Monday, May 25, 2015

Mark Twain was What?

From Connie:  "They came to jeer, but remained to whitewash." (from 'Tom Sawyer') Not that Twain was necessarily speaking directly to gender roles here, but you have brought back memories of reading Twain's works many years ago. He had a few characters cross dressing in different books, and I took delight upon discovering them in my reading. I especially liked the Huck Finn cross dressing episode in which he inadvertently outed himself because, while threading a needle, he attempted to move the needle toward the thread (the way a man would do it), rather than thread to needle (the way every girl is taught). As a boy so confused about my gender identity, reading this made me really start to think about gender stereotyping, in as much as I knew that I'd have to be very careful to present myself properly if I were to ever to put myself into the "real world". I began studying the way teenage girls and young women acted (I never felt like I was a little girl so much), and I spent many hours practicing in front of the bathroom mirrors. Unfortunately, by the time I was really pretty good at it, the testosterone ruined everything.

I hadn't thought of it until I read your post, but I put so much effort into painting stereotypes in an effort to "justify" my gender identity. After being hit with the reality of male puberty, though, I ended up whitewashing my own identity. The lesson, I think, is that buying into stereotypes is not nearly as bad as whitewashing - which is just withdrawal and denial. Without stereotypes to define the binary opposites, like man/woman, love/hate, and war/peace, how would we ever figure out who we are? Besides, what could be more boring than a whitewashed world? 

Thanks Connie! I guess I shouldn't have taken a few of the book shortcuts I took with Cliff's Notes. I did however know of at least one of Twain's references to a cross dressing character. I positively loved your response. In my case I vividly remember a comic strip detective catching his "prey" by tossing "her" an item. She was wearing a long skirt and spread her legs to catch it-not squeeze them together like a man would do.

Then there was the Ian Fleming attributed short story about 007 James Bond in drag which happened to turn up as reading material in a high school history class I took with a very gay (much certainly not out in those days) teacher. I have never seen it since and wonder if Ian Fleming really penned it all. Surely though, to a gender conflicted teen ager it was fascinating as I secretly read it.

There is much more to Connie's comment which we will look at in a future Cyrsti's Condo post!

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