Gender Issues in Our Lives: A Semi-Open Thread

Reader Titfortat posed a very interesting question that, in my opinion, deserves a separate thread:

I’m curious if any of the theorists in magic land actually encounter even 1 tenth of the nasty gender stuff they claim happens out in the real world?? That question goes out to both male and female that inhabit Clarissa’s fine blog.

In my own life, I can say that it took me years of very painful struggles to get rid of gender conditioning that was undermining my existence in a variety of ways. In grad school, I remember lying on my bed trying to read a book in preparation for the comprehensive exams, and in the meanwhile, this nasty voice in my head kept reminding me that reading was not what a woman should be doing and that it made me a total loser as a woman to be doing that.

There were forced public gynecological exams I had to undergo as a child since the age of 11 (Soviet Union, everybody). I had to get married when I didn’t want to in the least because good girls didn’t shame their families by having long-term boyfriends, they got married. I’ve been pawed, harassed and beaten in the street by men who didn’t accept a “no” (Ukraine, people). I’ve been fired from a teaching position for being “too pretty” (Montreal, folks). I’ve been offered a lesser salary than male colleagues with lesser qualifications for the same job. I’ve been told more times than I can remember that I’m not a real woman, I’m a man, I have something seriously wrong with me for wanting to have a career, for not being interested in finding a husband to keep me, for paying my own way, for liking to read, for liking my job. Every single time I heard this, it came out of a woman’s mouth. I’ve had male colleagues suggest that my good grades, my publications, my grants were all a product of me sleeping with both male and female professors. I’ve been slut-shamed by female friends many many times.

Still, the hardest part was getting rid of my own inner gender conditioning, learning to accept all the ways in which I didn’t conform to the gender stereotypes of what a woman should be like. I think I managed to do it, and it has been such a relief to shed the burden of gender expectations.

So this is my story. Please share yours.

I’ll make this post sticky for a while, so that people can share their own stories of how gender stereotypes, roles, conflicts and issues hurt them in their lives. Scroll down for new posts.

Please remember that I’m not looking for statistics on what happens in New Zealand or wherever. This is a thread where we share personal stories. Anonymity is welcome.

71 thoughts on “Gender Issues in Our Lives: A Semi-Open Thread

  1. I have to say the most common thing that happens to me in terms of “nasty gender stuff” that happens to me is street harassment. People driving past me on the street honking and shouting obscenities. Complete strangers commanding “Smile!” Individuals looking at my boobs instead of my face.


      1. Agreed!

        One other thing that I recently thought of (the thought was borne from Liz’s comment) is something that comes from the feminist community. Despite the fact that I am passionate about being well educated I also want to be a stay-at-home-mom. That doesn’t mean that I think my education is going to waste, I just hope to be able to stay home with my kids if/when my husband and I have kids. Many women have told me that I can’t be a “real feminist” if this is what I want, but I very strongly disagree.


    1. This is actually in response to your comment #3. I think most feminists would be easier on women who stayed home for a year or so to care for their children if there were an approximately equal number of men who stayed home to care for their children. I think it is one thing to believe that children should be cared for in their own home for the first year or so of their lives, and something quite different to think that because you are a woman, you should be the one who gets to stay home. Not that I’m saying that’s what you’re thinking. Just making a general comment.


  2. Well my experience of sexism against myself happens on a daily basis. I am a Registered Massage Therapist and because of my gender I am regularly discounted or avoided as a therapist. Much of it comes from males who are homophobic to another males touch but surprisingly I am also rebuffed by many women who are uncomfortable with a man’s touch. Im sure they have they reasons but……………..
    The great thing is I dont allow that to hinder my professionalism or ability to be a viable(sought after) therapist.


  3. I’ve experienced a lot of disturbing gender conditioning from my (highly educated) friends and unfortunately my long-term boyfriend. One of the most common themes is the unrelenting adherence to ‘the stay at home mom’ gender role.

    Many of my female friends joke about how all this education they’re getting is going to waste because as soon as they get hitched they’re going to stay home and tend the house and family. When I say that I do not want to do that, they laugh and say demeaning things like ‘we’ll see in five years’ and ‘well if you can afford to, why not?’.
    My boyfriend doesn’t believe that I would prefer to work than be the maid either. He is always saying things like ‘I’ll earn lots of money for you someday and you can stay home.’ My response is always well, if you earn lots of money great – we can go on nicer vacations together and have a nicer home but I’m still going to work. Crazy! I guess it’s his own unfortunate conditioning that makes him want to be my provider. ugh.


    1. “Many of my female friends joke about how all this education they’re getting is going to waste because as soon as they get hitched they’re going to stay home and tend the house and family. When I say that I do not want to do that, they laugh and say demeaning things like ‘we’ll see in five years’ and ‘well if you can afford to, why not?’.”

      – Oh yes, I’ve been there, too. And which ambitious, career-oriented woman hasn’t?


      1. I think this may be generational, part of the current anti-feminist backlash. My friends growing up, in college, and in grad school never said things like that. But we’re older than you, Clarissa; I don’t know about Liz; and also from different places. It makes me sad, though, to see the backlash against the changes we thought we had made permanent.


