#10 The Gender Web!

c: It's funny, I spent all week researching on a particular topic for a book I’m writing and then you call me out of the blue to say let’s do a show on.

h: Gender spectrums.

c: We are so connected.  This topic, holy smokes. Tell me this, what do you think someone coming out of school or University, or even the average person on the street knows about gender? 

h: I often thought about that as I was going through University majoring in women’s studies and political science.  I guess I was one of those “liberal arts kids” who spent a great deal of time discussing these topics with peers, colleagues, professors, and teachers.  These constructs of our social fabric are almost second nature.  I see gender and sex and the expression of feminine and masculine as very different entities.  For people who never took those courses or never had the desire to do their own research they likely go along with what society says about masculine and feminine being a man or a woman and take that at face value.

c: Do people even think that far into it or is it just biological, male or female?

h: I think a lot of people believe that if you’re a man you have certain traits, that you have to be strong, and that means masculine, the traditionally it's visa verse for women.

c: So this word Gender, very interesting history.  It was Aristotle himself who credited another greek philosopher, Protagoras, for giving the meaning to the word which strictly referred to languages where gender is used to distinguish nouns.   As late as 1926 it was considered ignorant to use the word gender in any other context.

h: Do not take it out of the box that’s how we keep people in line.

c: It wasn't until 1955 when John Money, a psychologist, sexologist, and author who was working on projects related to sex within a social structure found that the word represented his work perfectly.  So that’s how the word came to represent not only sexual orientation but also how we behave within a society based on masculine and feminine attributes assigned to male and female.  Gender is such a pervasive word that we don’t even realize it.  The minute you come out of your mother's womb, your gender journey begins.  Your parents socialize you with a name to match your gender, you become Heather not Henry and I become Christopher as opposed to Christine.

h: And it’s amazing how the medical world, that if you have a baby where the sex isn’t clear that it’s deemed borderline a medical emergency so this need to categorize is something that’s inflicted immediately. From birth, and where sex and gender goes is were dichotomous thinking starts.

c: But we don’t think about it, we don’t realize that from that moment of birth everything about our life is guided through gender. Our society has set up rules that if you are going to flourish within the boundaries you must conform.

h: If you go outside that lines it can be life threatening.

c: Pretty much everything is based on the gender you’ve been assigned, by nature, let’s not blame this all on man, nature had a hand in that too.

h: Yes there is some biology happening here.  

c: The problem is we can't tell where nature ends and social gender begins.  

h: A beautiful way I heard it explained once is that rather than the nature vs. nurture argument it's more one-third of a human being is based on biology, a third is being socialized by immediate family and the final third our cultural conditioning. 

c: So is the family piece not plugged into the cultural?

h: It’s plugged in but you could live in a society that predominantly respects women’s rights to bodily autonomy but perhaps your parents don’t.  That immediate sphere is its own layer.

c: What I haven't seen are studies of animals overlaying the human experience.   

h: I think that is a great launching point to see what is feminine in female animals, being able to be impregnated, the instinctual need to care for offspring.  In human mothers the need to be attached to a child is quite difficult, especially if it was an unplanned pregnancy or things are not going well with the father there can be a kind of disdain for your offspring. I know it can be a very difficult thing for women to hear or feel in themselves, but it doesn’t make them less of a woman to have those other feeling arise.  If we're making the parallel between us and animals nurturing is just something that’s assumed to come innately to us.

c: There are animals out there, mothers who eat their young. 

h: That is true…  so we need to be careful of how we look between animals and ourselves.

c: But there are parallels there as well because there are human mothers who are not nurturing to their young.  There is always going to be an animal that steps out of line with what we consider…

h: Natural. So maybe it's more that women, and men, we have different animal archetypes that you more identify with.  So maybe you're more of a Black Widow, or maybe you’re more of a bunny rabbit. I think this creates space though that you don’t need to be this loving woman all the time, always giving to your kids because kids can drive you nuts.  I’m really interested in doing a show because I think that is something that really permeates women’s psyche, and men’s.

c: I would say more so for women because men transfer their guilt of them because our gender rules state that women are to nurture young children.  Men get a Mulligan. 

