Friday, February 11, 2005


Rich Hall was busy in the 1980’s as a wordsmith creating “sniglets,” invented words for definitions that had no words. For example, when you eat a piece of pie, there is a point at which the crust part becomes heavier than the pie-filled part of the slice causing the slice of pie to fall back on the crust part. When this happens, you have lost your pielibrium. Before this singlet existed, people just lived in the tyranny of ignorance as they lost their pielibrium on a regular basis and did not know what was happening to them.

One of my favorite sniglets is genderplex. It is the confusion one feels when trying to decide which bathroom to enter at a theme restaurant. If you are a man, you’d better know you’re a bloke at Outback Steakhouse. If you don’t, you’re going to have to deal with some angry shelias. If you are a woman eating at a Mexican restaurant and need to powder, make sure you go into the door labeled mujeres. If you enter the other door, there will some hombres giving you a funny look. No one likes to get genrderplexed, but it happens every now and again.

Genderplex is not limited to bathroom decision-making at theme restaurants. I had a serious case of genrderplex the other day watching my television. Somehow I ended up with Entertainment Tonight (forgive me) on the glowing box (probably an indicator of telediction, an addiction to television) and a human named Cojo did a celebrity fashion segment. Cojo is no relation to Cujo, Stephen King’s rabid dog, but is apparently a fashion expert. I spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out if Cojo was a man who looked feminine or a woman who kind of sounded a little masculine. The voice almost said male, but the expressiveness said kind of female. Actually, “giddy teenage female cheerleader” is what the expressiveness said to me. I had to turn Cojo off. There is only so much Cojo one can take in on a first experience. I then pondered and contemplated the meaning of Cojo in my life.

Cojo is not the accidental image that creates genrerplex. No. Cojo is intentionally genderplexing. Now, perhaps Cojo is comfortable and secure as Cojo, and who am I to judge? However, Cojo is a snapshot of the larger picture. We live in a time and place where the duality of gender is taking a hit. One the one hand, there is a camp seeking to accomplish gendercide, the end of gender. On the other hand, there is a camp pushing for gendergenesis, the creation of new genders.

Am I so off in talking about gendercide? Remember Guess Jeans? Who could wear them? Anyone, male or female. You had to make a guess as to whether they were for boys or girls. Abercrombie and Fitch now hold the jagged knife to the throat of gender. There is an intentional effort afoot to erase gender lines creating a genderless society. That, my friends, is gendercide. Androgyny has run amok.

And what about gendergenesis? Am I making this one up? I wish. I attended a national conference of a highly reputable mental health organization in which one of the speakers for one of the classes said that we need to make room at the table for other genders and not continue to hold on to the two gender mentality that so oppresses people. What other genders is he talking about? Genetically designed genders? Surgically created genders? Can you say Frankengender?

Cojo concerns me. Not on a personal level, but on a level of social acceptability. Certainly there is a danger to wearing what Harvard Psychologist William Pollack calls the gender straight jacket, gender roles too narrowly defined. But I also see the danger in going gender naked with absolutely no gender roles. I see men unaware of how to be men and women unaware of how to be women in their marriages and raising their children. I refuse to believe that their pain-filled and sometimes tortured lives are solely the result of socially constructed gender oppression. The pendulum swings as wicked one way as it does the other. The gender Nazis can scream all they want about this, but the move towards the acceptability of a genderplexed society is not merely a train wreck waiting to happen, it is one in motion. Let’s find a balance between gendercide and gendergenesis. Two flexible but distinct genders with some overlap and some exclusivity is not really all that hard to accomplish.


Keith Brenton said...

Hmm. What kind of discussion will this post engender?

I guess what I'm against is genderonomy ... where one gender claims autonomy and authority over the other. Though it implies that there are two genders (at the least).

Cojo exemplifies the gender dilemma nearly as well as the old SNL sketches featuring "Pat." When Pat discovered a significant other, gender differentiation was even more of a problem.

I think there will always be folks with difficulty finding their own gender identity, and folks trying to identify their attempts to express it.

And genderplexy will still affect even the most Southern among us, who (according to an e-mail shared with me yesterday) are able to get away with saying anything about anyone as long as we include the phrase "Bless (their) heart."

We won't know which pronoun to substitute for "their."

Terry Finley said...

Chris, I went through your blog, and I appreciate your attitude and time putting it togother. However, I'm sure I did not look long enough, I never found one Passage from the Bible. It is one thing to tear down/ridicule the church; it is altogether another to glorify her and to build her up. I hope you are in the last group.

You and I do have a different approach to the Bible.

Thanks---God bless,

Terry Finley

Fajita said...

Keith, I always appreciate your comments. Yes, gender is used for leverage, power, and control. I agree with you on genderonomy.

About SNL's "Pat." Pat seemed like an accident. Pat did not desire ot be that way. Cojo appears to have an intention with the blurred gender lines.

I am sensitive to the people with gender identity issues - which is what so frustrates me about Cojo. There is enough gender struggle with people for Cojo to go and intentionally muddy the waters.

And Keith, bless your heart.