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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The relentless tide of sex stereotypes

Originally posted at Purple Sage

Another day, another article about a child who is being taught that she is the opposite sex because she likes the wrong things. May 18th’s victim of gender roles is Shanice/Shane, who is a girl who likes “boys’ things,” and is therefore being transitioned to a boy. The 1950s-style sexism in this article is enough to make me vomit. I swear, somebody somewhere is being paid to churn out these articles daily and they’re required to include as many sex stereotypes as possible. It’s all part of the public relations campaign for traditional gender roles and expensive surgeries.

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Birth wars: the politics of childbirth

Originally published by Glosswitch at the New Statesman

To be of woman born is a universal experience, yet women themselves remain a diffuse, fractured group. “What is a woman, anyway?” is still considered a deep, meaningful question to ask. The polite answer is, of course, “whatever anyone wants it to be”. More than that would close off the vessel, seal the hole, glue back together the broken shell. There’s a sense in which women are simply not meant to be whole. We need to be in pieces so that men can survive intact.

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Why I Won’t Accept The Politics Of Gender Identity

Originally published by The Morning Star

THE concept of gender identity is being enshrined into law in several countries now, giving new legal protections to transgender people on the basis of their identities.

In the United States, the Obama administration recently signed a declaration that all public schools in the country must recognise the gender identity of their students.

Canada has recently announced new legal protections for transgender people. In Britain, there is interest growing in allowing people to legally define their own gender.

As a person on the political left and as a member of the LGBT community, I am expected to applaud these changes to legislation, but instead I am critical.

This is because the concept of gender identity is poorly defined, and the politics of transgenderism is harmful to women and girls and rooted in individualism rather than collective action.

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The pronominal is political

Originally posted at language: a feminist guide

Feminists objected to the use of ‘he’ to refer to people in general, which made women as a class invisible. The new politics of gender identity, by contrast, is concerned with the way pronouns are used in reference to specific individuals. As the writer I quoted earlier explains, pronouns are ‘a big deal’ because

They’re the definitive way we acknowledge and respect a person’s gender in everyday conversation.

The principle that underlies this assertion is that individuals have a right to be referred to with the pronouns which, in their own view, most appropriately reflect their gender identity. It should not be assumed that everyone is either ‘he’ or ‘she’: individuals who identify as trans, non-binary, agender or genderqueer may prefer an alternative, epicene form. ‘They’ is one of the available options, but sources which aim to document non-traditional pronoun use exhaustively, like this tumblr, list scores of other possibilities.

The acceptance of this principle has produced a new form of linguistic etiquette: announcing one’s ‘preferred pronouns’ and taking steps to ascertain the preferred pronouns of others. Some universities now invite students to register their pronouns: at Harvard around half the student body so far have availed themselves of this option (though only about 50 students out of 10,000 have specified a pronoun other than ‘he’ or ‘she’). And the New York City Human Rights Commission recently issued legal guidance which made clear that an employer or landlord who failed to use an employee or tenant’s preferred name, title and pronouns would be guilty of unlawful discrimination.

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States protecting sex segregation and gender identity at the same time!

Originally posted at Sex Not Gender

These are states in which gender identity laws have already been passed, yet protection for sex-segregation is also explicitly allowed by statute. This differs from the recent DOJ interpretations of “sex” where “gender identity” is not a separate concept, but one and same with “sex.”

The “gender identity” definition is on the right in column D. The (s)exception language protecting sex-segregation in certain spaces is in column C, middle. Compare and contrast!!

Don’t let anyone tell you there is no statutory or historical support for a female right to privacy from males in certain spaces of public accommodation.

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Thoughts of a person, with breasts

Originally posted at Glosswatch

Jaqueline Rose recently wrote 15,000 breathless, muddled words on transness for the LRB. “Transsexual people are brilliant at telling their stories,” she declared. They are interesting, you see, unlike cis women, those dullards, unquestioning conscripts to the gender regime who see themselves as “normal” because they lack the trans person’s unique ability to inhabit a liminal space:

The ‘cis’ – i.e. non-trans – woman or man is a decoy, the outcome of multiple repressions whose unlived stories surface nightly in our dreams. From the Latin root meaning ‘on this side of’ as opposed to ‘across from’, ‘cis’ is generally conflated with normativity, implying ‘comfortable in your skin’, as if that were the beginning and end of the matter.

Who, exactly, we may therefore ask – trans or non-trans – is fooling whom? Who do you think you are? – the question anyone hostile to transsexual people should surely be asking themselves. So-called normality can be the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.

Cis woman, as far as Rose is concerned, restricts herself to a surface-only existence. She is Woolf’s looking glass, now providing an outline to be filled with someone else’s deep, meaningful knowledge of what it is to truly live as neither one thing nor another. The patriarchal insistence that women do not have souls gets an update; cis woman does not know her own soul, but that is her fault. She condemns herself to inauthenticity through her own lack of curiosity, content to remain tits and ass, “the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.”

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