Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Age and Gender Power Imbalance
I had trouble posting a comment at a fascinating new-to-me blog today. And it was pretty lengthy and directly related to recent entries around the BLM Stations of the Cross. So I will reproduce it here as a post and invite the writer to conversation via email. One of my second grade girls today gave me a flower at recess. It was just a dandelion, but quite lovely. I was very touched, and I thanked her as I tucked it up behind my ear, much to her evident delight. A while later, I was chatting with another second grader who had had a dispute with one of her classmates. As our conversation wrapped up, she, without any warning, reached out and plucked the flower off my head. “There,” she said in a thoroughly satisfied manner, “now you don’t look like a girl.” And before I could respond, she ran off. More. Hi Race! I found you through the Feminism and Religion post--so delightful to find brothers who also experience Her as the primary (or sole) face of divinity! I am moved by the anecdote and glad you are so passionate for the protection of transgirls and boys. I am also heartbroken that this little cis girl has already internalized the misogyny of church and society which is at the heart of sexism as well as homophobia and transphobia. Women must stay in their oppressed stance and men in their oppressive one in the kyriarchal binary--which leads to femicide and queercide when the border is threatened by "uppity women" or "feminizing men." So she, like a black child enforcing white supremacist beauty standards on himself or other black children, is acting out received oppression as a victim rather than a perpetrator. Hence I am profoundly uncomfortable with your description of the encounter between a very young female student and a male adult in a position of authority over her. Especially since the adult apparently made no attempt to gently address either respect for other people's possessions and physical space-- or the deep panic induced in her by the blurring of gender strictures forced upon her since the day she was wrapped in a pink blanket and destined for rape culture and the wage gap. This tiny child "without any warning reached out and plucked off" your flower leading to her "thorough satisfaction" then "ran off before [you]could say anything." You "felt a sickness lurch in [your] stomach." The "seed" of "oppression" and "violence" was in "her words" because she had "made it her own." All these words are strongly reminiscent of my own feelings as a victim of clergy sexual abuse from a male pastor enabled by a sexist church and academy--and of mine now, and my teenage daughter's, as queer cis women when we are experiencing aggression and boundary violations by straight or gay cis men who have us at a significant power disadvantage both physically and socially. This week that is taking the form of her first experience of foolish mansplaining and traumatic gaslighting from a straight white cis male pastor in response to respectful critiques of the misogynoir in his anti-racist art installation. So I would greatly appreciate your reading over and reconsidering your piece with the power dynamics of age and authority between you and your student, and of gender/sex between you and her--and me, and all female assigned people--in mind. Thanks!