As a trans woman, I’ve always been very aware of gendered spaces such as public toilets. Until recently I always had an underlying concern (if not plain fear) associated with entering such a space, an understanding of how such spaces are policed and how easy it is to be found wanting, and the consequences of such. I’m (very) lucky to pass as a cis woman well enough these days for that not to be so much of a problem.
However, the experiences of androgyne and genderqueer people I know have made me hyper-aware of the power of such spaces, and the symbols associated with them. Every time I want to go to the loo in public these days, I think, “woah, what an intense binary divide”. I’m faced with two doors, two categories which split humanity right down the middle and determine so many expectations and social controls. Woe betide those who don’t fit in well enough to go through either door without worrying about what will happen when they do so.
Similarly, when I went to the cinema earlier this week, I noticed that in every advert which featured a car, there was always a man and a woman. The man was always the active one: the driver. The woman always took the passive role in the passenger seat. One of these adverts wasn’t even for a car! This isn’t a coincidence.
Any advert where a team of people go out to do impressive physical feats in order to produce or promote a product usually has an all-male team. When there’s a woman, she’s usually “sexy” in a somewhat hardcore manner (power-dressing, sensible hairstyle) but inevitably remains in a nice, clean, safe office/base/aircraft carrier, appreciating the male action from afar.
These roles are everywhere, all the time, arising from and in turn subconsciously altering our behaviour and expectations. Sexism and transphobia don’t just pop up out of nowhere.
Hell, I’m even getting annoyed by those Sky Sports adverts up everywhere where some very macho looking famous sporty fellow wears a determined expression consistent with hegemonic masculine values. “Accept No Compromise” it blares. You’d never get a woman on one of these posters. Or, y’know, a gay man. Genderqueer people don’t even come into the equation, obviously.
Of course, if you really accepted no compromise, you’d be pretty unimpressed with the terrible service Sky can sometimes offer. Maybe I’d rather that non-(white, straight, cis etc) men weren’t on those stupid posters after all.