Question de Anonyme
Hi, anon, sorry it took me a while to get back to this. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days since I made my reading recommendation to you.
It seems unproductive to me to identify that there are two groups here that are disadvantaged by cispatriarchy and then pit them against each other for resources. It’s also unproductive to assert that sexual harassment and assault survivors are not trans people. Your stance here says to me that the only way to possibly arrange bathrooms is one each for binary people and then some separate one somewhere for trans people.
Second, I’ll share with you comments from a different institution’s implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms:
Q. If we have gender neutral bathrooms, will women be less safe?
A. Of course not. And this is for several reasons.
First, this is our second year hosting Gender Neutral Bathroom Week, and we had no incidents last year. The vast majority of students, staff and faculty that gave feedback last year had overwhelmingly positive responses to the events. Many, many people came out of the woodwork to share their stories of being harassed, or threatened, for not conforming to gender stereotypes, or for accessing bathrooms with a child or elderly parent of another gender. We received an incredible amount of thankful responses, and were honored to hear so many stories. Many people felt MORE safe because of this event.
Second, a sign on the door that labels a bathroom “male” or “female” (as you see most of the time) does not actually provide any type of physical barrier or protection for the people using the bathroom. If bathrooms are unsafe places, the label on the outside will not make a difference. In reality, the risk of assault in a public facility like this is far, far smaller than the risk of being assaulted by someone you know. If someone did have criminal intentions, and chose to find a bathroom in which to attack someone, the gender-segregated signage would more accurately point out where to find women.
Most importantly, this question points to some pretty terrible gender stereotypes–that all men are predators, and all women are damsels in distress. We think more of each other.
What we want is bathrooms to be safer for everyone. Not just those of us who conform to gender, and have no children or aging parents of another gender.
It seems odd to me that you would posit the current distribution practices of single-stall restroom facilities as sufficient to meet the needs of all trans and gender nonconforming people, yet would not allow that those same restrooms, regardless of the signs on the doors, are just as “safe spaces” for survivors to use as traditional gendered multi stall rooms. If your proposed solution here boils down to “standard gendered bathrooms + single stalls for those uncomfortable with gendered” then isn’t it just as appropriate to propose “gender neutral bathrooms + single stalls for those uncomfortable with gender neutral”. If we labeled bathrooms with “urinal” or “no urinal” then you could still make the choice whether you want to see people lined up standing to pee or not.
Question de smaller-on-the-outside
you know of? Does it come from a larger theory on gender? I just really thought that was great, and would love to read more if possible. 2) This is kind of a tricky one and please don’t feel pressured to answer, but I guess because I’ve never been forced to analyze my gender, I’m kind of stuck as to how. That’s a level of comfort and privilege I definitely need to examine as well. Just wondering if you had any advice (or could point me towards some) as to where to begin??
Anyway, thank you for making that post! It really made me sort of stop and say “hey, wait!” and want to look at myself and the nature of my gender on a more complex level, as well as dig farther into the way that I’d never really felt confronted with that before; I’m actually in the process of pursuing a women’s/gender studies minor and I hope to work in a related field, and your post made me think about things from a different angle than I had been - I certainly want to keep that going :)
Hi! I really appreciate this response and the fact that you took the time to write to me.
I’ll do my best to respond to your questions. I am a student of fields that deal with areas of oppression, particularly in the hard sciences, so please understand that these words are coming from someone who is still developing for herself her concepts of these kinds of issues.
1. The phrase “make strange” is a favorite phrase of my professor Marianne de Laet of Harvey Mudd College, hahaha. I don’t recall that this particular call to action originating in any one of our course texts. But that’s who I picked it up from. :P It’s good, isn’t it? Thanks, Marianne!
However, in the context of gender (intrinsically, as opposed to gender in science which is one of my main interests) the stuff I read last year from Judith Butler come to mind. Specifically, what she has to say on how she perceives gender itself to be founded in behaviors and habits of mind: it is a performance that happens relative to others. I think that these concepts are useful for cis people considering the biases and norms that guide how we perform our gender for others. However, she doesn’t say very much about trans people, and especially about nonbinary trans people or trans people who don’t present in ways traditionally congruent with their gender identity, because what’s ‘performed’ is assumed to be relative to the dominant gender hypotheses.
Here’s a handout from UCSC explaining better: http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/gustafson/FILM%20165A.W11/film%20165A%5BW11%5D%20readings%20/Judith%20Butler%20handout.doc
If you are pursuing a gender studies minor you might have already read her…
If you are interested in gender and science (which I can’t seem to shut up about), an eloquent application of the “make strange” idea is “The Egg and the Sperm” by Emily Martin. In this case, what she’s “making strange” is the (comfortable, repeated, widespread) language that surrounded and continues to surround peer-reviewed, scientific research into the seemingly strictly biological phenomenon of zygote synthesis. In so doing, she explains how conventional scientific language employed by those who study this phenomenon reflect and reinforce stereotypical conceptions (ha, ha) of gender.
Here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174586 (i am so sorry that it’s so annoying to turn the pages on this site, fricking information-gatekeeping of the scientific publishing industry getting in the way of my blogging dammit)
2. Asking a lot of “why” questions is one way to approach it. You say that you are in academia right now, so I’d take advantages of the resources that academia affords you regarding access to theoretical texts. What it seems to me that the theory is going to do for you is broaden the scope of questions you might think to ask. It’s all well and good for the reasons behind every single one of your behaviors to come down to “because I want to”, but even that can benefit from a “why”. Wanting something usually means that the something has a capacity to confer some sort of benefit. What is the nature of that benefit? It might not be that every little thing is super duper deep and will lead to some big epiphany, but that doesn’t mean the small things aren’t worth considering. “Because that’s how I’ve always done it” is the mark of a habit that is due for some evaluation.
BTW I’m on university internet right now and that gives me special privileges regarding scholarly resources access, so if any of these links are restricted and I can’t tell, let me know.