wholepeace

What is it with Americans and Bathrooms? And Sex? And Bathrooms and Sex?

In PeaceAble on November 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

Remember the ERA? That was a simply stated proposal to amend the Constitution by adding the idea that: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Somehow, the idea that a person’s biological sex should not be a barrier to full protection of the law became a discussion about bathrooms.

The ERA opponents convinced large portions of the populace that the amendment would require, not just allow but require, men and women to use the same bathrooms. At the same time. And the ERA, which was intended to pave the way for women to be protected equally under the law, had to be defeated to protect the womenfolk and, let’s not forget, the children. Now the same arguments are being used to deny transgender folk from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender.

What are we defending them from in both instances? Why, men, of course.

Think about that for a moment. We cannot do things to protect the rights of women and females because such laws would interfere with our ability to protect them from men. That’s right. Women and children need to be protected from men. And the only thing that can protect them is also men.

We have been raising generations of boys to believe that to be a man is to be powerful, being powerful is the same as being dangerous, and respect is the same as fear. This is the fundamental idea behind every militaristic, male-dominant cultural norm we are now struggling with.

The whole concept is rolled up in a neat package of “natural” or “God-given” law. Even people who claim that evolution is bunk and we are definitely not related to apes will proclaim that male-dominance in other species is proof that men are supposed to be in control and use their manly power to keep things together and ensure the survival of the species.

We cannot, of course, separate this natural dangerousness of the man from the fact of the male sex organ. It is more than a vessel for depositing semen and sperm into the vagina, it is a blunt instrument; a weapon for, literally, invasion and conquest. The consequences of this mind-set permeate our culture and poison our attempts to reach for equality, justice and fairness.

And the converse is also true. Power is seen as male. The female is weak. A woman who seeks power has to make it in a man’s world, be more like the men she has to compete with, learn how to wield the masculine; at which point she is open to the charge that she is not feminine enough. Michelle Obama shows off her muscular arms and expresses herself in powerful ways and she is called a dyke and a “tranny.” Hillary spends a political lifetime showing how tough she can be, how willing she is to loose the dogs of war; and may lose the presidency because she is seen as too much like the men we have been electing for the past 200 years.

Authority is seen as male, also, and that is why we are told to accept it as dangerous. Just do what the police officer tells you to. Everything would have been all right if you had just complied. Don’t question, don’t resist. You should know that it is dangerous and so deserve what happens to you.

The simile of the gun as phallus is real. Guns are rigid projections that ejaculate bullets. They are tools of invasion and conquest. They are powerful and dangerous and masculine.

But such power is not the same for everyone. Its special power is reserved for the privileged. A white man walking around with a gun is a patriot expressing his second amendment rights. He’s a good guy with a gun and we should be thankful that he is there because he is powerful and he will protect you against the danger posed by other guys with guns. A non-white man walking around with a gun is dangerous, a terrorist, a thug. He is the dangerous bad guy we need the good guy to protect us from. The power and the danger of the black male, which are to be feared, are rooted in the mythology of the black man’s physical and sexual prowess. The white man’s power is good because he is seen as civilized; the black man cannot escape his image as a savage in need of subjugation and control. If the black man is allowed his power then he becomes, perhaps, more powerful than the white man and more dangerous to the white man who fears not just his power but his savagery.

As a nation, we are woefully, and perhaps willfully, ignorant about the differences between sex and gender. And, it would seem, between sex as a biological trait and sex as a behavior. To be a male, biologically, is to be born with a distinct combination of chromosomes that cause the development of external genitalia. We can fairly easily identify certain physical traits that are male. But to be masculine is to exhibit certain behavioral traits, including traits of emotional and psychological behavior that society identifies as masculine. These are not universally or exclusively associated with being male, but the confusion exacerbates the problems.

Gay men are seen as dangerous because the object of their sexual desire is other men. We cannot get past the idea that sex is masculine and powerful, which necessitates the weak and feminine as its complement. We cannot conceive of two men in a relationship of equal power because we cannot conceive of a man and a woman in a relationship of equal power. The feminine is weak and someone has to be the woman; or what does it mean to be the male, the powerful one? We are not as bothered by two women being sexual because they are no threat to the power of the masculine; unless they are lesbians, which directly challenges the necessity of the masculine power in the relationship. One of them has to be the man, but how can she? She lacks the necessary equipment. Transgender women are dangerous as long as they retain their masculine sex organs, but no one is afraid that transgender men will infiltrate men’s rooms and be a danger to the biological males. Even if a transgender man has sex-change surgery, we can tell ourselves that it isn’t a “real” penis, so it isn’t really powerful or dangerous.

If we have any hope of developing a more peaceable world, of achieving greater equality and justice in all our institutions and relationships, we need to move away from this masculine model of power and develop a model that includes the feminine.

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