The Uniform of Gender

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About Vironika Tugaleva

Vironika Tugaleva is an author, speaker, reformed cynic, people lover, and a very different kind of spiritual teacher. Inspiring and wise beyond her years, Vironika helps people heal their minds and discover their inner strength. You're invited to read more about Vironika and her inspiring new book The Love Mindset .

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    Gender is a very powerful construct that does tend to follow us around wherever we go. However, the article may be overstating this just a bit. I’m wondering how the article’s argument would address the idea of being transgendered. Some people literally do change their gender uniform.

    Gender is top-down and outside in, imposed on individuals from society, but it is also somewhat malleable. It is also shaped from the bottom up and inside out.

    Also, there are situations and forms of media in which the gender identity is muted or virtually impossible to detect. If someone blogs under a name of indeterminate gender, then is there still a restrictive uniform that can’t be removed?

    • First of all, I can’t reliably speak for transgendered individuals. I invite those in the community to say their piece. I’ll try to do my best to extend the argument in that department from what I’ve been exposed to, but I accept that the platform isn’t mine to take. Forgive me if I offend anyone.

      In my experience, those who transition speak fondly of the first moment when they were treated as a member of their chosen gender. In essence, the uniform has been changed. Thus, the person now wears a uniform for the opposite gender. The process of changing uniforms does not change the fact that the new uniform, like the old uniform, signals to others what to expect of the individual.

      Those whose gender is not easily distinguished by the general public whether through purposeful means (such as being mid-transition or defining oneself as androgynous) or non-purposeful (such as any externally detectable level of hermaphroditism or simply androgynous features) undergo similar experiences as a result. While there are many members of the LGBTQ community, and their preferences and personalities widely vary, I would say that the community itself dons a uniform. This uniform is one that has proud wearers, allies, and, unfortunately, those who respond negatively to it. I think it’s not just trans people, but also people with any sexuality except heterosexuality who get society’s treatment for deviating from male or female uniforms. Non-gender-binary* uniforms are still uniforms since they come with expectations from others and certain patterns of behaviours from others.

      I would agree with you that there are situations and media where gender does not play a role. In fact, there are cultures where it barely plays a role! I’m originally from the former Soviet Union and, back home, it didn’t matter if you were male or female – you worked and you worked hard.

      What I’m trying to point out is that we have developed, as a society, certain expectations of men and women. These are not part of most people’s conscious processing. These expectations are deeply conditioned in most people’s minds.

      I am suggesting that we need to acknowledge the ways in which we automatically respond to gender so that we can better understand them, evaluate them, and change as necessary.

      *This hyphenated word is, most likely, an my own personal invention.

    • Michael Rowe says:

      Good question, though I would propose that part of the transgender dilemma is exactly what the author of this piece suggests–the power of the gender “uniform,” and the need to shed it in order to own the target gender’s uniform.

  2. I’m a trans woman who has generally androgynous features, who are mostly seen as feminine because they are neotenous (ie I look young).

    I’m a big fan of authenticity and proudly being yourself, even in the face of people bringing stupid double standards to the table.

    Given I don’t like make-up (I find the look it gives to be clownish at best, even if others disagree), I don’t feel forced to wear any for anything I do. Wether it’s going out to the store, the restaurant on a date, or work. And I will bravely face people who may comment on my lack of make-up (although I don’t really expect it either).

    I would love for both men and women to be allowed to be their authentic selves without feeling they’ll be judged negatively “too much” for it. That their tastes are “too much outside mainstream” or that they deserve to be outcasts for not being robot conformists like everyone else.

    I want men to be allowed to wear skirts and cute stuff without being beaten up or laughed at. I want men to be allowed to have long hair, earrings or piercings without being called hippies or drugged (and yes, even shiny, brushed and clean long hair will get called dirty and unkempt – but only on a guy).

  3. As the man speaking to Brene Brown mentioned, it is my experience that women are the brutal ones regarding enforcing the vulnerable male = weak mindset. Examining the relationships of my friends parents, and other similar elders, as well as older TV shows and movies, you will see that men expressing emotion, being vulnerable, has it’s place. Yes, men are expected to hold it in at certain times, but vulnerability has always been accepted in the right times for the right reasons… among men. But we’ve lost that in recent generations. With this fatherless generation, the boys (and girls) growing up haven’t been taught when boys are allowed to be vulnerable, instead the demand for perpetual strength has been shoved upon them, and that is an unsustainable state.

  4. “it is my experience that women are the brutal ones regarding enforcing the vulnerable male = weak mindset”

    Experience has taught me to feel far safer being vulnerable with other men rather than women. Esepcially if it is a woman I am dating. The standard reaction from women to real vulnerability and real displays of weakness in men is contempt as long as it is in a sexual relationship. It is NOT by acident that pickup artists use the alpha male model to such great success and not the sensitive new age guy.

    • Thnk you Mark and Thor for sharing. I agree with you that many women enforce the stereotypes that men are subjected to (much like many men enforce the ones that are used to define women). I hope that, through communication and initiatives like Good Men Project, we will one day be able to see only the uniform of human and not of gender. Like any massive change, it will be slow, but can be sped along with our initiative to be role models, our open and nonjudgemental communication about these issues, and our empathy towards those who stereotype because that’s all they’ve been exposed to.

  5. “I hope that, through communication and initiatives like Good Men Project, we will one day be able to see only the uniform of human and not of gender.”

