It’s Pat!-Privilege December 13, 2009Posted by FCM in entertainment, feminisms, gender roles, health, PIV, pop culture, race, rape, self-identified feminist men, trans.
Tags: julia sweeney, motherhood, pat, saturday night live, the fistula foundation, trans
theres been a lot of talk lately both here and elsewhere about what i describe as gender-bending. the trans- are doing it. the queer-identified are doing it. the GLBs might be doing it, and the non-gender-conforming straights too.
but no matter how gender-bendy any of us first-world privileged people think we are being (i make more money than my spouse, and i am a hardass! give me a prize!) one fact remains, and i think feminists everywhere need to take a hard look at it. women in other parts of the world, in *most* parts of the world in fact, and in the rural and urban-poor first-world too, are being oppressed based on not their gender, but their born-sex. how can you tell? they have a gaggle of kids following behind them calling them mommy, thats how. either that, or they are being injured or killed in childbirth. because world-wide, womens female gender-role as heterosexual wives and mothers are as rigorously enforced upon them as is their born-sex. they dont have a choice. and to whatever extent *we* have a choice there, we are privileged.
you may or may not remember the character “pat” from saturday night live, but i am certain that i am dating myself by using the reference. heres what wiki has to say:
Pat (whose full name was revealed on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” as Pat O’Neil Riley) was a somewhat overweight character with short, curly black hair who wore glasses and a blue western-style shirt with tan slacks. The character spoke in a nasally voice that sometimes squeaked. Pat apparently suffered from very sweaty palms, and constantly wiped them on his/her clothing while making a strange whimpering sound, further adding to the character’s unappealing quality. Sweeney wore no makeup and colored her lips beige to further hide any sex identity clues.
The sketches always involved the celebrity guest hosts of the show playing everyday people who encounter Pat and then go to great lengths to discover Pat’s true gender without being so rude as to actually ask (since Pat can be short for either “Patrick”, a traditionally male name, or “Patricia”, a traditionally female name). Pat remained completely oblivious, endlessly frustrating the questioners with answers that leave the character’s sex vague. The character often made statements that seemed to reveal a sex, only to then immediately confuse things again. (A typical example might be, “Sorry if I’m a little grumpy, I have really bad cramps… I rode my bike over here, and my calf muscles are KILLING me!”) In another sketch, Pat tells Kevin Nealon that his/her name is Pat Riley, same as the coach of the Lakers, “except there’s a big difference between him and me. I’m not the coach of a professional basketball team.” Other gags included Pat’s attempts at humor, which served to confuse everyone further, such as when asked what Pat is short for, the character would reply, Pat is short for “P-a-a-a-a-a-t!”, or when asked in an application for sex, Pat responded “Please!”. Another joke was when Pat was asked the full name, to which the character responded that Pat almost never referred to the character’s self by the middle name, as it was embarrassing, to which an eager audience was filled in that it was “O’Neill”, again continuing the joke.
The character was popular enough to spawn a feature length 1994 film called It’s Pat (from the lyrics of the character’s theme song on Saturday Night Live). In the film, Pat meets Chris, another sexually ambiguous character played by Dave Foley. (On SNL, Chris had been played by Dana Carvey.) They quickly fall in love and propose to each other at the exact same time. Before the wedding, however, Chris breaks up with Pat on account of Pat’s arrogance and the fact that Pat cannot decide on a direction in life.
now, its telling, isnt it, that these are the cues that most americans believe signal gender: arrogance and being unable to find a direction in life are typically male qualities (or rather, a decent reason to dump a man who isnt measuring up as a partner). as is proposing marriage. hair, clothing and voice are visual and auditory cues to a persons sex, and first-names are meant to help us identify a persons sex, not their gender, before that person ever enters the room (as in a resume). but these things are trite, and trivial. when the number-one signifier world-wide of whether someone is female is whether she is being dominated by male relatives, and made to be a wife and mother, without anyone ever asking her whether thats what she wants.
i have linked to this documentary before, but i think its message bears repeating, particularly in light of the recent conversations on this blog about transactivism, and sex-positive transwomen and what they have added and taken away from feminist discourse relatively recently. which is the recognition and discussion about how sex-female is an oppressed class, around the world.
this gender-bendy shit is a first-world invention as it relates to women: whether they are sexually attracted to other women, or want to or actually do wear pants and a fedora is completely irrelevant in most places, because born-women are dominated and enslaved, sexually, socially, economically, and in every other way from the time they are born to the time they die.
which often happens to coincide directly with their attempting to give birth, when they arent physically able to do so, having been married off at young ages and impregnated, often by men who for all appearances are serial child-rapists and end up serially murdering multiple child-brides in this fashion, moving from one to the next after their young “wives” are permanently disfigured or die as a result or prolonged and obstructed labor. the documentary is embedded below, its about an hour long but its well worth watching, as it highlights the problem of child-brides and obstetric fistula in ethiopia.
again, i think its the radfems who are taking these things to heart, and considering womens lives, lived-experience and oppression around the world. its the radfems who are doing the heavy lifting in this regard, when everyone else just wants to talk about gender. fuck gender. its really not my concern, and it shouldnt become the main concern of any feminist, or critical thinker, anywhere.