Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Women Come In All Shapes, Body Sizes, Hairstyles and Genitalia Configurations

One of the silver linings in this jacked up Caster Semenya situation is that it's fostering a serious discussion around the planet about the parameters of femininity.

Trans and intersex people can already tell you that gender is not an either/or immutable proposition. Just as there is a continuum of sexuality, there is one for gender as well.

Anyone who remembers their reality based science classes knows that you get half your genetic material from mommy and half your genetic material from daddy.

That leads to some very interesting variations and combinations of traits alleged to belong to the 'opposite' gender that can be mixed and matched in a masculine or feminine bodied person.

There are masculine bodied persons who are short with small hands and feet. Conversely, there are feminine bodied people who are tall, have large hands and wear double digit shoe sizes.

Then you have those peeps that Mother Nature got creative with and did the mixing and matching of various traits and chromosome patterns.

One of the things we have to realize in this evolving femininity discussion is that for centuries, the standard of beauty is a narrow Eurocentric one that by default 'others' women of color.

Black women have particularly suffered because of this beauty standard. Thanks to slavery, for centuries myths and falsehoods peddled as 'scientific facts' were used along with religious dogma to justify denying the humanity of African descended people.

Contrary to what some people believe, the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's didn't magically make that negative history disappear. Those centuries old ideas and myths are still stubbornly part of our culture today.

As philosopher Simone de Beauvoir observed, 'One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.'

On the way to womanhood, some of us were fortunate to be born in feminine bodies at birth. Others of us had to work at morphing into our feminine bodies as fast as we could later in life.

But it's past time to recognize that women come in all shapes, body sizes, hairstyles, hair colors, and genitalia configurations.

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