before I called the towing company, I knew she’d driven her last mile. I knew it the same way I knew my grandmother had died when the phone rang on that July morning. I knew it the same way I knew I was pregnant that December evening before I took a pregnancy test. Sometimes a body just knows things.

Nostalgia kicked in. Hard. All the frustration of the last year of breakdowns quieted, and I managed to crank out a few thousand words on a new chapter for April Showers

Twice she crossed the mountains on eastwardly all-nighters. During the first, my sister and I traded driving duties every four hours while our mother sat in the back seat in variations of annoyance and anger with us. We entertained ourselves with music and a rapping sock monkey named Maurice; mother was not amused. Eventually she fell asleep; so did Katrina. When it was Katrina’s turn to drive, mother woke, briefly, and then she slept some more. I nodded off quickly. After two hours, Katrina woke me, wracked with anxiety: it was dark, we were crossing mountains, mother was snoring. She begged me to take over. I took the wheel and Little Purple whispered through the invisible Montana landscape, the mountains parting to accept her and swallowing her up as the pass quietly zippered up behind us.

I am well aware that I refer to my car with feminine pronouns. Last summer, I performed the role of Li’l Bit in Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive. One of the (many) themes running through the play is the connection among cars, women, and sex. The sexualization-of-cars metaphor seems clear in the text and subtext of the script, but in case anyone has missed it, there is one scene when Uncle Peck is teaching Li’l Bit to drive and classic 50s and 60s pin-up style shots of women with cars are projected on the back wall of the stage; cut into the the slide show are era-style pin-up shots of Li’l Bit (a.k.a. me). Li’l Bit asks her uncle why the car is a she. He brings the metaphor to its full by spelling it out for us. For me, Little Purple as a she carried sexual implications, but in a mutually empowering way, rather than in unidirectional objectifying way. We carried each other, we ailed together, we soared together. There’s a reason the call from the Service Department reminded me of finding out I was pregnant.

I accompanied my sister when she bought her Jeep last summer, and I saw how the salesman treated her. He did not take her seriously or see her as an equal until she got a (male) friend on the phone, one who happens to be a successful car salesman. She passed her cellphone off to HotShot McWranglerpants and I could hear him swallow his heart. To hear that smarmy voice change to one of young man knocked down a few pegs infuriated me. Why did it take a man in his mid-forties to get this hot-shot prick to actually listen to my sister? Why are women treated this way when it comes to purchasing and servicing cars? How did one man on a cell phone elicit more respect than two women in person?

Why does Jiffy Lube have a “Ladies’ Day”?

The dynamics of power between men and women are quite plain in the automotive world. The only women I’ve seen employed at the dealership where I purchased my car work at the coffee counter and in the payments department. I’ve co-hosted a few remote broadcasts from that dealership with my radio job, so I’m acquainted with a few employees. As I waited in the payments department to make my down payment, a salesperson I’d previously met walked by, patted my back (hooray for unsolicited bodily contact!), and said, Congratulations, sweetheart! I replied non-noncommittally. It’s a nice car! he reassured me as he walked away (hooray for drive-by nonversations!). I turned to my salesperson (who is, by the way, my sister’s friend from the other end of that phone call with HotShot McWranglerpants) and said, I know it’s a nice car. I bought it. I just don’t like being called sweetheart.

Anyone who thinks we live in a post-feminist society has not purchased a car recently. Or if they did, they are probably a man who purchased a car from a man. I’m not a car person, but I am a person. This whole men-sex-women-cars thing looks as dated as the 50s pin-up pictures we took as publicity shots for How I Learned to Drive, which were, by the way, intentionally vintage. Buying a car as a woman should not take extra strategies or back-up plans or friends on-call if the deal goes south.

So again, I ask: why does Jiffy Lube have a Ladies’ Day?

Unconfirmed

Content note: trans persons in the media

I am not a trans activist. I do not claim to know enough about the trans community. Thusly, I will be brief and stick to what I know at present: language. I’m shooting for roughly 350 words.

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article: The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All  (I used a proxy so the NYT will not log a page hit from you).

The blurb reminded us “he has not confirmed it.” Several paragraphs in, I read, “Advocates for transgender issues declined in interviews to discuss specifics about Mr. Jenner’s situation, saying that until he announces what is going on, it is wrong to make any assumptions.”

This reminds me of the ridiculousness of the episode of This American Life about “Batman”: include a single, passing statement wherein a source calls you out for your previous line of reporting to before moving along with your reporting.

If a person has not come out as trans, there is no article about their transition.

I don’t care if the rest of the article is a good “think piece.” If the first third of the article is premised upon speculation and tabloid journalism, the last two-thirds do not redeem the piece. If the NYT cared about the trans community, it would run a piece on the trans community without linking it to click bait. As it is written, the article is just one more that commodifies the presumed gender identity of a celebrity.

My closing thoughts come from tumblr:

I don’t care that media and tabloid coverage has suddenly become more serious and respectful because of reporting that Bruce Jenner might be transitioning.

Gaining some sort of confirmation (confirmation will only come from Bruce until then, let’s shut up about it) does not mean that the tabloid reports were not transmisogynistic and hateful in the first place. Because they were. They’re a prime example of how anyone who defies gender norms, but particularly those who are feminine-presenting, will always be the subject of ridicule and violence.