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I've been thinking a lot about gender in the past month (ok, I think about it constantly, but even more so lately). It started playing Second Life a month ago specifically to play a female character, because I wanted some sense of what it was like to socially interact from a female perspective. I had intended to play an adult, but ended up spending most of my time as a 10-year-old tomboy for some reason, which is actually pretty good cover because people think that my 35-year-old avatar is the real me. (At least I think they do.)

I'm probably not getting any sort of authentic experience, but it is interesting, and when I thought about it, I decided that I had zero interest in role-playing a male character, even if I wanted to start fresh. I spent a couple of weeks wondering if I was a deeply-closeted transsexual, but I've mostly dismissed that idea: I don't feel like I'm trapped in the wrong body, and I basically like who I am. What I don't like is other men. That's not to say I don't have male friends, because obviously I do (some of whom are reading this). But in general I have a negative attitude towards men I meet, and the men I do like, I usually like in spite of their maleness, and I become uncomfortable in situations where masculinity comes to the fore (e.g. bridge games at Bethans reunions). I have always had more female friends, and the people I admire the most tend to be female as well.

Clearly, to me, this started when I was a child. Boys tend to haze each other pretty badly, with a lot of put-downs and insults and mock combat or whatever. It's how they bond, but when I was a kid I hated it, because I wasn't very good at it and I tended to bear the brunt of it. Some boys in that situation try to tough it out, try to earn the respect of their peers. But I didn't. I decided I didn't want anything to do with them, with their disrespect for authority and each other and me, as I saw it, and I refused to play along (for the most part). When I was 8, I imagined that gender wasn't a binary but a spectrum, and I lay somewhere in the middle, at least partly a girl because (in my view) girls were quieter and better people. All through primary and secondary school, in general, other boys were not to be trusted. They were the ones who would ambush me on the school bus, or play pranks on me, or try to embarrass me in front of the class.

Somewhat ironically, I did develop a certain masculinist streak in school: I had an English teacher in 11th grade who loved to taunt the boys in the class with claims of female superiority, mostly in fun. I was always quick with a rebuttal, but mostly because I was embarrassed when my male classmates fell into the little logical traps she set up for them (or maybe they were just playing along, and I was too humorless to see it?) My real goal, I see now, was to say: hey, don't group me in with *them*.

And so it went. As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate male culture a little more, and I see how the mercilessness of boyhood evolves into the playful banter of men who have been through the same initiation. I even long to be a part of it, somehow, but feel that the ship has sailed; and I still have a lot of pent-up misandry that I have to deal with somehow. I mentioned this to Jen last night and she said of course I did; she says it's been part of my personality for a long time.

A lot of books and websites have been written about misandry, but unfortunately many of them want to blame it on feminism and "political correctness". It's true that feminism has made it a little harder for me to feel good about my sex, but it's only one stone in the wall, and anyway I have no desire in reimagining myself as a traditional head-of-the-household male. Googling "misandry" brings up a lot of anti-feminism screeds. (And did you know that the phrases "recovering misandrist" and "recovering from misandry", as phrases, don't appear in Google at all? :) so it's difficult to find other men in the same position as I am, who are dealing with the same issues. I'd think maybe geeks, but I don't see a lot of geeks talking about gender issues, and a lot of them seem pretty comfortable with their masculinity (in their own way).

So I don't know, and I gotta go. :)


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October 2010

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