Friday, October 12, 2012

Kimmel- Quotes with reflection

"Feminism encourages men-and their sons- to be more emotionally open and expressive, to develop empathic skills, and to channel emotional outbursts away from violence. (158)

"Real boy crisis is a crisis of violence." (159)

"In their view, males are biologically propelled to be savage, predatory, sexually omnivorous creatures hard-wired for violence."


Boy am I glad I didn't read this at 21 in the midst of my early gender dysphoria. A lot of what Kimmel names was some of my deepest fears about coming out to myself and pursuing medical transition. I feared becoming one of these "savage" men, feared losing my feminism, feared perpetuating violence against other men, women who I held to the highest esteem, and the queers/lesbians I thought I was leaving behind. Its amazing how far your mind can take you when you let it race into dooms-ville. On the other hand its amazing to see how many things Kimmel names as "boy crisis" that were my crisis- so in an odd way its a validation of some inherent understanding of myself-my relationship to my own emotions, and my interactions with others.

I had a few places in the reading I had to pause and consider my own position. On page 158 when Kimmel entertains the argument of biological determinism versus privilege I understood his position. This juxtaposition was the crux of my fears of transition-that somehow testosterone would change me inately, and that the transition that resulted would leave me with this privilege that made me resent my history and anger at my present and future. What I can tell you is the following:

1. I don't think biological determinism is false. I think there are SOME differences between men and Women- between Estrogen predominant individuals and testosterone predominant individuals. HOWEVER- I think like Kimmel that it is the PRIVILEGE associated with these differences- and the VALUE placed on testosterone, maleness, and masculinity that is grossly problematic. For example- I know that testosterone has made my voice drop, my hair patterns change, my fat redistribute, my muscle growth change, my sleep pattern change, and my emotional responses shift in that its harder to cry because my emotions are not so close to the surface but easier to get frustrated or irritated (just to name a few). This is a reality. BUT- that doesn't mean that I should get bigger portions in the sandwich line at donovan, not get sexually harassed or treated like I don't know anything at the mechanic, not have to worry about getting followed at night (though I still do-and the first time a girl crossed the street to avoid me when it was just the two of us on a road I cried my eyes out) or have my voice heard first and taken more seriously in a classroom. I shouldn't have my anger or my attractions deemed the result of a slavery to my hormones.

2. It is this presentation of masculinity that is the crisis of boys in my humble opinion- not the violence that Kimmel names that is the problem- because while I think violence is the presentation of the problem it is not the root-much like a cough can be a symptom of a cold but bacteria is to blame. I do however find solace and agreement with Kimmel in his assessment of Feminism as the tool that can be used to redefine the crisis, and boyhood, and masculinity into something healthier and more closely aligned with a sense of gender equity.

3. The idea that men are slaves to their biology-hard-wired to primal instinct and nothing more- should be problematic not only to Women but to men as well. It is this very argument that helps to perpetuate rape culture, sexism, and violence against Women. It says that we cannot think critically and justly, that we cannot control our urges, and therefore we are something to be feared. It helps to foster the idea that Women are to be "protected" and "saved" from our impulses, that they are the weak victims of our testosterone driven force. It is a bad paradigm all around.

Thankfully, I can say that I am living proof that Feminism can be a tool for men who do not prescribe to the masculinity we have created for them. I am living proof that testosterone and biological difference does not have to be social hierarchy and epistemic violence. If you are curious about the way hormones have affected different people and their understanding of sex, gender, and socialization/privilege- I recommend The Testosterone Files  by Max Wolf Valerio an FTM man who writes about his process with hormones both personally and socially, She's Not the Man I Married by Helen Boyd the story of a Woman who is married to an MTF partner who underwent transition while they were together and the effect hormones have had on their relationship, youtube transition journals, or research things on intersex, hormone, or thyroid disorders as these groups of people have experience with hormone difference that may shed unique perspective on this piece.

Looking forward to class,


  1. I am a strong believer of boys/men violence is the result of so much frustration and less emotional release. Only my opinion!!!

  2. I certainly think that plays a role Nancy- we use the system of sexism to silence Women but the role of gender expectations hurts or polices men too- and that frustration and less emotional release is certainly part of that policing right? Did class help put some of this in a larger context?