Personally, I’ve always found the “I before E, except after C” rule rather odd. I mean, how many exceptions do there have to be before it’s admitted that a rule isn’t quite that straightforward? Having said that, when it comes to implementing rigid rules that don’t actually work, the kyriarchy has a lot to answer for.
“Real women have curves.” “Real men play with tanks.” “Real women don’t put out on the first date.” “If you don’t like football, then you’re not a real man.” Have a quick scroll through Facebook, Pinterest or basically any social networking website of your choice, and you’ll see so many stereotypes like this. Worst of all, there’s the implication that if you don’t fit the stereotype, apparently you’re not a “real” wo/man.
This, obviously, is completely ridiculous. If you identify as a certain gender, congratulations, you’re a part of that gender. That’s all you have to do. Whether or not you look or act in a certain way, or have/lack certain interests, has absolutely nothing to do with it. However, the implication that it does is everywhere. Women and girls who don’t fit the “feminine” stereotype are called “tomboys” or “not really a girly girl” (how does that even make sense?) whereas men and boys who don’t fit the “masculine” stereotype are called “girls” which, in the patriarchy, is a derogatory term. And homophobia, heteronormativism, cissexism and transphobia are also rife. (Seriously, spellcheck? Transphobia isn’t a word? Really?!) In other words, if you are a certain gender and you don’t do as the kyriarchy tells you concerning your gender, you’re not a “real” member of that gender, the implication being that you’re fake.
It’s not just gender, either. If you haven’t seen it already, the #heardwhilstdisabled Twitter hashtag is a must-read; amongst the stories of shocking ableism, there is a noticeably high proportion of people who have been told they’re “not really disabled”. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I can’t be autistic. My parents had real problems getting me an Asperger’s diagnosis because I was doing well academically, for instance. According to most other people around me, I’m “not that autistic” because I am verbal and relatively independent. I’ve even seen and heard “high functioning Asperger’s” being deemed “not really autistic” a few times.. (For more information on why the use of functioning labels to describe autism is problematic, see this post “When Autistics Grade Other Autistics” by Amy Sequenzia)
So, if you don’t fit the stereotypes society expects of you, your experiences are questioned. What’s more, the stereotypes fuel themselves, to the benefit of the kyriarchy, For instance, let’s use the stereotype that all women love shoe shopping. If I were to object to this, I would probably be referred to as “boyish” or “not a girly girl” or something. As a result, the only “real women” in the eyes of the person using the stereotype are those who, in fact, do love shoe shopping. Therefore, all “real women” love shoe shopping. In short, it’s selective bias.
If you don’t conform, you don’t count. You’re merely “the exception that proves the rule”. But, as I said earlier, how many exceptions must there be before the rule can be disproved? In fact, I’d go as far as saying that nobody conforms to every single stereotype enforced upon them by the kyriarchy. We are all exceptions.
So, next time you “run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbour“, consider using a different dictionary. I before E except after C, and under the kyriarchy’s logic, those words aren’t real.