What is gender, anyway?

Originally published by Sarah Ditum at the New Statesman

This can be perplexing terrain, in which it’s not at all clear that everyone is speaking the same language, although they might be using the same words. In popular usage, “gender” is often simply a synonym for “sex”, and it’s unquestioned that “woman” and “female”, and “man” and “male” are naturally and irrevocably paired. (This could be called the essentialist account, or “gender is in one’s pants”.) Essentialism comes in slightly more sophisticated variants too, and one current proponent is Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, who has written extensively on what he calls “the essential difference”, claiming that the male brain is inherently systematising and the female brain inherently empathising, leading to a natural division of roles on the basis of a physical difference. (Baron-Cohen does allow that “not all men have the male brain, and not all women have the female brain”, but the fact that “systematising” roles occupied by men tend to be well-paid and prestigious, while “empathising” ones performed by women are less valuable or even entirely unpaid, is regarded as an unfortunate coincidence.)

Feminist analysis has vigorously challenged that view.

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Being a Minority of One.

Originally posted on Gender Critical Dad

My daughter has decided to become a man, wants a mastectomy and testosterone, the group that she’d been going to, turns out to be a cult, teachers I trusted had been enabling her delusion to boost the self righteous liberalism and pompous patronising tolerance . I’m supposed to come to terms with this and support her on this brave journey, but just I could not buy it.

It left me reeling, questioning my beliefs, my sanity, my decency and my motives. Why did I disagree with the consensus? I’ve always been a big headed git, but also capable of reflection and I think, reconsideration, but this stuff just left me in a spin

Its so gob smacking, that I didn’t want to talk about it in depth with my partner, If she agreed with me, it could just be to keep the peace, or because I’d worn her down.

I hit the internet, searched, somehow found https://www.reddit.com/r/GenderCritical/ and from the sidebar in that loads of links, full of sane women, frequently repeating the objections I had to trans, filling in details, providing a calm, reasoned argument, why the transgender system off belief is fundamentally flawed.

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The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate by Daniel Harris

Originally published by The Antioch Review

Those who choose to alter or even mask their gender merit full protection under the law merely because their decisions, while they may divest them of breasts and birth names, do not strip them of their humanity. TGs face violence, murder, mass unemployment, homelessness, poverty, rampant HIV infection, inadequate healthcare, depression, and, at alarmingly high rates, suicide. Many commentators have singled out tolerance for this most vulnerable part of the population as the final frontier of civil rights, a new contest against bigotry and homophobia, one it would be irresponsible for both politicians and everyday citizens not to address.

And yet just as the issue has come to the fore of public awareness, TGs have ambushed the debate and entangled us in a snare of such trivialities as the proper pronouns with which to address them, protocol as Byzantine and patronizing as the etiquette for addressing royalty. They insult us with the pejorative term “cisgender,” which they use to describe those of us who accept, however unenthusiastically, our birth gender, as opposed to the enlightened few who question their sex. Moreover, they shame us into silence by ridiculing the blunders we make while trying to come to grips with their unique dilemmas, decrying our curiosity about their bodies as prurience and our unwillingness, or even inability, to enter into their own (often unsuccessful) illusion as narrow‑mindedness.

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How men are using gender identity to deny male privilege

Originally posted at Lavender Blume

Anyone who has delved into the topic of gender identity has likely heard about the diverging understandings of gender according to queer theory (gender is arbitrary i.e. whatever you say it is) and radical feminism (gender is a social construct with well-defined parameters). This disagreement comes down to how womanhood and manhood are defined (although for reasons obvious to feminists, the nature of womanhood is much more frequently debated) and what we’re ultimately supposed to do about sex/gender stereotypes.

For centuries, women have struggled to break away from the expectations regarding how we’re supposed to look, act, think, and feel. While debates rage on about what it means to be a woman or a man – or a proper lady or a real man – there are people who want to identify as something other than what they were born as or how they’re expected to be. While it’s often said that the reason for this varies from person to person as it’s a purely personal choice, this individualistic approach fails to take into account the inequality between the sexes. This is critical to understanding what’s happening and why because a system whose goal is the dominance of males over females will necessarily seek to define womanhood and manhood, femininity and masculinity, in such a way as to perpetuate that supremacy. It attempts to do this at every opportunity and within every social movement, arguably most aggressively when done under the guise of progressive politics. Once a theory regarding gender is adopted by those who identify as social justice advocates it becomes nearly impossible to question a doctrine already presumed to be revolutionary.

Are we willing to consider that some of the ideas promulgated by such groups could in fact reinforce structures of power rather than challenge them?

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An African-American Woman Reflects on the Transgender Movement

Originally posted at Public Discourse

Paradoxically, the more our society tries to free itself from gender stereotypes, the more it becomes enslaved to them. By saying that people can be born in a body of the wrong gender, transgender activists are saying there is a set of feelings that are only allocated to women and another set for men. Therefore, they believe, those who feel things that do not conform to their sex’s acceptable set of feelings must outwardly change their gender to match their mind.

Why are we colluding with narrow ideas of femininity or masculinity? What does it mean to “feel” like a woman? Should we question that idea as much as we have questioned ideas of a “woman’s place” or a “man’s role”? When did we come to accept the idea of “gendered thoughts” or “gendered feelings”?

As a linguistic student of Arabic, I recently learned that women and men are not opposite so much as they are complementary. The idea that one could feel opposite from one’s biological gender is actually nonsensical, linguistically and in reality. Men and women are different, but not so categorically that one can feel as though he or she were the other. We are full human beings, free to think as we wish without questioning our authenticity as men or as women.

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Non-binary people: A helpful guide for TERFs and non-TERFs alike

Originally posted at Feminists Unknowns

  1. How do I know if an individual is non-binary?

A common mistake is to think it’s okay simply to ask. Please don’t do this; it’s rude and individuals could find it triggering. Fortunately there are easy ways to tell. Is this individual a human being? If the answer is yes, then this person is inherently non-binary (NB one can be human regardless of whether one is male or female).

Gender is, after all, a hierarchical system of oppression arising from sex difference. People express and identify themselves in ways which overlap with presumed manifestations of sex-based oppression and/or dominance. Why they do so depends on many factors: social conditioning, class, fear of violence, caring responsibilities, economic advantage, innate personality traits. They ought to have every right to do so, but no one can claim to be more “non-binary” than the next.  No one naturally identifies with being oppressed and no one is simply born to be considered inferior.

  1. Hang on, I thought only me, my mates and a few famous arty types, most of whom are male, were allowed to be non-binary?

Then I am guessing you are young-ish, quite possibly a student or a writer, certainly not a post-menopausal woman (urgh! cis!), and your beliefs are based partly on a very sensible critique of gender and partly on a fuckload of privilege.

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