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May 30 2007

XX

phils.jpg
After the Twistolution, ‘hamburger’ will have more meaning than ‘woman’. Burger and onion rings at Phil’s Ice House, North Austin. May 2007.

Yesterday I asked yew-all what the word ‘woman’ means. Thanks to those of you who answered; it was sporting of you, considering that I had just posted a curmudgeonly amendment to the Comment-o-festo consisting of “I have not solicited your commentary, so shut the fuck up.” And considering that whenever I ask a dumb question like that, I mean only to be a smart-ass later.

The responses included some XX stuff, and some stuff about reproductive organs. A few of the de Beauvoirians said ‘woman’ is ‘the Other’. Some folks who have been reading too much I Blame the Patriarchy said ‘the sex class’. A couple of hippies dreamily opined, “A woman is whatever she wants to be.” A sweet thought, hippies. But not in this world. I’ll take a hit off that doob, though.

Several of you clever young onions hit upon what I consider to be the point of the exercise, which is that ‘woman’ is a load of crap; defining it is impossible except in terms of patriarchy, which means that sex is virtually indistinguishable from gender, socially, philosophically, and scientifically.

As I learned from the scholarly journal Newsweek, there’s no blood test for it. Furthermore, as I understand it, all sorts of ‘conditions’ — congenital adrenal hyperplasia, androgen insensitivity syndrome, mosaicism — blur the line, so ‘woman’ is essentially meaningless, biologically. So much for XX.

Physiologically there are, in some people, organs specialized for reproduction, but in ‘man’ there are organs specialized for reproduction, too, and unless ‘man’ is also ‘woman’ — ha! Man = woman! Have you ever seen anything so absurd! — you can’t really go by that. And there are all sorts of ‘conditions’ blurring the line again — intersexuality, ‘micropenis’, Klinefelter’s syndrome. One might focus on the difference between the organs, perhaps classifying as ‘woman’ one who possesses fully-developed and functional specialized egg-production and fetus-incubation apparatus. Of course, this definition lets me out, and Tidy, and our mom too.

I can be scientifically classified, neither biologically nor physiologically, as a ‘woman’, but check this out: last Sunday, three soccer moms at Phil’s Ice House [1], while waiting in line for the can marked with a dress-shaped stick figure, were startled when I busted through the gauntlet to the door marked with a human-shaped stick figure [2].

Their surprise, confusion and — if I may say so — awe illustrated that in praxis ‘woman’ has nothing to do with inherited physical traits, whether on a cellular or an anatomical level. I assert this because a soccer mom in the bathroom line at Phil’s Ice House cannot deduce, from information obtained by a quick once-over, the exact number of my X chromosomes (hell, I don’t even know the exact number of my X chromosomes). Furthermore, unless she has X-ray eyes (yes, all mothers claim this superpower, but in reality it’s extremely rare) she cannot know whether I’ve got a uterus.

Yet something about me had communicated to them, instantaneously and comprehensively, that I was not qualified to urinate where dudes urinate. I’d transgressed a vitally fundamental line of social demarcation when I elected to use the ‘wrong’ john. Was the soccer-mommal perception of this breach in the patriarchal matrix gender-based? Nah. With my hairy legs, antifemininity, and stone butch sidekick I am obviously queer as a steer, and unnaturally skirtless though we are, lesbians are still required to use the john with the skirt on the door. Nope, the palpable discomfort in the bathroom line was sex-based. They knew, receiving the vibes I subconsciously exude as a result of 48 years of male-dominated socialization, that I’m no dude. In other words, my behavior was inconsistent with my status, not my uterus.

Sex, though advertised as ‘fact’, cannot in fact be fact, since it cannot be defined or quantified or observed. Since it is not a fact, it must be a fiction. Therefore, ‘woman’ is nothing but a narrative intended to sell the idea that male abuse of the sex class is congruent with essential biological truths.

Here is what 500 years of dudely Western European painters have to say about ‘women.’ Notice that they’re all saying pretty much the same fucking thing: a ‘woman’ is a tilt-headed 18-year-old honky cipher with giant, wide-set doe eyes and a teeny weeny pink mouth.

After the Twistolution, when the world is populated by taqueaux for whom the idea of reproduction as we know it will seem vulgar and barbaric, ‘woman’ will exude the same cultural resonance as ‘slave’.

Of course it is probable that our dysfunctional world order will destroy H. sapiens before the Twistolution can take place. In that case, cockroaches will inhereit the earth. Interestingly, female cockroaches have two X chromosomes, but males have only an X. No Y. No Z. Just … a void.
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1. Phil’s Ice House: burgers, foot-longs, and a giant outdoor structure, surrounded by mulch and infested with small children, called a ‘playscape’.

2. If Stingray and I ever get our wine bar off the ground, the cans are going to be labeled “People Who Sprinkle When They Tinkle” and “Everybody Else.”

105 comments

4 pings

  1. the opoponax

    I’m still shooting for “woman” as a form of contractual relationship under patriarchy, akin more to “employee”, rather than “woman” as a kind of creature, akin to “bunny rabbit”.

    but that’s just me.

  2. LL

    Now I’m completely distracted by the idea of a Twisty-Ray productions winebar. Please tell me you’ll avoid charging seven dollars a glass for wine I can normally pick up in a grocery store for eight dollars for an entire bottle.

