Sunday, 14 July 2013

More about stuff.

I have a theory about stuff: It's just stuff. Not a very original theory perhaps. Indeed, I've said it before myself, but there it is: Stuff is just stuff. It's all stuff that people do. Probably most of us would like most of it to some degree. It's all good stuff. Some stuff we might like more than other stuff. Some stuff we'll have greater inclinations towards, some we'll have lesser inclinations. But it doesn't matter. It's all just stuff.

Except that there are rules about stuff. Stuff gets gendered. It's still all just stuff, but we call it "men's stuff", "boys' stuff", "women's stuff", "girls' stuff". Boys and men aren't supposed to do girls' and women's stuff. Girls and women aren't supposed to do boys' and men's stuff. And since we're aren't supposed to do some stuff, most of us don't do some stuff. We decide we don't want to do some stuff. But there's still a lot of other stuff to do, and that's good stuff too. So, even if the stuff we aren't supposed to do might have been good as well, we don't really miss it. There's plenty of good stuff either way. So the gendering of stuff doesn't bother us all that much.

But then there are those of us who are highly inclined to do that other stuff, the stuff that is gendered away from us, the stuff we aren't supposed to do. And then the gendering of stuff certainly does bother us. But because we are highly inclined towards that other stuff, we want to do it anyway, we really want to do it, and often we will do it. And then we come into conflict with people who think the gendering of stuff is real, that there really is women's and girls' stuff, men's and boys' stuff. And because the world is arranged that way, it's natural to assume that the world must actually be that way, that the rules about stuff and gender are proper rules. And perhaps, when those rules are challenged or broken, those people get cross, because they think this is the way the world really is and should be. But it isn't. It's all just stuff.

Anyway, that's my theory: People are just people and stuff is just stuff. There isn't a continuum of gender, with male at one end, female at the other, and some sort of androgyny in the middle. There are just people, with all our similarities and differences (some of which are morphological). Instead, what we have is a continuum of stuff, with some stuff gendered male at one end, some stuff gendered female at the other end, and not-particularly-gendered stuff in the middle. And this continuum of gendered stuff is completely made up. It's only real because we make it real each and every day. (I think I might call my theory "performativity for dummies".) Every time we accept the gendering of stuff, every time we say – or allow someone else to say – that some particular stuff is gendered female or male, we make it so. But it's all just stuff really.

So (note to self) don't allow anyone to tell you ever again that some stuff is gendered. That you can't do some stuff, you can't like some stuff, you can't want some stuff because gender. Nuts to that. Nuts to them. It's all just stuff. And it's time – way past time – people got over themselves about stuff.


  1. Is stuff like hashtags? Some stuff has it.... and you can ignore as you see fit.

    Conformity, my arse. ;-)

  2. Yes, I'm ignoring the gender hashtags :)

  3. Politically I am all in favour of degendering culture.

    Yet in a post-sexist society, there would remain male and female bodies, and there would remain sexuality, which doesn't seem to be gender-indifferent.

    Do my impulses completely tally with the progressive liberalism of my head?

    I think the thrill of male femme is in its transgression. I don't think it is a predilection for things that just happen to have been labelled feminine. The pleasure in male femme is more than just a protest against unnecessary sexist distinction, I think. xx

    (As the presence of this comment might suggest, my retirement proved to be a debacle.)

  4. Welcome back, Deborah :)

    Actually I'm not exactly in favour of degendering culture myself, rather in divorcing it from binary sex. Let people's gender be what it is, without imposed rules, without someone saying, for instance, "you're a guy – your gender has to be this", or whatever. Given that personal freedom, I quite like gender – as long as it doesn't also include gender hierarchies anyway.

    Transgression – sure, that can be fun too :) . But my own femme is about predilection, I think. It goes back as early as I can remember, and it was only later (though still very young) that I understood it was "forbidden" to me as a boy.

    As for femme itself: for me, it's more than just a "predilection for things ... labelled feminine". It's also an erotic identity, in that it combines both gender and sexuality. See, for example, this post from April 2011. I might go back and revisit that some time.

  5. Thanks J. I'm not sure how consciously transgressive my original femme impulses were. I strongly agree about femme being an erotic identity. For me the keenest political goal is to support a community identifying with that erotic identity. Anti-sexism is secondary. xx