h: So we get double the guilt, but let's create space for women to know that when their children are driving them nuts it’s okay.

c: Yeah, but just don’t eat them ok.  This gender concept though really took off when feminists began using it to make their point about gender inequality and social bias.  Gener was a perfect tool to highlight these social biases, whether it be professional with unequal pay or domestically with women who work also saddled with housework.   

h: For certain you start to question things that were just taken at face value that have no wiggle room for social change.  I remember my mom telling me about my grandmother and how she loathed being a very bright woman with great ideas but people not taking her seriously.  That's still the case in many parts of the world.

c: Yes that is a big challenge, even in this modern and civilized world. 

h: I found this interesting, it's a diagram of Gender Spectrums.  

Gender Chart.png

h: In the middle is uncertain or all, which I thought was a wonderful way of putting it.  How would you claim that?  To be all, woman and man, in sex and in gender, you would need to have all the biological pieces, and be comprised of what it is to be a woman and man socially and culturally, and express feminine and masculine characteristics and everything between what those polarities are.

c: Is that even possible, where would you be accepted and who would accept you?

h: Maybe everyone?

c: We are talking about human beings where if you’re not exactly like me it's back of the bus, please. 

h: But the concept of a person like that really stimulates my mind because it shows how maybe you can take pieces of that to apply to your own life.  Maybe you don’t have all the sexual and biological pieces but you have the fluidity to bring in the characteristics that serve you and to be able to be a full human.

c: So now we’re talking about our purpose on this show.  To explore merging what we have traditionally been separated.  Traditionally we believe that people are either masculine or feminine and our sexual orientation is wrapped up in that, our procreation responsibilities are all wrapped up in that. However, what I believe is that masculine and feminine don’t belong in that mix.  To me, it’s more a spiritual piece.  Yes, it shadows in the physical, however, what we are attempting to arrive at is the middle piece.  We are all both masculine and feminine and it's how do we connect these two things and have them serve us in whatever situation we’re in?   I’m not connecting this to the physical, to what’s dangling or not dangling between your legs, I’m talking about your soul.  That’s what’s exciting about that diagram to me.  

h: One piece that I would like to tease with is that a big part of accepting that harmony within is noticing that it’s not just a dichotomy within, noticing that it's not just masculine and feminine, but noticing what’s in between those two.  How would you describe what’s in between?

c: Peace!  Peace is what’s in the center, harmony.  It’s a place of divinity.  I believe that’s what human beings are.  Once you get past the flesh there is divinity in us.  This infinite spirit is not about if you have breasts, or how aggressive you are, it’s not about your physical, it’s deeper and I believe that’s what we truly are.   The flesh will die but there is a piece of us that will not.  That is the divinity we seek in the flesh, but we also have this thing where we must separate.  We are a paradox spending our whole lives also wanting to connect with each other, male to female.  There is something about it that draws us

h: Closeness and connection.

c: Yes, it's within us and we doing our best to replicate it in the flesh. Yet, on the other hand, we have to separate everything, we have to organize everything.  

h: Capitalize, compartmentalize just to make sense of what’s around us rather that seeing the fluidity of what’s around us.  

c: We resists it at every turn.  

h: It seems like it’s almost a safety precaution.  We fear not being able to have a connection so we build up walls.  

c: I’m afraid they might reject me so I’m going to build my wall first.  There was a time when everything on the planet wanted to kill us as breakfast, so yes we learned to protect ourselves and we developed this instinct to also protect those who are close to us. We’ve taken an ancient instinct that doesn’t serve us in a modern world where our desire is to connect.

h: I wonder when those feelings arose in me; where the prejudice came from.  Normally it’s just preconceived notions of something that I haven’t been knowledgeable on.

c: You’ve been gendered.  Your community has conditioned you.

h: I just want to take that and just bend and break all those demands that have been so limiting.  I was just thinking where my life path was going before getting into women’s studies and before questioning these constructs just how bound I was to the expectations of others.  Who I see in the mirror isn't the same person.  I’m so glad to see the knowledge being offered to help people escape these expectations. 

