Thoughtful article on the Sex vs Gender debate(22 Posts)
EarthMither (love your name) - thanks for the link. That's a very interesting article.
LRD do you know why your friend thinks gender is a tremendously freeing concept? I don't understand that.
Getting rid of gender would not mean getting rid of performances of particular behaviour but the association of gender with sex and particular behaviours with a particular sex.
Thanks earth. I agree about silencing.
gren - yes, indeed. And I absolutely agree that we gender and patriarchy must go together. I visualize it as a great tangled knot of thread - we pull at the threads where we can, and we untangle bits, and each separate thread unravelling from the knot helps ultimately to get rid of the tangle.
LRD - I think it is crucial we challenge gender, which the feminists in the 70's did. That directly changed lots of things e.g. boys doing woodwork at schools and girls doing sewing, less gendered toys, etc. But things have certainly got worse.
I think it is impossible to get rid of gender without getting rid of patriarchy. But we can certainly decrease its impact.
And yes gender hurts women more, but it restricts everyone. Ultimately we should all just be free to be individuals.
The transphobic label is often used to silence women sadly who are not being at all transphobic. Simply raising concerns about 2 year old children being diagnosed as transgender, is enough to attract it.
And thank you both for the further interesting discussion in the posts you made while I was
painfully slow in typing my response to your initial comments - I very much agree
Grennie, thanks for posting the Liberation Collective link - just had a skim and will definitely read more. Hungerford's piece there on 'Identity vs Socialization' covers a lot of the ground I have been mulling over in recent months.
LRD, the older I get the more I think gender is harmful to everyone, female and male alike. I am also very concerned that approaches which question gender are currently pilloried as "transphobic". There is a particularly nasty trend of attempting to silence women by levying this slur at anyone who suggests taking a more critical position on gender theory by employing tactics and language which to me just sounds like more of the same old same old men trying to tell women what to do and what to think.
And yes, I agree, merely abolishing gender might not help with all body dysphoria, and might not liberate women.
My feeling is simply - let's get on the road with it, and then worry. Because it is clearly a good thing to do. And I believe it will help some people - so let's try it.
I've certainly heard the queer theory you've heard. I do think there is a strand of queer theory/postmodernism (especially in US academia) that I find really disturbing.
Not at all rude LRD, its fine.
Yes if we could abolish gender, the only differences that would matter are those purely biological ones e.g. pregnancy, breast feeding. Sex would have far less impact on all of our lives.
Yes lots of people have forms of body dysphoria from anorexia to focussing on particaulr parts of their body like their nose. And of course there would need to be medical treatment for body dysmorphia or simply those who strongly dislike their bodies.
I don't think we can abolish gender without totally liberating women. I read some queer theory that talks about abolishing gender without understanding that it is a tool to uphold patriarchy. It is impossible to abolish gender alone, or by acting as if it is not a key social construct under patriarchy.
Crosspost - gren, yes, I did assume! Sorry - I was just typing as I thought, but didn't intend it to be narkily contradicting so much as clarifying the obvious. I hope it wasn't rude.
YY, and I think if we abolished gender, I cannot see how it would matter what 'sex' you were born. It would simply be like being born tall or short, blonde or brunette.
Of course people sometimes feel awful about their bodies. Of course we need to help them when they do. But it seems there are so many extra hurdles we set up for almost everyone, when we talk about 'gender'.
Sorry LRD, I wasn't clear. No public policy isn't made by treating women as a class. I meant public policy is made by looking at groups or classes of people, rather than individuals. But women as a class are virtually never considered.
I got interrupted writing that comment, hence its lack of clarity.
LRD, I agree with you. Gender is a restrictive and oppressive concept for everyone. Sex is your biological sex you are born with. But gender is something we should be abolishing. Who cares how you dress, act, think, if it is feminine or masculine, as long as you are a decent human being.
The reality is that over the last 15 years, gender norms have got much tighter in the UK and much more oppressive.
That's inherently contradictory, grennie, and I disagree.
Most public policy is not made by treating women as a class - or even as part of the class of 'humans'. That's the problem.
In terms of your comment, I think the focus on women as a class, or as individuals, is a key division in feminism thinking. You see it in discussions about porn and prostitution as well. If you take a class approach as I do, you inevitable come out with different thoughts on these issues.
So when deciding if something is positive or negative for women, you look at how it affects women as a group. Rather than getting dragged into looking at how it can benefit and disadvantage particular individuals.
In reality, this is how most public policy is made. For example, the ban in smoking in public places in England was made on the basis of what would be best for the health of people as a group, not looking at each individual. And I think this is the right approach.
I found this so difficult - I read it, and thought she made an honest effort.
Someone I know read it and told me it is wrong because gender is a tremendously freeing concept, and it helps all of us, and we should all be free to perform whatever gender we like.
She still wants to keep gender - but we can all be free to perform it as we choose.
I found it so hard to respond. It makes me think, FFS, why shouldn't we just get rid of 'gender' and say, look, do what you like with your behaviour, how you dress, your body, etc. etc.? It frustrates me because I cannot see why this is wrong but I'm constantly told this is transphobic and also bad feminism.
I was always told that nowadays it's used interchangeably as it's hard to distinguish between the two - biological and environmental factors are too entwined to be seperate.
Yes it is Elizabeth Hungerford's site. She is very smart and explains things well. She also writes for this collective feminist blog
Liberation Collective is I think the best available feminist blog.
Thanks for your responses EBearhug and Grennie - I didn't mean to start this thread and abandon it, but I've been a bit preoccupied by RL over the past couple of days.
Grennie - that's Elizabeth Hungerford's site, isn't it? She is a seriously sharp thinker and a very engaging writer.
Returning to Gia's article a few days down the line, the comments have made for interesting reading from both sides of the debate. I've been quite struck by the stark contrast between the class analysis used by commenters who approach this issue from a radical feminist stance, versus the promotion of the individual as the ultimate arbiter of sex/gender identity. Personally I find myself increasingly troubled by the latter approach.
Gia Milinovich has just published a very interesting piece teasing out some of the issues around sex and gender (and the difference between the two). I know this is a thorny topic for many people, but I really enjoyed her calm and scientific take on the matter so I wanted to share it. It's too long to C&P, but I recommended a click through and a read if you're interested in this area of feminist thought.
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