Gender Roles, Microaggression, and Pleasure Relative to Plain and ex-Plain AFAB Bodies
"AFAB and AMAB: defined as the sex you are assigned at birth, often used to help trans and non binary people describe themselves and more appropriate than the term "biological male/female" as sometimes AFAB/AMAB people may have biological characteristics of both female and male sex. Not to be confused with "straight, gay, lesbian, bi sexual or other sexual orientation" these are separate from Gender which is typically based on genitalia at birth while sexual orientation describes who you are attracted to.* -Mary
Anytime you observe any large group of humans holding firmly to the same ideology, there are always more actions, thoughts, and behaviors that are parts of building that ideology and belief system. We are remiss to look for a singular perspective to explain the complicated relations between gender and pleasure, particularly as it related to the Plain and ex-Plain woman.
She sits in silence in the church pew, polished to a gleaming shine from years of polyester blend skirts sliding in hushed whispers, holding 3 young children in obedience around her. She pinches the baby’s bottom when he starts to cry- devotions just started and it’s not time to cry.
She listens to devotions, sings after the men start the sing, following their lead from their pews on the other side of the auditorium. She listens to Sunday School, and the Opening, and the Sermon, and even the announcements and confessions. She listens to the prayers, listens while she corrects and disciplines her youngest.
Rushed footsteps, muted by decades of practicing invisibility, to the nursery to listen some more while her breasts nourish yet another young one. Her children sit without her, as silent as they can. Moving, speaking, crying, hunger all lead to the same end.
Sniffles and coughs echo through the building, as everyone listened and noted who was making the most noise. Surely, they could discipline that out if they spoke quickly.
Final Amen rings softly through the aged PA system, alerting her and the others to the silence lifted. Godly whispers and muted conversations with no boisterous laughter rustled through the auditorium while her children run, avoiding stains and messy hair.
The girls run modestly, as young as 2. How dare they show their underwear- someone will sin because of you and your immodesty. The boys throw and scream and talk of killing birds and chasing hay bales while prim gatherings of girl’s giggle and whisper behind their hands. One arm wrapped securely around the usual baby on the left hip, siblings or cousin, or even just some random baby whose mom didn’t care about the germy fingers stuck in the baby’s mouth by pre-teen caretakers.
She giggles and hushes when a man walks by.
She whispers and hushes if she hears a boy.
She blushes in fear that her words and her tone and her body will send them both to hell.
Home, they go to the 25-quart crockpot and the guest list her husband provided. She finishes lunch, baby on her breast, hips swaying with the relaxing never leaving her again pregnant body. Feeds the youngsters, forgetting her own- then puts the baby down for a nap. She rolls up her sleeves, puts away leftovers, entertaining the wives in the kitchen with regaling tales of her garden and supper plans for the week. They speak in hushed tones, so as not to overpower the conversation in the living room- far more important to life than theirs. Riddles of life and punishments, theories on weather and farming take the stage while quiet planning on preserving the food to nourish the family while she birthed another member. She sits in whispers in the kitchen where the baby is already awake and suckling again; eating with her left hand what hasn’t been scraped by the teen girls elbow deep in hot water giggling quietly at someday putting their own child on their own breasts.
How does she sit in silence while she serves as less than? Her body the temple for more temples, self- sustaining and no need for expensive equipment like tack. Her breasts the life of more life, her orifices her husband’s for his pleasure and his children. How does she not blink at the pinnacle of pains preventable by empathy?
Decades of asking has revealed there is not an abrupt nor concise answer. Many Plain women have faith in the system that keeps them captive, treated like brood mares and worse.
“Sexist microaggressions may be defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities (intentional or unintentional) that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative sexist slights and insults toward women” (Nadal, 2010, p. 158). Sue (2010) described three forms of microaggressions: micro assaults (blatant, intentional discriminatory attacks that may be verbal, nonverbal, or environmental), microinvalidations (subtle, demeaning messages conveying the target’s assumed inferiority), and micro insults (slights in the form of negating, nullifying, or excluding targets and their experiential realities; Sue, 2010). In addition to these three forms, sexist microaggressions are further delineated into eight themes: leaving gender at the door, sexual objectification, environmental invalidations, invalidating women’s realities, denial of sexism, assumptions of traditional gender roles, expectations of appearance, and assumptions of inferiority (see Derthick, 2015).”*
I am including an exact copy of the peer-reviewed journal I am framing definitions of. I often see misinformation circulating in ex-Plain advocacy groups with no link or referencing to appropriate sourcing. This is, in itself a form of microaggression that does not bear relevance to this particular subject of gender.
