Monday, May 10, 2010

Things Asexuals Like: Androgyny

"Androgynous traits are those that either have no gender value, or have some aspects generally attributed to the opposite gender."

I really missed "Things Asexuals Like"! I hope this one isn't too much of a stretch. But it seems like quite a few asexuals are androgynous. Some of us actively appreciate androgyny, and I would guess an even larger number of us don't mind it. (That shouldn't be too unusual, but it seems like androgynous people-- is that a boy or a girl?!?!?!-- are an object of consternation to some.)

Personally, I would say I'm definitely androgynous mentally. My way of thinking is both masculine and feminine. But I haven't really looked androgynous since childhood, during which I was once referred to as my mom's son. Since then, I became more interested in clothes and style, and developed an undying love of the color pink. However, since I tend to avoid looking sexy, it seems that I also avoid the top levels of looking feminine as well.

When I think about it, I don't see a lot of "highly-gendered" people at ace meetups. It seems like women have more gender markers-- dresses and heels, complicated hairstyles, and makeup. And most of these things tend to be absent from asexual women I've met. Many of us seem to have short or simple hairstyles, wear little or no makeup, and dress in jeans, sneakers and such. Maybe part of this is just the fact that the Bay Area is extremely casual. But maybe, like me, these people don't really care whether or not their appearance sends out feminine signals. I remember being in a college class, and a girl had come in with a really short haircut. "Don't worry!" said a classmate, "It still looks very feminine". I have a feeling that many asexuals would be unlikely to seek that sort of reassurance.


heidi said...

Yay, androgyny! There's one asexual I can think of who is very-very-very feminine, but you seem to have hit the nail on the head, yet again, with more stuff that we feel comfortable with, or at least a kinship...

Anonymous said...

I've found a number of asexuals, you and myself included, who describe themselves as mentally androgynous. I haven't really heard that outside of the asexual (and of course, transgender and genderqueer) communities.

In addition to gender markers as one way of expressing self-identity, gender markers also serve to attract potential partners (or so I'm told ;-) How many times have we heard about butch and femme stereotypes in the lesbian community, or about straight males going for the ultra-sexy female? If asexuals develop their "partner" relationships outside of a sexual framework, then it makes sense that their gender-markers are less finely tuned than those might be within the sexual framework, and hence the tendency for or kinship with androgyny. (This is all probably truer in the hetero-romantic asexual community than it is in the homo-romantic asexual community ... if one can refer to them as "communities" at all!)


Rian said...

Yes! I like androgyny.

One time I got my hair cut short and was unhappy with it because it wasn't what I had in mind. Someone advised me to do something or other with the bangs so "it will look more feminine". I didn't say but I thought "Shut up. That's not the problem and I don't care about looking more feminine." I wanted it to look pointy but it just looked like a bowl.

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments! Carsonspire, that's an interesting observation about the mentally androgynous people. For me, being part of the ace community has definitely advanced my knowledge about how many different ways there are to "do" or perceive gender. As far as being mentally androgynous, I've felt like that my whole life, but I wouldn't have been able to describe it in words until recently.

kaz said...

I've found myself a bit of an exception, as I do strongly identify as female. I do tend to not wear a lot of the feminine markers (as you said, heels, makeup, etc.) but I don't know how much that has to do with disability - I feel as if I'd be more comfortable in slightly more feminine clothes but I'm not sure enough of connotations and I don't have the spoons to perform femininity except on special occasions. I like androgynous people but don't consider myself androgynous myself, either in my own feeling of my gender or in the way I'd like to present myself.

Another possibility for lack of feminine markers on asexual women might be that these are often explicitly interpreted as somehow trying to attract partners. I think I shy away from make-up, heels, low-cut clothing and other things in part because I'm afraid people will misinterpret it and I really don't want to have to deal with that. I've also even asked myself before how I could even be interested in my appearance and looking pretty if I wasn't interested in hooking up with anyone! Am a bit more clued-up about things like that now but it goes to show how deep this stuff runs.

Rebekah said...

I concur, on all points. Especially missing "Things Asexuals Like." It is my favourite.

Some part of asexuals' love for/of androgyny could be that biological sex is less important to us because we just don't care about reproductive sex. We don't care what's in your pants, and, really, we'd much prefer for it to stay there.

Ily said...

Yep, yep...before I knew about asexuality, I was actually more comfortable wearing the usual feminine "sexy" clothes (I have a post in the works on a similar topic). It took me awhile to realize that people interpret that kind of thing sexually, so now I'm less comfortable dressing in a really feminine way.

And Rebekah, if you or anyone else ever has suggestions for "things asexuals like", do tell. If I write about it, I will credit you :-)