Friday, May 1, 2015

“Hostile territory” (Unspeakable Things)

Most of the cultural narrative around mental health right now revolves around gender, with scientists and social theorists trying to work out whether it’s men or women who are more distressed, and whose fault that might be. Precisely who is more fucked up, boys or girls, has never been conclusively decided, but the fact that we insist on trying to work it out reveals a truth: there is something about gender right now that is deeply troubling, on an intimate level that is rarely discussed. There is something about the experience of being a woman or being a man, or of trying to be a woman or trying to be a man in the twenty-first century that many people find profoundly distressing in a way that they find difficult to speak about even in those few spaces where they are allowed to.
Laurie Penny, Unspeakable Things, Introduction.
The truth is that there is nothing ‘natural’ about what it means to be a man or a woman today. Gender identity is performed, and it is performed for profit, whether social, financial or personal. That performance is an adaptive strategy for dealing with overwhelmingly hostile territory. Now we need to adapt again. And that’s what feminism is: adaptation. Evolution.
(Boldface emphasis, fangirling, etc., mine.)