Tag Archives: gender

Gendered Perspectives on USA Culture

The train doors slid open, and I moved through them with everyone else towards the elevators up to the surface streets. We strangers waited in silence for the elevator to arrive. When it got there, those with bicycles entered first and the rest of us filled in around them, although there was still ample space. Someone leaned heavily against me despite the empty part of the elevator. I fidgeted to clarify with motion that I was not an elevator rail. The leaner’s back remained pressed into me.

“Excuse me? Hi, yes, I am a person, not a wall.”

The leaner looked around at me, then shuffled off a few feet away into the big open space in the middle of the elevator. My eyes met those of another person standing on the other side of the bicycles. This was a person who looked like a woman in this culture just like I did, with eyes which held empathy for me. Silently, we admonished the patriarchy in that moment, both of us acknowledging and lamenting that this was the latest one in a series of events just like it.

That is what it is like to be treated the way USA culture treats a woman. To be unseen by men to the point of being treated like furniture in a very literal sense, and to have a sense of community with women which is quite unlike any other community that has welcomed me. American women’s culture has a lot more shared context than American culture in general, and that affects communication. A silent moment of eye contact and a pair of nodding heads with a particular facial expression was all it took for us to both know we were thinking about sexism, the atrocities of how women are treated, the obliviousness of men, and the fact that talking about it out loud in a closed space with this person still there was too dangerous to risk even with the other strangers present. After all, sometimes the people who do these things are also rapists and murderers. We’ve all heard the stories. The shared fear is part of the shared context.

Some years later, after I began my testosterone treatments but long before my facial hair grew in, I injured my foot. I was in a lot of pain, but I had an errand that could not wait. I dragged myself to the bus. As I entered, I saw someone rise from the handicap section and turn to talk to someone. I slid around behind the riser to take the only empty seat on the full bus, relieved by the instant reduction in foot pain.

“Hey! I was going to sit there!” said someone who looked like a woman. The person who had stood looked like a man, and had risen to give my admonisher the seat I occupied. Normally, I would have stood at that point.

“I have a foot injury,” I said. “I need to sit.”

“Yeah well I have had brain surgery!” the admonisher responded emphatically.

“Maybe if you ask someone else to stand up for you, they will,” I said.

The admonisher gasped and hemmed and hawed and made comments about how rude I was being, but did not ask anyone else to give up a seat. I looked down, unsure how to respond. After all, I had already mentioned my foot injury.

The admonisher fell silent and avoided looking at me until two stops later.

“Have a good day, Sir,” the admonisher said cheerily and exited. I was surprised by the complete 180 in how this person was treating me.

“I’m not a Sir!” I called out but it was too late; the person was gone.

It was not until that final exchange that I understood the conversation we had been having, because up until that point, I had thought that I was being perceived to be a woman. Women are so accustomed to being taken advantage of by men behaving in excruciatingly selfish ways that my admonisher probably did not believe that my foot was injured instead of taking my words at face value the way people had before I started testosterone. My lowered gaze was probably seen as an averted gaze, and that combined with my silence was probably interpreted as being yet again ignored by a man when trying to speak up about something important, rather than as the pensive confusion it was. If I had been seen as a woman, the other person might have recognized the confusion and checked in with me about a possible misunderstanding instead of continuing down a defensive path. The sudden cheery departure was probably a response to the common fear of being followed by a mean man from a bus.

I spent the rest of the bus ride disturbed by what had happened, and wondering how I was supposed to know how to interact with people if I can’t tell what gender they think I am. Even now after years of additional testosterone treatments, I still get both “Ma’am” and “Sir” every time I go to the grocery store.

The experience of being treated like a woman involves being ignored by more people than just men. Before I transitioned, I could say the same thing five times, in five different ways, trying desperately to get someone to listen to me, only to be either dismissed or totally ignored. I regularly spoke directly to groups or individuals of various genders and got silence in return, complete with a total lack of body language acknowledgement. I made regular asides to myself under my breath thinking no one could hear them.

Then I began my testosterone treatments. People started answering my muttered comments. I was astonished – and quite a bit embarrassed. Now, if I begin to speak, people of various genders will stop what they are doing to listen to me, even if I am not speaking to them directly. It’s as if I have stepped into a spotlight that follows me wherever I go. I intentionally relearned how and when to speak in order to handle that kind of power responsibly.

