There are so many discussions about gender nowadays – and there have been for years – one is tempted to deal with each issue separately and cannot put together an entire puzzle.
The truth is many ideas put forth by those who think gender is on a spectrum and needn’t be related to biological sex at all are contradictory.
Like a surrealist art piece, they are clumped together whilst invalidating each other.
Gender “is a social construct” yet adopting one is completely valid
It is often said of masculinity, in feminist circles, that it is nothing but a product of socialisation and has no connection to biology. The complementary statement is that it can and should be changed through social engineering, by educating boys to renounce some traditionally male tendencies and behaviours.
However, when a woman decides to transition into a man, that is considered a valid choice based on her presumably correct understanding of masculinity, and challenging that is seen as bigoted.
However, if society at large is getting masculinity wrong, where would this woman get her views on it from? She was socialised in the same manner as everyone else after all, so she must have the same “misconceptions” as everyone else.
So what is she really morphing into if it’s a figment to begin with?
From here I deduce that gender stereotypes are only challenged by this crowd when one’s sex coincides with their gender (the vast majority of cases).
Increasingly, they are challenged when it comes to children (the concept of “theybies” has recently appeared, referring to children brought up without a gender, a trend more popular in Sweden than elsewhere). The thing is, how does one choose in adolescence or adulthood if they’ve had little -if any – understanding of gender their entire lives? What I come away with is that gender, as understood so far, is seen as toxic while growing up, but empowering when reaching adulthood, as a matter of choice.
Gender is separate from sex, gender roles and gender expression, yet is somehow crucial to someone’s identity
For all the talk surrounding the importance of asserting the gender one identifies with, the notion is treated as disconnected from other factors with practical (actual) implications, such as one’s biological sex or even gender expression (the latter being a logical consequence of choosing a gender in the first place, one would think).
So how does gender manifest in someone’s life? What practical role does it play aside from being a label?
Sexual orientation is based on gender, apparently, not sex
Although not everyone argues for this, many activists nowadays do.
Which makes no sense whatsoever as a gender can be adopted by someone of either sex, but sexual orientation, in two cases at least, is based on exclusively opposite or same-sex attraction. By now it’s accepted that it is innate and therefore cannot be changed. You can’t make a straight person gay any more than you can make a gay person straight.
Basing attraction on (potentially chosen) genders rather than sex goes against respecting someone’s sexual orientation.
To better illustrate these contradictions, here is an article from Everyday Feminism. The title is clear enough: “Separating Out Gender Identity From Gender Expression”. The content, not so much.
Gender identity is internal, deeply-rooted, and a central part of many people’s senses of self.
For example, I identify as masculine-of-center. If I were to say “I am a woman,” it would feel as ridiculous as if I were saying “I am a dinosaur.”
Gender expression, on the other hand, is what everyone around us can see.
Gender expression is the way in which you express your gender.
Sometimes these expressions go along with socially sanctioned ideas of what is appropriate. For example, we live in a society that deems dresses appropriate for women, but not for men. But sometimes they don’t.
Masculine of centre, as defined on Tumblr, linked to above:
Masculine of center (MOC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.
But how would one even define “man” and “woman”; “masculine” and “feminine” in this context of nothing being what it was previously accepted as?
How do you make a concept into a point of reference for all these new notions, at the same time as trying to dismantle it?
Let’s ask Everyday Feminism again for clarity. No luck here; the article elaborates on toxic masculinity, but not genuine masculinity, which remains mysterious. In truth, when doing a search on the website, this term only leads to pieces on “new masculinity”, “trans masculinity”, “female masculinity”, “masculine presenting people” etc. Oh, wait. “Healthy masculinity” – jackpot. Except that one is also about the way that men need to change and boys need to be brought up differently than previous generations.
So I’m left as confused as I was to begin with. It seems in their eyes, natural, biologically-driven healthy masculinity does not exist.
Hence I conclude that what masculine-presenting or trans-masculine people adopt must be the “toxic masculinity” everyone has been brought up around. According to feminists themselves, they must be adopting an illusion.
On to the rest of the article.
It’s pretty normal to be shocked, or surprised, or even uncomfortable when you come across someone breaking gender barriers.
We’re all socialized to think of gender as a fixed, unchanging, biologically imparted quality.
But a little critical thinking reveals that this is a falsehood, and a little open mindedness gives you access to a world of freedom with regards to gender.
Gender “creativity” is getting less and less stigmatized, so there’s more art and fashion and media than ever that showcases people with non-traditional gender presentations. Check it out!
When it comes to the children in the videos above, you’re not talking about choices or inclinations, but of them being brought up specifically to embrace gender-bending, or whatever you want to call it. The goal for some, sorry to say, seems to be for this to become the norm and eventually be enforced (and I know how reactionary it sounds yet in this case it’s appropriate).
This isn’t “live and let live” at this point. It’s activists going into schools and nurseries and asking for gendered language to be avoided. For the most part, it will create acrimony, including towards people who are genuinely transgender and just want to live their lives without being caught up in tailoring a radically different world.
Another article attempts to explain gender and all its implications. It begins like this:
What is gender, anyway?
Gender is a social construct. What I mean by that is the ways in which characteristics, interests, and behaviors are deemed “masculine” or “feminine”relies on people creating, believing, and reinforcing these divisions.
The things we have been taught divide men and women are not innate differences.
And continues like this…
The only meaningful way to determine gender is through personal gender identity, which is “an individual’s internal sense of gender” by Girshwick’s defining.
Pardon my headache, but if the two traditional ones are not real to begin with, how in the world can you design new ones based on them? Same question as above.
Mark the word “determine”. Not “create”, not “imagine”. Determine. According to them, one is determining their genuine, valid variation of something that doesn’t even exist.
Gender! What Is It Good For?
Although gender has not looked the same in all places, at all times, during the last few hundred years (and under Western influence), gender has become widely divided between two opposing options.
In other words, and this section of the article continues along the same lines, it’s only good for oppressing and dividing people. So it’s inherently a bad thing, which is why, presumably, we need more of it.
What should we do instead?
We can talk about people’s different body parts and needs without using male and female, especially considering the wide variety of bodies and needs out there.
This is not about validating a small group of people but demolishing the identities of others, even if they are perfectly comfortable with them.