  4. the assumption that feminist academics live in some sort of LALA land (cf Cloud’s post on Unicorns) and are hysterical purveyors of hyperbole and should just man up and get along (cf Dr. Isis’s post about how to get along if you are a girl)

    as in “I’m curious if any of the theorists in magic land actually encounter even 1 tenth of the nasty gender stuff they claim happens out in the real world?? That question goes out to both male and female that inhabit Clarissa’s fine blog.”


  5. @ Tit for Tat: I personally am fine with a male masseuse (I’m a woman.) But I know that many of my female friends who get massages regularly prefer a woman to see their naked body. It’s not about male touch as far as I know. It’s more like how women and men have seperate locker rooms at the gym………………Anyway, like many of the commenters, I am also an academic. And in general, I will say that I personally have found that my gender hasn’t been particularly problematic throughout my life. But nonetheless, gender issues still exist……When I was in graduate school for instance, I noticed that the male students tended to be descrbied as “brilliant” while the female studets were “hardworking” or “smart.” Men tended to dominate class dicussions (but I was always assertive myself!)………..Now that I teach, I find it very discouraging that many many many of my female students say that their biggest priority post-graduation is to be wives and mothers. Many of these are brilliant women that could accomplish great things and it’s sad to see them limiting themselves. On the other hand, I have never had one male student identify marriage and children as a post-graduation goal. Not one. (A caveat so this thread doesn’t blow up: I do happen to think that rigid gender consturctions are harmful to both men and women….)


  6. To preserve a gender balance, I want to share the story of N. who grew up in the same culture and belongs to the same generation as I do.

    When he was little, his mother beat him routinely. She never beat his sister, though.

    As an adolescent, he worked at a factory and also a had series of other menial jobs. His sister never worked a day in her life. She was kept by her rich husband and now gets huge alimony from him.

    N. spent the greatest part of his 20ies doing all kind of really harsh things to avoid being drafted into the army. Women in his country do not get drafted. The threat of being drafted into the army where men get raped, beaten, starved and often don’t survive the abuse defined his life since childhood until he turned 27 (the age after which you can’t get drafted.)

    N.’s first girlfriend abused him emotionally for years, telling him he wasn’t a real man, he was a loser and he was garbage because he didn’t have a car and couldn’t give her expensive gifts.

    When he was unemployed, his mother kept asking him, “Why doesn’t Clarissa dump you? What does she need you for if you can’t even get a job?” His sister who hasn’t made a buck in her entire life kept asking the same question.

    He’s been fat-shamed by his female family members for years. And you’ve seen his photo, the guy is quite slim.


    1. I can totally sympathize with N… I also had that fear of the army. When a) SU government decided that students get postponement from army (there was a pretty long period when students were drafted to the army when they turned 18 regardless of anything), and b) I got invited to join local university (I was good), I could not resist showing this invitation to our military education teacher (yes, in SU every high school had one, I did not go to some crazy military school), letting him know they will not have me… (My relationship with glorious Estonian army is quite humorous and does not fit into this thread…)
      But there was that widely-held belief in the society that “Army transforms a boy into a man”. I am not very physically strong, and I have been bullied at school a lot, so pretty much everybody, the bullies, the teachers and even my friends harassed me with “how will you do in the army”…
      Then there was time when my classmates decided to organize some practical sexual education for me. I am pretty sure half of them did not have such experience either, so the reason had to me not joking sexist jokes and sometimes being appalled by some things I have witnessed or heard of.
      And although I did not have the bad first girlfriend experience, I was pretty sure that most girls would indeed treat me like shit for exactly the reasons you describe. So I played somebody who is much more macho than I actually would like to be, which had some consequences for my actual relationships…


      1. “My relationship with glorious Estonian army is quite humorous and does not fit into this thread…”

        – Is it wrong that the words “glorious Estonian army” make me laugh? 🙂

        Thank you for sharing, my friend, and happy New Year! I hope you have prepared some Soviet champagne for tonight. 🙂


      2. Thank you! Same for you and N. And the Father and the Sister if they are reading this. (And the Mother too, but I do not recall her making an appearance here.)
        Our champagne is not Soviet champagne, though.
        And yes, “glorious Estonian army” was meant as a joke. However, in its best days (1918-1920), it has beaten the Germans somewhere in the middle of Latvia and has taken Pskov from the Russians…


  7. @Evelina

    Technically its “Masseur”. 😉
    There are multiple reasons for why people choose certain genders for massage but there is no doubt many are based on faulty sexist idea’s that are presented to them through our cultural lense. In my case I get to see the sexism done to me on a daily basis so when I hear certain women crying out about their injustices I sometimes just shrug my shoulders and smile. 🙂
    For that matter I do the same when I hear the “dudes” crying too.

    Crying Over You
    Crying, Crying Over You

    Intensify security
    Break the chains that hold me down
    140 chance for sanity around here
    Cause I ain’t gonna be your fool no more

    Another mask of innocence
    You hide away for convenience
    It’s just a change of attitude oh yeah, yeah

    Cause I ain’t gonna be your fool no more
    Cause I ain’t crying, crying over you
    All you ever want me to do
    Crying over you

    You never seem to state your case
    You always make me lose it, lose it
    I’m gettin tired of running the race
    On yeah, yeah


    Nothing’s going to change my direction
    Cause I ain’t gonna cry…

    Crying, crying over you
    All you ever want me to do
    Crying over you, oh no, oh no


    1. Hey, you are the one who provoked this entire post that aims to get people to “cry” over gender bias.

      The fear of crying in men is actually yet another form of gender stereotyping that causes great damage to male health.


