Switching Genders

Dr. Steve Mason

“We make some of our greatest gains when we see old things in new ways.”

Contact Dr. Mason by email at drsbmason@aol.com

 Switching Genders

Can you imagine what it would be like to switch genders for a day?  Years ago, I wrote a column on the topic and I’m still getting mail. Men go into great detail telling me what they’d do during those 24 hours and it seems that women can be just as eager to experience life on the other side.

One female, a newspaper reporter, said she actually made the switch to see what it would be like.  She shed her makeup, tucked her hair under a cap and applied a phony mustache.  Some baggy clothes then completed the transformation and out she went.  She was in for a big shock!  In a flash, she realized something was wrong…something had changed.  Then she realized what it was.  She had suddenly become invisible.  Girls are so accustomed to always being on parade that they only take notice when nobody looks at them.  As a boy, you accept being more or less anonymous.  Women stand out while men blend in.

But that reporter was unusual in being able to pull off her transition.  It isn’t easy for a woman to drop all her typically female gestures and behave like a male.  A man has an easier time pretending to be a woman which is probably why there are so many more female impersonators compared to male impersonators.  Perhaps this is because females are awash in female symbols.  Where a man merely pulls on jeans, a T-shirt and he’s out the door, a woman has to spend time “getting ready.” So much is artifice that to enjoy being a girl must be to enjoy getting costumed.

This came to mind one day last week when my wife and I were at the market shopping in the frozen food section.  Trying to find some peas, my wife walked over to an employee dressed in a heavy coat, cap and gloves.  I arrived just in time to ask: What did he say? That day, the time spent getting ready was spent getting ready for a job stocking freezer shelves.  He turned out to be a she…much to my chagrin.

And it’s not just what you see.  Subjects told to sniff a shirt taken from a man or a woman could almost always identify the previous wearer’s gender.  Voices too can be easily separated.  Some companies will switch disgruntled callers from a female to a male associate and thereby give the impression of moving up the corporate ladder.  And can somebody — an evolutionary psychologist perhaps — tell me why girls swoon over a boy singer’s voice but boys rarely come unglued over a girl singer’s voice?

Look At It This Way

There are dozens of books listing and exploring uniquely male/female, mental/physical characteristics and almost as many books saying that such differences don’t matter.  But assuming you could swap genders for a day:

A) Would you, and if so

B) What are the first three things you’d do as the new you?

I suspect that, once you give it some thought, what you’d think about doing will surprise even you. As for me, I’d like to see what it’s like to always be right… just like my wife.

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