Gender Policing

How to Change the World One Shrug at a Time

I love this response I found on Jezebel from Eddie Izzard, a British comedian famous for dressing up in women’s clothes (and professing his heterosexuality, or better yet as being straight transvestite or a male lesbian). It is such a simple response, and also speaks to the ludicrousness of gendered affiliations of clothing. It also demonstrates another double standard among men and women, where women are freely able to dress in men’s clothing without having their sexuality questioned (it’s simply fashion, them playing a role). The same cannot be said for men, who do not have that same liberty. Jezebel notes:

The phenomenon of being questioned about one’s performance of gender is called “gender policing.” Generally there are three ways to respond to gender policing: (1) apologize and follow the gender rules, (2) make an excuse for why you’re breaking the rules (which allows you to break them, but still affirms the rules), or (3) do something that suggests that the rules are stupid or wrong. Only the last one is effective in changing or eradicating norms delimiting how men and women are expected to behave.

It’s very true; most of us presented with the line of questioning Izzard received regarding his gender representation would probably apologize for not fitting into other people’s prescribed gender norms. The challenge is to showcase exactly why these norms are problematic and ludicrous for our own personal identity.