The Trouble with Androgyny

Girl babies should be given androgynous names to do better in business. I’ve heard this idea before but was reminded when reading this CBC article about a woman who posed as a man and made more money writing than she had as a woman.

I’ve actually met people who named their daughters something androgynous to somehow better prepare them for the future. And while the trick might serve the girls well in business (at least, as long as they don’t ever have to speak to anyone or meet them in person) it’s just another example of a bastardized feminism that teaches girls to get respect by being more like men (or how we perceive men to be) rather than actually demanding respect for what they are: Women.

We see it everywhere. With the rise of raunch culture, women learn to fuck like a man in television shows like Sex and the City, and girls grow up thinking that posing for playboy is the best way to express their sexuality. To quote Ariel Levy:

There is a widespread assumption that, simply because my generation of women has the good fortune to live in a world touched by the feminist movement, that means everything we do is magically imbued with its agenda. But it doesn’t work that way. “Raunchy” and “liberated” are not synonyms. It is worth asking ourselves if this bawdy world of boobs and gams we have resurrected reflects how far we’ve come, or how far we have left to go.

This cultural shift erases diversity in our understanding of women by disallowing the things that are perceived as traditionally “feminine.” Admitting emotion is bad, femininity is weak, and sexual passivity means you’re not really in touch with your desires.

While many women may want to have tons of uncommitted sex, never talk about feelings, and juggle long work hours with families, they’re not all women.  Women, like men, cannot be understood as a singular group. They have similarities – some stronger than others – but they are not homogeneous.

Men get it too.  Though they still live a privileged life in many ways, the expectation that women act like “men” also assumes that all men are the caricatures we see on television shows.  While asserting their new aggressive “feminine” side, women have learned to devalue traits in men that were once considered traits of women – all of which are understood as weaknesses.

Equal treatment is often confused for sameness. But there’s no harm in actually admitting that men and women are different. The harm comes in the value placed on that difference, and the perceptions of what those differences mean.

Unless we stop lowering ourselves to some mythical level of sameness rather than expecting the world to raise itself up to a level of understanding, acceptance, and celebration nothing is ever going to change.  But just in case, maybe I’ll change my name to John.


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