I do not believe that white cisgender men, having never experienced that contrast, understand the disproportionate power of their voices. And I don’t think most people recognize that they contribute to that power difference by listening to men and ignoring everyone else. Yes, non-men and feminists of all genders and political leanings do this too. After all, it is difficult to overcome cultural indoctrination. I am working to overcome this in myself by questioning whether I am truly listening with respect in my heart every time a woman speaks.

I refer to white cisgender men in particular above because cisgender men of other races are systematically silenced in a variety of contexts in ways that are often similar to what white women experience here in the USA. I recommend reading about that sometime.

My understanding of men’s culture is still in its infancy. The few all-men spaces I have been asked to join are uncomfortable for me. The values are so different from the values of women’s culture that I have trouble navigating these spaces due to the unfamiliarity. The things men do that I consider rude and hostile happen with far greater frequency in these spaces, and I wonder whether they see these things as rude and hostile. With the isolation caused by this pandemic, I have been unable to continue exploring these spaces. This is unfortunate, because that perspective would help round out this article.

Men, women, and nonbinary people each have a very different set of shared experiential context to the degree that it has created separate co-cultures. This affects how people speak to each other within these groups and also between them. Men and women who can also be either cisgender or transgender, which creates an additional overlay of shared experiences, and this also impacts communication. Thus I have found that while I prefer to just let people make assumptions and not bother with filling them in about my gender, this creates communication issues because it means that strangers and I are not on the same page about which communication culture I am coming from. This, to me, has highlighted the very different co-cultures associated with genders here in the USA in a way that contradicts everything I was taught in school about how wonderful it is that we have gender equality here.

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Why I am Closeted as “Transgender”

Growing up I was always perplexed by the world, but that was okay. I was a child, I wasn’t supposed to know everything. I’m still perplexed by much of the world, and that’s okay too. The world is a big place, and there is a lot to learn. But I digress.

I enjoyed learning more than anything. I was always on time to school. One of the things that confused me was other children not wanting to be in class.

I loved numbers and words, colors, sounds, science, and history. I didn’t care whether it was learning about shapes or art or science or ancient civilizations, I drank it all up. Figuring out things I didn’t know was something I thrived on. The scientific method itself fascinated me. I won first place in the school and county science fairs every year. I was the annoying kid who could find all the problems with your project and, in pointing them all out to you, truly believe that I was helping. I was baffled when the other kids expressed annoyance.

I also found other social norms puzzling. Why did my cousin say that it wasn’t okay for me to go shirtless on a sweltering East coast summer day when I was barely more than a toddler? Why did my mother agree with him? Why did I have to put on a shirt when he didn’t? Why did “being a girl” matter? Why did my mother – who taught my brother and I that gender didn’t matter – agree with him?

I truly did not think about my gender very often as a young child. It only came up when other people made a big deal out of it. And then, it felt gross in ways I never had words to describe.

Why did my friend in 7th grade turn his face into a wrinkled scowl and say, “why would a girl want to be tall?” when I was happy to be one of the tallest kids in my year? What did “being a girl” have to do with one’s preferences for one’s own height? It was the first time in a long time that I had even thought about my gender. And then he threw what he thought it was into my face to stop me from enjoying a simple fact of the nature of my existence.

It struck me for most of my years as a minor that gender was fake. Everyone seemed fundamentally the same to me, but everyone was also picking sides in some weird battle between boys and girls, as if the difference was existentially significant. It seemed to me that this just didn’t have to happen, that they were making it all up and making their own lives and each other’s harder. But, it was happening nonetheless. I was certain, if nothing else, that I was apart from all of it. As an adult, the bafflement has melted into empathetic grief. I have watched the battle of the sexes of childhood harden into systemic oppression. My sadness for the depths and reaches of the harms of sexism is something I don’t have words to express. And yet, it’s still something I am generally apart from except when other people make absurd assumptions about my gender and act according to their sexist social scripts.

When the great digital cultural migration of our lifetime happened and MySpace was abandoned for Facebook, I did not select a gender. It was not required, and for reasons I did not understand at that time I had a strong aversion to the question, so I left it blank. Later on Facebook participated in the tidal wave of binary gender washing over digital platforms. Facebook’s language changed from prompting users to speak about ourselves in third person in every post to a looser format, and they also began using pronouns to refer to users. Around that time, those of us who had not entered a gender got a pop up notice upon logging in to select male or female. No other options, no way to opt out. I refused to select one. Instead, I spent a few years going up to the address bar to retype the home page web address every time I logged on. This bypassed the screen, which no longer pops up for users like me. To this day certain plugins break because I have never entered a gender into Facebook.

