Masculine or Feminine or Gender-Neutral

Why are some activities classified as “feminine” and others as “masculine?”  It seems such nonsense to me.

A couple of examples come to mind.  Woodworking is typically considered a masculine undertaking.  Sewing generally is considered a feminine enterprise, at least in a home environment.   I know of women who enjoy woodworking (a few of them are involved in our local woodworkers’ club, as I understand it), and I had a male neighbor in Dallas who enjoyed sewing far more than his wife did.  Such people, though, are outliers; they are viewed by many as strange, doing things out of stereotype.  They are judged for the pastimes/hobbies in which they have an interest.  This not only perplexes me, it makes me angry.

It makes me angry  because people should not have to feel uncomfortable talking about their interests in “mixed company.”  I think the people who label female woodworkers “butch” are the same ones who consider male seamsters “ferries.”  In other words, the same slow-witted, narrow-minded idiots.  I would have said “judgmental,” but I suppose (considering what I have just written) that would be like the pot calling the kettle black.  Yes, I judge those dim-witted knuckle-draggers; perhaps I’m not as liberal and open-minded as I pretend to be.

Why the rant on this topic?  Because I was thinking yesterday afternoon about some ideas I’ve had about accessories for shirts for men…and I was thinking, “I should learn to sew so I can make these things myself.”  I know I shouldn’t have felt it, but I did: I felt a tinge of fear that I would be judged if I moved forward.  This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about sewing; it’s also not the first time I’ve had this tinge of fear, or whatever it is. Each time I feel it, though, it makes the blood rush to my face in anger.

I have some interesting ideas about “sleeve pockets” for pens, note-pads, even cell phones. I paid someone in Dallas…two or three years ago…to sew sleeve pockets on a shirt like I envisioned.  She misunderstood what I was after and used a knit shirt, whereas I had in mind a woven fabric shirt.  But, still, it worked as I intended.  I want to explore variations, on my own; to do that, I’d have to learn to sew (and I’d need access to a sewing machine, I suppose).

Perhaps there are masculine and feminine characteristics…real ones, I mean, not the manufactured crap that informs bigotry.  That being the case, perhaps there are degrees of masculinity and femininity in individuals.  Assuming that is true, I have no qualms acknowledging my “feminine” side.  All men and women should feel comfortable acknowledging their cross-gender characteristics, I think.

This may be a peculiar rant.  Maybe it’s my femininity taking control of my personality.  Or maybe it’s just the opposite…maybe I’m just über-masculine at the moment. Let me repeat, but using stronger language: This bizarre tendency to label activities by gender seems such bullshit to me.

It’s not just the interests one has that can be subject to scorn and ridicule, it can be the interests one doesn’t have.  Sports, for example.  Men who have little or no interest in team sports like football and baseball are “weird.”

All right.  I’m all ranted out for the moment.  Carry on.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Masculine or Feminine or Gender-Neutral

  1. Thanks very much for your comments, Millie. I look forward to reading your post. And, of course, to being able to sew and make sleeve pockets! Once I can do that, I’ll happily make a sleeve pocket for you.

  2. Millie Gore says:

    Splendid post, John.

    When I was a young graduate student 40 years ago, I took the MMPI at the university’s counseling center before I enrolled in the course that would teach me to administer it. I remember several of the questions because I knew they would result in scores of “confused sexual identity.” The MMPI was designed so that the test-taker had to choose between two alternatives on each of 300-some statements. One asked whether I would rather ride a horse or bake a cake. Duh. Another asked whether I would rather sew or go camping. Duh again. I spent my young adult years as a horse wrangler and professional wilderness guide. Guess which ones of those alternatives I chose?

    Sure enough, the test said I had a confused sexual identity. Everything else was “normal.”

    All my life I have been an outspoken advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, and intersexual persons (GLBTQI), but I, myself, am heterosexual. I had to learn years ago to ignore what other people said about me and do what I wanted, regardless of the gender-association that society placed on it. In fact, your post inspires me to write my own post on this topic. Thanks for that.

    You’re not getting any younger, so buy your sewing machine, John. Ask your wife to help you set the table and put out a loaf of bread and butter. I’ll bring the home-made soup and the wine. And then she and I will cheer you on as you learn to sew and make your sleeve pockets. If I bring my own shirt, would you make one for me?


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