  8. bloggerclarissa :
    Hey, you are the one who provoked this entire post that aims to get people to “cry” over gender bias.
    The fear of crying in men is actually yet another form of gender stereotyping that causes great damage to male health.

    LOL, actually I was trying to provoke people into realizing that maybe it aint as bad as they think. 🙂
    Damn you woman, you just dont understand me. 😉


    1. “LOL, actually I was trying to provoke people into realizing that maybe it aint as bad as they think.”

      Which was pretty condescending.


  9. When I was a college student my parents kept reminding me “School is great but you have to look around for a husband”. Me being a good girl wasted tons of time that could have been spent studying on chasing jerks. I didn’t manage to find a husband by the time I graduated, so I felt like my diploma was worthless, and my mission not accomplished. I felt like such a disappointment and failure at the time that I should have felt proud of my accomplishment.

    I think the graduation experience would have been different for me if I was a man.


  10. Way, way back in the 70s, when I was graduating from high school, I was absolutely clueless. My family had been hit by a major tragedy, and my parents did not have time/interest in helping me pick a university, and I’d been offered two full scholarships (these were mine if I wanted them; there were others that I would have had to apply for). Not knowing how else to choose, or which schools to apply to (plus my family was poor, and every application had an attached fee), I finally went to my (male) counselor. I was told that the scholarship to *MIT* was pointless because it was a “vo-tech” school and was for plumbers and electricians, not for people who wanted a higher degree, and although I could see those engineering degrees, I really hadn’t a clue what engineers did. So…I took the scholarship to Big State University.

    Now, did he tell me that because I was female, or because he was an idiot?

    After changing my major 5 times and finally winding up in a non-science curriculum due to harassment, groping, or being outright told that the profs in the all-male department did not want me, I chalk it up to misogyny.

    Maybe MIT would have been just as unwelcoming to women, but at least there might have been more women in my sciences classes there. In one class, the prof had all 5 women in the class of 80 sit on the front row. He made lewd comments about our clothing, called the men pussies if one of us women knew the answer but no man raised his hand, and chewed out the male students after the first test when 2 of the 5 As he gave out were to women.

    The misogyny that comes from people in power over you, whom you trust, is the worst and most insidious. I can deal with it from my peers.

    While I comment on this blog irregularly, I am commenting as anonymous for this one, just because it hits a little to close to home.


    1. Thank you for sharing, Anonymous for this comment. I think we are doing something very important by sharing our stories.

      For me, the greatest trauma of misogyny was the kind I experienced from relatives and friends. I always thought, “It’s their job to accept me as I am and to value me over some stupid gender stereotypes. Can’t they see they are hurting me, a person they are supposed to love, with this??” Getting over that has been hard.


  11. bloggerclarissa :
    I know how you feel. I really do. Unfortunately.

    The saddest and the scariest part is that I let them make me feel that way because I was brainwashed into believing that a woman has no value unless she is attached to a man and if I really found a husband by the time I graduated I probably would still think that way.


  12. My story on gender issues is far too long for a single comment, but I think the overlaying themes can be summed up as such: When I was a kid (under 18) the big ones were being called “unladylike” for being outspoken, overweight, and not interested in being conventionally attractive, having my achievements and accomplishments overlooked because my parents were fawning over my talentless, shiftless and lazy stepbrother, not getting any help when applying to university but my mother dragging me to a psychiatrist’s office because I was 15 years old and didn’t have a boyfriend, and being offered breast implants as a high school graduation gift.
    As an adult, the big issues have been my academic achievements being treated as though I only got them through sexual favours to the professor, being told that my opinion didn’t matter because I, as a woman was “incapable of looking at [issue] objectively”, and spending countless hours fighting to make people realize that fully grown adult humans and their reproductive rights matter more than eggs.


  13. Before I retired from the practice of law in 1996, there were at least a few gender related issues. A relatively minor one, from my perspective at least, involved appending the common abbreviation of the suffix “Esquire” (“Esq.”) to the names of female attorneys in written correspondence. Some, and I was among them, were reluctant to do so because “esquire” had at least historically meant “gentleman;” as far as I know, there is no feminine equivalent in the English language. “Susan Smith, Esq.” just seemed out of place. The practice nevertheless became common and I soon fell into line. The situation is different in the Spanish language than in the English language; in Spanish, “Doctor” means a male physician and “Doctora” means a female physician. The abbreviations are comparable, “Dr.” and “Dra.”

    Another gender related issue, of greater practical significance, was the “mommy track” for female attorneys. To practice law competently, something closely approaching total commitment is needed – long hours, early mornings and many weekends to prepare for trial, for example. One young female associate in our firm did not follow the “mommy track.” She returned to work, full time, quite shortly following the birth of her daughter. She retained a nanny to care for her daughter and, by virtue of diligent work at our firm, became a partner in due course. Another, a young associate who had been with us for only a couple of years, proceeded differently. Within a few weeks of returning from several months of paid maternity leave, she left to accompany her husband, also an attorney, who had obtained a position in a distant state.

