In the Media
Boys Have a Penis: Girls Have a China
4 November 2003
MEDIA — The other day I decided to look through my boyfriend's latest copy of Maxim magazine, because I was curious what the magazine was telling him about women. I will admit that I was combing the pages with a very critical eye, and mostly from a feminist perspective. Of course I found something equally appalling and degrading on almost every page, but nothing quite as amazing as the page devoted to "How to Cure a Feminist: Turn an unshaven, militant, protesting vegan into in actual girl!"
The title of the article got me thinking about how our society places men and women into their specific categories. This title obviously implies that if you are a feminist, a vegan or someone who stands up for what she believes in, then you are obviously not a "real girl." So what does that mean? What is a real girl? According to Maxim, a real girl is a thin, beautiful one, with straight hair, sultry makeup, a sexy bra and panties that she is pulling off just for you because your Camaro makes her "so hot!"
Included with the handy step-by-step instructions for curing a feminist is a continuum of pictures that range from what a feminist looks like (bare feet, baggy pants, wife beater, hairy armpits, uncombed hair, a scowl and a cigarette) to the "real girl" I described above.
From the day children are old enough to begin questioning such things, they are told that the differences between men and women are in plumbing.
Boys have a penis, and according to me when I was 6, "girls have a china."
So I'm wondering, is this really what defines a person's gender? Are we all equal amounts of woman because we all have vaginas and breasts? Or is someone more of a woman than I am because her breasts are bigger than mine are? On the flip side, it is common for men to refer to their penises as their "manhood" and to feel inadequate or less manly due to the size or performance of their penises. So should women do the same? And why do they do that? What part of society, or growing up, or their own images of men in the media makes them think that the bigger your penis is, the more of a man you are?
Or, is our gender defined not as much by our appearance on the surface, but by who we are on the inside and how that projects to the outside, as this Maxim article would imply? When I show up at school in sweatpants and tennis shoes, without having showered or shaved in a few days am I less of a woman than the girl next to me who curled her hair and put a skirt on this morning is? Or do men just see me as less of a woman even though I am really the same? When I am "being a feminist," do men see me as less womanly? Theheadline of the article would imply that you are not a real girl if you do not shave your armpits; you are militant, you protest things that you don't agree with or believe in, and that you do not eat meat. In essence, if you protest the patriarchy, and go against any medieval ideas of what a woman should be, then you are not in fact a woman.
I realize that this is a lot of questions and not a lot of answers, but that's how gender identity issues go.
We live in a society where we consistently feel the need to categorize people: male/ female, black/white, straight/ gay, etc., leaving a whole bunch of people disheartened while they check the "other" box. As with many things, gender is not something that is cut and dry, it is merely about how you feel. Someone who was born with the anatomy of a female but identifies as a man is just as much of a man as the big, burly truck driver drinking beer and re-adjusting himself. And someone who was born with the anatomy of a male but identifies as a female has just as much of a right to call herself a woman as I do. Despite what Maxim or Cosmo say, there is no checklist to determine someone's gender. So to those of you who identify as women, if you don't want to shave your armpits then start braiding; you're still a beautiful woman to me. And to those of you who identify as gentlemen, if you would like to shave your legs then by all means, shave on; you are still as handsome and manly as ever to me.
Melissa is a senior majoring in English. Her column runs every Tuesday.
Source: by Melissa Snow © 2003 Colorado State Collegian Source
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