c: At least to understand where you are being guided and what is guiding you.

h: And what they have as an incentive.  If you want to deconstruct the house with the master's tool you must understand the construct.

c: And the consequences. 

h: I find myself functioning from a place of I’m going to be me and if you don’t like it I don’t care, but now it’s more of not allowing perceptions to run who I am.  

c: But who are you.  Are you able to unleash who you are without the preconditions that have been piled on you since birth?

h: Of course not, there's no way to escape all that, but from the way my path was being directed, the challenging of those expectations has changed things dramatically.  But then again, rebellion is still a construct.

c: There is no escape.  If you took two human babies born on the same day and you left them alone they would just die so you must have some guiding principle.  Even if you put them in with dogs they would still need a construct in order to survive, so there is no freedom. We all need to be conditioned in some way in order to survive but we never learn what is underneath those conditions. Even if you go to the mountains in Tibet at some point in your life you were conditioned a certain way, to believe certain things about the word, about your environment, about people.  You may free yourself from one or two links on that chain, however, you can never break free of that chain completely.  That’s what death is for.  

h: That’s the final detachment from all of it.

c: And now you’re not connected to the experience.

h: So how do we have fun with these while we are in this life?

c: You said it, it’s about understanding what they are, being aware.  Then you can choose which ones serve you. 

h: Choices being one of the key pieces.  

c: So if I’m the CEO and I want to go to the next board meeting naked I can make that choice but I also have to be aware to weigh the consequences.

h: Wouldn’t be interesting if we ever got to a point where none of that mattered?

c: Or would it be chaos?

h: It would probably be chaotic.

c: We need to be civilized.  That's what gender is supposed to do.  I was thinking of the old vinyl records where the grooves and cut to play a specific sound and you put the needle down and that’s all you’ll get.  So for women, there’s one record and it has a pink label and for men its blue and that’s the song we’ll sing for the rest of our lives.

h: Interesting to see historically that pink was the masculine color and blue was feminine.

c: Do yo know how those colors came to represent girls in pink and boys in blue?  

h: No.

c: It was all retail.  The retail industry.  There was a time in history when boys wore dresses because it was practical to have one outfit for a girl or a boy.

h: I remember when I was a girl playing with dolls, but I also wanted to play with trucks and blocks and lego, but you go into a Toy’s For Us and the stark contrast of pink and blue.

c: Boys played with GI Joe’s and they were essentially dolls no matter what the context.

h: I remember a conversation I had with a friend who has two boys.  Both boys wanted to play with dolls and the father had a hard time accepting that behaviour.  Finally, the mom said to her husband, your boys see you care for them and they want to care like their dad does.  That’s actually what the boys said to the mom, I want to be a good daddy, I want to care like daddy does.  I found that so interesting that it was the heart of wanting to nurture and it was innate for those young boys.  I think of how many young boys are not given those opportunities because playing with a doll is sissy but forbidding it actually strips them of the human quality to nurture and converts it to a gendered belief: boys don't play with dolls.

c: Everything is gendered, there’s no beginning to it and no end, but this word nurture I find fascinating.  It’s been assigned to women, and I understand breastfeeding and so on, however, men nurture as well.  If you look at a real man he protects his family and that is nurturing as well.  

h: How else can men feel safe in using that word?

c: I think you have to change the word.  It’s not quite macho enough.  Maybe the “protector” or the “provider”.  Definitely not the nurturer. 

h: It’s very heart warming to hear that just being there for your family as a man is nurturing.  That is a beautiful and very masculine trait.  The world needs more of that. 

c: We need to allow men to see themselves as more than just being the hard ass.  Men can be soft.

h: Yeah, we’re all very squishy when you get down to it.  

c: It doesn’t matter who you are there is feminine in you.  I'm not talking about soft and delicate, I’m talking about a strength that is different. This is not about your look or your demeanor, this is about your heart, your soul, your spirit.  There is feminine and masculine in all of us. 

h: All swirling around in there and wanting to be expressed.

c: However, the gendered society that we belong to doesn’t see it that way.  It won’t encourage that in you, or even accept that from you.  

