I know this is a painfully difficult thing for men to accept (even those men who feel like ladies), but sometimes women (you know, female human beings) get sick, endure shit, have feelings, and live through events that do not have anything to do with males. Sometimes, in the course of our little lives, women face choices that pertain only to their own lives, and not to the lives of men.
Sometimes, our experiences are not about men.
I know this is hard for men to grasp. As men, you have been conditioned to believe you have jurisdiction over women’s bodies. As men, you have been taught that the state of being female is little more than a flight of fancy that can be appropriated as one might appropriate a line from a poem. As men, y’all have been raised in a society that assures you EVERYTHING is about you.
I mean, this is why a man can murder, in a horrific, hellish fashion, hundreds of human beings (babies, children included) and have his actions explained away by fucking psyhcobabble “he was depressed” and “he was troubled.” Men are never on the hook for anything. Not even massacres.
Women are murdered and raped all the time, and their deaths, their suffering is often eclipsed by speculations around “What made man do that thing? Was he sad?” Women are sold off as so much chattel, and the practice is called “sex-positive” and “empowering” because men “need sex from women.” Men commiserate over legislation about how best to control women’s decisions about their bodies, because it makes men uncomfortable when women can make choices without their permission. Men tell women how to speak, how to frame reality because it makes men unhappy when women have clarity of thought and command of language.
Everything is about men. Everything. Shit, the dominant culture has even managed to make feminism – the one ideology that once upon a time was about women – about men.
So I’m not surprised when I see a piece in The Advocate where some fucking guy (who identifies as a lady – fuck, I’m sick of typing that caveat) posits that a woman’s decision to have her breasts and ovaries removed, as a precautionary measure against cancer, proves that “female is a feeling in a man’s head.” I’m not surprised, but I’m fucking outraged.
As regular readers of this blog know, I had cancer at a young age. This topic hits close to home for me, and I know a good deal about it.
I had a “lady cancer” – breast cancer (yes, yes, I know. Men can get breast cancer, but this post isn’t about men, isn’t about “exceptions to the rule”). I wear this reality on my body: there’s a sizeable chemoport scar beneath my collarbone, a good portion of my left breast is gone. I think about it every day. It has touched every corner of my life.
When I found out I had cancer, I had to make a series of decisions in short order. Would I opt for a mastectomy? Did I want the hardcore chemo? Or none at all? Was I open to radiation therapy? Would I work through all of this or take some leave? I went through a form of early menopause. I take estrogen blockers that fuck up my hormones, could cause uterine cancer, do cause me to have hot flashes at weird times, but might keep the breast cancer from returning. I have made, and continue to make, some tough ass choices about my body, and my health, and it is difficult, and it has nothing to do with men or men’s feelings.
Nor does it, as the writer of The Advocate article suggests, have anything to do with gender. See, I didn’t “identify into” cancer. If you want a little science (which, lately, is also deeply uncomfortably for men, particularly those with ladybrain), I got breast cancer because my body produced a touch too much estrogen when I was in my mid-twenties, and fucked shit up on the cellular level. More science still: I went through a growth spurt in my early twenties because my puberty had been a bit delayed/messed up by a serious illness as a teenager. My hormones were all fucked up. SCIENCE!
So nothing about the disease itself was my choice – it had to do with physiology, DNA, hormones, cells and shit. It had to do with my owning a female body that did female things like bleed, grow breasts, produce estrogen. This is reality. This is fact. Sorry if that’s upsetting to anyone.
Anyway, back to that infuriating, shitty Advocate article. The writer, a male, basically argues that because Jolie said she “still felt feminine” after having her ovaries removed, that “proves” that female is a feeling in a man’s head. Seriously. Here, have a read:
In her first article, after having the double mastectomy, Jolie wrote, “On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” After undergoing a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy — removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries — Jolie wrote, “I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family.”
It struck me that her sense of self and her gender identity weren’t tied to her breasts, or to her reproductive organs. This small observation holds true for everyone, including transgender people.
Of course it “struck” this writer that Jolie’s breasts weren’t “tied to her gender identity.” He’s a man. He thinks boobs = female. This is why when people raise money for breast cancer research, they call the events “Save the Ta-Tas” – because there’s no fucking difference, in men’s eyes, between the glands on our chest and the complete human beings that we are. This is why men believe they can buy a set of tits, take some estrogen and BE female – because to men, we are nothing more than some boobs and smooth skin. That’s it. In the eyes of men, that’s the sum total of the female experience.
What women, like myself, like Jolie, like every other female on the planet understand is that while breasts and ovaries are organically, naturally occurring parts of us, they do not define us – they do not shape our every thought, our every preference, our every feeling. Did I like my breast, my nipple? Sure. Was I willing to have that shit tossed into a landfill in order that I might live? Yep. Am I any less female because I’m missing a few parts? No. Does it then follow that because I am still female, despite a fucked up breast, the state of being female is nothing more than a hunch, a suspicion? No.
Gender identity isn’t a delusion, regardless of chromosomes or what body parts a person has, or used to have; it is an intrinsic, deeply held sense of self. Jolie hints at this.
