Tag Archives: responsibility

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.

So, For What Are We Responsible? (Gender Edition)

After reading several articles about gender neutral-child rearing, I became a bit cynical about the movement and practice but it was hard to pinpoint why I felt this way. After asking two of my male friends if they would ever raise their children gender-neutral, I was able to find my answer. One of my friends said that in order to raise his children gender-neutral he would have to make a very concerted effort to do so because gender roles are instinctual at this point and since they are so difficult to avoid so his children would probably not grow up gender-neutral. This led me to ask the question, in terms of gender, for what are we responsible? Unfortunately (or fortunately!) as members of this society we are responsible for everything. In terms of gender, we are responsible for the way that women, men and people of all other genders are treated and not treated in society. We are responsible for the images in the media, the same way that we are responsible for the way that our children our raised at home. We do not demand enough of the people who are sitting in the companies that bring gender-biased images to the televisions. We are responsible for the consumer culture we now live in where having certain electronic appliances not only represent a social standing but are almost necessary to our everyday lives. This makes way for gender to send messages and images to reach our children and us through all different types of mediums.
So how does this relate to my initial cynicism? I would love to raise my children as gender-neutral. I would love to let my children explore within and beyond the binaries set out by the dominant male and female genders and find what is most comfortable and appropriate for them. However, I feel trapped by a society that will never let my children do that and I feel that my efforts at home will be in vain as soon as my children will set foot out of their home. And unfortunately, I, along with all the other people that join me as members of this society, am responsible for it.

What are we responsible for ?

The question of our responsibility in terms of representations of gender and sexuality is an important one. According to the Oxford Dictionary, being responsible means “having an obligation to do something, or having control over or care for someone, as part of one’s job or role”. We can then ask : have we any kind of obligation when it comes to representing gender or sexuality ? The answer is here a difficult one. To a certain extent, I think that we are all responsible, that we have all an obligation in terms of representing gender and sexuality. Of course, that does not mean that we have any kind of obligation when it comes to live our gender or our sexuality. But in terms of representation, we are responsible. We must fight against any kind of degrading, insulting or inappropriate visions. We must stop the propagation of stereotypes. We must work for a society in which people are free to live their lives as they want to. For instance, as Rachel Kramer Bussel explains, we all must speak up and make the notion of consent a core value in our relationships. In all of our acts, in all of our words, we are responsible for the representations of men and women, of gender, of sexuality, in our societies.

For what are we responsible (when it comes to sex)?

When it comes to sex, safety and consent are two of the most basic (and most crucial) responsibilities. However, as Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, if one wants to have a fulfilling sex life, our responsibilities do not end there. In fact, she claims, “it’s our duty to ourselves and our partners to get more vocal about asking for what we want in bed, as well as sharing what we don’t” (Bussel 46). Doing so can lead us to more satisfaction, and allow us to avoid potential regret or shame. While some may think sex is something trivial to take so seriously, I think Kramer’s ideas on expanding beyond simple, legal consent to enthusiastic and informed decisions about sex are central to a fulfilling life. We are responsible for knowing what makes us happy and healthy and and what does not, and this very much includes our sexual experiences.

Rachel Kramer Bussel, “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process” (2008)

Big Question: For what/whom are we responsible?

On October 4th, an Indian girl was gang raped, set on fire, then died later in the hospital from severe burns.  In an ideal world, all members of society would be responsible for each other and their actions, and this 13-year-old girl would never have been violently assaulted because her rapists would have held each other accountable, as would her parents, the police, their family, their neighbors, etcetera.

Unfortunately, reality demonstrates the impossibility of making sure that everyone plays by the same societal, humane, and moral rules.  Taking this into consideration, it seems that the most logical and successful way to dole out responsibility would be for everyone to be responsible for only one person: oneself.  However, what happens when a rapist refuses to be responsible for the damaging effects of his own actions?  What happens when a girl is too young and naïve to be responsible for her own personal safety?  I struggle with finding a solution that doesn’t involve multiple exceptions, contradictions, or unrealistic expectations from individuals or groups of people.

Still, as Susan Bordo notes, one of the most powerful normalizing mechanics in our society is “insuring the production of self-monitoring and self-disciplining” (Bordo 186).  In other words, it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves in a disciplined manner to the best of our abilities, but in my opinion, we shouldn’t take it so literally as to ignore community responsibility for the well being of others.  Maybe if this balance of responsibility had been achieved, this poor girl wouldn’t have had to suffer.  More importantly, is it even possible for such responsibility to ever be balanced?

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

Singal, Jesse, and Melanie Eversley. “Indian Girl Dies After Being Raped, Set On Fire.” USA Today. Gannett, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.





Consent: Where Responsibilities Lie

We have seen music videos that present inequality between men and women;  women are fragmented, oversexualized creatures whose sole purpose is to please the dominant male artists.  Men have the freedom in music videos to exert power over women, and it is simply assumed that women enjoy it.  The reality, however, can be quite different.  It is our responsibility to separate what we see in music videos with how we act in everyday relationships.  Mutual consent is the key to successful and respectful relationships.  Our job is to understand that consent “should encompass more than yes or no,” and that “silence is not consent.”  We are responsible for communicating to our partners what we do and do not want, and we should ask them to share their feelings as well.  Consent is not passive;  we should not allow ourselves or our partner to simply see how far we can go, or do what we like without asking about our actions.  Unlike the fantasy of music videos, actual male/female relationships need the female to say what she likes too,  instead of only the male taking charge without discussion.  When everyone in the relationship takes responsibility to speak honestly about their desires, respect any instance when a partner says no, and ultimately treat each other as more than just their bodies, then it will be easier to put distance between the sexism in music videos and sex in the bedroom.

Bussel, Rachel. “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as a Sexual Process.” Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World without Rape. By Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008. N. pag. Print.

Responsibility and Love

After our class discussion on Beyoncé, I have been thinking a lot about the question “For what are you responsible?”. I do not believe that anyone is responsible for furthering the feminist (or any other) cause beyond simply not hurting it. While I would hope that everyone would want to actively pursue equality, I don’t think that any one person is required to do so. This point is eloquently addressed from a different angle by an essay entitled “Please Don’t Thank Me for Loving My Wife.” In it, the author discusses how much it bothers her that people treat her relationship with her trans wife as if it were a “charity project,” since she is not married to her wife to promote trans* rights but because she loves her. The author is not responsible for working for trans* rights and the assumption that responsibility is what motivates her love seems to underlie her discomfort when people express their gratitude. While she does works to promote trans* rights, she does so out of love for her wife, not the other way around.

Reid, Genevra. “Please Don’t Thank Me for Loving My Wife.” Accessed Sept. 14, 2013. http://www.autostraddle.com/please-dont-thank-me-for-loving-my-wife-192747/