February 12, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Guest Post on Gender by Sashi Kaufman

Hey, Misfiteers! We're switching things up yet again in the new year, and we're very excited about it!

You see, we're the kind of Misfits who are actually pretty good at attracting Misfit friends, and so from now on, the second Wednesday of every month is going to be a guest post by a different Friend of Misfits. This month, we're excited to have Sashi Kaufman, author of the Contemporary YA The Other Way Around, which releases from Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab on March 1! Without further ado...Sashi Kaufman!
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Here it is: I’m over gender. I just don’t think it’s a very useful societal construct anymore. There are so few ways in which we as humans need to be defined or limited by the jiggly bits between our legs. And by the way folks the only thing that determines is your biological sex. Gender is a whole different monkey. In the interest of full disclosure it should be mentioned that I was raised by hippies, went to nude beaches as a kid and I like to hang out in the middle of the Kinsey scale. I grew up understanding that you loved who you loved regardless of gender. Lucky me, I know.

The other day I saw a photo mash up suggesting that Justin Bieber looks like Miley Cyrus minus the makeup. There’s a whole website – probably more than one by now, devoted to lesbians who look like Justin Bieber. At Oberlin College – a haven of gender questioning folk, I remember learning about neoteny. Basically it’s the idea that we are inherently attracted to things with “cute” features –big eyes, symmetrical faces, small noses and mouths. Think puppies, think Bieber. Think about the fact that gender may not even matter. It could certainly matter less.

My YA debut THE OTHER WAY AROUND is written from the perspective of a 16 year old teenage boy. I often get asked if I had trouble writing from that perspective and the honest answer is no. In fact, I find it freeing to write from the opposite gender because I’m totally unencumbered by a lifetime of messages about what girls are supposed to think and do and say. Do those messages exist for boys? Of course they do – but they were never directed at me. So I feel more comfortable discarding them when they simply don’t apply to the human being I’m embodying when I write.

We are all human. The gender dichotomy is a boring one to me. If people are different then tell me why they’re different on a human level, or a cultural one or a level of age or life experience. In both fiction and life I’d like to see gender become a less important designator for character and personality traits. I’m amazed by books like Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff where the main character is left genderless for the entire book. I think we’re closer then we realize. I don’t think we need these categories as much as we think we do. I’d like to see us adopt something more fluid, more flexible and ultimately more accepting. A post-pronoun world is possible. Just saying.

  Bio: Sashi is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and daughter. Her debut YA novel The Other Way Around is launching on March 1st. She is also an amateur trash picker.

2 comments:

Carrie Mesrobian said...

Love this whole post, but especially this line:

"I find it freeing to write from the opposite gender because I’m totally unencumbered by a lifetime of messages about what girls are supposed to think and do and say. Do those messages exist for boys? Of course they do – but they were never directed at me. So I feel more comfortable discarding them when they simply don’t apply to the human being I’m embodying when I write."

YESSSS! Can't wait to read your book, Sashi!

JustSarah said...

Thanks for this post.^^

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