Wednesday, December 07, 2005

seasonal gender

It's officially cold here; the "feels like" temperature--as opposed to the actual temperature--isn't supposed to get out of the single digits today. I've been thinking a bit about cold-related things as I freeze my ass off on el platforms and such, about the gendering and ungendering nature of winter clothing in cold places and the ways in which people (especially women) seem to be trying to re-assert their gendered roles despite the weather. I started thinking about this because I was thinking about this lesbian movie called Salmonberries with kd lang in it that takes place in Alaska. I haven't seen it, but Judith Halberstam's synopsis/review of it as a butch movie in Female Masculinity makes a lot of the fact that the eroticism in the movie is related to the fact that almost everybody is swaddled in a great deal of clothing most of the time. When you're buried beneath 5 layers of clothes, in other words, it's insanely sexy when suddenly part or all of you is naked. This reminded me of how Lane, a Tucson guy who grew up in Chicago, told me that spring was inevitably sexy here for him because that's when women start wearing skirts again after a winter of bundling. Maybe when he lived here that's how it was, but several times this week I've seen women wearing shortish skirts and no pantyhose even. I couldn't believe it. It's 3 degrees out! It really makes me wonder about how far we're willing to go to look sexy. Why would you wear something bound to lead to you freezing your ass off? Not to get into that Gloria Steinem quote about masochists and feminists, but don't you have to be a little masochistic to wear a short skirt and bare legs in wintertime Chicago? But maybe it's an attempt to key into that "bare skin in the midst of almost total absence of bare skin=super sexy" vibe that Halberstam was talking about.
Anyway, I wonder a lot of other things too. Winter coats can be very de-gendering, obviously. When everybody looks like a puffball, there's potentially much less distinction between the various genders and presumably less subsequent enforcement aimed towards alternately gendered bodies. What does this mean for transgendered people, or non-gender-normative people, or anybody? I don't know, but it seems like there might be some interesting connections. Does it seem possible or probable that people have different gender perceptions of themselves and others based on the season, the outside temperature, and how they accordingly have to present themselves? I like to think of gender as being a fluid thing, that you change your gender (or your gender changes, put more appropriately maybe) even just a tiny bit to suit your moment-to-moment desires, needs, actions, and interactions. So seasonal gender makes sense to me. It depends maybe on whether you think gender presentation is the same or at least related to gender as a personal identification or whatever.
Anyway, this has gone on to long, and I've been spending too much time out in the cold. I've changed this post three times already because I'm home and lazy and killing time I should be using to practice, and because I keep getting annoyed at what I've written, so I'm just going to leave it alone now.

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