what i'm reading: crossing by deirdre mccloskey

I'm still reading Crossing, the memoir of Deirdre McCloskey, who started out in life as Donald McCloskey. In addition to the personal journey of a person who has lived as both male and female, it is a meditation on the concept of gender, and what makes us the gender we are. (Hint: it's not what's hidden in our pants.)

At first, I found myself uncomfortable with some of McCloskey's observations about female-ness, because many of them don't apply to me, and about male-ness, because many of them don't apply to the men who have been important in my life. But once I understood that she views these generalizations as culturally based, and mostly learned, I felt better. And I can't deny her experience as both a man and a woman in this divided world. I'm sure the gender gulf would seem infinitely more vast to me if I had ever tried to cross it.

From Crossing I've also learned something about Dutch society, and the differences between it and US society, most of which I could not have guessed.

Here's an insight about being female that I appreciated.
Deirdre knew from being a woman on trains late at night in Holland or walking by Dutch cafes in the summertime or living later in the less demonstrative but more dangerous environment of America that women have daily experiences of men in fact being up to something, often something sexual, often enough something dangerous. At first it was flattering, the knocking on the windows of the [cafe] as she went by, the propositions to come into the jazz club and have a drink. Then it was tedious or frightening. Women experience dangerous men all day long and are on the alert. The alertness is not male-bashing, merely prudence in the company of people with greater upper-body strength and the inclination to use it, intoxicated by lethal fantasies about What She Really Wants.

Even McCloskey's initial feelings of being flattered may be familiar to many women, if they recall when they first began to attract male sexual attention (assuming this did not happen before adolescence). McCloskey is flattered because she is being "read" as a woman, instead of as a man. Girls begin to be read as young women - sexual beings - instead of little girls. It's enjoyable, at first.

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