A little while back I did a test to find out my Brain Sex (it’s not a dodgy new-age thing, it’s about the gender of your brain). It tested my spatial awareness, memory, ability to empathise, language ability, and a few other things. Then it placed me on a scale, ranging from -100 (most feminine) to +100 (most masculine).
I came out 0.
But...I wear skirts nearly everyday, and make-up sometimes! I cry in sad movies! I even cried in a tv commercial once! I’m a female!
What does this mean, that my brain is neither masculine nor feminine? Am I less of a female just because I can find my way around in a new place, and parallel park really well?
Then I caught myself, just before I hurtled over the edge. For a moment there my overly-reactive feminine emotions had clouded my rational masculine thinking. I had momentarily forgotten that I actually had this all worked out years ago. I was suddenly taken back to a pub in Burma, two years earlier. On this particular evening I was giving a fellow traveller a slightly beer-fuelled lecture on neo-feminism, according to the Gospel of Anna. An utterly unsubstantiated, intuitive account on what it means to be a feminist today (he did ask). In a nutshell, it went like this:
Society has taken a bunch of traits, labelled some of them ‘feminine’ and some of them ‘masculine’ (even if both sexes display those behaviours at different times) and promptly designated them to separate spheres. Since men created the workforce, the traits valued in the workplace are by and large ‘masculine’ (traits like competitiveness, ambition, and assertiveness) while the ‘feminine’ traits (empathy, compassion, gentleness etc) are considered appropriate for the home and family.
Of course, once females entered that sacred male domain, the venerated workforce, they had to rapidly adjust to compete in this ‘masculine’ environment. As such, the early feminists took on those ‘masculine’ traits, they tried to beat men at their own game, with their own weapons. And while these women blazed an important trail, they never challenged the values-system society was operating under, and those ‘feminine’ traits remained firmly relegated to the home domain (plus those feminists got all manner of nasty names thrown at them, simply for exhibiting those same traits that men were being rewarded for).
My idea of feminism is not about women imitating men, it’s about the traits that we call ‘feminine’ being equally valued by society, across those different spheres. And not just for the females - for the males too, who have been suppressing those traits that society would say makes them less of a man. It’s about recognising that beyond a couple of differences (mathematical ability is the main one), psychologists attribute most gender differences to the way we’re socialised as children.
So. Coming back to the point...
My brain test results actually have nothing at all to do with my gender identity, and everything to do with describing how well I performed in a test that measured a smattering of traits that society has labelled in a spectacularly short-sighted way, thus placing me on a feminine-masculine continuum that actually means nothing whatsoever.
Whew. There’s nothing like a good rant to make a woman feel better.
(Now that you’ve read my disclaimer, you can do it for yourself, here).