Author Archives: alimthongviratn

How Are We Responsible For Our Gender?

People who decide to transition[1] from one sex to another[2] face the issue of proving their gender through medical “evidence”, as seen by, among other challenges, their struggles to change their designated sex on their birth certificate (Spade 16-17). That is, society makes people responsible for proving their identity. This imposition causes an adherence to a binary system of sex and gender, and as a result, the system disregards anyone outside of it. But as an identity, something intangible that is not determined by the medical world alone, gender is dependent on one’s self. Spade responds to therapy for transitioning as follows: “Ultimately the person you have to answer to is yourself” (19). It is the people themselves to whom their gender is responsible, especially for those outside the binary system. And if the system will not acknowledge the identities of those people, they should have no responsibility to prove their gender to said system. One speaker in the film Diagnosing Gender asserted that people who questions their gender and explore their identity are the normal ones. Under this claim, people’s responsibility to gender is not to what society imposes, but to discovering themselves, even, and especially, if it challenges the normative.


[1] I do not specify transgender people because they are not only people who transition and face struggles related to transitioning.

[2] Note the use of “another” rather than “the other” or another binary phrase.

Works Cited:
Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Print.

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Ad Critique: Toys “R” Us’s Gender-Neutral Toys

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Karin A. Martin observes that some parenting consultants tell parents to dismiss “gender nonconformity because the behavior is not really what it appears” (471). It does not seem presumptuous to assume that these advisors support would gender-neutral toys, though likely only for a limited time*. Some people may argue whether or not Toys “R” Us’s use of stereotypically gendered toys is effective toward the gender-neutral parenting stance. The Spiderman costume ad depicts both male and female stereotypical toys: the costume of canonically male superhero and a pink stroller respectively. Dean Spades would likely agree with this advertisement stance, “not arguing for a gender-blind society . . . but instead for a world in which diverse gender expressions and identities occur, but none are punished” (29). Other people may argue for that “society in which all people are similarly androgynous” (Spades 29). This advertisement would not achieve that idea, especially not with the parents who see and buy these toys for their children, having experienced stereotypes associated with gender, particularly the binary ones. However, the ad seems to declare that children can play with those toys regardless of their gender, which would suggest Toys “R” Us’s acceptance of all genders. Unfortunately, it is unknown whether Toy “R” Us would include non-binary genders. Nevertheless, it is a step.

*These advisors may believe gender non-conformity to be a “phase” and that preventing children from playing with toys of another gender “will create a problem” or backfire (Martin 470).

Works Cited:
Martin, Karin A. “William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One?: Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing.” Gender and Society, 19.4 (2005): 456-479). Print.

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Print.

Torres, Alec. “U.K. Toys ‘R’ Us Going Gender Neutral.” National Review Online. Web. 3 December 2013. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/357731/uk-toys-r-us-going-gender-neutral-alec-torres.

Ad Critique: Sprint’s Denial of Non-cisgender Identity

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Sprint’s attack ad against AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile provides another example of the media’s use of ridicule to represent trans people. The ad implies that either presentation of the non-cisgender community or a man wearing a dress – or both – can only be understood in the absence of rational thought. This implication is directly associated with Tsai’s observation that “most people cannot understand why a man would give up his social privilege to become a disempowered female,” which blatantly ignores trans identity (10).

There are various topics that can fall under the category of “does not make any sense,” many of which evade demoralizing depictions of a community. That Sprint chose non-cisgender identity as the subject of their ridicule amplifies the rejection of the “biggest challenge to our essentialized gender dichotomy” that non-cisgender people pose (Tsai 10). Such representation enforces the heterosexual, cisgender normative through the ridicule of deviances from the norm.

Sources:
Tsai, Wan-Hsui Sunny. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11.1 (2010). Web.

Oppression: Rejection of Deviances to the Norm

Oppression is the rejection, often from a more dominant perspective, of a culture or an ideal. In modern Western society, this higher perspective is primarily that of white, heterosexual, cisgender men. Rejected elements include, but are not limited to, gender and sexual desire. Deviance to norms is denied through demoralization or assimilation as seen in Hill Collins’s analysis of African American masculinity. Black men who reject the White normative are labeled as threatening, while those who conform to norms are seen as weak within Black culture. Hill Collins claims White Americans justify this rejection by pointing to Black culture, thereby denying and oppressing its place among the normative (180). This oppression extends to those outside the heterosexual, cisgender normative through which Tsai observes the representation of bisexual women and trans women. Both are sexualized according to heteronormativity and binary gender. Bisexual women are depicted according to male heterosexual fantasy in which they have “the best of both worlds,” while trans women are characterized through their hyperfemininity, denying gender fluidity (Tsai 9-10). Their deviance to norms is rejected by assimilating their representation according to the normative. This rejection denies the place of people outside the norm, thereby oppressing them.

Sources:
Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Tsai, Wan-Hsui Sunny. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11.1 (2010). Web.

Ad Critique: Apparently gender binary is “the gold.”

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CoverGirl promotes the idea that a successful woman is both strong and beautiful. While strength is a trait stereotypically associated with what Simone de Beauvoir calls the “Subject,” that is to say men, here it is attributed to the “Other,” women (33). On the surface, this advertisement empowers women. However, beauty and strength are accredited to success, implying that both are necessary. Strength in this depiction is correlated alongside beauty, which is almost exclusively reserved for women. That the advertisement is for cosmetics makes it more unlikely that being strong here is meant in a gender-universal sense. With that in mind, CoverGirl helps divide a characteristic into male and female subparts, not only keeping women and men separated, but also reinforcing the gender binary system.

Source:
de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex: Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2003.

What is privilege?

If one views something to be desirable and has the opportunity to achieve it – whether by “birthright,” chance, or dedication – that person is privileged to be in that situation. The reverse holds truth too, substituting undesirable for desirable and unfortunate for privileged.

To put privilege into the context of gender, the average member of Western society follows the cisgender normative – often unconsciously – and would find that to be the desirable identity. Juila Serano notes how she is frustrated by “cissexuals who are most bothered when trans women say [they] feel like women” (226). These women may find being cisgender a privilege while seeing anyone who is gender-nonconforming as unfortunate. However, people outside the gender binary may not see their identity as a misfortune. From a viewpoint outside the normative, they can see how cisgender-identifying people “take for granted the identity of woman or man” (Serano 216). These members of society may find it a privilege to see gender beyond the averagely accepted binary. Of course, everyone is different. David Reimer would not have shared this view, for he wished someone could have “black[ed] out [his] whole past” (Colapinto xii). Privilege is a matter of perspective.

Sources:
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York:     HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.

Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press: New York, 2007.