October, 2012

On being a girl – A childhood amongst Men

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I’m writing this straight after the last post, bad practice, but I discovered something by talking to a friend about all this stuff and i think that it is something that needs saying.  This post may not be safe for work, because it is likely, thought i don’t know yet, to contain things that are shall we say, “not current thinking”.

______________

 

You might have seen the post Dad, if you ave not, read it, don’t read it, some of what it says may seem to be at oods with what I say here, some will not.

In a funny way I miss him, i always have, and always will; the weight physical abuse I suffered as a child falls on him, but in that post I tried to take some positives, because no life is entirely negative, and he left me some things that means I can do things for myself if I must.

But…

Yes, he was abusive, and I was a sensitive child.  A stubborn one, I surpassed some of his abilities when i was 3 years old, I could read and he could not, and the never learned to.  I had to keep it a secret.

When i was 14 I was my mother’s chaperone, I realise now that this was because he thought she was having an affair and drinking too much.  he thought this was ok, we were his possessions after all, and I should have been old enough to enforce his will.  I didn’t.

How could I possibly enforce his will against my own mother?  She drank what she wanted to drink and saw who she wanted to see.  She did not as far as Know actually have an affair, but I was, however intelligent, just child.

My mother was an intelligent woman, and my father was an intelligent man, but she was slightly educated, and he was not.  The last of five boys and a girl raised in India to moderately prosperous parents, (My paternal Granddad was from Yorkshire), he suffered from a lack of education due to the start of the war and the privations of an educations system that had to be paid for at the point of entry.  he didn’t get an education, but he did drive the local chief of police around in his car when he was to young to have any sort of licence.

The boys in the family were all various educated or not, but I felt that he never had respect for his brothers, educations was “soft”.  (Contrast this to what he said to me on his deathbed when I was just in the first semester my my degree, that I was finally “In the right place”).  He worked in communal rented garages, running with my mother’s and his brother’s help a business for himself, he thought that working for other people was for wimps.

I wanted him to respect me, as Sons do; and I wanted to help in the garage, so I was raised around driving, (I have been doing fine manoeuvres in cars since I was 7 years of age, and driving longer since I was nine, these garages had a lot of communal space, not on the road), and raised around Page 3 Girls, (which I disapproved of and still do), and other Men who thought Men had to be MEN and thought a good clip around the earhole was the answer to practically anyhting.  Few of them could read, so I was a rpecious resource.  i said what I wanted and did what I wanted and they never hit me, because one they were afraid of my Dad, and two, equally as important they thought I might actually try and have a conversation with them.

Having “A conversation” with me was a risky thing, my mother was not very well educated, because of her sight, (wouldn’t happen now), but was educated nevertheless.  My aunts, and there were many, above and beyond the family boundaries, which were large anyhow, and female cousins all had been or were going to at least college.  Men were expected to apprentice and work, mostly work.  Leaving school as early as possible was de rigeur for the men of my family, getting a job, being smart, and rppeferebly able to read, but getting job was the important thing, in fact, education was for girls, who could afford to “fuck about until they get married”.  No I was a girl in their eyes, precisely because I was soft and weak and educated, and one other important thing; I may not understand humans very well, but I do have some pretty good analysis tools, and as a child these tools were even more powerful than now, in fact my whole self was a lot smarter way back then, and if spoke to these garage people, really spoke to them,  I was capable of disassembling them just with my words. They bullied and humiliated me sometimes, but I could make them break down and cry, I could reduce these men to tears whenever I liked because I had the power of words, the supreme power of being able to dissect and divert them, to tell them what they were thinking and mould them to my ways.  When they could get a grip, which was rare, they often said that it was like talking to their wives, no matter how they squirmed, the could not get out of what i wanted, which was to see them squirm if they had pissed me off.  I shamed them and humiliated them, and they did not understand how I had such power, but I did, by instinct and training, self-training, I had all the words, more than I do now.  I could be a wicked child.  More than once my Dad forbade me to talk to them, a garage shut up for a few days while someone had “Gone Fishing” was usually a sign that someone had got on the wrong side of me, and that they could not come and face their fellows.  That was my power.  I have put it away for more than 30 years now, because I realised that using my powers for evil, that is morally questionable.  Mind you it did save me from being bullied in the street, other kids wouldn’t thump me if they had to gone to their mommies and say that I “spoken” to them and they were afraid to go out.  Didn’t save me in school, but everywhere else, yeah.