    Can one clamor alone? If so, I clamor.

  3. Tigs

    I was going to get all Rawls-y and talk about the conception of the sexuit being that Drucilla Cornell asserts should go behind the veil of ignorance. But having gotten all Hobbes in the other thread, I had the thought that perhaps other people might not be as into my summer reading as I am.
    Should anyone feel a burning desire to talk Rawls, I’m here! Other than that, I am going to try to keep my mouth shut for more than a minute.

  4. Edith

    First of all, FIRST OF ALL, I would kill, KILL, for those onion rings.

    And second of all, although it is juvenile, I can’t help but snort every single time I hear/read the word “micropenis.” “Micropenis,” hahaha. Oh, it’s mean of me, but isn’t that the best word ever? Imagine it as a verb.

  5. Edith

    I’m in the moderation, but let me just add this: that video is way depressing.

  6. Deanna

    Just a quick hit here– I’m just about finished reading Julia Serano’s “Whipping Girl,” which I can’t recommend enough… it really changed the way I think about sex, gender, performance, etc. The stuff on the demonization of “femininity,” as defined by Serano, is particularly mind-blowing. http://www.amazon.com/Whipping-Girl-Transsexual-Scapegoating-Femininity/dp/1580051545

  7. Lil Raven

    To any long-time readers, has Twisty ever laid out what reproduction will look like after the Twistolution?

    I know that families will still exist after the Twistolution, though not the nuclear ones we are accustomed to in America. But in a post-Patriarchal world, taqueaux will still copulate in order to produce young taqueaux, right? Or does the Twistolution envision a more radical approach? I’m not sure if the ‘vulgar and barbaric’ in her post refers to the ceremonies and roles assigned by the Patriarchy to reproduction, or the actual, biological process itself.

    (I’m working my way back through the archives, but our host is prolific…)

  8. MM

    Because the sex class has to line up to use the washroom (and men don’t) – I blame the Patriarchy!!!

  9. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Lil Raven, I think our illustrious host’s revolution features a technological solution to the reproduction conundrum. Who gets the two o’clock feedings, toxic orange babyshit and projectile puke (lard, how does such a tiny person produce so much foulness?) is still up for grabs as far as I can tell.

    And LL, I’ll clamor with you.

  10. Jezebella

    Edith, even more depressing is the fact that the images produced by women painters that were included in that video are nigh indistinguishable from those produced by dudely painters. Naturally women painters have had to conform to dudely protocols to make it in the Dudely World of Art, but it is depressing.

    At least Cassatt’s image shows a woman smiling and looking away from the viewer, no head-tilt. Come to think of it: Vigee-Lebrun’s self-portrait also features no head-tilt. But these are hardly victories.

  11. TP

    Cockroaches are often born impregnated by their fathers. I’m just sayin’.

    Reproduction strategies abound. I see reproduction as a fringe activity at best, after the twistolution. Maybe the fish will return to populate the seas again if there are far fewer of us.

  12. the baboon

    The most recent National Geographic had a spread on the Old White Name-Giver himself, Carl Linnaeus, and it was impossible not to think of the inescapable pervasiveness of the patriarchy in NG’s statement that Linneus was so “ahead of his time” in “recognizing” that plants have both “male” and “female” sexual organs.

    “To the classes [of flowering plants], he gave names such as Monandria, Diandria, Triandria (meaning: one husband, two husbands, three husbands) and within each, ordinal names such as Monogynia, Digynia, Trigynia, thereby evoking all sorts of scandalous menages (a plant of the Monogynia order within the Tetrandria class: one wife with four husbands) that caused lewd smirks and disapproving scowls among some of his contemporaries. Linnaeus himself seems to have enjoyed the sexy subtext.”

    Two hot threads ago, there was a pro-essentialist line going around to the tune that since even the animules had boys and girls, clearly boys and girls were a natural thing at the very deep bottom of all things. Yet of course we are the ones categorizing the animules into the boys and the girls in the first place. I wonder how they would categorize themselves, if they were into that sort of thing? I hardly think that some of them would even consider “males” to be a whole type – like the anglerfish, where the “male” is actually just a little parasite that facilitates reproduction. And for honeybees, “female” would be pretty meaningless, what with all of the all-determining role definition.

  13. TruthandDare

    re: “not my sex, but my status.”

    This post, with resulting comments so far, is the best news about the world I’ve received in a long long time. “One is not born a woman,” right? Go Simone. Then add Wittig’s “A lesbian is not a woman,” because we choose out of that status/role/definition-by-sexual-services-available.

    My status by birth is female. My gender by choice is dyke. Cope or go away.

    Twisty — if I travel over the many miles to Austin and then haunt food joints until I hear what is surely your witty repartee, and then offer to buy your meal, will you expound your genius at me without calling to report me as a stalker? Goddess do I ever need more women in my life who can talk sense. And be snide. Over onion rings.

  14. leen

    Only slightly off-topic, but according to the books I have about ducks (I have a flock), ‘female’ ducks — that is, the ones who lay eggs — have the XY setup, where the male drakes carry the XX setup. Yet another reason the whole “women are XX” argument doesn’t really make any sense.

