Category Archives: Gender

What I think a robust sex education program would look like. Plus a rant!


I’d like to start by saying. Abstinence is not a substitute for sex education. It never will be it hasn’t been effective, and in wouldn’t be effective. Why? Because most people are going to have sex, so if all you do is tell them not to do then how are you surprised when they eventually have sex they make all kinds of mistakes and missteps. You can’t expect to leave the lights off and expect newcomers to navigate the space safely.

People talk about abstinence as though it is some holy grail of sex ed. If only we talked more about abstinence teens and young adults would stop having sex! Hate to tell you but your parents generation of teens had sex, your generation had sex mine does, and the next will. With puberty comes sexual desire, while this isn’t universal it is extremely common, and for many teens and young adults sex is a real and present possibility, and something many want.

Telling teens not to do something isn’t going to be effective, and just telling them the risks isn’t enough as many will go on to risk it anyway. Lying and misleading them into think the risks are greater then they are is a bad idea, because when they find out well good buy to any trust those teens may have had in the person(s) lying to them and those implicit in lying to them. Even if they don’t find out, they are still in the dark about the real risk, and how to protect themselves even if this “save themselves” for marriage they did don’t know the options available to them, including general sex tips like lube usage.

All that you end up doing by promoting abstinence is making those kids ignorant, not safer. Don’t believe me read through this it has some mighty good citations.

Now my rant against abstinence only education has run it’s course I know not many reading is agree with abstinence only and understand abstinence, while it is an option, is only a tiny portion of what our children need to be informed members of society in regards to sexual activity.

I’d like to see a whole (mandatory) course devoted on the subject who’s main point would be as follows.

  • Reproduction and anatomy (the biological side of things, also including intersex)
  • Sexuality, and a brief look into gender.
  • Consent education, and education about rape culture.
  • Safe sex, including contraception, knowledge about vaccine treatments, information about testing, types of sexual intercourse, including non-preventative sex. Resources resources resources, you can’t cover everything, but kids will find out if they want to know, so you might as well direct them reputable sources.
  • Healthy Relationships, how to communicate, how to determine what you want what your goals are and what your comfortable with, how to share that with your future or current partner(s) and how to respect and compromise with your partner.
  • Abuse identification and prevention.

By hitting this 6 major points I could see us giving children a robust foundation for them to build upon as they grow into adults.

Reproduction and anatomy so that they are getting to know what to expect, and it’s just good for health to know how our bodies worth.

Sexuality so we do not push a heteronormative agenda a leave all the LGBTQA children high, dry, lost and confused. As well has just make it clear to everyone that differences in sexual preferences exist and are both normal and natural.

Consent so people stop raping one another, and so our kids understand what rape actually is.

Safe sex because most of these kids are going to be having sex in the next several years best make sure they’re prepared.

Healthy Relationships are something wholly missed in most sex education programs, expect most people will be getting into relationships before having sex. It’s an excellent time to have kids start thinking about what they want and how to communicate those desires, and well as teaching them how to communicate in those future  relationships where disagreements or misunderstanding my form.

Domestic abuse is still a massive problem in our world and give the next generation the tools to better identify and deal with it will bring about what I suspect would be some massive positive changes.

This is my ever growing outline for what I plan to be teaching to my kids in the future. I hope to see what we teach in school expand to these important lessons which I feel many children never really learn except for the hard way.

Witheeth

PS. It has been brought to my attention that some folks are think that I want to do away with teaching abstinence altogether. That is not the case, I want to do away with abstinence only education(because it’s been shown highly ineffective, achieving the opposite of it goal), other wise abstaining from sex is a perfectly valid option if you choose it. However it is ill advised and ineffective to try to force abstinence, and does not teach those necessary skills. Also don’t sex shame it’s counter productive, but I’ll do a post on that later.

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“Sex,” why I’m conflicted.


I’m a Biologist but I’m also an advocate for LGBTQA persons, and a Feminist.

So it has bothered me for sometime now to hear the growing idea that the word “Sex” is being seen by many to be nothing more then a social construct. A tool used to quickly label, but that sorely falls apart under scrutiny. Particularly under the light that is the diversity of humanity, and should probably be tossed out. Well I don’t completely disagree with that, but I also don’t want to throw out the word “sex.” To understand why I hold both of these opinions you have to understand that my definitions and understanding of “Sex” is radically different then how the general population tends to use the word.

In general, English speaking cultures, even our governments view the words Sex and Gender as synonymous. This is the root of my conflict because as a biologist I have a precise and well defined notion of sex, and one which does not tread into the territory of gender.