Back to the point, which is that around me when I was young, women were educated, men were not.  it wasn’t the done thing in our extended family, I know that my Uncle Ritchie did have a fairly decent education, and was quite good at electronics as it was back in the day, but he did not have any respect.  I was compared to him for intelligence most often, but I got about the same amount of respect, which was really none, because I did the things the women did, which was to know things and be educated.

________

Now, where does that get us?  All the mathematicians I know are girls: OK, not true, I have met some of Jenny’s colleages, still MOST of them are girls.  Some of the courses I have taught have had girls outnumbering boys by a long way, and when it is not the case the girls do better.  They work harder.  They score more, generally.

there were more women teachers in school, and in primary school this is still the case, so I grew up with women being the educators, the source of wisdom and learning.  All my dots on learning come down on the side of feminine, because those dots that don’t, I don’t like’em.

Food for thought.

Oh and Ada Lovelace rools!

On being a girl – What is womanhood?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

It wasn’t until I started this journey, no wait, maybe I have been on this journey for a long time…

Alright, it wasn’t until i started discussing it, no wait…

It wasn’t until I started to think about it.

Hang on I’m not sure what I have been thinking about now.

What is it to be a girl/woman?

I have been talking about this, obviously, a lot recently; but I have been talking about this a lot over the years, because I have worn skirts, in public, without bothering to make an excuse, for the last 20 odd years.  What is it that makes a woman?

Because recently this has become a particular issue, and I have developed the following theory.  Gender is fractal.  Ye gods that is a painfully complicated explanation.  For those of you who are going to look at the article and just say, “sorry, no”, fractals are self similar shapes, only similar not the same necessarily, which as you zoom in, (as the right hand part of the article shows), retain their complicated nature.  Think of a coastline, as you zoom in to it, you get more detail.

I maintain, right now, that as you zoom in to gender it retains its complexity.

In the majority of discussions about gender and gender issues in order to talk about things in broad terms, brush strokes of conversation, if you like, which ignores the complexity, because it is hard to get through the conversation.  Anyone can “zoom in” at any time,  usually by supplying a counter-example or simply being pedantic about definitions.  counter-examples are fine, pedantry is usually an indicator that my protagonist won’t allow another point of view other than their own, and I’m wasting my time talking.

You can always find a counter-example, I would maintain that you can always find a counter-example.  “Men are stronger than women“, but most Olympian women trained in strength are stronger than certainly any man on the street, and male Olympians trained in strength life more weight than the  women.  probably there is a woman out there in the world trained or not who might be stronger than any male Olympian, or maybe we just haven’t found the man who is stronger.  But then a “weak” woman lifts a car off her child who as been run over, a big car, bigger than any man can lift.  You see my point now I take it.

There are one or two areas that are fairly definite, if you want to have a baby you need a womb, (apart from any medical experiments), and you need to have sex with a man or at least get inseminated with material from a man, except of course recently they made a cell that one day could turn into a baby from the cells of two men.  Science confuses many things, but science is still good.

So this area is fairly definite, but anything else it seems is up for grabs.  There is always a counter example.

So what is it that makes me feel that I need to be more “womanly”.

I know that in conversation about emotions and about sexuality and sex and love, I am always told that I am womanly, but I never know what that means really.  I know what I feel, largely, but i don’t know why it makes me “womanly”

Returning to our fractal definition…

What we are as human beings, we are the sum of our experiences, the nature programmed into our brains, and the ghost in the machine, the thing that the scientists think drives us inside, our soul, our inner thinking, the true us if you like.

We live in this body, with our brain which many people think manifests a “soul”, (I do, but what the devil it is I couldn’t tell you), which is the ineffable part of us.  I can accept that, sometimes I think that we are more than the sum of our parts, that, for example, the theory of consciousness which says that “enough” of the differing parts of our brain has to be functioning in a certain mode, “awake” to be conscious, is right.  We have to have particular and sufficient parts of our brain to be “live” to be awake and aware.

Supposing that the same is true in my theory of gender as fractal?  Suppose that, what defines us in gender is not the gross physical body in which we are born, (by gross, i mean the larger entity, not that we are Urg, Gross), but the sum of our nature and nurture?  These influences might be reactionary, largely in my case I think, or they may be a consequence.

