Friday, March 3, 2017

The Delicate Question Of Gender

I was rather chuffed last year to chair the launch of the book A Suitable Lie by my good friend and fellow reprobate crime writer Michael Malone.  If you are lucky you might meet him at Bouchercon.

An interesting sign for the loo!

He has the look of Sigmund Freud if Sigmund Freud had possessed a passion for chocolate muffins.

The book has been published to critical acclaim, not only is it well written but it is the story of the insidious slide of a man who loves a woman and how he is beguiled into accepting the physical abuse that she subjects him to.  It’s a subject rarely talked about, and as Michael says is usually greeted with a laugh; female on male domestic violence. Something that would be totally unacceptable if the genders were the other way around.

One of the few times I have been called to court as an expert witness was for a man who had been badly hurt by his wife.  As seems to be normal in these cases, the guy was built like a brick shit house and the woman was tiny. But she caught him by the collar and swung him round and pushed him into the cooker where the top grill caught him right between the shoulder blades causing a very nasty whiplash to his neck. I’m still not sure how seriously the sheriff took the extent of his injury but my patient definitely took it as a sign to get out of that marriage pronto.

I had been quite careful gathering the information about the subject for the launch and was trying to address a serious issue in a way that was engaging but not flippant, and it was only later that Michael told me he had been concerned because there were some parties in the audience who simply didn’t believe it was a bone fide issue, or if they did believe it; it wasn’t relevant as women are always the victims and a woman who has to physically abuse a man has been the bigger victim in the past.  Those parties in the audience were of both genders.
He told me that after the event though, trusting in my ability to halt any gender politics heckling in its path by saying 'a victim is a victim, is a victim' and the one that’s doing the hitting is a baddie and that’s really the end of the story.
And that really brings me to the perplexing nature of this blog. 
I have been asked to join a movement in Scotland called something like …  well actually I don’t know because I was so incensed I just started using the words numpty and ballycaddy but it’s got the words 'Scottish', 'woman' and 'arts' in it and it’s a lot of feminists promoting Scottish women in art and we have to join this group – and it is a group to my mind that ignores 50% of the populace so in what way does that bring us to equality?

I have gone into therapy recently because I found myself agreeing with Piers Morgan when he said that he wanted to plan a march for mens’ rights – he did say they were all set to go but his wife wouldn’t let him out.  But I do think he has a point.  There is a writing magazine aimed only at women and it has competitions that are women only. I know if I saw that a writing competition was for men only I would be incensed. So why do I accept one and not the other? 
Gender politics seems to have lost a sense of being equal. 
The SNP are very keen that there is a fifty fifty representation between the genders and that’s a policy that’s not really been thought through. They should have stopped at the policy, people being good at the job, regardless the hormonal status of their pituitary. 
At the end of the day that’s all it comes down to no matter how many letters you want to put on it … how many do we have now?  We have male, female, transgender, LGBQ.... any more for any more? 
But that all somehow disappears into insanity when two people on a representative board who have done their job very well have to face the fact that one of them has to 'go' for an unknown quantity that might have not the smallest iota of an idea of what they are supposed to be doing, simply so there is a gender mix on the board rather than two of the same.  The issue is the public didn’t get to decide, the candidates were chosen in a closed room purely on the grounds of gender.  I’m glad to say that the one with the testosterone that lost his candidacy is standing as an independent and will probably win purely on the fact that he was ousted purely  due to his gender.

And slightly more worrying is a confusion of gender and sexuality - certainly in the media and definitely on social media. Take the case of the seventeen year old girl with severe alopecia she had not one hair on her body, no eyebrows, no nothing.  On talking to her, she was adamant in her mind that sexuality is floating and it can go off in any direction it feels happy with which is probably perfectly true.  She was also convinced that gender was also a floating issue.  I tried to explain in the sense of it being a spectrum it absolutely is, but in the field of nature there are two genders and like it or not everybody falls into one or the other category. And tends to stay there.
Unless you are a certain species of fish, who really do have floating genders in every sense.
If a human  decides to leave their gender category and move into another one, that’s a huge emotional, physical and chemical step and not to be taken without support.  It is not easy as social media would have us believe.  And I think we do those who are gender confused a disservice if we make out that it’s easy. 

Like most people brought up in the years of hard industry, there is a family history in my clan of girls being girls and boys being boys but the same chances were offered to either gender.  Girls wore skirts but to be perfectly honest so did the boys, as this is kilt land. And then my cousin had a child born male and from the minute that child was born he has liked pink, lace, playing with dolls, wearing ladies clothes.  His parents have allowed him to make his own choices.  He wears his hair long, sometimes tied up in a clasp, and by the age of 8 or 9 was going to school in a dress.  Now he’s in secondary school he is accepted as a girl but he is not.  He’s a fortunate young person that he’s intelligent and can vocalise his arguments very eloquently but he is a she and is now called by a female name.  It’ll be interesting to know what life has in store for … her.
Caro Ramsay 03 03 2017


  1. I'm really glad you said that. All of that. Bravo.

  2. Can't argue, and wouldn't if I were inclined. There's already too much arguing and not enough laissez-faire... sorry, not sure what the Scottish term would be... ballswingasdaydo?

  3. Well, see Vida's studies of percentages of books reviewed by men and women, of the book reviewers, etc. There is still nowhere near parity for women writers and reviewers. It is an issue, even for the most read and most well-known newspapers and ezines. And there are male reviewers who still only read and review books written by men.

    And on gender, young people are changing this concept. First, there are a lot of people who are intersex (used to be called hermaphrodites) because of variations in human reproduction, and this is a physical phenomenon. It's caused by many factors and is a fascinating subject.

    Second, gender norms are changing over here, at least. Young people are changing them. There are transgender people and also gender non-conforming people. And many young folks believe that gender identity is fluid, and live accordingly. I have listened and read columns and statements on this and have expanded my thinking after seeing and hearing young people explain this issue.

    On intersexism: A wonderful novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, "Middlesex," which won the Pulitzer in 2003, fictionalizes the intersex issue. It's about someone who has an inherited chromosomal variation, appears to be female at birth, but during puberty, develops male traits. And in this case, it's due to an inherited genetic trait found in only three countries.

    And this has come up in sports competitions, including the Olympics as physical examinations can show one gender, while hormonal and DNA tests show another.

    There are a lot of variations in early embryonic development which cause intersexism, and the latest articles show this is a much more common situation that one knows.

  4. You are absolutely right Kathy. Indeed The NightHunter is about a woman who started to display an expression of testosterone due to an embryonic issue. And the issues of some female 800 metre runners have long been the subject of public debate that has intruded on their medical confidentiality as a human being.
    I therefore do not see why we ( in Scotland ) are doing this 50 50 split. People are people, regardless of what their pituitary is up to, (and the more we find out, the more fascinating the subject of gender is.)
    My friend read this blog. He sits on the board a big legal firm -80% male, 20% female. And he had a good long think about why that was....which just might be the subject of another blog...

  5. Also, a friend just called me and told me about a gathering she attended this weekend. The question of gender identity came up. The middle-aged and older folks said "he, his" or "she, her," but the younger people used non-gender specific words, "they, their, them." They don't want to be held to a strict definition of gender.

    This is what's happening now over here.

    Youth always shake things up in everything, including language. I'm trying to adapt and learn from them.

    In fact, in editing, which I do, instead of saying "Latino" or "Latina," young people are saying "Latinx," as they do not want to use a gender identity. This is changing on college campuses around the country.