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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Gender Trouble - Cambridge Tab

I quite conclusively fall within the boundaries of being male in terms of my biological sex. Recent inspections have shown that I am wholeheartedly hetero-gametic. This much is certain.

But, my gender is harder to pin down. According to my text book, “gender is the particular identity you perform and how it relates to established ideas of what is normal behaviour for a male or female”. The problem is: I simply don’t match the traits that fall within the brackets of a mainstream masculinity. I’m under no delusion that I am a brooding Clint Eastwood type, or a muscular man-mountain, or a bloke, or even a lad. When it comes to ‘man points’, I loiter around the relegation zone. I don’t like beer. I don’t like football. I think Jeremy Clarkson is a xenophobic twat. I don’t care about cars.

But, then again, I don’t see myself as particularly feminine. I may not care about cars, but when I cycle, I am prone to dropping the c-bomb at any driver who kindles my road rage, and … I’m finding it harder than I thought to list my masculine traits.

It’s pretty easy to list my feminine traits, however. The majority of my friends are female. I am good with kids. I study sociology, and have studied languages and literature. I once shrieked with joy because I saw a boy-duck chasing a girl-duck on the lawn outside my room in college. I sing a lot, sometimes with alarming spontaneity. From time to time, I flounce.

Despite being thoroughly aware that I don’t think or act in the same way as most men, or the same as most other boys when I was in school, I have never once seriously considered myself to be feminine.

Instead, I have clearly held on to a self-serving notion of manhood which has insulated me against any gender confusion. My sort of masculinity is the sort that can recite a story or poem with a characterful voice and that can make people laugh with inappropriate humour. I have always considered it masculine to do well in school; which was handy, what with me being such a pasty-faced, homework-doer.

I am 6’2″, which certainly helps me to put up at least a weak veneer, if only because there aren’t many Amazonian 6′ women about. I’m not threatening as a person, but for quite a while through my teenage years, I thought that my body was. From what I can gather, it almost certainly wasn’t. Kids laugh at me when I try and discipline them.

The Tab isn’t the traditional home of gender theory, but today I’m going there.

Is it the body itself, or how you adorn it that sculpts its gendered reception? I feel different when I think my body looks different – for example, I went out cycling last night in a sporty garb of trackie bottoms, trainers, sports jacket. I looked more convincingly ‘masculine’ than my attire usually presents – and I felt it too, I felt as though people passing me by were receiving me in a different way.

How much do we conform unthinkingly to this view of masculinity or femininity which society says is the right one, and deny ourselves some extra little freedoms? Walk around Cambridge and you’ll see many men being masculine. From the students engaging in drunken manhugs as they stagger out of Cindies, to the middle-aged lecturers dictating from their plinths in a very self-assured manner. Is everyone just acting, or should I stop soul searching and just man-up?

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