    Onion rings, now those make sense!

  15. Moira

    Sexual reproduction is vulgar and barbaric. Quaint, even. The sooner we manage to figure out how to outsource that to machinery, the better.

    And that video is purely creepifying.

  16. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Sorry: Perhaps I should have put “scare” “quotes” around “girl.”

    Hey, I could have called her dickless.

  17. vera

    If Stingray and I ever get our wine bar off the ground, the cans are going to be labeled “People Who Sprinkle When They Tinkle” and “Everybody Else.”

    Hooray! This is the arrangement I’ve always wanted.

  18. yankee,transferred

    If you and ‘Ray ever get your wine bar off the ground, I expect the internets will fall quiet as we stand in line to get in. The bar that is, not the restroom.

  19. Melly Sa

    Twisty’s definition of women is sublime: great ideas distilled for even better comprehension! (ref: “The relation between masculine and feminine cannot be represented in a signifying economy in which the masculine constitutes the closed circle of signifier and signified.”–Judith Butler in “Gender Trouble,” paraphrasing Luce Irigaray)

    Thank you! I love this blog.

  20. Dawn Coyote

    No way am I going to stand in a long line while there’s a bathroom right next door that is line-up free. I call out on the way in, and before exiting the stall, and enjoy the look of outraged disbelief on the guy’s faces.

    wo/man=day/night

    Or is this the difference?

  21. Antelope

    I often use the men’s if its open & the other one isn’t, but bwah!! It’s like a secret universe of disgustingness in there!

    Does this help them stay in touch with some sense that they are “wild and uncivilized” whenever and wherever they’re away from that sweet feminine influence for even a minute? Do they do this on purpose so they can return to the table all properly braced to deal with the mewlings of their date after a quick shot o’ sniffing round the fire hydrant?

  22. the opoponax

    Am I the only one who wanted the whole thing to erupt into Jackson Pollock (or what the hell, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Jane Frank, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine Hamilton…) towards the end, there?

  23. Shabnam

    I don’t get out much, so tell me if this is common – in my gay/lesbian/transgender friendly bar called Fire in central Hannover, (Germany) we have three different bathroom doors to choose from: Women, Men and “Das dritte Geschlecht” (‘the third sex’). This frees me from the burden of patriarchal definition, whenever I need to relieve myself.

    I have seen very few people using “Das dritte Geschlecht”, even though it is very clean inside. I thought this might be the way ahead, in the interim (perhaps infinite) before the establishment of the Twistolution.

  24. slythwolf

    the cans are going to be labeled “People Who Sprinkle When They Tinkle” and “Everybody Else.”

    I consider this an excellent idea and think it should be nationally mandated. Because I don’t care how long or short a urethra someone uses to piss with, I’m sick of sitting in other people’s old, cold pee because they can’t aim or are terrified to actually sit on the toilet seat. IBTP, because, of course, nobody would be afraid of sitting on toilet seats if someone wasn’t telling them they could get AIDS (or get pregnant, or who the fuck knows what-all) that way.

  25. Shabnam

    I should have written:
    “This relieves me of the burden of patriarchal definition whilst I relieve myself.”

    Too slow.

  26. Chris

    It’s good to see that readers of the feminist blogosphere are learning a lesson that cognitive scientists learned a few decades ago: categories are fuzzy, family resemblance things without defining sets of necessary and sufficient conditions. Any attempt to provide them with such a set will, inevitably, be ideologically or theoretically-based. Like, say, when people try to define “woman” to mean what it is politically, socially, or economically expedient for “woman” to mean.

  27. the opoponax

    Shabnam — I can’t speak for the entire US, but here in NYC (and many other cities I’ve been to), most bars, cafes, and small restaurants have unisex bathrooms. Whether gay, straight, or what. The lesbian bar I frequent also has unisex bathrooms.

  28. Hawise

    Standing in line for a bathroom is not one of my families consistent traits, but I second the mensroom are often disgusting. I will still use them but definitely under protest.

  29. S-kat

    “…while waiting in line for the can marked with a dress-shaped stick figure, were startled when I busted through the gauntlet to the door marked with a human-shaped stick figure [2].”

    Oh, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve headed for the figure in pants. I hardly ever wear skirts so I just don’t recognize that as my outline.

  30. M

    Those onion rings look really uninspired. It’s so hard to find good onion rings.

  31. maatnofret

    There was at least one female artists in that montage. I know I saw Vignee-Lebrun’s self portrait. I think I saw a Mary Cassatt face in there somewhere, too, but I’m not sure.

    Still, out of how many? Makes me want to break out some material by the Guerrilla Girls.

  32. Hippolyta

    Chris, inciting arguement simply for arguement’s sake is beneath us all.

    I’ve barged into the restroom “so clearly marked” with the male symbol. I found it a surprisingly freeing experience. As if I could say, “Your patriarchal insanity can not restrain me.” As if. IBTP

  33. Sylvanite

    It’s amazing how inhuman and doll-like most of the subjects of those paintings looked. Dang! Now I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for any work of art that doesn’t make its female subjects look like porcelain mannequins.

  34. Otter

    An excellent restaurant here in Philadelphia, called the White Dog Cafe, has their bathrooms labeled “pointers” and “setters”. *(-:

  35. Chris

    Hippolyta, inciting argument?

