Segregation

So, apparently this story ran in the Knoxville News Sentinel the other day.  My immediate reaction was awe at the stupidity of some people for letting such a small thing as skin color affect the way they treat people.  I've never personally understood racism.  I can't look at people of different skin colors differently simply because their skin cells have more or less melanin than mine.  I don't understand why that's such a big deal to some people.  But it clearly is a big deal even today.  Yes, that year at the top of the page says 2015, not 1915.

But as I thought about it more, I realized that there are two counts of bigotry that are glaringly obvious in this article.  Not only are non-white people unwelcome, but so are non-females.  It made me wonder if we, as a society, will ever reach the point where sexism is as repugnant as racism currently is (at least among professionals).

We have a very sexist society.  Aside from the points that are often discussed (which I don't mean to diminish), such as women earning less pay than men or being taught that rape is somehow their fault, there are many ways that our society segregates the sexes and even pits them at war with each other.

We have segregated bathrooms.  If the building where I work had "Blacks" and "Whites" bathrooms, there would certainly be lawsuits about this.  A big fit would be thrown for segregation.  And yet, we have "Male" and "Female" bathrooms and no one bats an eye.

At the clothing store, there are sections for men's clothing and other sections for women's clothing (and boys/girls as well).  We frown upon men shopping in the women's section and only allow women in the men's section because we assume they're shopping for their husbands--who, we like to joke, are incapable of purchasing appropriate attire or putting together a tasteful outfit.

There are toys that boys play with and toys that girls play with, and heaven forbid one toy should cross aisles and end up in the hands of a child who was born with the other set of genitalia.

Many of these segregations seem innocuous, or even beneficial.  "I don't want my daughter sharing a bathroom with boys."  But they are damaging.  They teach children that they must behave and appear a certain way in order to be accepted by society.  Men act tough, don't show emotion, and wear rugged clothes.  Women act dainty and frail, show lots of emotion, appear unintelligent around men, and wear lacy clothes.

Gender roles are harmful.  They have very real psychological effects on children that last a lifetime.  It sends the message that you must conform, you must put on a front for society to accept you.  You are a boy who likes Barbie dolls?  That's not possible.  You're supposed to play with tanks and super heroes.

But, on top of all of that psychological damage, there is the matter of transexuals and hermaphrodites, and anyone else who rejects the adoption of a gender binary.  What do you do if you were born with a penis but identify as a female?  What do you do if you were born with genitalia of both sexes?  Or neither?  What do you do if you don't really think of yourself as male or female?  Which bathroom do you use?  Which side of the clothing store do you shop on?  Which people are allowed to hit on you at a bar?  Which beauty pageant are you allowed to participate in?

I do foresee that we, as a society, will arrive at a place of better understanding and acceptance of transexual people.  But I don't know if we'll ever get to the point where we view sex segregation as repugnant, the same way we view racial segregation.

In other words, what I'm saying is that I expect one of three major reactions to the white-only ball: 1) outrage or disbelief at the exclusion of non-white people, 2) "what's new?", or 3) "they should be free to include or exclude anyone they want".  And I would expect a majority of people to react in the first or second way.  But what I would expect at a frequency of less than 1% is outrage that boys and children who do not identify as girls are excluded as well.

It isn't easy to break out of traditions.  It doesn't happen all at once.  People get set in their ways and pass on their prejudices to their children, and thus bigotry is born and bred.  But imagine what it would be like if we broke free from the mindset that men and women must be separate in all things.  You want to play Halo and wear a skirt?  No problem.  You want to be on the basketball team and crochet?  Why not?  You want to play with Barbie and a panzer?  Good for you.  Does it matter whether you were born with XX or XY?  No.  The only time it matters whether you have a vagina or a penis is when you're using it and you don't need either one to do any of the aforementioned tasks.