Gender Bender

I wake up pretty early to go to the gym. I’m usually walking there before the sun has come up, and while there are lights around campus and it is generally well lit, there is still an uneasiness about me, as most girls feel while walking in the dark. There have been too many stories of awful things happening to girls on college campuses, so naturally, I keep my guard up. I find that there are times when I am walking within sight of a male and I feel my heart rate increase and my palms start to get sweaty. I immediately think of ways to fight back, or I try to tell myself that I’ve been running for a while, I could probably outrun them. Every encounter has blown over without incident, but it doesn’t mean I am any less scared the next time around.

 

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As I was walking one day, a thought occurred to me: I am not a typical female. Sure, I identify as such, but my hair is short and sometimes I wear traditionally male clothing. Most of my athletic clothes are loose to the point of not being able to tell my gender.
When I go to the gym in the mornings, I always wear my hat backwards because I’m too lazy to correct my bedhead at 5:30 in the morning. Ever since I got my hair cut, I’ve been misgendered by people. The worst incident was after I ran a race and I went to put my time card in the female basket and the lady working the table was so adamant I was a boy, she would not let me put my card in the basket myself. She kept correcting me until she finally looked at my face and realized. These things don’t really bother me anymore, I’ve gotten used to it, and if this class has taught me anything, it’s that labels don’t really matter. But, I began to wonder, does this put me in a different category? In our society, males are generally left alone when by themselves. Not many people think about attacking a male (even if they’re 5’1 and scrawny). So, by appearing to be a male to some people, am I safe from attacks that might befall a female? Possibly.

 

If this is the case, then maybe I am creating my own immunity, as Esposito would say. On page 6 of the Esposito reading, he claims that immunitas is an exemption and a privelege. This is interesting, especially in my case. If strangers perceive me as male, as I receiving the male privelege of not being attacked as I walk down the sidewalk in the early hours of the morning? Am I exempt from the terrifying reality that most women face?

 

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These questions are hard to answer because either I’ve been lucky thus far, or I truly am experiencing a type of immunity that protects me from the horrors of this society. But, I think the fact that I have been misgendered so often in the past presents evidence for the latter. It is not a solid foundation of fact, but I think it proves that people are able to create a certain level of immunity for themselves. If we look at other cases of attacks on woman, they tend to be the fairly typical females: long hair, pretty, skinny. Now, this is not to say that no other female gets attacked, but maybe this is more evidence that immunity plays a huge role on chances. It may be possible that the types of females described above lack the immunity females like me enjoy. Is this fair? No, not at all. This type of immunity shouldn’t have to come into play, but it seems like it certainly does in determining who is or isn’t at risk in situations like these.

References

Esposito, R. (2013). Immunitas: the protection and negation of life (Z. Hanafi, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity.

 

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One thought on “Gender Bender

  1. I used to have really short hair and I presented very masculine and I experienced this, too. I often wonder at what point I gained the fleeting immunity of reading as male and at what point I face the new dangers of looking like an unintelligible figure. For the people who might attack me for being a woman would surely also attack me for being a gender-nonconforming woman. Maybe immunity can only ever be partial. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, even though my hair is long again.

    Liked by 1 person

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