It defines us all. It’s the first thing you notice about a person and if you can’t pinpoint it, it drives you mad. And at the end of the day, why does it matter? I’m talking about gender, or rather sex since gender is more the psychological perception of one’s cultural difference based on their sexual organs. I’ll tell you a story, in my first few weeks in Japan a friend and I were in a convenience store and he picked up a teen magazine with one of those teeny bopper bands on the front. There was about a dozen glossy haired and teethed teenage bright young things in androgynous tight jeans and soft features. How many of these do you think are girls, my friend asked me. I looked closer and realised, none of them were.
Of course by the end of my three years in Japan I could tell male and females apart with more ease. Men in Japan are more metrosexual and in general care about things like shopping, moisturiser and dying their hair. Add to that a naturally slim physique and shy nature and you can see how easy it is to confuse the sexes. To put it bluntly, a lot of Japanese men come across as gay to other Western eyes. Boys, even high school aged ones, will cry at graduation, sit in each others laps and hold hands. Drunk co-workers will often start waltzing each other than salivating over any female staff.
I could go on forever about the eccentricities of Japanese culture but that’s not what this entry is about. What interested me was also my reaction to it. Why did my (not homophobic but I will admit I stereotype on first impression) mind cringe and make judgements? Why was I so bothered when I couldn’t pinpoint the sex of a person who is and always will be a stranger to me?
This brings me round to my thoughts on gender. I don’t consider myself a feminist although I do agree with many of their equal rights views. At the same time I can’t help but think the physical and cultural differences between men and women can never be altered unless we reach a state of growing babies in incubators and designer bodies. Whilst childhood dreams of chivalric princes may be passed, women always retain a hope for the romantic, protective, providing man, whether or not they will admit it to themselves or others. Real world issues mean that most of us will accept Going Dutch, smelly socks being left out but will we be happy with a guy who earns less than us? I’m really not sure. And this is a shock to someone who considers myself a modern woman. I’m not saying women are gold-diggers and all looking to bag a millionaire but financial security is something you don’t think about when you are a kid dreaming about your true love.
And how about men? Can men accept women who are more successful or ambitious than they are? The modern man says yes in theory but I’m not sure the reality is quite so simple. It’s not simply a case of swallowing their pride and accepting that their partner is the main breadwinner. There’s also the social stigma of being a kept man, a househusband and henpecked, not to mention simply feeling a bit useless. I think generations of housewives have gotten over this feeling by devoting themselves to being homemakers and mothers. Sure, a man could do the same but the biological link through pregnancy isn’t there. Not to mentions a centuries of history and biology ingrained in our being that say- this is the ways things are, should be, and always will be.
Gender. It controls everything, whether or not we admit it to ourselves.