h: Some parts may even loathe is in yourself.

c: And men do.  

h: As a child, if you have a mother or father saying that nurturing and dolls and crying, any sort of vulnerability aren't manly, what a weight for men to carry.  I feel it’s really stifling a huge part of what it means to be human.  In the film, The Mask You Hide Behind it portrays how young boys take care of their friends and have all this love in their hearts and show when that starts to shift, where it’s less endless acceptable and anger being the main emotion that’s socially sanctioned and just that they all feel so isolated.   That was a real commonality that they couldn’t have a closeness with male peers for fear of appearing effeminate.

c: So we gender engineer them and they take on a different path.  They specialize in one-half of themselves. 

h: It almost feels like society feeds that half and it grows.  It reminds me of twins when one twin gets too big and it crushes the other twin.  Not to say that the feminine can be crushed, it’s still there but it needs to be fed also. 

c: This is what my agenda is on the planet is showing to women that this is where they’ve gone, that society gets something from skewing into the masculine.  It has built this machine that works on masculine energy. 

h: What do you think that it’s getting?

c: It’s getting laborers, people to keep the economic machine fed. 

h: That’s the definition of power, having the ability to influence others and to get them to do what you want them to do.

c: Welcome to gender.

h: Welcome to free labor from women in the home.

c: And in the workforce.  It’s not free but you have doubled the workforce.  And you have women who believe that this is where their energy needs to go, to feed a machine that is built on a masculine principle.  The Patriarch.

h: But then you see women locally and internationally who are doing more so-called feminine work and helping other women rise out of bad circumstances. 

c: However there are women in that realm who even though they have a noble cause are motivated more by power.   If you look at Margaret Thatcher, she was motivated by power, she was very masculine in her womanhood.  Her cause was noble, she wanted a better country, a better world, however, she came from a masculine perspective.  You might call her cause feminine, to nurture her country, but she gave up her feminine in order to succeed at her goal. 

h: So what do you think the difference is in wanting to achieve a better world, and you need the power to influence others, but be able to do it from the feminine.  We’ve talked about the power of collaboration and inclusion and doing your best to work within a hierarchal structure, but that each person's viewpoint is taken into account.  Easier said than done because every movement, and maybe this again is masculine thinking, because movement needs direction and who guides that direction, who has the skills to guide people, and is that living in the masculine or can you still live in the feminine and make it work as a leader who isn’t out for power, but you need the power to influence others.

c: You know the funniest part of all this is?  It’s that the people we recognize for doing exactly that have been men.  The Gandhi, the Jesus, the Mandela!  They did it with a combination of the two.   And that’s the thing it’s not about just masculine or just feminine in leadership, it’s about developing both strengths within the same person. Then they can then lead from either, utilize both, be kind and gentle, but also apply force when necessary.  

h: So as far as having the balance, for myself as a woman there are few examples of women who have a masculine side but are able to come from their feminine.  It’s challenging.

c: You’re right, there are more examples of men being able to assess their feminine in leadership than there are women who can access their masculine and remain predominantly feminine in their presentation.  They are out there, and I vow to find them.

h: It’s what I work to embody because I feel most in balance when I feel powerful in my feminine.  You said it once, it’s power straight from the heart. That’s a very different type of leadership. 

c: It’s what the world will need in order to achieve its goal, which is peace.  It can’t be done from only one side of the ledger while ignoring the other, we must draw from the middle — individually.

h: Yeah.

c: Is this the part where we hold hands and sing?

h: Well it's peace and harmony, but also growth and development so we don't get stagnant.  You and I have talked about competition and it’s been such a changing point for me, I was having a  conversation about what healthy competition looks like and to say that I mostly want to best myself, but seeing how other people best themselves drive me to achieve new things. We can still have that win-win mentality.  It doesn’t discount that we can look to others, not with this wish I was them, but wow look at what they are achieving.

c: I’ve said this, that the reason I love sports is not for sport's sake but for the human factor.  To see humans interact where there isn’t a script, where there isn’t a pre-organized outcome but where one person inspires another to go even further within themselves.

ck

Chris Kennedy