  36. stekatz

    If you bounce on over to Margaret Cho’s blog, there’s an interesting monologue somewhere there from comedien Ian Harvey about the experience of getting the stinkeye from women for using the women’s bathroom.

    While I can blame with the best, I loathe both unisex and pants-wearing-stick-figure bathrooms because of the omnipresent puddle of pee in front of every single toilet.

    Mark me down as in favor of segregating public restrooms solely according to one’s ability to aim.

  37. Frumious B

    One of the best parts about a ladies’ room is the opportunity to escape from male hatred. There is still the female hatred, but I deal with that better. And then there is the fact that there is no force on this Earth powerful enough to make me volunteer to be in a situation where I am exposed to strange penii and male privilege at the same time. If the rest room is question is a single seater, then fuck the symbol on the door.

  38. Citizen Insane

    “Now I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for any work of art that doesn’t make its female subjects look like porcelain mannequins.”

    Sylvanite, I suggest paintings by Artemesia Gentileschi. “Susanna and The Elders,” “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” “Judith and her Maidservant,” and a few others. She still painted within the constraints of her time, but she painted women differently to some degree.

  39. trailer park

    I love this post. You’re SO RIGHT.

    I wish I had something more creative to add, but I don’t.

  40. Narya

    Yeah, Twisty, that’s what I had in mind. Except not quite so eloquently. I’ve never been able to figure out what difference it makes. If a given person wants to reproduce, the person has to take particular steps for that to happen and the person will have to care about other possible actors in the reproductive scenario, but that’s a very specific, personal situation, one that’s only relevant to the people involved. But otherwise, and in general, what possible difference could it make?

  41. Sylvanite

    Thanks, Citizen Insane (!). I’ll see if I can find some of her stuff. Gotta love the internets.

  42. Jezebella

    Sylvanite, whatever you do, avoid the movie about Artemisia made in the last decade. It is revisionist misogynist claptrap. And Maatnofret, yes, there’s a Cassatt in that video, too. There may have been a Berthe Morisot but I’m not positive about that.

    If you’re looking for images of women that don’t look bovine, try “The Power of Feminist Art” and “Art and Feminism,” both published in the last decade or so. There are also several feminist art exhibitions of recent vintage – Wack! which is at MoCA-LA until July, and a Brooklyn retrospective which I think is over. Lots of feminist art doesn’t feature representations of women because it’s so easy for the menz to co-opt any image of a female body.

  43. Jezebella

    M, for inspired onion rings, visit Rocky & Carlo’s in Araby, on the way to Chalmette, outside of New Orleans, across from the aluminum plant. It’s a cultural and gustatory experience and, along with their unholy delicious mac & cheese, worth risking a heart attack.

  44. V.

    Holey Moley, that video is a scary, scary thing.

    (And then I began to think that some of those women had their heads half turned away to avoid the next blow.)

    I am thoroughly creeped out.

    On the other hand, I think those onion rings look delicious. Especially with their burger companion.

    In sum:

    Eat well, and look forwards.

  45. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Hey, watch it, I AM bovine! Moo.

  46. the opoponax

    Oh, I can’t believe I forgot to mention this. So there’s this new pretty good-ish Broadway musical out lately called Spring Awakening, which takes place in turn of the last century Austria. One of the main characters is a teenager girl who runs away from home to the city to escape abuse, and becomes a bohemian artist’s model, the kind of girl pictured in the above video. She has fascinating and feminist things to say about the whole thing, not unlike the things we’re saying here.

  47. the opoponax

    “teenager girl”?

    Clearly it is time to break out a bottle of wine.

  48. kiki

    I guess I spent too many nights at punk clubs to be overly picky about bathrooms. They always turned into lake peepeecaca by midnight.

    One time, I was standing washing my hands in the bathroom at a restaurant and this little girl and her mom came in and I smiled at her. She looked at me for a long time and then said, “What’s he doing in here? This room’s for girls”. I laughed and said that it was okay and then she said, “mom, he’s got a girl voice!” Oh well.

  49. curiousgyrl

    I feel like I got at least a B- on that exam. Not bad since Twisty is the brilliantest.

  50. nightgigjo

    Twisty: fantastic as usual. The art fingy wasn’t so much creepy to me, as sad. I could see in the transitions between works the coy yet flirtatious demeanor that is so prized by the male-supremacy machine.

    Jezebella:

    At least Cassatt’s image shows a woman smiling and looking away from the viewer, no head-tilt. Come to think of it: Vigee-Lebrun’s self-portrait also features no head-tilt. But these are hardly victories.

    I don’t think looking away from the viewer exactly wins points. Many of the earlier most-definitely-dudely paintings (Da Vinci, Durer) featured, well, women not looking at the ‘camera’.

    MM:

    Because the sex class has to line up to use the washroom (and men don’t) – I blame the Patriarchy!!!

    While living/studying in Germany I stayed in a dorm that had, of course, segregated bathrooms on each floor (labeled H (Herren) and D (Damen), no pictographs for the uneducated) and I discovered, while raiding the “men’s” for paper, a gross indecency:

    The “men’s” bathroom was about twice as large as the “women’s”.

