Second post… and not by design, it’s the second post on gender stuff.
For a very long time now, I’ve simply not thought about gender in my life. I’ve been busy thinking about other things: picking a profession, becoming independent, getting stronger as a human being, etc. So I’ve been a human more than I’ve been a woman, a dyke, a fag, or whatever else.
Recently, however, and I’m talking about maybe for about a year now, I started noticing some changes in my social interactions. The first thing I noticed was that men weren’t checking me out anymore. I was so damn happy! When I first noticed the change, I attributed it to getting older. I figured, hey, I’m 25, I’m not a nymph anymore. Good. I’m freeee! Seriously, overnight. The second thing I noticed was that I started getting “sirred” more often. I’ve never minded it, and most of the time it’s no big deal. And then I noticed the third thing: I was now socially picked out as a dyke pretty much wherever I went.
It’s a funny thing to think about how the heck do I know that I was being picked out as a dyke. I think it’s because from an early age I’ve been aware of people looking at dykes as dykes, and when it started happening to me, I recognized the gaze (that’s my best guess for now). How we recognize gazes as particular gazes is an interesting conversation in and of itself but it’ not what I wanna talk about right now. It all starts with the gaze, so I want to talk about the ways in which I’ve benefited from being the dyke and ways I’ve become a target for being the dyke because of that darn gaze.
First things first. The gaze is about embodiment. It’s about being the physical manifestation of a social type. So yes. When my matrona and my babushka genes started kicking in, that started the whole shtick. It’s one thing to be in oxfords, pants, and collar shirt as a 95 pound blonde girl. It’s another thing to be in oxfords, pants, and collar shirt as a 140 pound broad shouldered, stern-faced woman. Then I cut my hair and voila, dyke. Oh, also a brunette now. Not sure what that does.
The physical changes pasted on top of social stereotypes made me realize, very acutely, something that is counter-intuitive to my Irigaray doused brain. The fact is that regardless of identity, logic, etc, dyke is socially not the same as woman (NOT a dyke vs a woman, but dyke vs woman–categories, not people). Woman is socially straight. I’m not talking about sexual orientation either. I’m talking about the way one is looked at as opposed to the other.
With that comes the good and the ugly. I am never, and I’lll repeat, never, catcalled. I never feel like I might be raped if I walk around at night unaccompanied. I never feel the social pressure of giggling, being delicate, biting my tongue, etc. As a dyke, in that sense, I have more social freedom than a woman. Now there’s also the ugly thing I tend to forget since my life is so cushy: Dyke is still a fag homo target scum of the earth in a lot of situations.
Without even going to the extreme of death threats and total exclusion from employment or other civic participation (not that that extreme doesn’t exist), I can see ways in which being a dyke puts me in a social pickle. To unpack that pickle, I think I’ll start with the limitations of the stereotype of dyke. It’s really not broad enough to call to mind different social expectations for different social expectations. Woman can be so many things. Dyke can only be one. So even when I find social comfort, which I do, quite often, that comfort is non-transferable to other social situations. I haven’t the slightest clue how to take the dyke at work, dyke at the drinking table with friends, dyke with cats, and transport her into a private interaction with another human being. Stone butch? No thanks.
That’s where I think patriarchy comes to play. The social comfort of dyke is patriarchal. Dyke is almost guy. It’s an old argument and a cliche, but I see no way around it. It’s true. It takes me back to my previous post: dyke in a dress equals total stripping of that social comfort. And that patriarchy makes dyke a monochrome, the way I see it. When I try to take dyke into the chambers of intimacy (emotional, physical), I find that it has no reach there. Dyke in those quarters is woman. And woman with woman in patriarchy equals abuse. The relationship is everywhere in literature: the trope of women hating each other in big family epics, the witches in the Disney movies, etc.
So to be comfortable in private with another woman I have to find a way around that? In the words of Peggy’s mom from Mad Men: “Are you lonely? Get a cat. 12 years later that cat dies. You get another cat. Do that one more time, and then you’re done.”
But, but!!! Ai ai. Fica pra outro dia.