Saturday, July 22, 2006

Opposite Ideas...

opposite |ˈäpəzit|
1 [ attrib. ] having a position on the other or further side of something; facing something, esp. something of the same type : a crowd gathered on the opposite side of the street.
• [ postpositive ] facing the speaker or a specified person or thing : he went into the store opposite.
• Botany (of leaves or shoots) arising in opposed pairs, one on each side of the stem.
2 diametrically different; of a contrary kind : a word that is opposite in meaning to another | currents flowing in opposite directions.
• [ attrib. ] being the other of a contrasted pair : the opposite ends of the price range.

a person or thing that is totally different from or the reverse of someone or something else : we were opposites in temperament | the literal is the opposite of the figurative.

in a position facing a specified or implied subject : she was sitting almost opposite.

in a position on the other side of a specific area from; facing : they sat opposite one another.
• figurative (of someone taking a leading part in a play or movie) in a complementary role to (another performer).

ORIGIN late Middle English : via Old French from Latin oppositus, past participle of opponere ‘set against.’

This week, the theme for Illustration Friday was "Opposites." I thought it was an excellent challenge, because it doesn't imply any immediate translations. HOWEVER after viewing some of the other artists' illustrations, I became slightly annoyed. I wouldn't say that I'm angry, just that I'm minorly irritated that the most common illustration was "the opposite sex."

I know that most people aren't experts on Gender studies, but the terminology "opposite sex" is completely archaic and out-dated. Males and females are not completely different from one another. Physically there are "equivilent" sexual parts and characteristics. Although overtly different, male and female sex parts can contain similiar functions and structures, especially considering nerve-tissue and vascularity. Both males and females produce "masculine" testosterone and "feminine" estrogen. And what of the one in 1,500 births where there is a noticeable "sex differentiation" that results in an intersexed child?

If the physical and physiological differences are only gradiations of each other, then what's there to judge opposition?

If the answer to that question is mannerisms or traits, then we might as well rewind to a time before women's suffrage and a time full of gender stereotypes. According to this line of reasoning, women should only be allowed to ride side-saddle, not have the right to vote, not wear pants, not have a job that pays money and of course must obey and serve men, their superiors.

We live in a time where the idea of what a male or female should be is left to the individual to determine.

The word "opposite" is rooted in the meaning, "to set against". It comes from the word, "opponere" which is also the origin of the word, "opponent." Is there always supposed to be a battle between men and women? Are the ideas of what a man should be and what a woman should be, always doomed to be so separate? Are we all destined to be opponents "set against" one another? The usage of the terminology, "opposite sex" only reinforces the divisions between the two... the two that are not so different after all. It plays into a culture that over-generalizes and reduces the roles of people to pre-prescribed labels. It effaces and erodes the details which make us unique and who we individually are.

Perhaps my reasoning and logic and thoughts on gender are yet another illustration of an ideological polar "opposite."

(Okay... I'll get off my soap box now.)

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