    This I attribute to the fact I was living on the Engineering side of campus. But there are no excuses. There were just as many women as men living there. IBTP.

    Speaking of restroom inequity, here’s my version of Dawn Coyote’s pic:

    Otter:

    An excellent restaurant here in Philadelphia, called the White Dog Cafe, has their bathrooms labeled “pointers” and “setters”. *(-:

    From which I would expect “pointers” contained exclusively urinals, whereas “setters” had all the toilets with seats. This sounds fair-ish. And the “setters” has three times as many receptacles.

    Just sayin’.

  51. hk-reader

    re: sprinkle when they tinkle vs. everyone else

    Slytheworlf sez:”I’m sick of sitting in other people’s old, cold pee because they can’t aim or are terrified to actually sit on the toilet seat..”

    I agree. That’s why I prefer the squat toilets, when given the choice, because then you don’t need to worry about it. They are harder to puke into ‘though (but that’s not been much of a problem for me since I left my 20′s).

    Later, found it hard to balance baby in front-baby carrier w/ back-pack on back while squatting… but doable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squat_toilet

  52. M

    Jezebella,

    Thanks for the onion ring tip. I shall certainly investigate next time I’m down Louisiana way.

  53. kanea

    this reminds me of art school. my art teachers, the ones for my drawing classes, used to tell me to draw women with their head tilted. I never understood why. now I do. also drawing faces at 3/4th view is alot easier than directly from the front. perhapse this is another reason why people pain women like that, if it’s easier to make her look pretty. thanks for proving my art teachers were full of crap, twisty! just another reason I’m glad I switched schools and majors. IBTP

  54. CafeSiren

    Regarding Twisty’s footnote #2 (yes, I’m a geek who reads the footnotes):

    A restaurant owner I once worked for, back in the day, told me of the signs on the cans at a place where he once worked: “us” and “them”. I thought it was a brilliant idea. The only think it lacks is a hidden camera to film people’s reactions. How many women would automatically choose “them”? How many people do you think would just decide to hold it?

  55. betsyl

    some of these:

    http://girl-wonder.org/pdfsample3.jpg

    were posted at wiscon this past weekend, which made me laugh hysterically whenever i passed them in the hall. (okay, i was sleep deprived. but they’re still funny.)

  56. nightgigjo

    CafeSiren:

    A restaurant owner I once worked for, back in the day, told me of the signs on the cans at a place where he once worked: “us” and “them”.

    After drenching myself in a few hours of blaming goodness, that sounds like a most insidious sign to me. I would choose another restaurant/hold it until I got home.

    Oh, and we might know each other, CafeSiren? CupOJoel?

  57. Ron Sullivan

    It’s good to see that readers of the feminist blogosphere are learning a lesson that cognitive scientists learned a few decades ago…

    Chris, honey, you’re so cute when you’re condescending.

  58. Lara

    Yeah I remember learning about a lot of these female artists in my Women, Art, and Culture class (Le Brune, Cassatt even) and they also caved in a little bit. What struck me the most about the video is how the overall facial features only changed with the time or era, NOT with an individual woman’s facial features. The paintings and works are presented in chronological order (starting around the Renaissance) and going all the way to modern art. Not much has changed overall with media images of women, maybe just more orange tans and they’ve gotten a lot thinner. That said, look at the overwhelming Whiteness of all the women…..
    Blech, yes, a thoroughly revealing video.
    -Lara

  59. Chris

    Ron, thanks, honey, but it wasn’t meant to be condescending. Unless you think it’s true that people reading this blog were already well acquainted with the empirical research or philosophical analysis showing that few, if any categories have “essences,” but almost all are instead composed of a relatively loose set of “family resemblances,” then I’m not sure what your beef with my statement was. I do think it’s a good thing that people are coming to realize this, because it sheds light on the category-defining practices of various groups (like, say, anyone who wants women to be seen as weaker, less rational, or generally lesser than men).

    Put differently, resistance to definition is in the very nature of categories or concepts, so anytime someone does come up with a definition, that definition comes with an agenda, whether the person brings it there wittingly or not.

  60. KMTberry

    I would totally check the THEM bathroom, because I would deduce that everyone would choose US and the THEM one might be cleaner.

    That video is very VERY trippy. Watching that was the most like-being-on-acid artifact I have ever encountered.

  61. KMTberry

    I mean CHOOSE the THEM bathroom!

  62. su

    Chris I think that in addition, categorisation involves a value judgement at some level about which kind of resemblance is salient for the purposes of definition and which is not. Feminism challenges those values. I think we are all talking about much the same things but with slightly different languages.

  63. Mikey Jo

    Though I like your idea for restroom labels a lot better, I would like to remark that I was once in a building where the doors were actually labeled with microphotographs of chromosome pairs: “XX” and “XY”.

    Though I momentarily thought this was cute, it does put a rather fine point on the issue. Apparently if you have some other, less common karyotype, you’re just supposed to hold it.

  64. dr.sue

    Joining the clamor for both the wine bar and the puddle-free toilets. But, Twisty, you ellipsed!

  65. rainie

    I have grand visions of the can that would be in the Twisty and Stingray Wine-Bah.

  66. LouisaMayAlcott

    Mikey Jo,

    They signmakers could have placed the text “(approximately)” under the symbols for greater accuracy and inclusiveness.

