Monthly Archives: November 2011

Toward Gender Neutrality

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As the byline of my blog says, this is a place for all of my many loves, loathings, and musing. Well, there is one subject that falls under each. That is, I simultaneously love it and loathe it, and now I shall muse about it.  What is it?

Feminism.
Wait. Before the little vein in your head pops, I am (for lack of a better term, at the moment) a feminist. It is neither the movement nor the fundamental concepts behind it that I loathe, quite the opposite as I love those. No. It is the word and all of the misconceptions that it conjures, that is what I loathe. Yes. I loathe it. The word, and a few other things. Let me explain.

First, just look at it feminism. Say it, with me FEM-IN-ISM. Sounds…menacing, does it not? It’s that damnable –ism at the end. What an awful suffix. Why must it be an –ism? So many things in history that we westerners (Americans and most of Europe) have been acculturated to hate end with that dreadful suffix: communism, fascism, terrorism, (and I add, for my own benefit, really since I find it to be the right-hand of the devil [assuming the devil has hands, of course] capitalism). These are evil things, or so we are told. They are tools of oppression. They expect all people to look the same, and own the same things, and learn the same things. They aim to make us mindless automatons of the state (don’t believe the hype? look at this [keep in mind, these are official uniforms; most people in China dress like everyone else]).

It’s no wonder that people who are either against, or worse ambivalent toward, feminism are so confused about it. Whenever I hear someone tell me (and I hear this from women, too) why they dislike feminism, it is usually this: Feminism wants to make everyone the same (I kid you not, I wish was joking but some of the people I have encountered still think this way).  They hear the word, feminism and they think “same.”

And this brings me to my second problem, I know that part of the confusion is that, for so long, the movement has been selling itself as a movement about equality and, for reasons I cannot quite fathom, people mistakenly equate equality with sameness.
Equal, for the confused individuals out there, in the socio-political context means: “like in quality, nature, or status.”  Same, for the the same individuals, means: “resembling in every relevant aspect.”

Notice that feminists do not argue for the sameness of the sexes, they argue for the equality of the sexes. Perhaps it is that some people are not word people, meaning that they don’t understand words and easily confuse the meanings assigned to each. Perhaps if you thought of equals in terms of numbers:
1 + 3 = 4
2 + 2 = 4
See what I did here? The sum of the two equations is the same but the equations themselves are different, yet they are equal. That’s equality. Two things (in this case people, men and women) having apparently different qualities, yet being inherently equal. Sure, men have a penis and women have a vagina, but we are equally human. Just like 2 + 2 = 4, man + woman = humanity. You can’t have a complex biological species (like all mammals) without male and female; both of whom contribute the same exact number of chromosomes (23 from each) to the offspring whom they make together.

Equality. That is the ultimate goal. For society as a whole to recognize that differences in physiology are what make men and women part of the same whole. And as such, we deserve to be treated the same within the soci0-economic and political structures of the society in which we all live.

Make sense? Great! Now, let me throw all of that out the window because it sucks. Again, before anyone has an aneurysm, I like equality. The reason the above argument sucks is that it only address a part of the problem, which is the issue that physiology separates men and women and that idea is already pretty much dead. The rest of the problem, the problem of socially constructed gender roles, still remains; and, contrary to its intent, the above argument is too often used to reinforce gender roles (men earn the bacon, women fry it in the pan). The argument goes as such: While we are two halves to the same whole, our roles in society are different, though equally important. Women, by way of the fact that they gestate the baby, birth the baby, and then breast feed the baby (sorry to ruin the illusion guys, but those fun-bags protruding from our chests are really there to feed the babies that our pleasure pockets, otherwise known as vagina, will one day squeeze out and into the world) are clearly more suited to raise and educate their children; therefore, it is only right and proper that men should work to provide for the home and, when needed, defend it.

Once upon a time this made sense. But, it is not the stone age anymore. The argument that a woman’s place is in the cave, I mean home, pretty much ended when some men-folk decided that being an agrarian society wasn’t exciting enough and ushered us into the industrial age thus creating the need for more than one income. Once women, by way of economic hardship, were forced to work outside of the home in dangerous conditions, they began to question their second-class status. If a woman can do the same work as a man, then she should have the same rights as one, too. Honestly, it is no small coincidence that the feminist movement pretty much coincided with the labor movement. Society, as it always does, changed and, as a result the long practiced division of labor between men and women no longer makes sense.  Gender roles are socially constructed, as such we can remake them…Better yet, we can abolish them.

And this bring me to another problem I have, the misconception that feminism is just about women. Far too often feminism is seen as a struggle to overcome patriarchy and sexism (and here we have another evil ism), which it is, but that is only a fraction of what feminism is about. Feminists aren’t just concerned with patriarchy and sexism, we are are concerned with overcoming the status of otherness that pervades society. Otherness, which is best defined as the state of being outside of the expected norm, is the result of both many millennia of western male dominance (aka patriarchy), and the modern heterodoxy of the white, heterosexual, Christian-protestant male, otherwise thought of as racism (see, there’s another of those evils isms for you).  The norm, therefore, is the white, heterosexual, Christian protestant male; thus, one is the other if one does not fit that model. If you are not only female, but gay, lesbian,  transgender, or transsexual then you are other. If you are brown skinned (by birth, tans don’t count), then you are other. If you are Jewish, Muslims, Mormon, or even Catholic then you are other (atheists/agnostics/pantheists don’t count, because we know that we are soulless hell-spawn anyway [joking]).

Feminism, in it’s entirety, is about the equality of sexuality, not just equality of the sexes, meaning male and female. Feminists want to abolish antiquated and arbitrary ideas of gender normalcy and replace them with a more rational and egalitarian idea…Gender Neutrality. This idea posits that a boy is no less a boy if he plays with dolls and a girl is no less a girl if she plays with trucks; likewise, a man is no less a man if he works as a nurse and a woman is no less a woman if she works as mechanic.  Moreover, it posits that being gay or lesbian or transgendered/sexual makes you no less human than someone who is hetero.
We want people to be seen as people regardless of what they have between their legs and with whom (as long as they are consenting adults) they chose to use it. It’s that simple really, we want a gender neutral world. This does not mean that everyone is the same, it means that everyone can be whom they want to be without adverse consequences and unfair judgements. Therefore, feminism is a bit of a misnomer.

And this brings me back to my first problem…the word feminism. I hate to be a pain in the ass, but maybe it is time for a change. I have a few suggestions. First, no more –ism, there’s too much negativity associated with isms and our movement is far too positive for that. Let’s go with -cracy, “the state of having such a form.”  Second, lets replace the feminine with sex. Combine the two for Sexacracy….Of course, I am open to suggestions.

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