    Law firms then, and for all I know to the contrary now, made substantial investments in supervising and training young associates for about seven years to the point that they gain necessary experience and became capable of functioning independently, with very little supervision, as partners. During their first several years, associates are generally economic drains; their supervision and training require many hours of work by the partners and the rates charged to clients for the services of associates are significantly less than those charged for more experienced partners. The expectation is that associates will become competent to practice essentially on their own as well as revenue positive for the firm before they in turn become partners. At least back then, firms were reluctant to hire young associates unlikely to meet these expectations.

    How should these conflicting interests be sorted out?


    1. Well, Dan Miller, I am a woman lawyer (no longer practicing), and I will give you my perspective. When I went to law school, in the mid to late 80s, there were two women professors, out of perhaps 20. One taught family law, and the other taught feminist analysis of law. When I graduated, I got a job doing commercial litigation. After a year, I moved to a larger firm, with the understanding I would do a variety of litigation, but in fact I was given mostly family law. When I protested, they sent me a little commercial litigation for a short time, and then hired a young man and gave him primarily commercial litigation, with a small amount of other stuff, and they resumed giving me mostly family law. So I quit and started my own practice. I can tell you that in Ontario, the supervision and training by the partners is minimal. You are expected to be competent by the time you graduate law school, and in fact, you are. None of my American lawyer friends have experienced anything like the seven years of training by partners. My God, what is law school for? As for associates being an economic drain, I was told from the beginning that I had to bill at least three times my annual salary, one third to cover my salary, one third to cover overhead, and one third to go to the partners. If you were an economic drain, you were out.
      When my first child was born while I was a sole practitioner, my secretary brought my briefcase full of work to the hospital the next day, and I was back in court a week later. With my second child, I worked from home for a week or so.
      My husband, also a lawyer, took time off work too. He would stay home with the kids if they were sick and I had to be in court, and I would stay home with them if he had to be in court. Sometimes he would take the kids to work with him. Occasionally he took them to court or to a discovery, and he kept toys in his office because they often spent time there. This is the modern lawyer-father! When my second child was diagnosed with autism, I decided to stay home for a while.
      I really didn’t mean to write so much!


      1. Interesting. When I was in law school a long time ago (University of Virginia School of Law, 1963-1966), there were no female law teachers and only (as I recall) three female law students out of a total of about two hundred and twenty in my class. There have doubtless been changes.

        Back then, an associate fresh out of law school was not competent to practice law without substantial supervision. That was not what law school was intended to do. It was intended to impart legal theory rather than to deal with law practice. In the area of contract law, for example, we focused on contract theory but never even saw an entire lengthy contract, much less drafted one to comport with an hypothetical client’s desires or dissected one to determine what had been omitted or disadvantageously included. Law school cannot reasonably be expected to teach these things. All specialties are different and different matters have to be considered in drafting and analyzing contracts dealing with them. My firm’s specialty was communications law and we often represented buyers or sellers of radio and television stations. Contracts for such transactions of necessity involved matters not pertinent even to other commercial transactions. If such things have changed in recent years, they were not apparent to me before I retired in 1996.

        Partners have to be quite attentive to what their associates do professionally and catch their mistakes before they screw up too badly. The reputation of the firm is at stake and, also of great importance, so are the personal assets of the partners. When an associate or a partner screws up, malpractice suits can be filed against the partnership. If the plaintiff succeeds, the personal assets of all of the partners (but not of the associates), regardless of individual culpability, can be levied upon to pay often very substantial damages. This can result in personal bankruptcy for the partners.

        Most law partnerships of course carry malpractice liability insurance. Even if the coverage is sufficient to pay damages in a malpractice case, an adverse judgment can cause termination of the policy or substantial increases in premiums.

        Although the situation may have changed since I retired, law firms were then not permitted to enjoy the benefits of limited liability available to corporations or similar entities. Nor, in my view, should they be.


    2. Drafting communications contracts is not something that someone fresh out of law school should be doing, I agree. I’ll try not to get sidetracked here, although it would be interesting. I’ll also agree that there is a cost of having associates quit, and having to replace them, and that probably more women than men quit, in order to have families. But why is that? Often, to become a partner in a large firm, you have to work obscene hours to show that you are dedicated and you have to work those hours in the office, so everyone can see how hard you are working. When women have children, often they would like to see those children sometimes, which is impossible if you are working 60+ hours a week. But why don’t men rebel, too? In Ontario, the Law Society is realizing that there is a problem, and is taking some steps to try to help. They have started offering parental leave benefits to sole practitioners and lawyers in firms of less than five, and they have created a list of lawyer locums, who will fill in during parental leaves. This would have made such a difference to me 15 years ago! They also have a project where large law firms can voluntarily sign up to agree to track their gender demographics and report on steps they are taking to create flexible work hours, etc. My husband was a partner in a law firm (until he died, too young) and he worked flexible hours – he drove the kids to school, and didn’t start work til after 9:00 a.m. and worked at home on Thursdays. He was a hero to the women lawyers in his practice but there was one of his (male) partners who vigorously disapproved.


  14. I haven’t dealt with a lot of gender discrimination just yet, but I might be observing a lot of it right now. I went into college knowing the number of girls in my physics classes were going to decrease sharply. I learned a few weeks ago that there’s only one graduating senior who’s both a girl and a physics major. I don’t know why everyone left, but it’s only made my friend and I more determined to not be among those who quit.

