Rethinking Anarchism


The Production of Gender
December 5, 2009, 8:01 am
Filed under: Analysis, Random Shit | Tags: , , , , ,

For most of my life, I’ve felt that men and women were different. Women like to do certain things and men like to do certain things. I felt like this had something to do with the special character of men and women. It seemed to be true because in fact, most of the men and women I know conform to these basic stereotypes. Growing up, I was told that it was OK to break with these stereotypes because, frankly, it wasn’t a big deal and it doesn’t hurt anyone if some men love other other men and act feminine, or some women love other women and/or act masculine. But the categories remained intact, despite the acceptability of some deviations.

It seemed like there was a natural way for the majority of both sexes of act.

I started working at a multinational clothing retailer recently. I only work a few days, mostly nights. Actually, I’ve probably been fired because I haven’t been scheduled to work in the last two weeks because I called in sick too much because I work too much because none of my jobs pay enough so I work too many hours.

Anyway…

Most of the time at this job all I do is fold clothes. Somethings I work in the early morning unpacking new shipments of clothes and putting them on the sales floor.

I mostly work on womens’ floor, because womens’ clothing sells much more than mens’. There is more work to do because women buy way more clothes than men do. Maybe they’ve got something to sell, too.

One day I focused the lights on both floors. The boss told me to focus the lights on certain things in order of priority  1) Visuals (this means mannequins that are set up by the “visual team”- a labor aristocracy of workers who set up mannequins while the mass workers fold clothes) 2) Marketing- there are giant blow-up photos of women and men wearing the clothes we are selling. The womens’ floor has pictures of all women. The mens floor has pictures of all men. 3) Product- piles of shirts and jeans. This was the order of priority for what the corporation wanted customers to notice.

The company I work for launched a marketing campaign to market womens clothes to women and mens clothes to men. They bought ads on TV and on Facebook.

People came streaming into the store to buy the products. Men bought the mens clothes. Women bought the womens clothes.

Would anyone know what was right for women and men if the corporations didn’t tell us? I doubt it.

Corporate America controls the media. The media produces the common sense of our society- our idea of what is right and what is wrong. In our own time, the means of production also includes the means of producing culture. The corporati0ns produce our sense of self-hood through control of culture. They tell us what is right for women and men. Without the perpetuation of the gender binary by corporate america, people would likely find expressions of their sexuality much more comfortable than those given to us by the bosses.

Which makes me wonder- why are they so invested in producing men and women?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that until workers control the means of production, the bosses will control our most basic emotions about what it means to be a man, a woman, and to be human.

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3 Comments so far
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Thanks for giving me some insight into store marketing. If we embrace the fluidity of gender identity and expression, the “bosses” will have to figure out marketing in more than 2 categories. Oh, the horror! Civilization “collapses,” chaos ensues, …

Comment by BC

Would anyone know what was right for women and men if the corporations didn’t tell us? I doubt it.

I have been immersing myself in gender lately, particularly people who transition from one gender to another. One notable thing I have found, again and again, is a challenge to the feminist notion of gender being highly constructed and arbitrary.

It seems that folks who hormonally transition (take the sex hormones associated with the sex opposite in order to achieve secondary sex characteristics) consistently report certain changes in their emotions, thinking and sexuality. For example people who have been hormonally male and female (no matter which direction they were going) seem to say that as a female, emotions are “easier to access” and “closer to the surface,” vs as male when they are “deeper down” and “easier to ignore.”

It’s really interesting to me, as I had always assumed that these differences were social constructs which were favoured because of their benefit to patriarchy.

One notable aspect that is often noted not to be obviously affected by male hormones within normal ranges, is aggression levels. In these examples, the presence of male or female levels of testosterone seems not to do anything to the person’s levels of aggression.

Just thought I’d share all this because I have been doing lots of learning and it is really shaking my view of the world… If you have the time/inclination to read books I highly recommend Whipping Girl by Julia Serano which lays out many kinds of contributions transexuals (particularly trans women) can make to feminism, as well as talking about why they have had such difficulty doing such… A very interesting take on gendered experience and I think worth taking on board.

Gwen

Comment by Gwen

“Why are they so invested in producing men and women?”

Yet another strong division between working people. As you know, the bosses and heads of state thrive because of their ability to make us believe that we are all so different, and therefore less likely to join together and rebel.

Comment by Liberte Locke




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