To summarize and contextualize the above information about microaggressions into the atmosphere already set, we’ll begin with microaggressions as a whole. A microaggression, in this context towards women in Plain communities, is verbiage, rules, “how it’s always been”, and physical behaviors contributing to the silencing of women. For example, modesty is the ultimate goal in women’s clothing, and a form of microaggression is to tell her that a cape dress with snaps and 12 pleats in a certain formation and of a certain length is the only way to do it. The requirement of modesty is already an act of, I believe, of more than problematic origin that can be discussed at length later on but deserves the statement here.
Young girls are taught to cover their hair at age 2 to show submission to the headship order of God-man-woman. Mothers sew their daughters’ kapps with pride, planning the church entrance the first day she wears her submission coffee filter.
Mothers hit their daughters, with switches and hands and paddles and spoons- and their sons to break their wills hoping it works so that the man of the house doesn’t have to join the will breaking. They pinch and hit and starve and deprive their children into silence. This is no longer microaggressions. This is abuse. This is assault.
It works in a circle, just like most logic that keeps humans trapped- it all makes sense and the dust bunnies under the beds just disappear.
Children are born to work and earn their worth, earn the 12th of the pot of lima beans and Velveeta passed around the table- to the father, then the sons, the daughter, then the mother. Just the way the world turns in the kitchen of the Amish and Mennonites. Do you feel a little tingle of rage at that? There it is… that’s a microaggression.
Now start looking for them. Go back to the first part of this post and read the words again. How many can you find? One that may not be super obvious to most casual observers is women sit on the left, men on the right- God’s right hand is more favorable. They segregate most things, from eating to church pews and conversation.
Women and girls are taught that their bodies are weapons of sin, bringing the men around them to sin if there is so much as a shadow of a glimpse at the curves they are or are not born with.
There is firm belief held, even in several ex-Plain “advocates”, that pleasure in a woman’s body is put there by the one physically touching or even assaulting her. This harmful teaching not only functions to further abuse, but also to shame and silence victims.
The idea that pleasure can originate outside of yourself is based in the assumption that you are not in ownership or control of your own self. Pleasure is a reaction, most of the time a wonderful and welcome one. Pleasure is told to women to only be for men, yours can only come in the serving of them.
Questioning your sense of self and worth is the foundation of the idea of microaggressions and one of the most powerful forms to work through. Healing does not ever close this wound, but in time it fades dully and when pleasure hits, it’s no longer the body’s defense.
Pleasure is then often equated with sensations felt during penetrative sex with a male partner. These male partners have never had sexual education, of either the physical or emotional variety and view copulation as an event for themselves and the continuation of his sired offspring. Pleasure is seen as a by-product, not a goal. It is held by the man and his organ and that is all, she does not touch herself to bring herself along- it’s not hers, remember?
Pleasure is held in yourself, in your mind, in the very cells of your being. They shift, you know? Your body knows the difference between pleasure on purpose because it feels good and healthy. Your mind can heal and know this difference. Healing doesn’t come by telling yourself that it’s all wrong and pleasure is bad.
Healing comes by looking at the self, the shame and where it lies. Shame points to trauma, to defeating the self by outside, or internalized, traumas.
Microaggressions begin assaults. Children become comfortable with the man who touches them on the back, then the leg, then the neck because he always has candy at church. Children caught in cycles of abuse, who never receive affection and love are starving for attention- parents set their children up to be groomed- often by the same people who abused them in their innocence.
Let me be incredibly clear, children can never be at fault in their own abuse. Ever. If you were spanked as a child, you didn’t deserve it. If you were locked in your room without dinner, you didn’t deserve that. If you were assaulted, you didn’t make it happen or let it happen or even have the slightest control over that.
It. Was. Not. Your. Fault.
If you were groomed to be a child or teen bride, who was told children were your job- the bearing, the raising, the whipping post for their misbehaviors after they were asleep in the puddles of tears their pillows became- you didn’t choose that.
You didn’t choose.
I ask you to consider the choice Plain women have. There is only illusion. They are not taught the choices of housing and money and warmth and politics. Taught they are born to breed and follow- and to need as little as possible to do both.
Pride is only held in the loss of value of self. Pride is only held in the silence. Pride is only held in the pleasure of survival and not of bliss.
Pride exists for more than that.
Pride is choosing yourself. Pride is belief in your pleasure and your choice, your voice and the change you become.