    The handful of direct experiences I have are pretty much limited to one person I went to high school with. I disliked her immensely. She asked me why I broke up with my boyfriend, why I didn’t just stay with him. I told her the attraction had only gone one way–I’d discovered I didn’t really like him. She asked my friend why she’d never had a boyfriend–the answer was that she’d never wanted one. So she proceeded to ask us both: how could we ever expect to get married and have kids without a boyfriend? I responded that I would cut off a piece of my finger and grow a second me like a starfish–it shut her up. I’ve never thought of that conversation again until now, but I think it might have bothered my friend. She was pretty much bullied into finding a boyfriend through subsequent conversations with this person.

    The more I look at these comments the more I think how lucky I’ve been to have avoided a lot of gender discrimination. Now I wonder if there was discrimination–numerous statements along the lines of “girls don’t like to read,” for one–and I just ignored it, and went and did what girls didn’t do anyway. I think I may have done this a lot in elementary school and even more in high school, but I don’t remember it. Now I feel like I’ve lived my life in a bubble. I know discrimination takes place, and I know some of the ways it manifests itself. I’ve read about it. I can identify it. I’ve been influenced by it in my own way. But I don’t know if I’ve ever really felt it.


  15. When I was around 16 I received my first letter from the regional department of defense informing me that I was “caught” in their system for the draft. From this point on I was not allowed to leave the country or change my address without permission from the citizens registry. After a lot of delaying I went for the compulsory medical exam and skill test where my “suitability” for various tasks was classified. Medical exams included undressing in front of female doctors which was not fun for a shy sensitive boy who had a problem with acne at the time. Luckily, with lots of time and financial expense, I managed fall through a loophole that emerged but the whole thing followed me for about 8 years. This was in a western democracy in the mid 90s. Meanwhile feminists complained that women were underrepresented in the military. That’s where they thought equality was being undermined.

    Teachers in school universally favoured girls. Often this was subtle, sometimes blatant misandry without even attempting to hide it and sometimes there was even evidence when for example the same marks resulted in better grades for girls. Also, physical tests were made easier for girls even though at that age they develop faster and are therefore physically superior. Consequently, boys underperform in such tests. Wide consensus is that this is because girls work harder and are more disciplined and cooperative.

    My family has a history of female perpetrated violence against both me and my father. This is not discrimination of course but it gives me an “interesting” perspective on the constant call for attention to violence against women and dismissal of violence against boys and men. Feminists are some of the most vitriol among those who uphold this dismissal.
    In retrospect, the violence itself was not so much the problem as the emotional upset it caused. The worst thing I remember with regard to that was witnessing my sister and my mother assault my father. That has definitely left some scars.

    Whenever the discussion of gender and society come up, there is a universally accepted “fact” that women are oppressed and men are responsible. The men in that discussion are essentially like German tourists in Israel in the 50s. They nod and bow their heads in shame. Whenever I stand up to the consensus, I get labelled misogynist, primitive, uneducated, sexist and so on. The classic line is “as a man you don’t know how lucky you are”.

    The other day I was in a public culture department (fully governmental and tax funded) and the offices were full of stickers like “only a dead man is a good man”. What bothers me about this sort of thing is not so much that it happens (there are always idiots and assholes) but the fact that it’s so acceptable for women to be so openly sexist against men. Nobody minds except for some rare exceptions.

    In my field it is common, during college and in the first few years after graduation to teach individually. All the male teachers were in constant fear of false accusations. Even the college warned us to insist that we’re never left alone with the student and that there are parents who encourage their children to bring about situations that could give them a case for harassment. We all knew that the mere accusation would be enough to destroy our careers and reputations for life.

    “Women preferred” or “no men” are phrases that I have very often encountered in the job world. Especially in colleges, there is a massive push towards employing more women by the state. Universities receive more funding for employing more women. A friend of mine was denied a professorship because of this. They blatantly came out saying that the senate insists on hiring a woman. I wrote to the state equality representative (reversing the sexes of those involved) and she immediately personally responded with recommendations to go to the college women’s rep. When I told her the truth that it was a man who was affected, she never answered again.

    I got into discussion with another equality rep. and asked her why, if she’s there to guard equality, she so openly practices sexism and discrimination against men by denying them a vote (or to be a candidate) in equality departments. Her answer was that women are oppressed and I was “bitter”. Apparently neither she nor any of her feminist colleagues and friends saw a contradiction in that attitude.

    This year, the equality rep of a small town dared to speak up for men’s rights. She pointed out that the publicly funded campaign to call for the rejection of “violence against women and children” was implicitly stating the acceptability of violence against men. She was reprimanded and fired because of protests by feminist activists and political rivals. The argument was that she “neglected her duty to work towards equality”.

    All those things are nothing compared with the poisoning of my own feelings about gender identity that they have caused.

    I’ve come to accept that these problems will almost certainly not be solved – certainly not in my lifetime. Well there’s worse happening in the world – that much is certain and, I’m still among the most privileged part of the world population. What I would like, and why I keep debating and arguing is to draw attention to them. So men have gender discrimination and it’s not the end of the world but at least it should be acknowledged. In particular I don’t want to be held somehow responsible for oppression of women or denied my own voice in taking about gender issues. I never oppressed anyone and wouldn’t want to even if it was acceptable. Quite the contrary, I’ve always gone to great lengths to help the women in my life achieve their professional and personal goals. Like everyone else here, I did not choose my sex. It is neither a crime nor an accomplishment to be male/female. It’s just an accident of birth. Lets get over it.