    In order to do that you need to convince the HINDBRAIN to be attracted to different things. You need to use higher congitive centers that do not generally deal with attraction to change what it sees as attractive. Read some neuroscience and you`ll see what a hopeless task that is. The desire for strong, dominant men is hardwired and so you can`t change the attraction pattern. If you can`t change the attraction pattern it is of very little help that everyone agrees with their higher cognitive centers that men should be allowed to be just as vulnerable and weak as women and still be AS attractive as dating partners if it does not actually change the attraction pattern in women, which it won`t. The same goes the other way arround in terms of what we think is unfair standards for women. What is holding that back is mens attraction patterns and these are also fundamentally under control of the hindbrain. Attraction patterns can be tweaked a bit but no more than that:

    http://socialpathology.blogspot.no/2012/11/alpha-circuitry.html

  6. Thanks for sharing, Thor. I would argue that, in order to be strong and dominant (which both women AND men, I believe, should be), I believe that we all require a certain degree of vulnerability. Keeping emotions inside causes them to build until they either seep out into passive-aggressiveness or into anger. If one is guided by repressed emotions inside of them, that is not strength. That is weakness. Ultimately, sharing your feelings and allowing the negative ones to ebb away allows us to live more freely and fully. I think this is what Brene Brown means when she says that vulnerability is strength.

    • Check the research on male and female attraction with regards to being dominant. Women, especially the most attractive women are attracted to dominant men while men are turned off by dominant women. This not only goes for personality but even the pheromones of dominant men are more attractive to women than the pheromones of less dmominant men. If you try to make women more dominant that crashes with attraction patterns. They become less attractive to men and because they themselves become more dominant there will be less men they perceive as dominant enough to become attracted to. If you want your goals to succeed you need to figure out how to work arround that. You did not answer how you think it is possible to use the rational parts of the brain to change the way the primal parts that deal with sexual attraction works. I suspect because you are not able to.

      In addition to that a dominant personality comes from testosterone. Estrogen makes you more agreeable and submissive. Without hormone replacement therapy for all women it is impossible to make women as dominant as men.

      • I’ve checked out the research. The studies identify dominance as “more likely to win a dyadic physical confrontation”. Why is it impossible for men to do that and also express emotions, allow themselves to be vulnerable, cry, etc.? Is this not simply a matter of strength via physical fitness or, perhaps, through a demonstrated ability to take charge in situations?

  7. Codebuster says:

    I just stumbled across this extremely important article of paradigmatic significance. I love the metaphor of gender as a uniform. It brings us to the nature/nurture debate with the interpretation that our biologies (nature, DNA, male and female) account for our predispositions but “nurture” (experience) relates to what we do with those predispositions and ultimately, how our brains are wired. In the same way that male/female gender roles relate to biological predispositions, so too the idea of the uniform conveys the significance of the relationship between culture and our predispositions to the types of choices that we make from culture.

    Not too sure that I agree about the ease with which that uniform can be changed, though. Culture cannot survive without the polarisations attributable to gender roles. Market forces will always intervene to adjust the supply and demand curves that often answer to more primal motivations. For example, many women will continue to fantasize about rape, and many will continue to select for the exciting bad-boys most predisposed to raping, and nothing is going to change that. Indeed, the more forbidden you that make something, the more aroused some people are going to get at breaching its taboos.

    Many women might SAY that they like sensitive men who cry, and they may even try to live up to it whilst declaring that they are averse to the bad-boys, but primal motivations will always kick in to impact on reflexes that are beyond conscious control. They might say that they despise bad-boys, but for many, a fascination with alpha rebels belies their conscious intentions. Hate the bad-boy you might, but the hormonal surges are beyond your conscious control.

  8. Sorry for being late to his party, but lost my way on the way over, and finally found this address.

    This was one of the best written articles on gender that I have seen. Excellent piece of descripyive writing. The comments were great too. Very well thought out.

    In particular I liked the hindbrain commentary of the way in which each of us is probably wired from the factory to be attracted to the characteristics of the other gender, at least in heterosexual relationships, and not being same sex attracted have no idea what the commonalities are there in the wiring of attractive qualities, but for the sake of argument I will have to assume there’s some age old subconcious wiring there too.

    This then explains something that I’ve pondered a long time about nature and nurture. If there is evolutionary wiring, whether it be actual hard wiring, or if it’s a basic software programming that has been updated over eons, then perhaps marketing to be genderless is resisted so heavily because they can exploit and enhance that pre-ordained script so much easier. The social nurturance, boys can’t wear pink, is easily accepted not long after introduction, and any boy who wears pink then is the outlier, and that can’t happen. But boys did wear pink, and dresses in the not too distant past. So fashion in some way must be influencing “natural” thought on what men and women must ALWAYS express as to be attractive.

    But why not a man being accepted wearing a skirt. Why is it then that women can take on male characteristics more easily and still be attractive? Not fully dominant but enough so to still retain her attractiveness to the hardwire. On TV today you see more women BEING the dominant one-Shaw for example on Person of Interest. On TV today, the dominants have the same characteristics for men and women. But for vulnerable men portrayals they are almost universally faced with scorn by both nmen and women. But a man in a skirt can NEVER be seen as dominant by women or men. Why? It seems to me that he would be seen as such because he has the absolute courage to go against the custom, so it stands to reason he’d kick some serious ass if challenged. So why wouldn’t that be seen as attractive to a woman? That’s the part I’ve not yet been able to integrate in this hardwired laws of attraction.

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