But as a feminist and an advocate for LGBTQA I understand that conflating these terms is dangerous. Both because is misses a wide variety of people who do not fit neatly in to the male and female genders, but worse of all it confused a whole bunch of biology, and physical structures, with social and cultural constructs. This is in no way to say we ought ignore these constructs or that they are not important. However, how you are conditioned, and taught to present as a child doesn’t have much relationship sex you might have.

Though I or Hessian will defend more fully the diffrences between gender and sex in a later post for now I’d like to focus on what I think of when I talk about a person’s sex.

Sex in biology is not a cut and dry, male and female affair. For the majority of biologists discussing sex female and male are only used when there are a few obvious traits that can be used to distinguish different types of gametes in a single species. In species with the male and female classification. Your male if the gametes you produce are smaller and/or more mobile. Your female if the gametes are larger and/or less mobile. That’s generally all there is too it.

You can probably already tell that this isn’t cut and dry by my use of and/or, but it does map nicely on to the general view with humans, since male humans produce sperm which are small and mobile, where the eggs produced by female humans are larger and lack the ability to propel themselves. Although quite often people who are called women, or men are not always female and male.

Sexual reproduction is an old trait, and exists in many forms. Many organisms have male and female style gamete production, but fungus and many sexually reproducing single celled organism being a key example have many sexes or as they are often called “strains” a whole variety of different sexes each often only comparable with  select few other strains. And even in organisms with gametes which fit neatly into the male/female divide such as plants you quickly realize that many organism, including most seed plants, contain both types of sex organs in the same individual (being hermaphroditic), not to mention the massive numbers of organism which can both reproduce sexually and asexually.

This plurality is the context I bring my understand of sex from. Sex is a really useful categorization for organizing reproductive capacity. Outside the frame work of ‘how can you produce offspring’ sex does not have much that is useful to say, and human’s are not exceptions to this rule either.

Certainty it’s true that there is some link between physical traits in humans and what gametes you produce, but these links are not cut and dry.  Not everyone can produce gametes,  and there are nor shortage of people (including trans* and intersex people) with physical traits which do not match what you’d expect by what gamete producing structures they possess. All of this is made more complex by the simple fact that the variety between even “typically” male and female people overlaps far more then in it differs, but if you willing to define sex by gametes like most biologists do, the vast majority of ambiguity goes right out the window.

Though there is a bit more of a downside from a social acceptance perspective. There are no shortage of people whom are for a variety of reasons unable to produce gametes. Now in cases where you  have lost the ability to produce viable gametes, such as people who go through menopause. I’m entirely willing to grant them the sex that they would otherwise have, but in the chance of people who can’t and could never produce gametes? Well I’m force to say they are sexless. Now from a biology perspective I have no problem accepting this, but I can understand that others might not be so happy about it.

Further because of how male and female have become conflated with man and woman, there are not shortage of people, largely intersex, Trans*, and gender nonconforming people who wouldn’t be too happy  if I was to start calling them male, female or sexless based on the gametes they do or don’t produce (assuming I could tell).  That and I don’t blame them for a second. There is tons of baggage tied up with these terms so one can not just ignore the history. Though it happens to not be something that should come up in conversation often, since really you shouldn’t be trying to find out what gamete a person produces. It’s rather personal and you can’t even figure it out just by knowing a persons genitalia, which is also something you shouldn’t be asking people about anyway.

But this is why I’m conflicted, I use sex in the scientific manner, so I’m not talking about the same thing as most people when I’m discussing sex. But I don’t want sex to be thrown out of the common dialogue either. Rather I want more people to discuss the ideas of female and male in term of gametes. It’s simple and it’s clear, but best of all it doesn’t conflate sex and gender. It might ignore issue of secondary “sex” characteristics, but those aren’t actually controlled by your gamete production, so when we are talking about breasts, voices, body hair, muscle mass, and the like we aren’t actually talking about sex we are talking about a whole swath of biological controls. Most notably hormones.

I’m interested to see what questions and ideas everyone has, I couldn’t be a through as I’d like given the breadth of these topics, but for those new to most of this I hope I’ve at least opened your eyes to the complex nature of life on our planet and within our species in nothing else.

Withteeth

 


A reply to Why I Don’t Identify as a Feminist. Part Four.


image_zpsbc482711

Click to go back to Part 1

Now back to the portrayal of men and women in media, particularly games and cartoons.

I’d like to reply to Godless Cranium’s Pictures with a few of my own and ask the fallowing question.

Does anyone honestly think that this…

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…Is directly equivalent to this?

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And a few pictures of women and men side by side.

