Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You Can't Complain About Cramps

One of my father's stories that I have always, always hated is one from his days in highschool. The assigned-females of the student government were trying to get equal rights and treatments- and the assigned-males responded with "If you do, then you can't use your periods to get out of things" and that any difference that having high estrogen rather than testosterone causes would be ignored as well.

And that they backed down proves that women want to be treated as second class citizens and that they'd rather be given the "privilege" of getting off class (which actually means a lower quality education, particularly for people who have a difficult time self-teaching, putting them at an even greater disadvantage) than the privilege of being treated and seen as a human being.

First, hormones are a big deal. Hormones effect most changes in your body. Adrenaline, the hormone that can allow people to do super-human things in times of crisis, is a hormone. Hormone imbalances in the brain can cause you to have severely limited or altered functioning. In terms of sex-related hormones, your levels effect a ton of things such as fat distribution and loss/gain, ability to gain muscle, even height when you're still not past puberty. They also have a good deal of effect on how you think, based on evidence from trans men and women who have started hormones (one trans man tracks the changes testosterone had on him emotionally/mentally. Here's one just from 3 months:
It's been much harder to notice the little subtlties that I once noticed. I think sometimes I notice them, but I don't appreciate the importance of them anymore. I've been trying really hard to take notice of the little things and really think about what they mean. Similarly, it's much harder to multi-task. I've found myself much more methodical and more withdrawn from socializing with perfect strangers. For example, I'd much rather be in a quite library putting books in order than helping customers at a video game store. I've always had this personality, but it's definitely more intense now.
Plus, the differences between assigned males and assigned females who aren't taking anything that would effect their levels and are not intersexed are, like every other difference between the sexes, generalized. There are cis women with high testosterone levels and cis men with low, just like there are cis women who can outlift an average man and cis men who couldn't outlift a weaker woman. But, there are physiological differences between having high testosterone/low estrogen and low testosterone/high estrogen (and fairly big differences between hormone levels in people with ovaries over the course of a month). And those should not be ignored.

Now, for the part that makes too many people squeamish: periods. People's periods are, depending on your social group, not really talked about. I've seen a lot of instances where a cis woman had a genuine disorder related to her menstrual cycle that was literally disabling every time she menstruated- but she spent years with no idea because people don't actually talk about what it's like. I've also seen cis women who will go to the doctor to find out if they have a problem with that and a nurse will discount them as being whiny because "we all have to go through that"- assuming that everyone's cycle is identical to their own.

We also cannot forget that society was built by cis males for cis males- at least western society- without taking the needs of cis females, trans males, trans females, intersex people, or non-binary people into consideration. At times they created laws with the explicit intent of continuing to keep non-cis males as second-class citizens. In the 1700s, (perceived/assigned) women in the US were not taught to write as "there was no reason a woman should know how to write"- limiting their ability to communicate their thoughts in a permanent manner and making it so that most literature was, inevitably, produced by (perceived/assigned) men. One of our much hailed Founding Fathers, John Adams, found the idea of agreeing to his wife's request to "Remember the ladies" in laws to be laughable, referring to the thought of women's rights as the "despotism of the petticoat"- or tyranny, if you aren't sure what despotism is.

It is very probably that things would be different had society been built by women for women, or at least with women in mind and with allowance for them to ask for their own needs to be met. Perhaps, rather than weekends, we would have a week off of work every month- or maybe only having one day weekends and a mini-vacation that was actually a time to rest rather than a time to have to do work that your boss expects you to do in your spare time without pay. Maybe medicine would have developed to actually find out when menstruation actually has a serious impact and how to better fix it (I believe we're working on it) and assigned-females would feel empowered to talk about their period and how awful it is without being told that they're just being whiny- so that, if there is a problem, it can actually be fixed. Maybe we would have figured out much, much sooner how to keep people who give birth from dying and, today, focus on how to make them comfortable rather than on how to control them (trigger warning: equates people who are capable of giving birth with "women", erasing both the gender of those who do give birth and are not women and those women who, for whatever reason, are not able to give birth).

But that is not the case. Instead, we live in a reality where health concerns that are either specific to mis/assigned females or not prevalent in mis/assigned males (everyone with breast tissue can get breast cancer, including cis men, yet it's still seen as a "woman's disease") are only just now not being dismissed. And, still, the ones that are most talked about are ones that "diminish" a woman's sex appeal. There are a great deal of diseases that can effect women and cause them extreme, even lifelong pain, yet we focus on the ones that cause them to lose their hair or breasts. It's as if we still haven't gotten out of the disgusting idea that a mis/assigned female is defined by zir ability to attract a man and bear his children or to act as a sex object for male fantasies- rather than by who ze is.

It is very, very possible that some of the mis/assigned females on that student council had extreme period pains that genuinely caused them to be unable to do classes sometimes- and refusing to acknowledge the reality of that would have been extremely problematic, the same as telling a person with the flu that they have to go to school despite barely being able to stand upright because "Well, I don't think the flu is as big a deal as you say it is". The argument of "You are only allowed equal rights if we're allowed to ignore your physiological needs" is no argument. It is really saying "We are so opposed to you being treated equally, but we are sick of you asking for it so we will throw you this moldy bone and find a new way to mistreat you".

And it says volumes that anyone could take people refusing that as evidence that any group wants to be abused.

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