Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reactionary gender norms

Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy comments briefly on the current Newsweek cover story on the "ancient riddle of identity" noting that it didn't do much to "solve" it. I saw the cover on the magazine rack at my gym and thought, "yeah, I don't really think they're about to shed any light on gender" and I figured the piece would likely make me a little crazy, so I refrained from picking it up. And Twisty confirmed my decision when she noted that she herself threw the mag across the room. Which part did it to her? Former tennis player Renee Richards's comment that "God didn't put us on this earth to have gender diversity."
I have previously commented on Richards's rather conservative (and self-hating) stance on GLBTQ issues. What's unfortunate is that "mainstream" stories like these always seem to seek her out for her opinion. The Newsweek article was trying to address the issue of transsexuals who *gasp* want to play sports during and after transitioning. There are other trans athletes out there now and I think Richards's reactionary views have had plenty of airtime. Let's start talking to people like Mianne Bagger (though from what I hear her beliefs about gender and the gender binary may not stray too far from Richards's) or mountain biker Michelle Dumaresq. Of course, given the generally conservative culture of sport and its reliance on a gender binary, it's possible that any trans athlete (and some do not consider themselves trans but rather the gender to which they have transitioned--not a judgment, just a note) will follow a similar line to Richards and Bagger who, to be allowed to compete, must rely on a strict gender system and proclaim it as natural.

1 comment:

Diane said...

I think Richards' statements are often taken out of context by these journalists. Not that her statements in context are very uplifting. But she is living proof of how difficult it is to not only be born to a gender that does fit, but to do something about it. Despite her successful tennis career, her successful coaching career, and her successful medical practice, Richards can't have had an easy life.

She was ridiculed and ostracized early on, then ridiculed and ostracized again. She says she regrets she never found a life partner, and that she had the surgery only because she would have died without it. Comments like the one quoted here come, I think, from a weary, frustrated woman, more than from a moralizing one.