They’ve Been In Your Shoes

                        gender failure

I’ve heard people argue that choosing to be gender neutral rather than identifying as a female means that you’ve given up on feminism. But why? Isn’t feminism the fight for equality of all genders?


Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon are both authors of Gender Failure, a book that explains the reasons they’ve chosen to retire from gender all together and what kind of struggles they’ve had to face when they made that decision. In the book, they discuss the kind of obstacles they faced as women, then as transgender men, and now as gender neutral individuals. Coyote and Spoon have experienced discrimination from different sources because of society’s gender norms and expectations, and yet they refuse to allow society to determine what they are meant to be. This book’s main focus is to celebrate individuals for their accomplishments, regardless of gender.

The authors still use the pronouns she/her when it comes to social media because they want young girls to see the different kinds of women they can be. They look at Coyote and Spoon and see suits, ties, short hair and all things usually associated with being manly. Being represented in media is very important and influential for girls growing up and seeing that they have different options that don’t fit social norms. This is evident in the book Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, where she saw a butch female truck driver with short hair at a diner and saw herself through this woman. The authors are a symbol of breaking down the walls gender norms have built around girls and boys.

                                                                                 SPOOON THO

The authors also wanted to make sure that reporters and people working in the social media industry focused on their actions and accomplishments rather than their identity. They also suggest that in an ideal world, people would be referred to as they/them unless their gender was particularly important or relevant to the story. Coyote and Spoon want people to start being appreciated for what they do and how they change the world without having people question their gender before deciding whether or not the accomplishment is admirable.

Rae spoon goes on to say that they found that people wanted to label to their gender as well as their sexuality. As a female who liked to date other females, people labelled them as a lesbian. As a transgender man, they were labelled as gay. People want to fit others into molds because they don’t like the ambiguity. But Rae Spoon believed that labels were limiting, and that people should feel free to have their sexualities and gender identities be as fluid as they’d like.

Overall, Gender Failure is an awe-inspiring book that I found to summarize what feminism means to me. It suggests that people’s capabilities shouldn’t be questioned based on their gender, because that can change at any given moment. People are unique and their achievements are entirely their own. Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon create a safe space for everyone to feel equal regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth, and where they can be free of labels.

One thought on “They’ve Been In Your Shoes

  1. I really like the parallel you draw between Gender Failure and Fun Home: how visibility and exposure to people with different identities can help individuals realize their own sense of self. Both texts really privilege this idea of looking to external models in order to define – and even transform – the self. I think this relates back to our class discussions about Judith Butler and gender performance: how people perform identities based on what they see in other people, and feel affirmed in those identities when they are accepted by others. Does Rae Spoon’s rejection of the gender binary really escape these expectations? Or are they embodying a new model of gender which is still largely based on performance and acceptance?


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