If we were to subscribe to a highly deficient point of view, for the sake of the model, that gender is masculine or feminine, (and do please try to remember that this for a model, not the full technicolour expression of life as it really is), then if we look at the border between the two and where to little dots go down, it is complex, not simple.  it is fine and the close we look the more complex it is, and the more likely to find that when we look our dots are not always on the side we thought when we looked at a large scale.  Hell some of our dots might straddle the border anyhow, and when we disassemble those dots we find that we are not m/f even in one area.

Nevertheless, larelgy we seem able to define ourselves as masculine or feminine, and I think  this is because we look at ourselves at a certain scale, we must, because we cannot get bogged down in detail all the time.  We  look at our dots in the male/female sides of our little mental maps and we are something.  (Look if you’re Gay or Bi or something else, you’re largely left out of this discussion for the simplicity of the model, not because I can’t cope, sorry, no derogation intended, life is way more complex that this model, just for the sake of being able to write about it).

We see on the face of the map of what we are and what we do that we are feminine/masculine.  There is no decision, largely, we just are.  I refer to my previous parenthesis again here, because we just are, there is no decide.

So maybe my map has changed, maybe I am looking at it on a different scale, maybe I have moved some dots, but I’m a girl now.  Just live with it.

On being a girl – Part one of a journey of unknown length…

Friday, October 12th, 2012

EDIT – More than 50% of the women I know are scientists and mathematicians, bear this in mind when I use 50’s definitions of “woman activity”.  This is the modern age, I sometimes write about it in older, inappropriate language.  Sorry about that.
___________

I wrote this post, Femininist, a couple of years ago, because I was tired of being that man wearing a skirt, and NOT trying to be Trans, A Girl, (well, alright a woman, but I’m still so young in my head…), gay, in drag or anything else.  When I was married my wife hated me wearing a skirt because she a “a little Welsh Girl”, bought up in rural Wales where, with all due respect, there are mostly farmers and Men must be Men.  As farming fails this culture is changing.  But she would fight like a tiger for it, my right to do it.  I had a lot of reasons for doing it, read the post.

My wearing skirts had a much more profound effect on my boys than I had thought we were more grown up as a society than we are.   While my friends are universally supportive of whatever I do, the general public is not.  Bigoted attitudes have come from parents and been passed clearly to their children.

Moving on.

Point is, that up until a short time ago I was just fighting the good fight, being that guy, taking care of my kids, teaching them that true equality does not come out of watching every word you say, (though I have been banging on at them for ten years now that the term “Gay” should not be used as a term of derogation, I have succeeded, largely), it comes out what real respect you pay, out of recognising the shortcomings of each side of the fence, (Equal pay anyone?  how about equal Marriage rights, let alone this article and my commenting blog), it comes out of accepting that people are not the same, and that our differences make us strong.

I was asked recently what the real difference is between Men and Women.  I don’t know, I am beginning to think that in an advanced, civilised, modern, society

that the differences are ineffable.  Nevertheless I have had to teach my boys to be Men, (as I have said elsewhere), one of the things that I have had to teach them is that they must respect women and a woman’s right to say no.  The flip side is that I have also had to teach them that they must trust any woman they are alone with implicitly, an accusation of rape or sexual molestation can blight a man’s life forever, true or not.  Let’s be clear here, this is about their behaviour, not necessarily about false accusations, though that possibility is included.  This is a dreadful thing to have to say to a young man, but I shall not dwell upon it, that’s not the point of this entry.

The point is that I have had misogyny when wearing skirts, in the street, and in work; at a University I might.  You can imagine that I slapped it down pretty hard.  I felt minimised, and I don’t bloody take that well.  Especially someone in Uni should be thinking about my head not my ass, or about if my skirt is “too white” and thus “too transparent in the sun”.  Fuck off.  I can tell the difference between jokes and misogyny.  I slapped down 18 year olds when I was doing my degree, sure as hell wasn’t going to take it from a work colleague.  And I might add that at the end of that degree, the now 21 year olds were right in my corner, and their parents thanked me for guiding their sons and daughters, for showing them that it was ok to be them.  Apparently many of my uni colleagues mentioned me to their parents, I didn’t think I had made that much of an impression really.  Many of them are still my friends, we’re around the country now, so this means Facebook, but they are mature and clever young Men and Women and I am proud of them if I may be so arrogant.

So why am I going Girly?