Why did my friends sit me down in college to have an intervention and tell me that I needed to be more girly in order to attract a man? Why couldn’t I wear my keys on my belt loop with my big baggy hoodie and no makeup? Why didn’t they understand that gender was more complicated than just men and women? Why did they balk so very strongly when I tried to talk to them about that? I was right on the cusp of finally letting myself understand that I am not a binary person, but that conversation went so badly that it shoved me far deeper into the self-closet. (Yes, being closeted to yourself is a thing, and it’s often messy.)

I did finally emerge, after some years of additional college education, into a place in my own mind where I was capable of thinking critically about my gender. I stepped out of my internal closet directly into a giant question mark: Was I really “not a woman,” or did I just hate the way the world treats women? I would ask myself this for years, punctuated by long periods of stepping right back into that self-closet. Or maybe I just ignored it because to me gender was that irrelevant. Or maybe it just took so long because “both” didn’t occur to me as a possibility for an embarrassingly long time. I don’t really know, and frankly it was likely a combination of these and other factors as well.

Why did the management team at one of my first jobs, where I was a peon in a huge corporation, refuse to call me by my name? Why did they call me into a meeting with HR to insist both that I must use my legal name and that the company was not transphobic? How could they not see the ridiculousness in that? And why, when the name change became legal, did they keep using my false old name on official documentation no matter how many times I filed a request for my name to be changed to reflect my legal name?

I bought a chest binder, but I wasn’t trans, I told myself. I proudly told people about how I had circumnavigated Facebook’s gender inquiries, but I wasn’t trans. I bought myself my first packer (link is NSFW), but I wasn’t trans. I wasn’t. I wasn’t trans. I also wasn’t cis. I was and am something different, something apart from the system as it had always been described to me. Cis/trans is just another false binary, another social construct used for the ease of communication. There is nothing wrong with being either one of those things. It’s just not a model that is useful for describing me. I knew this on a fundamental level but I did not have the words to say it for years.

Eventually I moved to a new place filled with the kinds of laboratories and research facilities where I’m interested in working. This place is also filled with trans people and other people who are neither cis nor trans, just like me. They all told each other my pronouns were they/them behind my back. The lie spread like wildfire. I spent my first year there regularly correcting people in my trans, agender, and nonbinary circles: I do not use pronouns. That includes “they/them.” Why did some of them call me a TERF for speaking my truth about myself?

Why did one of the few cisgender people I dated in the new place after I moved insist that I could not be neither cis nor trans? Why did he insist I must be one or the other? Why did he insist I must be something I am not? Why was he more attached to his preconceived notions of a language he himself admits is flawed than he was to listening to what I, his partner, was saying about the truth of myself?

Why was I treated like a “TERF-y faker troll” by some of the local queer communities when I was honest about my gender and pronouns? Why were they so hung up on yet another false binary that they were more likely to consider me a TERF than honest, even though I was speaking purely about my own existence, something they themselves say should be honored and respected?

Why are false binaries so voraciously present here?

Why would I ever call myself something other than “trans” when honesty caused me so much frustration and pain? Heck, I can’t even bring myself to describe my true gender here in this post. I’m too afraid. So just call me “trans,” or “transgender” if formality is a must for you.

Transphobia and Racism

Anthropologists are aware that there are a plethora of genders around the world. Whether we are talking about gender identity or cultural gender, which are two distinctly different concepts, this remains true. Refusal to accept the reality of the existence of more than 2 genders is refusal to acknowledge the validity of many of the world’s cultures. This is therefore a form of racism or cultural supremacy rising up under the mask of transphobia and/or binarism.

Modern Western imperialism has its roots in the 15th century when various European nations began colonizing other people’s countries, glorifying it as “discovery” and justifying it by insisting that the people who already lived there were animals, not people. This likely played in to their immediate dismissal of cultural differences as “wrong” or “inferior.” Several cultures around the globe enjoyed the freedom of multiple recognized genders before their lands, societies, and resources were taken over by European colonizers, missionaries, and so on. These freedoms often also extended to general acceptance of various relationships that we might call LGBQ through our modern, Western lens. These were among the other freedoms European colonizers squashed during their whitewashing of the cultures of other nations.