  67. Mar Iguana

    “One of the best parts about a ladies’ room is the opportunity to escape from male hatred.” Frumious B.

    Not any more.

  68. Moira

    Watching that was the most like-being-on-acid artifact I have ever encountered.

    No, because being on acid is fun. Unless you do something stupid like try to play DOOM with the Aliens mod and big hissy screamy black monsters jumping out at you from the black black darkness and eating your face. As long as you just dump a two-pound bag of Skittles onto the kitchen table to watch them dance, it’s all good.

  69. LL

    Citizen Insane – Oooh! Someone citing Artemesia Gentileschi! Yay!! That’s all – as you were.

  70. Antares

    The video is really disturbing – for the first third of it most of the women look exactly the same! Same eyes, same mouth, same (pale) skin tone. Yikes. Whats worse, though, is that in my blog hopping today I found it recommended (without jest!) in the margins of a blog I sometimes read.

    For inspired art and words, I wholeheartedly recommend Monica Sjoo. She has given my feminism a much sturdier foundation.

  71. kiki

    No, because being on acid is fun.
    Unless you go to see Eraserhead

  72. Bitey

    I think one of the early images from that video might actually be male: I’m pretty sure I recognized a proto-Renaissance angel (Duccio? Simone Martini?), and as y’all might not have known, all angels are male. Because they are so nearly perfect, and have no need of reproducing, I suppose, they are all equipped with penii.

  73. Valerie

    I was on vacation with friends and we stopped at a convenience store to get gas, snacks–and use the bathroom. Upon observing that the line at the ‘Ladies’ room was 5 deep, I went to the other door and one of my girlfriends said, very quickly and as though warning me of impending damnation, “That’s the Men’s Room!”

    I said, “It has a toilet, right?” and proceeded.

    Had to pee, fer goodness sake. I must note that it was nasty, however.

  74. Chris

    su, definitely. I’m agreeing with Twisty’s larger point, but in a different language. Your right to add that any categorization involves an evaluation, too.

  75. M

    Bitey, angels are supposedly genderless.

  76. Edith

    Yeah, I was gonna say, angels are genderless, I thought.

    But aren’t cupids male? Male children?

  77. Twisty

    Hey. Just a friendly reminder. Ellipses can be used for trailing off intriguingly in the middles of sentences. Sparingly.

  78. anonlesbian

    Chris, sweetie-pie, it’s good to see cog sci folks finally catching up with what feminists have been saying since at least the time of Mad Madge (hint: more than 200 yrs). Big congrats to you.

  79. Twisty

    Said Chris: “I’m agreeing with Twisty’s larger point, but in a different language”

    Kindly agree with me in English.

  80. nonnymouse

    I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned Evolution’s Rainbow.

    It’s a fascinating book, written by a Stanford biologist, which examines the diversity of sex, gender, and sexuality in the animal kingdom, as well as providing a critique of the standard evolutionary biologist method of assuming two sexgenders for each species. The politics at the end of the book can be tedious even if you agree with them, but the detailing of the endless combinations of physical structures and behaviours in the natural world is well worth a read.

  81. Tigs

    The whole thing with elephant aunts supporting the matriarchy is totally my mom’s defense of lesbianism. Whenever someone gets all obnoxious, she busts out the diversity of sexual expression in nature. It’s great.
    Somehow she doesn’t get to the whole asserting the self position, but we’ll take what we can get.

  82. balom

    [i]The video is really disturbing – for the first third of it most of the women look exactly the same! Same eyes, same mouth, same (pale) skin tone[/i]

    It’s the artistic convention of the time. Similar to how today for example in anime characters often use a standardized face differentiated mostly by hair stile. As for the tilted head most portraits of that era have that. You don’t want a portrait looking like a mugshot.

  83. Horafce

    I had never hear the Cockroach-chromosome thing…that’s awesome. So in the species most commonly associated with Darwinian longevity, the male is the one we might code as “lack.” Lacan’s outdone by the cockroach! I knew it would happen eventually!

  84. Horace

    Damn, it would’ve been nice if I could’ve at least spelled my own pseudonym right, eh?

  85. RadFemHedonist

    “Similar to how today for example in anime characters often use a standardized face differentiated mostly by hair stile.”

    I would like to show my appreciation for your use of the words “often” and “mostly” as opposed to “always” and “only”. Because not all anime has this look, also I find it easy to tell many characters apart that others say look similar, artists do have differing styles, however in real need of criticism are the unrealistic proportions on many female characters and the dominance of caucasian faces and light skin tones, there are few people who are black or asians of any description. And there’s loli *shudders, retches*.

  86. Liz

    Why do the “legs” bathrooms always have more areas to pee? I’ve always hated that. There is an interesting history on public bathrooms, they started when women could finally free themselves of the private sphere and go shopping at department stores, before then most of the peeing was done on the streets. All find a good link to share all the interesting tibits. But I do blame the patriarchy for public bathrooms (at leasted sexed ones).

  87. W. Kiernan

    Thirty-five years ago when I was in hi-skool and so had easy access to LSD I never had a “bad trip,” though of course I heard about them endlessly. But that appalling face-stretching thing in that video is exactly what I’d expect one to look like, straight out of the Whale’s Mouth scenes in P. K. Dick’s Unteleported Man.