  16. I’ve been raped.
    I’ve been assaulted.
    I’ve been in an abusive relationship.
    (I know that those things don’t only happen to women, but being a woman made them much more likely.)
    I’ve been followed, late at night, by a man who tried to talk to me on the subway. (He followed me in circles and around corners as I tried to get away, so I know it wasn’t a coincidence.)
    One of my closest platonic male friends has brought up a sexual subject in just about every conversation we’ve ever had (in 10+ years of friendship), no matter how many dozens of times I’ve told him that it makes me uncomfortable, and asked him to stop.
    I’ve been asked out by students who don’t seem to see any problem with it. (I’m not really an authority figure, you see. I’m just a girl they have a crush on.)
    I’ve been called a slut.
    I was casually seeing a guy who told me he didn’t want me to sleep with other people. I said “You sleep with other people, don’t you think that’s a little hypocritical?” and he said “Sure, but I’m a man.” (This was a smart, educated adult from a progressive region of the country, by the way.)
    I’ve been too afraid of the repercussions to tell guys that sex was hurting me. (And I have a chronic hip injury because of one such incident.)
    I’ve been pressured into kissing girls for male onlookers’ pleasure, even though I don’t enjoy it at all.
    Just last week, my Grandma (who was an independent single woman living on her own in the early 50’s–you’d think she’d be more progressive about gender roles) said “Well, you have a boyfriend. That’s the important thing.”


  17. These are horrible stories, Also and Adi. Thank you for sharing, for being so strong, and for not giving up.

    I’m very grateful to everybody who decided to share these personally painful and traumatic things. Reading these stories helps me feel less alone. Many of the things I’ve shared on the blog are things I’d never shared with anybody before. And the support I have received from my brilliant readers has been incredibly important.

    Thank you, folks, for existing and for fighting injustice by remaining yourselves in the face of discrimination and abuse.


  18. In my case I had to deal with the habits of right wing thinking — not mine, but those of my parents, particularly my father.

    The dynamics of this are extremely hard to understand. This accounts for the fact that I didn’t understand them for many years. I always have the feeling that I’ve only just reached the precipice of understanding and that I’ve arrived breathlessly.

    In short, it has to do with projective identification. I come from a non-individualistic, layered society, where everybody had their place in the hierarchy. What I couldn’t have fathomed in my wildest dreams was that a lot of the solid feel of this society had to do with the capacity of those who wished to maintain a sense of a uniformity of characteristics to project their unwanted characteristics onto others. A direct analogy is when somebody farts and blames it on the dog. That was how my father’s mind worked, anyway. I’m not sure how far the phenomenon extended into the rest of society.

    This was a country at civil war, where those who had black skin were given second class status. The denial of their full humanity wasn’t just formal, but had a psychological dimension. There was a sado-masochistic dynamic, whereby the incapacity to demonstrate qualities of “civilization” was held over these black people as a reason to deny them liberation from inequality. For instance, the authorities would act triumphantly if a word was used incorrectly because English was a second language. This meant that a civilized mentality hadn’t been attained yet and that a second class status was still necessary.

    This describes the background to my own struggle — for when we transferred to Australia from Zimbabwe, my father’s mentality remained hierarchical and he looked around for a dog to blame his farts on. He concluded that this person ought to be me — and so began my battle for liberation where I demanded my full human status and he fought me all the way.

    The aspects of his character that he tried to pass off onto me were defined in his mind as “feminine” characteristics. He particularly tried to relate to his own emotions through me, by claiming I was experiencing very negative emotions and that I should speak to him about them. By externalizing his confusion and distress and attributing them to another, he expected to be able to come to terms with them.

    He used a lot of patriarchal reasoning to justify to himself and others why it was I who was experiencing these emotions and not he. Many fell for his lies. Even I wasn’t sure, half the time, which of my problems were legitimately my own and which were his.

    Thus, my liberation as a human being has involved liberating myself from my father.


  19. @ Adi: do you mind telling us what country or perhaps what region of the world you are from? I don’t deny your experiences but when I read your words, it seems like you are describing another planet! ………I am sorry about the pain you have felt.


  20. In the realms of discrimination, the one thing that makes my blood boil more than anything else is the idea the there could ever be such a thing as “positive discrimination”.
    When I was applying for my first job after graduating, (long story short) I was told could not be considered for my dream training scheme as the “equal opportunities quota was full”. Which meant I was being discriminated against. The fact that I am white, male, heterosexual and able bodied is entirely irrelevant. I was being told it didn’t matter how able a candidate I was, my skin colour, gender etc prevented me from being considered.


  21. Hmm, gender issues that have affected me?

    There is the typical accusations of being gay/a pussy/a looser/whatever almost every time I stray from the path 23 years old blokes normally walk (e.g. Not drinking/doing drugs/no sex), but I hardly hear those anymore. Mainly because I kicked everybody out of my friend circle who wouldn’t stop doing that.

    Oh and I was drafted into military service (from which women are, of course, exempt) but chickened out and did social service in a home for people with mental disabilities instead.


  22. Most of my problematic gender stuff comes from being kind of androgynous – tall, small breasts, narrow hips, poochy belly, funny lookin face – especially when I was younger. Adolescence up through college was me making myself deliberately oblivious to hails of taunts. And like another anonymous on here, my male friends never ever stopped with the sex jokes. I joined in because it made me cool, even though it left me feeling a little dead on the inside.