Actually, sir, the fact that absence of ovaries doesn’t change Jolie’s precious “gender identity,” is, on the contrary, proof that gender IS a delusion. Jolie has been conditioned into her gender, independent of her anatomy. Jolie is female, and as such, has female organs, and secondary sex characteristics of the female human being, but her sense of self is not woven into her fallopian tubes. This is where the trans/queer lot always get it wrong, and I would hazard that the mental health issues that seem to plague the trans/queer lot has a lot to do with how wrong they get this piece: your outward presentation will never, ever, never change who you actually are. You can be a lesbian, and have an unnecessary double mastectomy in order to call yourself a “straight man” but the loss of your breasts won’t actually, magically, make you a man – because that’s not possible. You can buy hormones from the good doctor and grow a pair of your very own ladyboobs, but those boobs will never actually, miraculously, make you female – because this is not possible, because this defies very fundamental, very simple biological realities. I mean, hell. I’d fucking LOVE IT if I could identify myself away from having had cancer. Like, what can I do to change myself on the cellular level so that I no longer have a propensity for malignant cells? Nothing. There’s nothing I can do other than accept my reality.
I mean, I really don’t fucking FEEL LIKE A CANCER SURVIVOR. What if I just start saying, “Nope. Never had cancer. Lucky me” – does that make it true? Again, I don’t feel, in this moment, on this day, like someone who had cancer. So . . . did it not happen?
This insane conflation of the philosophical with the physiological has made people – young people in particular – straight up crazy and miserable. I see these articles on sites like Everydaymisogyny where baby dykes (who have been told they are men) are carrying on about the agony of body dysmporphia – body dysmorphia that’s stemming from the lie the culture has told them about how they are men. Body dysmorphia that could dissipate (never really goes away for any woman – we all have body dysmorphia, because we’ve been raised in a woman-hating society that instructs us to feel disgust about our physical realities) if these perfectly healthy and good young women embraced their female reality and understood that that reality – breasts, vagina, uterus and all – doesn’t have to define how you live your life. In fact, you can be your special, unique self AND have functioning female reproductive organs and those two things can co-exist and it’s totally okay. Just like I believe that a boy child can wear a dress AND be accepting of his male reality, and that’s totally okay.
When we lie and lie and lie to ourselves that, as the writer says, “we are who we say we are” then we make ourselves desperately unhappy – because while the outside world may affirm our delusions, when we are inside, alone, with ourselves, we know it’s not true. We know it’s all a giant fucking lie.
Of course Angelina Jolie is still Angelina Jolie even without her ovaries. Why does that come as a surprise? What really does that “affirm” other than the fact that our individuality has precious little to do with our various body parts? I am no more informed, as an individual with unique preferences and tastes, by my uterus than I am by my kidneys. I don’t wake up in the morning scrambling to feel for my breasts or my vagina in order to make sure I still am myself. Also, I’m sexually and romantically attracted to women. Also, I tend to shop for shirts in the men’s department and wear my hair really short. Also, just last weekend a woman at a sandwich place called me “sir.” Also, none of this makes me male.
And you know what? I think I’m a far happier person – I’m not, like, sliding down the wall clutching a bottle of vodka because I’m feeling “dysphoric” about my breasts, even though they gave me cancer – because I haven’t drunk this batshit lunacy about gender and sex being one-and-the-same. I think I’m far happier as a female human being because I am able to engage in an actual feminist analysis of gender, and I know it’s all an act, and I know it’s a bit of scaffolding designed not to support me, but to hurt me.
But whatever. I’m not, fortunately, part of the miserable masses who believe gender identity is the end all be all. I’m not part of this movement that bases their entire existence on their fetishes, their kinks, their illnesses, their daily hair-and-makeup rituals. I feel sorry for people like that, really. Moreover, I feel sorry for women who have come to believe that feminism is about allowing men to take the helm of women’s liberation, who have come to believe the most pernicious aspects of patriarchy are empowering, who have blithely accepted that being female is nothing more than a conceit, who refuse to engage in class analysis because it might not account for all the intricate particulars of a male’s experience. I feel sorry for everyone who believes the trope “we are who we say we are” because eventually, that lie will catch up to you, and when it does, it’s going to suck and all the new body parts, all the pretty clothes, all the lipstick in the world isn’t going to change the fact that, at the day’s end, you are NOT who you “say you are” – you are simply “what you are.”
And in this regard, maybe the writer of The Advocate piece also gets it a little right:
We are not defined by the sum of our body parts or their history, though. What defines us as individuals, what makes us unique as individual human beings, is the grey matter between our ears.
This is largely true. Also, you are male.
And finally, dudes – even y’all fancy lady-dudes – stop framing women’s bodies, our biological realities, as nothing more than anecdotes to further the bullshit delusions that allow you to run roughshod over everything that once was for, once belonged to female human beings. You’ve won. You own the language. You’ve eviscerated our colleges. You’ve made feminism about your needs. Let us have our fucking hysterectomies, our bilateral salpingo-oophorectomies, our medically necessary lumpectomies and mastectomies and cancer histories, without those also being about you.