I ask myself this, and I outed myself on FaceBook without even meaning to as such, it came as just an off remark about wanting to be less mannish and enjoying the feminine clothes that I had been wearing recently, yes, drag mode, and enjoying the iodea that many of my friends see me as not worldly, (I am aware that have just insulted Real Women everywhere, sorry), and that I have had many many, talks with people about sex and love and child rearing and friendship and life and feelings and fashion

and shape and desire, and that all of them, ALL OF THEM, have eventually said to me,

Gosh Friday, you really are such a girl.

It’s not what I wear that makes me a girl inside, that is outside, I like it because I see men as not pretty, and I want to be pretty, well, alright, prettier, I don’t ever think I’ll get to pretty; it is what I say and do.  It is the sewing and the cleaning and the cooking, and the career break to look after children, (which by the way started and shagged my career path at the same time), the protesting at being a Man with what is done to men, (I refer you to the blog entry, Boys will be boys) once more), the tightness of corsets, the feeling that I’m missing a part of my body, (yes breasts), the feeling of emptiness in my belly because I can never carry a child under my heart, which has sometimes made me howl in the pain of that emptiness.  (So yes, ladies, I do know, intimately, something of what you are going through if you cannot get pregnant, except that there is, and never was any hope for me, I lived it vicariously through my wife, when we had our boys).  It is a hole in my very soul, and nothing can fill it. So yes I have been a “girl inside” for a long time.

Then my eldest son posted this thing, “Don’t assume I’m a Gender“, on FaceBook, a brave act I thought, but what he posted earlier, this image:-

He put this image on FaceBook from https://www.facebook.com/wipeouttransphobia, and I realised that he was grown up at last, muchly, and that I should think about my situation.

I thought, “Damn, where it matters, inside, I am a girl.  Everyone recognises this, even if they can no longer tell me what it means to be a girl.

And I meet so many people who are Gay or Bi or Pan or something else.  I have no radar for these things, so I often I plant my size nines right in it, but truth is, I like the people I meet, because they are so open and accepting.

And I’m a girl.

I like doing girl things, whatever they are, I like the clothes, I like the attitude, (with some exceptions), I like dressing up, I like being me.  That seems to include being a girl.

The ultimate think about this was when I realised that despite still liking girls, women really, I am 48 years old after all, but there is a piece of me that want to be liked by women who like women.  That is complex.  It needs addressing another time.  Anyway I have a girlfriend/partner whom I love very much, and while our situation is never simple, I am not looking for a girlfriend or lover.  (I am sometimes looking for a companion, but that is also something that is best left for another time, suffice to say that my partner doesn’t enjoy movies or motorcycling and I enjoy the company of enthusiastic and adventurous young women for Movies, Motorcycling and Coffee.  Nothing more is necessary).

That paragraph went off on one.  Despite the fact that I like women for my sexual and companionship preferences, I am a girl, (I use this term because in my head I am still 18 years old) and I like to do the things that girls do, and wear the things that women wear. (Except the underpants, too flimsy, I like a bit of support ok?  You were curious, just admit it and move on).

I like being decorative in the ways that women are, I like having that share that is missing from me, I like being a girl.

And it seems that in many ways I have been on a journey to this even though I have not realised it.  It’s not through the wearing of skirts that this journey has been realised, and that is what is bizarre about it.  I know that people will think it is, and the total inability of men to recognise the difference between skirts and dresses, (ALL MEN everywhere ask me why I’m wearing a dress if they are going to ask, it is a kind of put down, a diminution of me because I wear skirts and do the woman thing on purpose, don’t think even for a minutes that I have not known this, I have known it always, if you have ever done this, then you should examine your life, because if you are not aware of it, then your misogyny is deeply ingrained and buried within you.  There is hope still, think before you speak.  The enlightened just don’t ask, it is in fact, binary.  Alright, the enlightened ask later if it comes up, and they don’t ask about dresses, they ask about the whole thing), does get in the way somewhat, but it’s the influence of my friends, and my boys that made me realise that I had a need not to hide any more.  I am what I am, and I have a need not to hide it, not be ashamed of it, not to be concealed behind my anger and my frustration.  I have genteel side that constantly struggles to come out.  As a man even my girlfriend struggles to come to terms with this side of me, but as a girl she sees it clearly within me, and responds with tenderness and gentility.  Come to that, when I am being especially girly most of my friends respond with gentleness.  I know this says a lot about our culture and what it is to be a man, and what it is to be a woman, and this will have to wait.

