Terms and definitions: part two

Transgender flag-triangleYou know when a friend texts you, and you don’t respond for days and days and then they text you again and you could’ve sworn you replied but you didn’t, you meanie?

That’s sort of what I did with this post. I was sure I posted it as a follow up to part one: https://thejarbelles.com/2014/08/11/terms-and-definitions-part-one/ But it looks like I didn’t.  I didn’t even finish writing part three, which includes definitions of the different types of feminism (radical, revolutionary, etc) – this, I imagine, will be a difficult job.

Without further ado, I give you part two:

Transgender

A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is generally the best one for non-transgender (or ‘cisgender’: see below) people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is viewed as disrespectful.) Trans-man is a term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man and trans-woman is a term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman. It is respectful to use the pronoun appropriate for the gender the person currently identifies with. Nobody thinks you’re cool because you refer to a trans-gender woman as ‘he’ because “he was born a he though!” so shut the fuck up. Similarly, nobody cares if you “just don’t get it”. Educate yourself.

Cisgender

When a person is cisgender, they identify as the gender that matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a feminist sociological theory that describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. The term was coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and basically covers the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all type of feminism. For example, a black woman would face both racism and sexism as she navigates around everyday life.

Check Your Privilege

Telling someone to “check their privilege” is a way of telling a person who is making a political point that they should remember they are speaking from a privileged position, because they are, for example, white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied or wealthy. It asks the speaker to acknowledge intersectionality (the school of thought which says, for example, that different minorities experience oppression differently – see above for more). So for example, if a white, female journalist tweets that she “literally could not give a shit about” the representation of black women on Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls, she will face a chorus of tweets telling her to “check her privilege” (sorry Caitlin, but that was a dumb move). Some people say it’s used too often to shut down debate, while others say it isn’t used nearly enough. It’s important to check your privilege but be warned – people might groan when you bring it up. It’s also important to remember that a privileged person is not necessarily prejudiced (sexist, racist, etc.) as an individual, but may be part of a broader pattern of -ism even though unaware of it.

Gender Flip

To gender flip something is to reverse the genders of people involved in the subject, usually in order to make a point (or to make fan-fiction, ya creep). It can be a very effective tool for working out or demonstrating if something is sexist. For example, when the tabloids go apeshit because a young woman performed sex acts on twenty-four men in public, consider how the story would be portrayed differently if a young man performed sex acts on twenty-four women in public.

Mansplaining

Mansplaining is a combination of the words “man” and “explaining” that describes the act of a man speaking to a woman with the assumption that she knows less than he does about the topic being discussed on the basis of her gender. Mansplaining is different from other forms of condescension because mansplaining is rooted in the assumption that, in general, a man is likely to be more knowledgeable than a woman. Mansplaining will even occur when the topic being discussed directly relates to the feminine experience, e.g. “Women like being called out to in the street – I always hear women say it is flattering.” It is commonly accepted to be one of the most annoying things on the planet but if you point out that a man is mansplaining, he will often become enraged.

Internalised Sexism

If a woman is expressing sexism against other women, she is not ‘sexist’ but has internalised sexism. Internalised sexism is when women consciously or unconsciously internalise sexist messages that are present in their society and culture. If the internalisation is conscious, the women may actively resent other women and if the internalisation is unconscious, the women may hold feminist views and be unaware that they regard themselves as lesser than men. Some women who have internalised sexism may try to prevent other women from stepping out of their traditional gender roles as they believe they are preserving the proper way of life. They don’t realise they are being oppressive.

Sexism can be externalised as well as internalised. While internalised sexism may come in the form of thinking, “Who am I to speak?” or “What do I know?”, externalised sexism comes from the outside and is usually easier to spot. Someone saying, “Women are all bitchy”, for example.