Examples for further reading of case studies include:

Decolonization began in some continents in 1945, five centuries after colonization began, and never happened in North America. While many countries regained their independence, it wasn’t until after devastating impacts on their cultures were enacted by the withdrawing conquerors and entrenched over periods of time that were sometimes hundreds of years and multiple generations long. For example, 34 countries in Africa now outlaw homosexuality as of this writing. This isn’t surprising, when we consider that the colonizers came from Europe and 17 European countries still require sterilization of transgender people to this day. Sexual orientation and gender aren’t the same thing, but European rigid requirements around gender include rigid requirements around sexual orientation because their concept of sexual orientation is based upon gender. Thus, many of the world’s nations that are currently very hostile to LGBT people weren’t always that way, and only became that way because of the influence of missionaries and conquering nations from European (and later, American) origin. Nations beginning to relax their death grip on LGBT existence and behavior as transgender and queer rights are slowly won back is thus an aspect of modern decolonization.

North America was never decolonized. Canada and the United States continue to engage in genocide towards indigenous peoples. The fact that most of the states in the United States only recognize two genders legally despite the existence of several indigenous genders is part of this. Our societal and legal refusal to recognize that genitals do not necessarily define gender, and that there are more than two genders, is an extension of the same racism and cultural supremacy that fuels ongoing genocide of various indigenous peoples, that brought anti-gay laws to multiple continents that did not previously have them, and which we must actively combat both within our own minds and at all levels of government if we wish to undo the ongoing evils of those who came before us, and which are still enacted by many of the people around us.

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The Problem with the Term “Gender Spectrum”

Gender. It’s complicated. It’s simple. It means a bunch of different things to a bunch of different people in a bunch of different contexts. What is it?

English isn’t very well-equipped to talk about gender-related topics yet. The terms are still emerging and shifting. “Gender” can refer to cultural roles, bodies, personalities, appearances, and stereotypes, among other things. Yet, we use one word to refer to all of this as if these things are the same. We know that they are not the same, and we know that the false equivalencies drive some of the cultural problems that lead to hate and violence against some people.

To separate out these concepts, academics use various terms such as “gender identity,” “gender role,” “gender presentation,” “sex assigned at birth,” and so on. Each of these terms has variations, many of which also vary in nuance. One term that has unfortunately gained popular traction leading to a wide public misunderstanding of gender is “the gender spectrum.”

We know that biological sex is not binary. Sex is currently defined by multiple things such as gonads, chromosomes, and hormonal balance. Each of these variables operates somewhat independently, and each one has far more than two options, which results in a plethora of human sexes, not just two.

We also know that someone’s gender identity is not determined by genital sex, so it makes sense that the M and F slapped on people’s birth certificates often has nothing to do with people’s gender identities.

So if there are more than two sexes, and there are more than two genders, why is it a problem to call it a spectrum?

A spectrum is variation along a single axis. Take the electromagnetic spectrum, for example. It ranges from the shortest wavelength radiation can have to the longest wavelength, with a narrow range of light that is visible to the human eye somewhere in the middle. This spectrum is pictured below, with the visible light repeated at the bottom, zoomed in for ease of seeing all of it:

Image of the electromagnetic spectrum listed in both wavelength and energy, with a zoomed in section of visible light.

If we apply the concept of a spectrum to gender, the idea in people’s heads is often a straight line gradient that exists between the only two reference points offered by mainstream white western culture: man and woman. The area in between is labeled as “nonbinary” and people move on about their lives erroneously believing they have a working understanding of gender and all of its possibilities. That spectrum might look something like this:

A blue figure of a man symbol on the left, a pink figure of a woman symbol on the right, and a gradient from blue to pink between them.

Gender does not work like this. Gender is not just a gradient between man and woman. To be fair, there are a lot of people who do exist on that line. It’s just not a complete picture.

There are also people who exist off of that line. Some of these people who exist off of that line are still related to that line (such as people who are demiboy or demigirl, among others), but others are entirely separate (such as people who are egogender, agender, juxera, and more). In fact, people who aren’t on that line at all but still have a strong sense of gender are common enough that there is a word for it: aporagender.

Treating the “gender spectrum” as “this is what the full extent of gender is” isn’t accurate and leads to erasure of and discrimination against people who don’t fit in that model. It is better than claiming that men and women are the only two possible genders like so much of mainstream Western culture tries so hard to do, but it is still not accurate. There are still a lot of aporagender people who aren’t represented by this model.

