It’s International Women’s Day!

I was reminded that the day this post first appears is March 8, which has been designated as International Women’s Day, so despite the fact that I had another post almost finished, I decided that I should write about women.

I mean, I am a woman. While I like a lot of things coded male — swords, for example — I am definitely not male. In fact, my current go-to answer when asked to name my gender is “not male.”

And while I find the idea of non-binary attractive, especially since I do not fit particularly well in many of the niches coded female and am fine with “they” as well as “she” when it comes to pronouns, I am a woman. I am also very sure that nobody gets to tell me what that means.

In particular nobody gets to tell me it means wearing pink or wanting babies or civilizing men, not to mention that nobody ever — EVER — gets to tell me that I can’t do such and such because I’m a girl.

I resisted that lie as much as I could while growing up, which, of course, meant that I never fit in much of anywhere.

I still don’t fit in much of anywhere, but one of the best things about getting old is that you don’t give a fuck.

I’ve done some things to push boundaries in my life, like criticize sexist practices in organizations, go to law school back when women didn’t much, and get a fourth degree black belt in Aikido, but here’s the thing I’m proudest of:

I love my body.

I came to this love through martial arts because I discovered in training how my whole body informs who I am. So part of this love is the fact that my senses and the way I move are integrated into who I am.

But also, I’m capable of looking at my naked body in the mirror and enjoying the shape of it, the curves of my hips and breasts, the width of my shoulders, the strength in my chest and legs, my height.

I don’t have a supermodel body; my height’s in my torso, not my legs, and there’s no way I could get skinny enough to fit into those tiny clothes even if I wanted to because my bone structure is too large.

Also, I like food way too much to starve myself. It’s my understanding these days that, despite all the uproar about obesity, being what is labeled “overweight” is actually healthier than being “normal,” not to mention “underweight.”

Which is to say that our norms for health and weight are completely entangled with our norms for beauty and it’s hard to take any of them seriously. I claim overweight with some pride.

Another thing I’m proud of is that I am not afraid of men. Continue reading “It’s International Women’s Day!”

Gender and Chess

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) is blocking transwomen from competing in women’s chess tournaments.

No one has come out and said it, but it’s clear that this is rooted in the misogynistic belief that women are inferior to men when it comes to chess. As with the bans on transwomen in physical sports competition, the underlying assumption is that someone assigned male at birth is clearly “naturally” better at chess than someone assigned female, and transition doesn’t take away that advantage.

However, a person assigned female at birth who has won women’s chess competitions will lose their titles if they transition to male. Apparently FIDE is recognizing that a transman counts as a man, even before they transition.

I gather FIDE sees the act of transitioning to male as confirmation that the person is not an inferior being and therefore should not compete in an inferior category.

Transwomen, on the other hand, will not lose the titles they won in male competitions before transitioning. That this is ludicrous doesn’t change the reasoning.

Of course, none of this makes any sense. There is in fact no reason at all for chess competitions to be divided by gender, except for the fact that chess has been dominated by men and women’s competitions are a way for women to get their feet in the door.

The assumption that women are inherently inferior at the skills of chess is just another misogynistic tool for blocking their participation. Continue reading “Gender and Chess”

What We Can Do

Reading Lyz Lenz’s latest newsletter (“Thank You, Dads of YouTube” ) brought me to the edge of tears.

It wasn’t her success at fixing her washer that got me. It was the fact that a woman much younger than I am still grew up surrounded by the belief that there were things women couldn’t do.

As someone old enough to remember how important this issue was in second wave feminism 50 years ago, it breaks my heart to know that so many people are still growing up with these stunted beliefs.

I don’t doubt that it’s true. It’s why I hope to teach some more self defense classes if we ever get enough of a handle on the pandemic for me to feel comfortable in a room full of people learning to yell “No.” Way too many women still believe that the fact that the average man is a little stronger than the average woman means they can’t protect themselves.

Spending half my life in the martial arts watching small people kick the asses of big people did that one in for me. I want to make sure other people know it, too.

We did make legal progress in the second wave, though the recent outrageous action of the partisan hacks on the US Supreme Court in nullifying the right to abortion by allowing a clearly unconstitutional Texas law to take effect is damaging legal rights as well.

(I was in law school when Roe v. Wade was decided. That was also a Texas case and I have met the lawyer who brought it — she was also my state representative back in the day.)

The same hacks also dismantled voting rights laws. It is not just women under attack in our society.

The extremist attacks make me angry, but the fact that so many women are still buying into the myths we fought to overcome in the 1970s is what breaks my heart. Continue reading “What We Can Do”