The twisted progeny of kyriarchy

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Bodies, Damned binaries, Gender, Personal, Sex & Sexuality, Sexism
Tags: , , , ,

Kyriarchy is a term coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (link is to a blog post by a woman, Lisa Factora-Borchers, who was probably one of the first to use it outside academia and in the blogosphere) that means the entire system of power and oppression, with all the complex intersections and interactions of privilege, domination and subordination that that implies.

And how is it passed on? Through the generations. No infant has innate prejudice and hatred; these things are taught, they are learned. From family, through primary socialisation; from peers, from the media, from the schools, from the world around them…

All this, to introduce a little story, seguing into a rant, about what happened earlier.

Coming off campus, myself and my friend G. (I was assigned the same sex as G.) were accosted by a group of other pupils who asked whether we were the couple they saw making out (they thought I was the ‘opposite’ sex to my assigned one), called ‘get a room’ to and had the answer ‘we will!’

G. was understandably outraged – one, it wasn’t us (we’re just friends, although the just feels reductive), and two, what business is it of theirs anyway? (I probably didn’t help – I started laughing and remarking, ‘you know, I’m sure there’s no-one else hovering round with my hair, you must be hallucinating,’ while G. was spluttering and feeling the anger rise. Now, I know there was a lot wrong with their remark – it’s not that it was funny – but I take the view that it’s better to laugh than cry.)

What makes it okay to approach total strangers with questions about their sex lives? Even if we had been making out, it still wouldn’t have been okay – the fact is, what they said was said in a shaming tone of voice and must have been made up (since as previously mentioned, my hair is almost unique), which implies that they think it’s fun to try to shame others about natural sexuality. Is this evidence of an increased demonisation of sex? Or, since the question was directed at the one of us whom they had evidently decided was the woman, is it a patriarchal attempt to punish a woman for being sexual?

After we accelerated to get away, one of them ran up and peered around my legs at my groin, running back and yelling out ‘it’s a [my assigned sex]!’ It. Seriously, I sometimes let my friends get away with that, but I don’t let total strangers and I hate having people yell out my assigned sex – it feels like they’re pulling my trousers down. I turned around and told them to go fuck themselves, then walked on.

And since when has my groin been acceptable staring matter? I’m lucky – I hear stories of other people perceived as gender-variant getting their groins grabbed or worse, and nothing like that has ever happened to me – but that doesn’t mean peering down at a person’s groin in the most obvious way possible is okay. People are more than their genitals, and reducing them to the genitals objectifies. And because I am ‘Other’ – I am seen as gender-variant, as queer – I am seen as having less of a right to privacy over the exact configuration of my genitalia.

But still. It’s funny in a sick, twisted way, it’s happened before and frankly these days people getting their heads in a spin over my sex/gender is water off a duck’s back as long as they don’t touch me (my mantra is, talk, I laugh – touch, I attack). G. couldn’t believe that stuff like that had happened before, and was getting pretty angry about it. I can’t be bothered anymore.

The moral of the story is, young people’s perceptions of right and wrong are shaped by their culture. If their culture is telling them that it’s okay to stare at groins to determine gender, there’s something wrong with their culture. In the end, none of us escape it – we all have kyriarchal attitudes which are terribly difficult to shake. We have all Othered different people, we have all behaved in ways that were informed by kyriarchy.

I am sorry for those who will never have an opportunity to examine their privilege. I am sorry for those who are being brainwashed into prejudice.


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