Nonbinary,” (or “non-binary”) in terms of gender, does not mean “somewhere between man and woman or a mix of the two.” It means “anything other than 100% man or 100% woman,” as “binary” refers specifically to people who are completely men or completely women. Due to the wildly diverse nature of gender, this cannot be summarized by a single axis. (While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning that the abbreviation NB already means “non-black” in social jargon so “nonbinary” is abbreviated as “enby” instead.)

So, what’s a better blanket term than “the gender spectrum?”

Language is constantly evolving, and English has only just begun to incorporate the reality of the existence of more than two genders. We may not settle on the right term for quite some time. For now, “gender cloud” is a much more thorough model than “gender spectrum.”

A cloud is an amoebous form. The vague nature of this allows it to become what we need it to be, rather than restricting the way we think about gender to a single axis and thereby ignoring large parts of what it is and how it works. Here is an example drawn by Tumblr user bahamutzero:

On the top, a blue to pink spectrum with the blue end labeled with a male symbol, the pink end labeled with a female symbol, and the middle labeled as androgyny. Caption reads "what most people think the gender spectrum is." Below this is a set of X, Y, and X axes surrounded by a swirl of color labeled "what the gender spectrum actually is."

If we continue to say “gender spectrum,” the first (erroneous) model is what will come to mind to most people. It’s not a useful communication tool, and in fact, does harm by promoting the erasure of and discrimination against aporagender people.

Consent, Boundaries, and Men

Content notice: This post discusses a variety of types of non-consensual touch.

One day, in a friend’s large living room that was filled with burners (as in, people who go to Burning Man regularly), a friend of mine and I held a tickle war. It is important to note here that I have an unfair advantage in tickle wars: I am not ticklish. As the room egged me on, my friend became debilitated by laughter and my fingertips. All of a sudden, the words “no” and “stop” mixed in with my friend’s laughter. I immediately stopped tickling.

“No, you’re supposed to keep going,” one of the onlookers said. The rest of the room took that as their queue to cheer me on, some adding the flavor of shame for stopping.

“No,” I said firmly. “He said ‘no.’ That means I stop.”

The room went totally silent for several long moments while everyone pondered what I had just said.

“I never thought of it that way before,” someone finally said aloud. Others nodded quietly.

When I reflect on that story, it always reminds me about how tickling children can be a fun game, but it can quickly turn into child abuse when adults don’t stop. Yet here we were as adults, and everyone but me was still willing to keep going right past my friend’s very clear “no” and “stop” statements. Perhaps if today’s adults had experienced respect for our boundaries as children, we would not be doing things like this to each other as adults.

Consent is about making sure that what we do fits within other people’s boundaries. Boundaries vary from person to person, moment to moment, and context to context. The only way to know what someone’s boundaries are is to communicate about them. Using society’s idea of what’s okay to do to another person’s body in lieu of discovering what someone’s boundaries are and following them often results in stories like the one above – at best. I stopped. Many people don’t. The rest of the people in that room wouldn’t have, although some of them changed their tunes after that incident.

The friend from that story was one of many male friends of mine who have thanked me for respecting their consent over the years. Women, agender, and nonbinary people tend to simply expect it of me. If they feel grateful, they do not say it. It’s the men I know who get surprised and thankful when I do things like immediately stop, or refrain from making a big deal out of it if they say no to kissing or sex. It’s the men in my life who aren’t accustomed to thinking of respect for consent as a minimum standard.

One of the friends I share a bed with in the literal sense is extremely attractive to me. He knows I would make out with him at the drop of a hat if he wanted to. He also knows that I know he doesn’t want to. We have had the same conversation about it several times, and it goes something like this each time:

“I know you want to kiss me and I just want to say thank you for not pushing it.”

“Of course. It’s your body, your rules.”

“Would you please tell that to all the femmes out there? None of them seem to get it.”

Cue: his venting rant about past experiences with women and femme enbies pushing his boundaries, berating him for not kissing them, and other related traumas. (“Enby” is a word for a person with a nonbinary gender.)

This friend is not alone, and is not the only man who has thanked me for respecting his sexual boundaries without qualms. Many men have also confided similar and related stories in me, encompassing a wide range of sexual abuse and coercion from people who aren’t men. In fact, just about all of the people who have personally confided in me about having been roofied or otherwise drugged are men. The kicker, though, is how many of the men who confide in me do not recognize that the stories they are telling me are about consent violations. Sometimes my man friends don’t even recognize rape for what it is when they are the victims.

