We have to act our way out of this
For me, part of my politics is trying to see my own cages, the one that I have been placed in and the ones that I am complicit in maintaining. Gender is one of the latter. There are many but I am using gender as an example. I find myself critical of gender as a meaningful concept, the way it is used today and wish to move beyond the binary, certainly beyond the systematic oppression that takes place on the shoulders of gender categories. At the same time, I find myself drawn to and attached to many aspects of my assigned gender.
I don’t think we can just wish our way out of these cages. I think we have to actually try and experiment on ourselves, create new subjectivities, change your experience of the world. We have to act our way out of these cages. We have to allow our bodies to be autonomous zones, even if just temporary ones.
“Provided we can escape from the museums we carry around inside us, provided we can stop selling ourselves tickets to the galleries in our own skulls, we can begin to contemplate an art which re-creates the goal of the sorcerer: changing the structure of reality by the manipulation of living symbols … Art tells gorgeous lies that come true.”
- Hakim Bey: The Temporary Autonomous Zone
With that, here are some of the ways that I have been micro-exploring my own experience of gender. That is my gender as perceived and acted by myself and by others.
* These are not intended to be indicative of any goal for a post gender world, these are simply exercises to explore your own gender performance and how your defaults and the cultural and social status quo might be preventing you from experiencing a lot of the world, as well as how others experience the world.
A E S T H E T I C S : & : S E N S O R Y : P E R F O R M A N C E
- Change your hair, cut it short or grow it long. Stop styling it, style it more, style it weirdly.
- Females, try no or less make up for a week, males, try wearing a bit of makeup of an evening.
- Develop your body posture vocabulary so that you can more easily move between different modes of being. Think about your body posture and explicitly try and change it at times. I have very femme hands and i often try and mimic ‘male’ hand postures.
- Try and explore wearing clothes that don’t imply a gender, or perhaps don’t just confirm to your default. Males, this might be a simply as a patterned or very soft fabric. Females this might be gender neutral shoes, or shorts instead of skirts.
- Try thinking about clothes that embody something other than gender — what would clothes look like if you designed them yourself with no gender in mind?
L A N G U A G E
- Opt into a different language. I gave up using gendered pronouns for anyone about a year ago. I used a range of chrome plugins, autocorrect additions etc. Changing the way i wrote, changed the way i spoke, which i am sure has changed the way that I think. This has the added bonus of making everyone around you think about why they are using he and she words, and why they have assumed them.
- Instead of using words like masculine and feminine, try and actually describe the things you are trying to say. E.g. instead of ‘i don’t like that fragrance, it’s a bit too feminine for me’, try ‘i don’t like that fragrance, it’s floral and I prefer less fruity tones (or whatever)’
S O C I A L : I N T E R A C T I O N S : & : M O V E M E N T
- Remember interrupting is something that happens across gender lines, and also social power hierarchies. I’m not suggesting that you start interrupting people, but notice when it’s happening.
- Gait/the way you walk — take a look at this and play with the gender function on this point light biological motion animation. The way you move likely incorporates aspects of your gender performance, that you can actively play with.
- The same goes for body posture. Think about how you are holding yourself and holding space. Try using different postures and see how people treat you differently. For me public transport is a good place to experiment with these as int
- Consider how your gender influences how you interact socially and experiment with these:
Q. How often do you ask for sex, as opposed to ‘give permission’?
Q. How often do you say no?
Q. In social interactions do you really know what you want, or are you accommodating others, is this related to your perceived gender (perceived by you or by others?)
Q. Do you often assume one social position (e.g. host), sexual position or role?
Q. Do you carry contraception for sexual experiences or assume another gender will?
Q. Do you notice yourself using touch in social settings that might seem gendered?
R O L E S : in : the : H O M E
- We all contribute to gendered roles. People socialized as women are often more efficient at doing ‘female’ roles, and the same is true of humans socialised as men. For example, i naturally take to cleaning up, it’s actually peaceful for me. I am also trained to be very good at emotional labour, and can detect the emotional needs of others very quickly. But i am useless at fixing things. I tend to gravitate toward cleaning roles in the house, and to emotional work, but the truth is i’ve not really ever tried to fix things or learn how to. I try to limit and experiment with different chores and roles, create boundaries about emotional work, but empower men to do it instead, both in the home and at work. Try and explore these different roles.