Suzanne Venker, author of How to Choose a Husband and make Peace With Marriage, wrote a short column on foxnews.com last week that incapsulates a whole bevy of misunderstandings about how gender works, what the goals of the feminist movement are, and even about the logical interpretation of evidence.
The column's central claim is that the feminist movement is responsible for the supposed "decline" of heterosexual marriage. Because women have been "told" that they are equal to men, they pursue goals ultimately incompatible with their greater desire to have a family. As Venker says in the video interview posted above that column, "Women have become overdeveloped in their masculine side... because they have been groomed for a life in the marketplace, rather than a life at home."
At their core, she writes, men and women are different. People with children "know [that] little girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball." Men and women are different creations, and as a matter of biological determinism, they inherently want different things. Venker then cites continuing gender inequality as proof that men and women are different: "Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn't mean they want to. That we don't have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades."
So, let me get this straight: Gender inequality is proof of inborn gender differences? What a useful concept. Now we know why there are so few obese movie stars: obese people don't want to be movie stars. And why there are so few out gay politicians: Gay people don't want to be politicians. And why, proportionally, there are so few black partners at big law firms: black people have little desire to be partners at big law firms.
See how easy life can be if you just ignore social processes and assume that all human outcomes are solely a product of personal choice?
Venker posits that the whole notion of "equality" is problematic. She writes that "the problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications. That is what feminists would have us believe, and anyone who contradicts this dogma is branded sexist."
I don't know where she got this notion of equality, but it's not one I've ever heard. I've always thought equality meant two people had the same amount of value, the same opportunities, the same rights. I didn't know it meant we could just swap one person, willy nilly, for another. I thought it meant that I, a youngish white lesbian, and Thomas Sowell, a straight black 80-something conservative, each got one vote, the same right to counsel, and the same chance to protest a government decision in a public location. Under Venker's logic, equality actually means that you could swap Sowell and me in virtually any circumstance "with no ramifications." To this nonsense, I doubt either Sowell or I would agree--and I don't think it would make us racist, sexist, or any other "-ist" (any more than I'd be bucking feminist notions of equality by giving my seat to an elderly woman on a bus).
Venker's argument would make more sense if we lived in a world where men and women weren't socialized so differently--a place where little boys and little girls were treated the same, where parents-to-be weren't gifted with different sets of toys based on the sex of their child, where there were equal numbers of male and female role models in every profession, where women's "formal" clothing didn't constitute teetering heels and displays of breasts and skin, where there wasn't one collection of traits associated with masculinity and an entirely different one associated with femininity. We do not live in that world. And because we do not, we are foolish to assume that anything we do is just a product of biology.
Of course we are influenced by our genes. (Heck, all the socialization in the world didn't stop me from being a dyke.) But our genes merely set the stage. We grow into a version of our selves based on how we are socialized. A little boy jumps around and he's told, "You'll make a great basketball player!" A little girl jumps around and she's told, "You'll make a great dancer!" From day one, we are mired in social experiences--and many of these social experiences are heavily, heavily gendered. It is not as simple as parents forcing little girls to wear dresses or making little boys play baseball. Each of us is born with a hundred different possible, valid versions of our "selves" inside, and the collection of possible selves is different for each person. But which version we actually grow into is a complicated dance between predisposition and socialization (and I'd wager that socialization is doing a lot of the leading).
On one level, arguments like Venker's are easily dismissed because they seem so patently sexist--it's easy to chuckle at someone who thinks society is going to hell in a handbasket because we're ignoring biological destiny. It's also easy to roll our eyes at the (thoroughly and measurably absurd) notion that women are being "groomed for the marketplace" and have overdeveloped "masculine sides."
But I think it's more invidious than that. By misstating and oversimplifying the arguments of feminist and gender theorists, and by downplaying or ignoring the vastly different ways in which men and women are socialized, Venker becomes an apologist for material inequality. Why, after all, should we work harder to equalize opportunity if existing disparities prove intrinsic differences? If equal rights on paper make opportunities equal, then anyone who squawks and protests about inequality and wants to improve the world is just engaging in a silly, anachronistic waste of time.
With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's a good time to think about your intimate apparel. If my Facebook fans are an indication, most butches wear boxer briefs or regular briefs (men's or women's) during the day and regular boxers to sleep in at night. Some favorite brands: Fruit of the Loom, CK, Starter, and Champion.
