I just finished listening to “Best Of The Left” podcast episode #921 about Bruce Jenner’s recent interview / announcement that he is transgender and has “the soul of a woman”. One of the reasons I’m glad that I listen to “Best Of The Left” is because it’s often a source of news that I miss somehow. And apparently this was a big event that I had no idea was happening. It is reported that the program had 18 million viewers.
I think I agree with the general direction of the commentary that BOTL included in this episode, in that I think that there’s a lot of potential good that could come out of such a public figure coming out as transgender. Jenner is admired by many as a great olympic athlete and one would hope that his case can help erase the stereotype that “masculinity” has some sort of relationship with athletic ability or talent. In fact, one comment regarding Jenner, masculinity, and athleticism inspired me to share my thoughts. That comment was a clip of a right wing commentator lamenting on what the world has come to when an iconic hero like Jenner falls prey to some sort of sickness that causes him to question his gender.
It reminded me of a psycho-social theory that I have about misogyny. I have trouble understanding why there is misogyny, given that I think women are amazing beings and one of the greatest gifts of the universe. So I’ve put a lot of thought into trying to figure out misogyny and its origins. I think it comes down to perceived weakness and bias against weakness. I think that for so many years of human history, the physical strength and aggressiveness of men was necessary to survival and as a result, a bias developed towards men being in charge. Women and children were expected to obey and curry the favor of men in order to survive and gain access to resources. This state of affairs was then enshrined into various philosophies and integrated into the structure of society. Any man acting “like a woman” either in the sense of dress and/or mannerisms is then seen to be foolishly giving up his (obviously superior) position of strength. Such a person is not respected and is considered to be worthy of derision.
Men “acting like women” include gay men of course, because “obviously” only women are attracted to men (don’t forget the oversimplification necessary to maintain current power structures) so they are not to be respected either. Any women acting “like men” therefore, do not know their “place”. They haven’t earned the right to be powerful and so are to be derided. Thus you have hateful terms like “femi-nazi” used to deride women who dare to assert their equality and to demand fair treatment.
Our planet and our species is in transition at the moment. We are moving away from times in which physical strength is most important and into one in which emotional intelligence and imagination will be our survival tools. At the risk of seeming sexist myself, I will freely say that women are way ahead of us men on these skills. We have a lot to learn from women. So let’s put aside all these insecurities and biases and do us all a favor and just listen and learn.