    One time, when I was an “adult” (emancipated early twenties idiot) a drunk guy hitting on me at a bar asked me right to my face if I was male or female. Later, when the bar was about to close and the crowd had thinned, he followed me into the women’s bathroom, I guess because I looked “man” enough he thought he could do it too, and then waited outside the door of my stall to see if I would blow him or whatever. (Happy ending: a friend of mine soon came in to school him on whether he could tell the difference between the little figures on the doors.) Related note: I’ve often been told I’m in the wrong restroom.

    When I was in my give-no-fucks butchy phase I was frequently told by female friends, queer and straight, that I should dress more girly. I do now, sorta. I’ve made peace with the color pink, in careful doses. And turns out I like dresses after all. Have I sold out?

    Gay guys hit on me sometimes. 😛 It’s actually kind of flattering. Sort of. Maybe.

    Oh, and abusive partners. Most of that kind of thing was one-night-stands all blacked out from my having been a boozer so it’s easy enough to forget most of the time, except for flashes and icky feelings late at night sometimes. What I do remember is how my first LTR had a way of making me feel like no one else would ever want me b/c I was fat and weird so I’d better settle for the best I can get. Thus I was given to understand that hitting me “playfully” in non-face areas communicated affection, and that pinning me to the bed and whining until I caved constituted “seduction”, and that rampantly, openly cheating on me with plenty of “it don’t mean I don’t love you baby!” was par for the course. A few years of this made me a fucked-up bad person to date for a long time, and influenced a lot of psycho-bitch drama-causing and self-harming I now regret.

    Beyond my uncool, non-Andrej Pejic-type androgyny: years ago when I was hanging around an “arty” (i.e., junkie) crowd, most (i.e., all) of the women and a couple of the men were considered de facto up for play. More than once I was solicited for sex for pay or drugs. One time for an orgy with a couple of IRL hookers and a bunch of really ugly smelly dudes. Two grand to split with the other girls and all I had to do was walk around naked serving beer, food, and head like a Roman slave or a character from a Lou Reed song. No, in the end I didn’t go for it, though the lure of “free” rent sorely tempted me.

    Things are so much better now, though I still have this nagging sense – sometimes exacerbated by rude folk – that I’m not “woman” enough. I try not to let it get to me but sometimes it makes me want to give up on all my career dreams and go total hausfrau just to be able to say “there I’m a shoeless breeder are you fucking satisfied, world???”


  23. My daughter used to go together with her (female) friends every time they wanted to buy something computer-related. So she would, for a while, quietly listen to the salesman trying to sell all kind of unnecessary stuff and services to “a couple of dumb girls”, and then would engage him in sophisticated technical discussion. 🙂 🙂


  24. @Clarissa

    Arent you waiting in antiiiccipationnnnnn for Talis to tell us her experience? 😉
    I see Isabel had a go at it but me be condescending wasnt quite the traumatic sexism I was expecting.

    As far as your other commenters I am quite shocked at how severe some of their stories are. My sympathies to each.


    1. Why would I reveal my trials and tribulations on the request of a bunch of hostile, anonymous characters on the internet, in order to try to prove something to them? That would be pathetic; besides, a collection of anecdotes, spilled in some sort of truth-or-dare blog conversation proves absolutely nothing. Although I have to say, in perusing the thread, it looks like the females have had it worse 🙂


      1. Isabel: It is the utmost in jerkdom to come to a thread where people have shared some pretty intimate things and just dump on them all by calling them pathetic. Don’t participate if you don’t want to but don’t dare insult my readers who have decided to share.

        The only pathetic individual around here, Isabel, is you. This comment of yours makes me want to vomit.

        I ask you please not to participate in this thread any more. Thank you for respecting my wishes.


      2. I was responding to a sarcastic, taunting comment about me, Clarissa. Did you happen to notice that part? And you and others were not being hostile to the views of the people who shared here; Since they are among friends it is different. But seriously, after the things that were said to me on the other thread, my comment above is surely understandable.

        Every time someone doesn’t agree with you, Clarissa, it is perfectly fine to say the most vile things to them isn’t it? So please, no need to further insult me. I was not passing judgement on anyone for sharing.


        1. Isabel, once again: this is a thread where people share intimate and painful experiences. Can you please do me an enormous favor of removing yourself from the thread? Is it so difficult to honor a simple request?


    2. I am happy to leave the thread, but not because of your disingenuous, disrespectful request. If your reasoning is sincere, shouldn’t you also be asking Titfortat to refrain from disrespectful, snide comments about other commenters on this thread? He implied I had no good “traumatic sexism” stories to tell, or some crap, which is a lie. And when I defend myself I’m told I am coming over here to dump on people, gee thanks.


      1. “He implied I had no good “traumatic sexism” stories to tell, or some crap, which is a lie. And when I defend myself I’m told I am coming over here to dump on people, gee thanks.”

        – This is just ridiculous. I have never seen anybody so self-involved that they don’t realize how misplaced these ridiculous outbursts are in this kind of a thread. Isabel, go away. Just go away from this thread already.