    How would you like it, if when you went to reach for those onion rings, they started shifting and stretching and morphing all over the table like that? Put ya right off your feed, it would.

  88. LouisaMayAlcott

    Kiernan,

    I had a bad acid trip almost exactly like that 35 years ago. The face of the woman that I tripping with kept morphing back and forth through all the ages of her life. Gave me the willies.

    Then I discovered that lesbian separatism was the best cure for a bad acid trip, and things have been fine ever since.

  89. roamaround

    Try eating hot okonomiyaki (Japanese squid omlette, Osaka specialty) while on LSD!! There are shaved flakes of bonito (dried fish) on top of the hot omelette that WAVE AROUND AS IF ALIVE!!

    I’ve never actually tried it while tripping, but it might be interesting.

  90. balom

    “the dominance of caucasian faces and light skin tones, there are few people who are black or asians of any description”

    First the Japanese aren’t exactly brown. And the lack of asian characters is only our impresion
    read this

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060517194357sh_re_/www.matt-thorn.com/mangagaku/faceoftheother.html

  91. RadFemHedonist

    OK, I’m convinced about the asian/not asian thing. Look I don’t like to bring these things up because race is a social construct anyway, but it did seem to me like there was a bit of racism going on, the skintones are a bit unvarying sometimes, I’m not trying to mark people. I don’t really know if I think the characters look European or not, I didn’t automatically think they did, I think it’s kind of something that I’ve picked up from other people’s comments on the matter. I reckon the way to do art is simply to vary the colour of people’s bodies and the shape of them and leave it at that, don’t think about race so much as whether you are making everyone look the same, does each individual have an individual appearance or not?

  92. RadFemHedonist

    Also I should have said brown, I was saying black because african american is only in reference to african americans.

  93. Matt

    Balom, thanks for the link to my essay. You might be surprised at the amount of hate mail that essay generates. As for the anime thing, keep in mind that anime (Japanese animation) is a corporate product, and even though many women contribute to their production, the top ranks are completed dominated by men, and even if the source material is a manga (Japanese comic) made by a woman for a largely female audience, “the male gaze” (almost) invariably taints the whole production. Thus the absurd body proportions. This won’t change, I believe, until there are more women in top positions in Japanese animation companies. Manga, on the other hand, are usually the product of a single artist working with a handful of assistants, and women’s bodies are portrayed completely differently in shoujo manga (manga made by women for girls and/or women) than they are in manga made for largely male audiences. As for the suggestion that all anime characters look the same, I would point out that to most of my Japanese students here in Kyoto, the characters in American superhero comics tend to all look the same. Each genre has its conventions, but fans of each genre see distinctions that are lost on the casual viewer. Still, there’s plenty to blame the patriarchy for in the worlds of manga and anime, and I subject my cartooning students to this blaming frequently and fervently.

  94. Ron Sullivan

    Chris:

    I’m not sure what your beef with my statement was.

    For one thing, {readers of the feminist blogosphere}and {cognitive scientists} are not non-overlapping sets. Also, cognitive scientists are not alone in noticing the fuzziness of boundaries in quite a few areas, abstract and concrete (not to mention the fuzziness of the apparent boundaries between those) and the fact that categories like “woman” and “species” and the like are to a humbling extent the things we use to think about the world rather than any property of the world itself.

    The condescending bit was in the “learning a lesson that … learned a few decades ago” phrasing, with its rather forward implication that we gurlz are just now catching up with the lab-n-lecture crew. Who the hell do you think was carrying on about “categories” — especially as regards humans, but including Everything Else — a couple of decades ago? More than a couple, in fact. Science doesn’t just happen out of nowhere; some scientists are feminists and vice-versa; some of us are even well-versed in vices.

    The only thing recent about the feminist blogosphere is the “blog” part.

    Find the point where I’ve condescended to you in this post (it’s there) and I’ll buy you a beer.

  95. RadFemHedonist

    I read and watch widely, I’ve seen lots of variation, I own 13 anime series, two of which have associated films I also own and I own 23 anime films, plus one short film collection. That’s the watched stuff, I also have 7 series, one short film collection and 5 films unwatched or partially watched, one complete series, one partial series and one film on order, two series I’m currently collecting and at least 30 further anime I’ve seen one episode of and want to purchase. In short, I’m really into this stuff. Not all body portrayals are the same, I’ve seen realistically drawn bodies in manga by men even, but I do notice the proportion problem a fair bit, though it’s as much a problem in American comic book art, which I also love. I know that there are series that aren’t like that, also that sometimes there may be one character that has this kind of stylised body and others that are stylised in different ways, so it’s a random thing with the body shapes occasionally. It is always interesting seeing stuff drawn by women, I’ve seen two really amazing pieces by women lately and I do like shoujo, though it’s hardly patriarchy free. One of my favourite designs ever is for Kino from Kino’s Journey (google image to see why), incidentally.

  96. Eireann

    I was teaching in France this year, and found it interesting that the bathrooms are shared by all students there, regardless of sex/gender. I thought that was pretty neat.

    Also, and I know this is not on-topic, but I just found your blog. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I’ll be back. Thanks for your words.