Internalised sexism can result in self-hate and the increased likelihood of accepting male points of view over female points of view. This, obviously, results in further internalised sexism and so it becomes  a dangerous cycle. To combat internalised sexism, women must become aware of their internalised sexism. Everyone is the product of their environment and society and so, no matter how much feminist activism you do and how aware you are of gender politics, internalised sexism is almost unavoidable because of the prevalence of sexism. Once you are aware of internalised sexism, it is easier to spot its place in the background of your thoughts and so easier to challenge it. Another important weapon against internalised sexism is taking the time to actively support and encourage other women, instead of criticising them. It is important to fight against gender stereotypes and consider what attributes are authentic and what attributes are the product of society and culture.

Sometimes, a man will say during a debate, “Lots of women hate women too though!” as if that makes hating women okay. It seems obvious that, rather than this being concrete proof that women are just hateable or hateful, the prevalence of sexism is such that it results in women hating themselves.

Reverse Sexism

Often, a feminist will hear the cry, “International Women’s Day?! When’s International Men’s Day? REVERSE SEXISM HURRRRRRR”. Ignoring the fact that International Men’s Day is November 19th, there is no such thing as reverse sexism. By dictionary definition, being it would just be called, “sexism”. By a feminist definition, a woman cannot be sexist against men because they are not in a position of institutional power. They can be prejudiced, but not sexist. In the same way, you can’t be racist against white people, or classist against rich people. Even if, a woman, you are say, “All men are dumb”, for example, your opinion will not oppress others as your institution (being a woman), does not have the power to oppress others. Men will still make up far higher percentages in all positions of institutional power, e.g. in government, in large corporations, in the law, etc.

In order for sexism against men to exist, men and women would have to be on an equal playing field. For those who dislike the term ‘feminism’, because they think it is sexist or not inclusive of men, they must remember this fact. We have women-only literary prizes because women have a lot of catching up to do in terms of being regarded equally to men in literature, for example, and women-only sexual abuse charities because women are more likely to suffer sexual abuse. This is regarded by most as logical. For some reason, when you have a movement that is fighting for women to gain the same place in society as men, some people do not understand why you would give it a women-centric name, however. It is strange.

The Male Gaze

The gaze is a concept used for analysing visual culture to see how the audience views the people that are presented. In 1975, second-wave feminist Laura Mulvey introduced the concept of the “male gaze”. Mulvey believed that women were widely sexualised in films as heterosexual men were predominantly in charge of the camera. The male gaze occurs when the audience is put into the shoes of a heterosexual man when viewing a woman onscreen – it may linger slowly over her body, for example. The woman becomes passive as she becomes a sexual object to the other characters in the film as well as the audience itself. Mulvey stated that the female gaze is the same as the male gaze, as women look at themselves through the eyes of men. A man possesses the gaze because he is a man, whereas a woman has the gaze only when she assumes the male gazer role — when she objectifies others by gazing at them like a man. This is regardless of the sexuality of the woman and is a product of habit.

The male gaze has widened as a theory to include other forms of media, such as advertising, over the years. A good example of the male gaze is during the film Gravity, when Sandra Bullock removes her space suit and the camera focuses on her scantily clad body, or in any Transformer film (though save yourself the burden of watching any of them – just take my word for it).

Not All Men!

People who say feminists don’t have a sense of humour have clearly never looked at some of the Not All Men! memes. The shark jumping out of the water one is particularly funny. Not All Men! Is the cry that goes out when you attempt to discuss a feminist issue, usually involving abuse, and one or multiple men jump in to defend themselves by pointing out that not all men engage in that particular activity. This is redundant because usually no-one is saying that all men engage in it, just that a lot of men do and that it is a problem, and it also makes the problem about men instead of women. This can be infuriating – I watched a discussion of rape descend into Not All Men! and the women in the discussion ended up comforting the man who was upset that he was sort-of-not-really-not-at-all accused of being a rapist. It is also sometimes used to make a man feel better about himself – by pointing out that HE doesn’t engage with the behaviour, he is somehow helping the feminist cause. Action is far more helpful and simply stating that you DON’T do something is not the same as DOING something to help. Finally, it is interrupting. And a lot of women are sick of being interrupted.

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Hope that helps.

–  Jade Slaughter is editor of The Jar Belles and has written for The F Word, Parallel and Litro magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @msjadeslaughter.