Obviously both are unrealistic in the extreme, but let’s look at the Hawkeye initiative memes, where Hawkeye is put in the place of female superheroes. Remember the picture at the beginning of this post? Now that is what men would look like if they were treated and sexualized in the same way women are. As it stands, men tend to be given impossibly strong bodies and crazy good features, however, this is more characterizable as a power fantasy for the player/viewer. Where women are generally showed more as a prize or show piece. This is a underlying problem and is very implicit in our society.

Here is the Hawkeye Initiative:

This is what male superheroes would look like if they were portrayed the same way female superheroes are. Warning: many are very satirical, and, sadly, sometimes some homophobia works its way in, which annoys me greatly. So I’ll be including some of the better pictures below the link:

http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/

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As I’m sure you can see, the men portrayed in the Hawkeye Initiative are more equivalent to those pictures of the women found above.

 

I think modern feminism is a movement that at its core is something to aspire to. I think historically, it has done a lot of good and should be applauded for that. I also think it’s currently rudderless. It doesn’t seem to have clear goals. People who identify as feminists can’t seem to make up their minds about what should be done.

For example, you have some feminists saying the patriarchy objectifies women and strip clubs and pornography personify this. On the other side, you have feminists who say women should be allowed to strip and take part in pornography if they choose.

Which is it?

Godless Cranium

 

I object to this as a false dichotomy, and that this example properly represents a common problem in feminism. I’ve said it before: feminism has never been and shouldn’t be a hive-mind with 100% consensus at all times in the movement. In all large movements you need different people trying different things and reporting back what happens to the community at large.

Addressing the issue of pornography is not one I do lightly. Pornography is a complex issue in feminism and not all pornography is the same. There is well regulated pornography which has actors with contracts who are protected, as is there pornography where women are taken advantage off, and even raped (for example they might have in there contract that they won’t be performing oral sex, and will be orally raped anyway) for the film.

Further, who are you thinking of on the anti-porn side of feminism? I hope we are not talking about Andrea Dworkin: we’ve long since moved past the point where she and those of her ideologies are really relevant to the movement. Those harm based arguments of porn are not accurate from my understanding. With porn, like many other kinds of media, how and exactly what you consume has more of an impact than the media itself. And in regards to exploitation, if porn is properly regulated, you can avoid those very real problems of exploitation.

As well Sex-positive feminists do not think all sex and porn are great and good to go. What I hope is obvious is that sex-positive feminist don’t think exploitation of porn actors is a good thing. Also sex-positive feminists have a more complex ideology that I’ve outlined:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-positive_feminism

However I won’t say more since this is not a realm I’m very knowledgeable about.

Now, is feminism really rudderless? I think feminism is pretty clear on many issues, such as teaching consent, sex education in general, access to birth control and family planning services, access to abortion, and challenging gender norms (all gender norms). The issues there seems to be in consensus, and all worthy things to tackle. Do feminists really need to agree on everything all time to effect change? I don’t think so. And do feminists ignore men’s issues? Perhaps to some degree, but I don’t think so, and definitely not all together. Why am I comfortable saying this? Because men are more and more joining the conversation, and less and less as opposition.

And we cannot forget the overwhelming numbers that women are exposed to in violence and harassment compared to men. We are talking numbers like 60-90% of all women experience harassment or violence, where men experience it at level closer to 25-40%. And we cannot forget, particularly as men, since women don’t forget this basically ever, that men compose the vast majority of the perpetrators of violence. Further, a lot of these issues revolve around the very gender issues and issues of consent. That women and the feminine are weak, and men are strong, macho, never showing weakness. These problem are impossible to tackle without tackling both sides. For consent doesn’t work unless everyone understand what it means. And that making the feminine good and normal, and not substandard or problematic, makes it so men don’t need to fear being feminine. They don’t need to avoid being “girly.”

That feminism comes from the perspective of women in most cases is not a weakness as many people seems to say. Women and their opinions are sorely under represented (as this Ted talks about https://www.ted.com/talks/megan_kamerick_women_should_represent_women_in_media#t-299037). If a woman says something, a lot less people will take her word for it than if a man, of the exact same station says the exact same thing.

I also can’t seem to say this enough: Yes, some feminist hate men. Yes, they exists, they are a minority, they don’t speak for me, and they don’t represent the movement at large, they are strawmen (strawwomen 😉 ) and arguing against those sudo-feminists (many don’t actually believe in true equality and so therefore are not truly feminists) is not the same as arguing against feminists. It’s like saying the Gnostic Atheist represent the whole atheist movement.

Here’s a great video of AronRa talking about these very topics and I think it’s an excellent second voice to what I’m trying to say here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5ByZkQPjWo

Part 3

Part 5


A reply to Why I Don’t Identify as a Feminist. Part Two.


