Gender is based on how you feel about yourself, obviously different than sex, which is based on your chromosomes. Each culture has a different idea of what gender means. For example, the US is a mostly patriarchal culture, meaning men are mostly in charge with some exceptions (this is SLOWLY changing to a more equal culture) compared to a matriarchical culture where women are mostly in charge with some exceptions. This puts pressure on people for how men and women are expected to act.
Gender performativity is how you perform your gender. I don’t want to assume your gender, so just think about the things you do to feel more like your gender. For some men, this is buying a muscle car or BBQing or going to the gym. These are stereotypes of masculinity, but they show how men purposely try to perform gender. For men who don’t do these things, they’re called girly or feminine.
(bonus lesson) -Rhetorical questions- What does this say about American culture? If not performing the “man” gender results in being calling a different gender, what’s wrong with that? Why is being called girly or feminine considered a bad thing? The US spotlights masculine identities without spotlighting the gender itself, therefore making feminine traits less desirable without explicity saying so. The US have moved away from overt misogyny into subtle misogyny in order to appear more equal. It gives plausible deniability.
The meme specifically is referring to how much harder trans people have to “perform” their gender compared to people who were assigned their gender at birth.
Yeah, I don’t think this meme gets it all the way, but I still think it’s funny. Pretty much anybody in a marginalized group forced around non-marginalied people, the marginalized people have to perform. Like women being forced to wear makeup for men, or black people being forced to code switch when talking to white people.
Cis people do go to extreme lengths to perform gender, but it simply isn’t as important for cis straight white men. Elon Musk got more hair because it made him feel better, not because he needed to not be bald if he was ever going to be considered a man. Elon doesn’t have to code change or anything of the sort, he doesn’t have to adjust to anybody. If Elon Musk was a black guy or a woman, he’d be far more hated because it’s not okay for anybody except cis white men to act like that for some reason. Elon is an extreme example, but I’m sure we all know some C grade white guys that love to act like that. Where if they weren’t white guys, nothing in their life would work because of how little effort they actually put in.
I think this meme is just trying to highlight that marginalized people have to put far more effort into their identity than non-marginalied people. Whenever I’m talking to other trans people, I am the kid putting cookies in the oven because I really don’t try too hard and I just do what comes natural. But the second I’m going to be around cis people, I am a French chef tweezing off every individual hair from my face so nobody notices, essentially trying to create the perfect plate to distract from my AGAB.
Marginalized people in general have to put far more effort into identity than non-marginalied people. Black people often have to speak differently to white people, autistic people mask, women often have to wear a full face of makeup. Yes, all people put an insane amount of effort into gender, but the power imbalance in society makes it far lighter on some people.