These are fine go-tos, but I wondered what interesting options were out there, so I did some research, contacted companies and Etsy shops, and got some wares to inspect. Here--in no particular order--are some awesome choices that will let you look great, have some cool style options, and support small businesses. (These make wonderful gifts, too.)
Bonus Pants is a little company out of Portland that offers a ton of fun, loud choices for cotton boxers (including mustaches, donuts, bananas, potatoes, skulls, bacon strips, motorcycles, and more. The owner, Dagny, will make any style with or without an open fly (I tried both and prefer without). They're baggy, plenty long, and don't ride up. Around $18.
Gripped Basewear is a relatively new company, queer-owned and made in Canada! Their boxer briefs are a little short for my taste and have a bit of a pouch in the front, but they come in a range of terrific colors, their customer service is awesome, and their undies are super soft. If you're pale, unskinny, or don't have much of a butt, these aren't likely to be as attractive on you as they are on Gripped's hot male models. But if you want to show off your stuff and support a queer business, this is an awesome choice. $30.
Though they only have one style to choose from, Ohganix boxer briefs are also worth a look. They're expensive as heck ($60), but the softest boxer briefs I've ever tried on. Made in California, organic, and probably macrobiotic and gluten-free as well. Mine are 96% hemp and 4% spandex, and have the perfect amount of stretch. (They make "ladies'" stuff, too.)
Focx is an incredibly hot British brand, and if you've never checked them out, now's the time (even if it's just for the hot pics on their website... yowza!). It's made for women, by women, and has tons of fabrics and two styles: boi shorts (left), and bocxers, which are a little longer. I've tried both. Although I wanted to like the boi shorts best, my torso bears an insufficient resemblance to the models' for it to look great on me. Still, awesome quality at a decent price (£16.99, or about $26). The bocxers, on the other hand, are totally comfy and hot. Try both!
I thought these were a little cheesy at first, but I admit that I totally love my tie-dyed boxer briefs from 2 Tie Dye 4. They're a steal at $16, come in boxer briefs (Champion) or boxers (Merona), and add some really fun color to your boring ol' underwear drawer. They're also pre-washed, so despite my worries, they didn't dye my other clothing. Maybe best of all, they come from Hawaii's Big Island. Aloha, butches!
EX Designs makes boxers in fabrics that include football logos, seasonal prints, and two John Deere tractor prints (yes, really). They're made for men, so there's extra material up front, but they're a deal at $16 for such cool fabrics (and if they don't have a fabric you want, be sure to ask!).
KLeonardDesigns offers a similar style to EX Designs and Bonus Pants, also with a broad range of fabrics (check out these paw prints), not all of which are pictured in the store. The fit is wider and shorter than others I've tried. Since I like my boxers on the long side, I didn't love the fit, but plenty of butches complain about too-long boxers, and would find these perfect. Good quality, steep price. $72.
If Fruit of the Looms fit you well but you're interested in something with a little more spice, check out Sexy Delights. Being a fan of the bookish ladies, I chose their reading mudflap girl (left), but in lime green. I think they're super fun, but my DGF maintains that they're tacky. We're probably both right. Tons of print options. $20.
Last, but decidedly not least, are these great boxers from AmiElisah. They're especially well made (even my hard-to-impress DGF was impressed!), come from Britain, and have little tiny elephants printed all over them. Very cute and wearable both under pants and to bed. £15.00 = $24.
I hope these great boxers and boxer briefs inspire you to spice up your underthings. When I told them about Butch Wonders, the owners of all of these businesses were super enthusiastic about having butch customers. Yay for queer-friendly small businesses!
In addition to the boxers I descibed here, I've also got some awesome, never-worn pairs of boxers and boxer-briefs to give away (including ones from Focx and LKeonardDesigns), as well as some hot greeting cards and a pair of cufflinks from Focx! Send me a picture of yourself in boxers or boxer briefs and a tank or T-shirt and I'll enter you to win schwag! Pics may be posted on butchwonders.com, so keep it PG-13 and SFW. ;)
Last March, I wrote a three-part Field Guide to Butches, which you can check out here if you missed it: Part I, Part II, Part III. I decided it was time to make some additions:
The Butch Class Clown
Example: Jane Lynch
Pros: Hilarious, great with your friends, quick to reconcile after arguments.
Cons: Sleeps in late; may be slightly self-centered; financial stability varies.
Looks Especially Good: Smiling, which is nearly all the time. (Seriously, check out the pic--is there anything in the world cuter than Jane Lynch with a puppy?)