Click to go back to Part 1

Here’s part 2 of my reply to Godless Cranium’s post found here.

Hessian then goes on to discuss the wage gap, male privilege (a nebulous term at best), jobs and educational opportunities. I saw no statistics to back this up, but if there is a problem in these areas, then we should be combating them – not from the perspective of one gender or sex only, but from a human perspective.

Godless Cranium

I take an issues with this, though you’re right: I didn’t link to stats, and I shall link to stats now. But first my issues:

Gender and Sex are human issues. How do you think we are going to tackle this human issue if we don’t look at the cultural, economic, social, gender, and sex (as well as others) issues involved? Feminism, when it comes to these economic issues, isn’t just about sex and gender, it’s about at least the 5 factors I mentioned and their interplay in the dynamics of the systematic oppression caused by the patriarchal white and rich favoring system we live within (these oppressions are not limited to women). We shouldn’t ignore sex and gender as just a human issue, just like we should not be minimizing race, and, while this is not what you said, I feel that saying things in that manner can lead to us ignoring that sex and gender do play very real roles in how much money you make and what opportunities you have.

Now Stats:

Wage Gap:

http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2011/ted_20110216_data.htm

http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2009.pdf

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Gender_pay_gap_statistics#Main_statistical_findings

Check the citations on Wikipedia if you really want to do some digging, but the number are clear: women on average do not get paid as much as men.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male%E2%80%93female_income_disparity_in_the_United_States#References

Differences in Opportunity (this is far less clear cut then the wage gap):

This one’s a chapter of a textbook, so if you’re in for a read… Thought it is thorough and has lots of diagrams, and does say where inequality effects both men and women in many place around the world:

http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDAQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsiteresources.worldbank.org%2FINTWDR2012%2FResources%2F7778105-1299699968583%2F7786210-1315936222006%2Fchapter-5.pdf&ei=XVPxU7HFAo_ZoATk1oGQAQ&usg=AFQjCNHHsOviw0DHdWaTyXddvaZHw8nY9g&sig2=vtz4eQW0nRtHwY0HPnpDpg&bvm=bv.73231344,d.cGU&cad=rja

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK23781/

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2009/09/BG0909019I.htm

Perceptions around job opportunity equality:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/17614/gender-differences-views-job-opportunity.aspx

http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/07/01/gender-equality/

Satisfaction of work seems to show little difference between the two gender discussed, though this study still finds fewer women in supervisor positions:

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2009/09/BG0909019I.htm

 

Another point Godless Cranium makes is that Male privilege is a nebulous term. Well, what does male privilege refer to?

From Wikipedia: Male privilege refers to men having unearned social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely on the basis of their sex, and which are usually denied to women.

The notation of privilege can be expanded so that it deals with other issue, like white privilege and cis (vs trans) privilege.

I don’t find this term truly nebulous, based on the above, but it is a broad reaching term. It can also probably be accurately summarized in that men are generally treated better overall than women for no good reason. They are shown more respect, get paid more (see the references I link to above), and are over all safer than women (they are assaulted over all less than women, and often by a ridiculous amount).

What privilege does not mean is that men are more privileged in every way than women, but are privilege in ways women are not. However, in the case of male privilege vs. female privilege, men get the better half of the deal, and have gotten this throughout history. Further, what is deemed normal female privilege is better classified as “benevolent sexism,” like “women can’t be front line soldiers” or “can’t work in dangerous industries.” Or that women don’t need to work in the work force but can say at home (what they forget to mention is that house work is unpaid labor and is not necessarily easier or less useful than paid work). These “privileges” are a large basis of the concept that women are the “weaker” sex and need defending and safekeeping. I don’t know which came first in this case: the benign sexism or the sexist popular opinions directed towards women, but they are definitely cyclical now and feed on one another.

Here are two Blog posts by Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog which go into the issue deeper:

http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/faq-what-is-male-privilege/

http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/02/09/faq-female-privilege/

I’m not claiming to agree 100% with Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, but it’s a good take on the matter and worth mulling over.

Part 3

Part 1


In reply to some “Straight Pride”


So starting yesterday I had the displeasure, but opportunity to critique this long winded post by a white heterosexual cis man (a privilege granting affliction I possess as well) who seem feel hated because of being straight, and that we should all just get over it and are equals (equal in sin, as well as In God’s eyes). Further more he appeared to be on an ongoing tangent about straight pride of all things. The following is my reply:

 

*Picks up mic*

Okay so most of us Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual and allies (LGBTQA) don’t care that you’re white or that you’re straight, we do care that white cis gendered (look it up) heterosexual people don’t think they are a privileged group.

