Tomboys and sissies: where we’re going wrong

Originally published by Bronwyn Winter at The Age

I would like to live in a world where ‘male’ and ‘female’ cease to be categories of social distinction, to the considerable advantage of those labelled ‘male’ and the considerable disadvantage of those labelled ‘female’.

I would like ‘gender’ to disappear as a mark of social categorisation and prescribed behaviours, even if ‘sex’ – the number of ‘Xes’ in our  chromosomes – inevitably remains one mark of biological diversity, and differing needs, among us.

But we do not live in such a world, and gender continues to separate humanity into two classes. As such, it is a deeply political question. It shapes our collective social experience as sexed beings from the day we are born, and we cannot disappear that experience and acquire another, simply through an act of will. Biology is not everything, but it is not nothing either – as any intersex person surely knows, and as all women know.

Throughout history, any specificity of women’s embodiment or needs has been ideologically constructed as justification for considering us weak, incompetent and unclean. We know, deeply, viscerally, that embodiment is a political issue.

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