Care Instructions: If you don't understand her sense of humor, the relationship is doomed. May need occasional assistance juggling projects and managing household tasks, but a quick learner. Ego more fragile than first appears.
The Oblivious Butch (not pictured)
Pros: Unconcerned with her identity (and possibly yours), has no interest in discussing related topics, even though everyone else considers her butch.
Cons: See "pros."
Looks Especially Good: If you can wrangle her into slacks and a tie.
Care Instructions: Unusually low-maintenance. Fashion sense may vary, so be vigilant. May grow bored in conversations about LGBTQI-related topics. Probably does not know what the "I" stands for and doesn't particularly care.
Example: Michelle Ragussis
Pros: Excellent hair, great tattoos, creative, spunky.
Cons: Works long hours, may not want to cook at home (check on this factor before committing).
Looks Especially Good: Sampling your sauces.
Care Instructions: Whether she's a line cook or the head of her own restaurant, Chef Butch is committed to her trade and will expect your support. Works crazy hours. Ensure that she doesn’t just cook veggies; she also eats them occasionally. Low-maintenance with little need of wardrobe assistance.
Barista Butch (not pictured)
Pros: Can make a mean latte, has great fashion sense; creative.
Cons: Moodiness; varied reliability; easily bored.
Looks Especially Good: Steaming up your foam.
Care Instructions: Hard to engage in casual conversation, the barista butch is every bit as creative and mysterious as she first appears. Many in the species hold a PhD in the humanities or social sciences and may be starved for intellectual discussion; provide literary or other conversation as needed.
Example: Jack Halberstam
Pros: Smart, well-read, patient and attentive (if occasionally forgetful), finds most things interesting.
Cons: Her hotness makes it hard to pay attention in lecture; everyone in the class has a crush on her (straight women, too); may use words like "hegemonic" in casual conversation.
Looks Especially Good: On her couch during office hours.
Care Instructions: Requires steady diet of books and caffeine (switch diet to baked goods following paper rejections). If weather is temperate, set outside at least 20 minutes daily to infuse with Vitamin D.
The Sports Fan Butch (not pictured)
Pros and Cons: This type doesn't occur in isolation, but co-occurs with any other kind of butch, and may emerge only on weekends. Identify one or more other species and refer to those pros and cons as applicable.
Looks Especially Good: Wearing a jersey... Just a jersey.
Care Instructions: Follow her instructions while her favorite team is playing. She may believe that she can somehow affect a team's performance through elaborate rituals such as wearing "lucky" clothing Play along. Do not block the television. Though she may appear inflexible, the Sports Fan Butch is an excellent bargaining target and will agree to anything in order to watch her game uninterrupted. (Q: "Honey, when the game's over, will you take out the trash, then take me to a movie?" A: "Uh-huh, whatever.")
Example: Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie (Yeah, she's straight, but she’s totally butch. Plus, we all know she'd go lesbo for Dr. O'Hara).
Pros: Straightforward, decisive, quick-witted, employable.
Cons: Unapologetic, reluctant to express emotion, works long hours.
Looks Especially Good: In scrubs, barking out orders.
Care Instructions: Will be exhausted after 20-hour shifts; don’t expect her to engage in conversation. Instead, give her a shoulder massage and send her to bed. Plan fun for days off. Be firm; she may try to boss you around.
Whew, January flew by and I left the house perhaps 8-9 times, max (that includes 2 doctor visits!). But I'm proud to announce that I feel much better. Public Service Announcement: Get your vaccinations, people!
Anyway, January gifted us with another month of delightful and unlikely searches that got people to Butch Wonders. Some of my favorites:
I mean, whatever. It's fine, if not exactly butch. But with a few simple edits at your local tattoo parlor, you can make a statement about your identity:
Okay, let's take another example. Suppose that in a bout of drunken and/or misdirected whimsy, you decided to get the following tattoo of a flower:
But now you've decided that the flower conflicts with your uber-butch identity. You need something tougher... what can you do??
Never fear! With a little creativity, you can butch up your tattoo in no time:
Whoa! Now your flower's the propeller of a plane! And it's shooting people! Grrrrr! War plane!
...That's it! Hope you're having a great weekend. Enjoy the Superbowl, if that's your thing; if not, enjoy having the streets to yourself tomorrow.
BTW, if you want to get one of my rad shirts (not a bad V-Day gift, if I do say so myself), you can get 30% off with the code "WELUVYOUSALE").