  97. Lilith

    Hey ladies

    Just because the dividing line between female and male is fuzzy, doesn’t make the division itself meaningless. In any organism that reproduces sexually, whether an individual is female or male will have some consequences: females, at least in theory, will be able to conceive offspring, and males will be able to fertilize.

    This does not mean families have to be based on the unit of biological mother plus biological father. Nor does it mean sex should only take place between fertile females and fertile males! It doesn’t mean females have to wear skirts and males have to wear pants. If we don’t want to wear skirts, have babies, or marry men, doesn’t mean we aren’t female.

    [And it doesn't mean we have to be segregated female/male to urinate! Although I have to say I think there are good safety justifications for segregation: would you feel safe and comfortable going into a secluded toilet-block if you knew that males could be hanging out in there?]

    Should it matter very much whether we are female or male? Should it matter more than hair colour, or blood group? It shouldn’t affect our rights, obligations, or opportunities, but I think it would be naive to say it shouldn’t matter at all. The choices we make about our reproduction are very important, and our range of choices is determined by our sex. The social framework within which we make our reproductive choices is to some degree arbitrary and is subject to change.

    What would the world be like without patriarchy? My vision of paradise is not a sexless, androgynous world. To me paradise would be a place where we can all be as we are and as we choose to be, and still treat each other as equals. I think women and men should be free to either accentuate or minimize their sexual characteristics, in whatever style they choose, and not be discriminated against in any way.

    Lilith.

    PS the first thing in that U-tube clip is a Byzantine image of Christ, who is, famously, not female.

  98. Mar Iguana

    Ummmmm, Lilith, you mentioned the (gasp) bathroom sharing with strange boyos. Uh oh. Brace yourself. (Hearing the calvary trumpet in the background.) SCAMs are going to be crawling out of the wooodwork to call you on your hateful bigotry.

    You’re making way to much sense for bassackwards world. Sure glad I stocked up on the choco chex.

  99. Silence

    There’s this clause in my contract that I have to speak up whenever anime is mentioned. So here goes:

    I’ve been watching anime for about twelve years now, and it’s my observation that characters are in general becomming more ethnically diverse. It used to be in most series that all the ‘good’ characters would have basically the same face and characters who were typed as either ‘bad’ or merely ‘comic relief’ would provide variety.

    Nowadays we see more variety. ‘Cowboy Bebop’ has four main characters, all with different facial types and skin tones. The title characters in ‘Samurai 7′ are a very interesting lot; it is impossible to pick out the exact ethnicity of any single one of them. The blondest character has the most slanted, sterotypically Asian eyee. The boy with the straight black Asian-type hair has round green eyes. I believe we’ll be seeing more blending of types as anime developes.

    That said, I have to add that there still seems to be one way to draw a young, attractive female character, and that’s the standard big, round eyes and slim ‘cute’ body. The variations I have noticed noticed in general have been more for male characters than for females. We know who to blame, right?

  100. mAndrea

    I swear to god that I am the last fucking person in the room to get it, and it pisses me off.

    Been wondering how the anthropologists would prove a social construct for something which ocurred in the past, and I still can’t figure it out. Too many unknowns.

    But this post concerns the present, and while I’ve always been familiar with the concept of gender construct, suppose I needed a reminder.

    You do realize this blows my evil pet theory all to hell, don’t you? I spent yesterday afternoon sulking.

    Oh, and the anthros really don’t like animal comparisions, it makes them huffy.

  101. LCforevah

    I’ve watched that video several times and with few exceptions, the mouth stays the same! Just watch it paying attention only to the mouth. As time passes, several artists’ capture of the real face improves, but with rare exceptions, the mouth stays the same.

    I showed this video to my thirteen year old niece, and she was thoroughly bored(thank goddess!). She’d rather watch joke videos on youtube that her friends send her.

  102. anon

    This is late, and neither here nor there, but honestly, I don’t know a single man that also doesn’t wish that women’s rooms would have twice as many or more stalls than men’s rooms.

    If you want to use the men’s rooms, please please do. I have taken my girls in there when there was an emergency. My wife has used it too.

    I am sure glad to know that you folks will be there for the men that use the women’s room, because all this genderism sucks.

  103. Nausicaa

    Oh, about the bathrooms: In my department at the university we have a floor where only professors rooms are situated. As professors are with few exeptions male, the men’s restoom on this floor is a regular large restroom. The women’s restroom has exactly one stall, is extensively decorated with some flowers and aromatic candles and is ALWAYS CLOSED. Yes, you need to obtain a key to enter. You need to pronounce yourself a part of the small women’s society of this department (consisting predominantly of secretaries), and maybe even take your share in preserving this small altar of femininity by bringing your own aromatic candles .
    Not sure if as a gradstudent I could obtain this key, but I resigned to go to the men’s restroom, even through the perspective to meet one of my professors there kind of scares me :-\

  104. Mar Iguana

    “I am sure glad to know that you folks will be there for the men that use the women’s room…” anon

    No prob, right after the boys stop being pathetic pervs. ‘Til then, I’ll thank ya’ll to shake off yer pee pee in with the rest of the scary, penis people, who are most likely getting a real kick outta checking out your little girls while they fondle their units at the urinal.

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