Point is, I choose now to live more as a girl, not because I have been getting ready all these years, whatever it may look like; I choose to live as a girl, because I finally realise that my body, my gender, and my upbringing is at odds with the feelings that I have inside.

 

_______

As an aside, could people stop asking me if I wear skirts on my motorbike?  Would you ask a woman that or would you treat them as a sensible person who would wear the leather trousers just like a sensible man would.  It really does mark people out as uncomfortable and a bit daft as a result.  Actually I was being gentle instead of militant then.  it marks them about as being stupid and thick.  Quit it.

_______

A final note; I have had plenty of friends on FaceBook immediately and without hesitation offer their support and congratulations for my “coming out”.  I didn’t mean to “come out” I was just talking.  But I have been deeply touched to the core of my being by their solicitude, congratulations and messages.  I regret nothing.

 

As usual spelling is suspect and negations may be missing.

Boys will be boys…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2012-10-boys-will-be-boys-is-no-excuse-for-bad-behavior

In reply to my friends posting of this website on FaceBook
I’m going to say someting personal here, sorry but it needs saying.

I remember a conversation with one of my more ardent feminist friends, (Not my friend Judi, though I have repeated it to her…) a gentle person, but very ardent. While my divorce was happening, she used this phrase to me, that
“Boys will be boys”. nevermind that I have been fighting for an equality, wherein I am not accused of being a rapist of a potential paedophile simply because I am a man. Never mind that I have sensitiveity and feelings that have evenutally led me to conclude that I am a “Girl Inside” and increasingly outside too, because that is how I want to live , while still liking women as a sexual preference.

No, for my friend, my behaviour towards my then wife, (a noble and strong woman whom I respect and love still), my disrespect, in my friend’s eyes, towards my wife, was a function of the idea that “Boys will be boys”.

The hardest thing in the world was to talk her out of this. It meant that I had to own my behaviour about what I did and how I come to be where I am now, and what my feelings are about people. It meant that I had to explain carefully that I had not been drunk, or fallen over something, or had any other excuse for my behaviour; there are a lot of reasons for what I did, but let us just say that life is complex and I grew determined that I would not leave my single achillies heel, my beloved girlfriend, behind again. (And you, the reader must give total credit to my ex-wife for understanding this, and for behaving as nobly and patiently as anyone could ever expect. Obviously there are more complexities than this, but they are not for you dear reader).

I was appalled that someone could take away my responsibility and my power, a thing which I see being done to women practically daily, (and is equally appalling). I was appalled someone who had stood up for the rights of women, for equal rights and respect, for respect for the JOB of wiving, (I have claimed often that in the past I have been a housewife, because I have wanted people to see it as something that deserves respect and support. I stayed at home with my boys for the first five years, I have been a mother as well as a father), and take it away in the name of EXCUSING me. I need no excusing. If I am excused, then I am no better than that little boy. If I need excusing by women, other women as I increasingly think of it now, if as a man I need excusing, and I can be let off because I can’t help it, then yes, ladies, you really do treat men as children, and they are not in the end responsible for their own behaviour, we can’t be blamed if a fancy bit of skirt comes along, and we husbands are really another child as you so often minimise us as being.

Get this. Understand it. My most ardent feminist, strong minded friends have in the past categorised me as my wife’s “third child”. What a derogation of all my experinces! My parenting! My life as an adult, reduced in sentence to “How are your three boys?”

No wonder then that in my struggle to be grown up, I am rejecting the male within, and I shall probably continue to do so.

I will say this though, I have taught my boys to be Men. For us, Men talk about emotions, like babies, can talk about sex with respect and sensitivity, can embrace the feminine, have the highest respect for women and themselves as men. We enjoy the voluptuary and visual without wishing to coerce or diminish. We are flippant and caring, we are strong and sensitive.

But most of all, a man, like a woman, takes responsibility for his actions, and faces up to them, accepting reasons but not excuses, acquiring if possible understanding through talk and action. And we are not children, we are Men, and Women. Don’t diminish us by classing us as children.

It is my fault I’m divorced, not because “boys will be boys”, but because I foillowed a part of my heart. I did not ask permission, i did not consult, but I was determined and bloody-minded.  Eventually my patient and noble and strong wife decided that I was not at home and asked me to leave. That is my doing, I need no excuse. Don’t diminish me by making me a child, don’t diminish her suffering, and she has suffered, because she loved me devoutly and completely, by saying “Boys will be boys”.