Though in fact some people would hate you or be extremely angry at your post for a number of the reasons which I will elaborate on. I don’t hate you, but your post has angered me and shows a general disregard for the lives of people you clearly don’t understand, and whom I respect deeply and a community which I love and would fight to protect. Also why would some people hate you? I know: perhaps it is because they are feared, hated, disregarded, and willfully misunderstood by millions of people, not to mention the fact that they are hunted because their love is some how not “pure.” Not just by random people but by their own parents and siblings, kicked out of there homes as teenagers, ostracized by their communities for their feelings and desires that they had no choice over, and that many would get rid of if only they could, but they can’t.

I don’t know you (person in question). You’re probably an alright guy (though thoughtful probably is how others describe you). But you’ve claimed that you’re equal to these people in more ways than one. That you had to deal with any of the systematic pressures I talked about above, because those and many more are prevalent around much of the world, further more you claim that the bible is going to tell you something. The bible was used to support slavery and teaches that women are property. Cherry picking from the bible is a time honored tradition that I will not partake in. I’d suggest getting your morals from a source that doesn’t suggest stoning people to death for working on Sundays, mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, and beating your slave (*hint* not to death!). I honestly don’t mean to be overly aggressive over your faith, but you used it as an argument so it’s fair game.

As a sex positive person, and understand the literature on child development, your continuation of sex shaming, and sex negative attitude are neither healthy nor going to help your children. We are all born naked and nudity does not scar children, body shaming does. (not referring to  sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances. That’s a whole different can of worms). I’d suggest looking into Lindsey Doe and her Sexplanations for an effective and healthy look on sexuality and sex, though it might be a bit much so I’d tread slowly. http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkxMlA7rt-mnIc1AjbyAsPw

To wrap up LGBTQA persons on the whole don’t hate you, and what we don’t like about your ideas has almost nothing to do with your whiteness or straightness, but rather your disregard for LGBTQA issues, for the prosecution and hate and violence directed at millions of LGBTQA  people that goes on today. That from your post say we are all equal, yet women still get paid less, Queer people all over the world can’t marry the people they love. They are also not given the same respect as a straight person. If that’s your form of equality well then I think it speaks for itself.

I’m willing to continue this discussion and start up more if anyone reading this is interested, I think that any one willing to take a stand is taking a step in the right direction, I just hope that you, (person in question), and those reading continue to critically think about what you believe and about what you are told, including by me. I can safely promise that I will do the same.

 


The Tomboy and Books


As a tomboy I have noticed that it is incredibly difficult to find good books to read. Most books that are written for women are romance novels. While I have no issue with people reading and enjoying romance novels, I am disappointed that there are so few options aimed at women. As an avid reader who loves fantasy I have found a couple wonderful authors who do write books aimed at women. And they have wonderful female characters. But most of the books that I like are written by men for men, and feature male main characters. They are awesome books with great story lines, and I love them, but they were not written with me in mind. This is problematic because I am part of a largely ignored group. I am sure that any author who wrote for my demographic would find themselves with a strong fan base who appreciates the attention. As a hopeful future writer I fully intend to write books for my demographic and I hope that others will do the same.


The Problem with Homophobia and Transphobia


There are many problems with both, but I want to focus solely on the problems that arise due to homophobic and transphobic speech. The other day we were talking to a man who felt utterly worthless because his culture holds homophobic beliefs and he happens to be gay. His whole life he has heard people use homophobic slurs and dismiss others as nothing more than “that faggot.” Hearing these things, hearing people dismiss him when they don’t even know that they are making these claims about him, has led him to feel as though he is a failure for being born gay. This man is not a failure, nor is he worthless, but he has been made to feel as though he is. Because of words. Because of the words that people say when they think that there are no queer people around. The words that we say can hurt and we must be careful when we speak. This is why gossip and rumors are frowned upon, and why the “sticks and stones” rhyme is wrong. Words can and often do hurt more than any physical pain. Therefore, words that are homophobic and transphobic should be avoided. Even if you do not believe that there is a queer person around to hear you. If you do say something that is potentially hurtful, even if you don’t understand why it would be considered hurtful, then you must be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. If you say homophobic/transphobic things, then you are responsible for causing people to hate themselves. You are responsible for causing people to become suicidal, and killing themselves. Maybe you are not the sole contributor, but you were a contributor nonetheless. Maybe you didn’t want to hurt anybody, but you were, and are, complacent to their pain. If you do not want to hold that responsibility, if you do not want to take part in the guilt, then you must speak out against the hate. You must warn others when they use the hateful language. You must be part of the solution.


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