“If this had happened to a woman, what would you say it was?” I asked one friend after he confided in me with a haunted look on his face and confusion in his voice and words. He froze for a long moment before responding.

“I…I would say, ‘that was rape.’ But…” my friend’s voice trailed off and he stared at me. After he cried for a while, I got him connected with resources for where he could go for help healing from the trauma. He is not alone.

One of my partners who is a man once laughingly told me about a locker room game he played with other boys in high school. It was called “ball check” and involved yelling “ball check” and then slapping other kids in the balls with rolled up towels. Participation was mandatory as stepping out of the game was met with instant social punishment, sometimes verbal and sometimes physical. When I pointed out that this was literally a game based on sexual assault, my partner paused. He had never realized this before our conversation.

My partner is not alone in his experience of childhood “games” that strip away the ability of boys and men to recognize their own boundaries from a very young age. Transgender men are often horrified by what they discover about this upon entering men’s spaces for the first time. Many have told me that it appears from their point of view that by the time cisgender men are all grown up, they have lost any sense of their own boundaries and it thus makes horrifying sense that they violate others without even recognizing what they are doing for what it is.

I have heard it said, “Don’t teach women how to avoid getting raped, teach men how to stop raping.” I think that’s very good advice, and I also think that starts by making sure men know what consent and boundaries look like. After all, consent is about understanding other people’s boundaries in order to operate within them. Teaching men not to rape therefore relies on a prerequisite: Teach men what boundaries are. This starts with helping men understand their own boundaries and teaching them to maintain them. This skill set is difficult to learn for many people, but with men, our culture actively deprives them of the tools they would need to learn it, and replaces these lessons with opposite content. If we want to give men the chance to discover their own boundaries and learn how to maintain them, then we need to respect men’s boundaries and consent.

We must begin to respect men’s personal body boundaries and teach our boys that their consent matters, or we will continue to live in a world with excess trauma caused by men – especially cisgender men – continuing to violate each other’s and everyone else’s boundary lines in ways that extend way beyond sexual boundaries.

So, here is my challenge for you, dear reader. If you aren’t a man, think carefully about how you interact with men moving forward. Is your defense game so strong that you forget that their consent matters too? Pay attention to how you treat men and afford them the same courtesy of basic consent respect that you expect as a minimum standard from them. And if you are a man? Unfortunately, the work to figure out what your boundaries are and how to enforce them falls on you, as does the work to figure out how to recognize and respect other people’s boundaries. Therapy is a great way to make that go a lot faster. Think of it like using an expert’s degree and experience as a tool to make your self-growth flourish faster. Good luck, and make sure you pick someone with a relevant specialization if you choose to utilize therapy.

I’ll leave you with this glorious video about consent and how it works. The video was made with regards to sex, but it’s also applicable to all other forms of touch or intimacy:

“Tea Consent” Video Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios

Update: This post was updated on January 31, 2020 to include mention of roofied men, and to adjust some language to be more specific about personal observations being personal observations rather than objective truth.

Sexism: Competition vs. Teamwork

Recently at a gathering I sat and listened to two femme people discussing makeup. Embracing my segender nature has allowed me to become far more comfortable with embracing things I enjoy that have feminine cultural connotations, so I was listening to learn. I learned a different lesson than I thought I would learn, and I think it was a valuable one so I am sharing it here.

As I listened, I noticed that these two people have a strong grasp of concepts that relate to materials science, chemistry, tools, and art. They starkly displayed critical thinking skills related to these topics and easily communicated their ideas. They also did so in a way that was filtered through the lens of deep emotional intelligence and empathy.

They displayed all the hallmarks of the types of knowledge and intelligence that men are supposed to value in our culture but they also did so in a frank and candid way, without any of the competition or one-up-manship our culture expects from men. The entire point of their conversation appeared to be sharing knowledge and skills in order to help each other figure out new ways of applying everything they already knew. Their conversation also intentionally gave each other space to verbally process new kinds of creativity. It was synergistic and beautiful.

Women already have all the things men keep saying they need to strengthen within themselves in order to be taken seriously at work or in other environments. They just use what they know to help each other instead of drag each other down; I think a lot of men can’t see that for what it is because of the lens of competition that our culture has forced over their eyes.

Women have both halves of the intelligence coin: the knowledge/skills side, and the emotional intelligence side. I don’t know how we can help our men gain the second half (or how to implement the sweeping cultural changes necessary to create and sustain that change), but everyone will suffer less once they do. Men, women, and everyone else.