  25. I gave up on girlhood at about eight or nine: I liked books more than normal girls did, I rarely played with dolls, and skirts and dresses were for formal occasions only: I couldn’t fathom why anyone would regard them as every day wear. Emotions were for the weak (and also a girl thing), so I didn’t bother with them and stopped them up. (Contrary to Clarissa’s ideas, I was healthy throughout this whole phase, except for the occasional bout of sniffles.) I toughened up, and evicted everything but shirts and pants from my wardrobe; no hints of pink allowed, either. It has taken years for me to get comfortable with the idea of maybe wearing a skirt.


  26. The idea that sickness can be caused by stopped up emotions. Although I’m still not sure how you can square “pregnancy is not an illness” with “natural birth kills, get your pregnant butt into surgery now! Anyway, way off topic.

    I should mention that I don’t wear high heels either, but that’s more a physical thing then a ‘I am not a woman’ thing.


    1. I’m pretty sure I never used the expression “stopped up.” Just as I never said that “natural birth kills.” I also never use the expression “natural birth”, if you haven’t noticed.

      It annoys me when people try to retell my texts in such a shoddy, careless way.


  27. You’re an academic and you’ve never heard of ‘paraphrasing?’

    Natural birth = vaginal birth. And while you didn’t exactly say that ‘vaginal birth kills,’ you did say that the risks of vaginal birth are much higher then the ‘easy-peasy’ ceasarian. I suspect that you use statistics from an alternative universe.. but whatever.

    I have to say, my encounters with creeps have decreased since I acquired an ipod. Those earbuds go in my ear the minute I step out of the house and don’t come out till I reach my destination.
    I’ve been lucky so far, but I try to limit my encounters with both sexes, especially of people in my age group. I’ve never been able to crack the girl code, talking to men is horribly risky, and most of my age group is totally and utterly uninteresting to me. I’ve lost a few friends of mine to marriage, already, and hope not to lose any more.


    1. “Natural birth = vaginal birth. ”

      – This form of paraphrasing is offensive to many people. This is why I never use it and suggest you don’t either, at least not at my blog. Is it clearer now? It always annoys me when people try to “paraphrase” me for some weird reason because the result always has a lot more to do with their projections than with anything I ever said.

      “you did say that the risks of vaginal birth are much higher then the ‘easy-peasy’ ceasarian”

      – No, I did not. Are you aware that I’m talking exclusively about elective C-sections, not about emergency C-sections? Please stop paraphrasing already and start addressing what people actually say. As for the statistics, the evidence that higher levels of elective C-sections in a given country result in lower maternal birth rates abounds. It has been quoted on this blog extensively.

      ” I’ve lost a few friends of mine to marriage, already, and hope not to lose any more.”

      – If your friends lose interest in you after getting married, you can, of course, blame marriage. Or you can look at what it is in you that makes you so forgettable.

      “talking to men is horribly risky”

      – Yes, you run that horrible risk of actually having a personal life. The horror!


  28. @Politicalguin

    To use your word, maybe you are “stopped up”. It seems you suffer from a slight case of anti social behaviour. Also your verbiage shows clear signs of fear when dealing with the public and your peers. But it does seem you have discovered a wonderful tool to help you with your dissociative personality. Ipods are great, arent they? 😉


  29. Titfortat: It’s not fear, I just don’t have the energy to waste on pointless encounters, and I prefer not to have any interaction with the legal system. I *could* take most men on and win, but I’d rather not have to. Cultivating an intimate relationship would be just asking for trouble, so I try to avoid that. As a modern woman, I don’t have time to indulge squishy feelings like love. As for women, why would I want to have aquaintances that would turn on me?

    Clarissa: The thing is, if I’m spending time with my friends, I want to hear what *they’re* doing, not what their husbands/boyfriends are doing. If I go out of my way to have lunch or dinner with a friend, and they blither on about their husbands/boyfriends for the whole time, I don’t feel like spending time with them again,especially if I haven’t met the significant other.

    Talking to men becomes risky because men hear different things than what the woman is actually saying. Younger men are especially susceptible to believing that any acknowledgement of their existence by a woman should automatically lead to sex.


    1. “The thing is, if I’m spending time with my friends, I want to hear what *they’re* doing, not what their husbands/boyfriends are doing. If I go out of my way to have lunch or dinner with a friend, and they blither on about their husbands/boyfriends for the whole time, I don’t feel like spending time with them again,especially if I haven’t met the significant other.

      Talking to men becomes risky because men hear different things than what the woman is actually saying. Younger men are especially susceptible to believing that any acknowledgement of their existence by a woman should automatically lead to sex.”

      – Where do you find all these freaks, both male and female, seriously? Why not just find normal friends instead of these idiots you keep describing?


  30. As for women, why would I want to have aquaintances that would turn on me? (Political)

    Actually that statement there is exactly based on fear. Fear of being hurt by someone. The fact that you dont see it is very telling.


  31. Clarissa: Well, the friends who are married got married very recently. When we last talked, one friend was almost through her first year of marriage, and the other one had been married for less then six months. They might snap out of it, eventually.

    Titfortat: That’s founded on personal experience. Women tend to dislike non conforming women, so I don’t give them a chance to form an opinion of me.


  32. Clarissa :Well, you’re a non-conformist yourself. It’s true what they say about birds of a feather. Other women, not so much. Although I admit that if I saw you out and about, I’d probably think that we had nothing in common.


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