okay i admit i feel a bit shaky at times about my gender theory but…
a (rad fem lesbian) friend was like, gender is a social construction, so we just need to get rid of this concept of gender rather than accept trans folk defining themselves…
which just didnt make any sense and my mind just melted…
so is that like saying sexuality is a social construction, so rather than allowing for folks to define for themselves their own sexuality, we should just get rid of the concept of sexuality?
i mean once we use language to talk about something — doesnt that mean that ‘something’ is a social construction?
i mean when i first met her she identified as bi sexual (and not a feminist), so she wasnt born a lesbian…she became one…
I’m broadly of a similar opinion to your friend but think an over-emphasis of that leads to a denial of the authenticity of a person’s lived experiences.
Gender and sexuality are socially constructed (as are expectations regarding race etc). They’re created and applied by society, a person exists in a dialectical relationship with these notions because being a part of society their realisation of the self is constructed by ones own participation with those roles. Society applies these expectations to a person, while a person finds their own position within those expectations. At the same time a person is also applying these expectations to other people and having an affect on how others view their self.
So what are broadly viewed as masculine versus feminine traits aren’t truly so in some sort of greater objective reality. They exist and are only realised through the subjective experience and participation within a society that applies those gender roles. If we were able to abolish social expectations of gender and sexuality, that could resolve the struggles of:
- Feminism (because people would be regarded as people, rather than as women or men, and therefore patriarchal society could not exist);
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual struggles (because again there’d be no expectation of what people should be, ergo they can simply be);
- Potentially trans* struggles (because if people are accepted as people, there’d be no expectation as to how they should be received by society. No expectation as to how they should dress, wear their hair etc and therefore they could simply be).
I don’t know enough about gender dysmorphia to be able to comment comprehensively, but I do believe there’s a dialectical relationship a person exists in between the self and society which can affect how they view their own physicality. I’m not convinced there’s anything intrinsic to the brain that states to a person which genitalia they should or should not have and am inclined to believe that expectations of such things for the self is something which develops in conjunction with social interaction.
With all that said though, the overarching questions in this matter would be:
- Realistically speaking are we able to functionally abolish gender roles. Is this an aim or a goal which could or should be focussed on in the immediate?
- When a persons interaction with society and understanding of the self is their authentic experience of life, is it progressive or regressive to put primacy on the notion of abolishing gender when someone involved in struggle may not see that as the authentic resolution to the situation they’re in?
For all intents and purposes I’m someone who represents as a cis-gendered, heterosexual male. Evidently the struggles of feminism and LGBTQ within a hetero-normative, patriarchal society are something which I have privilege within. At least from my position, for me to stomp around saying “that’s not a concern, what we need to do is abolish gender expectations” could simply be because it’s something I’m more comfortable as a mode of challenging these social institutions from my already privileged positions. But I don’t necessarily think that would be productive because from my position of privilege that could also work as a denial of the authenticity of a person’s lived experiences when they don’t share these social privileges. I’m also not convinced it’s a goal that can be achieved any time soon, whereas other changes which can redress power relations can very much be addressed in a much more effective fashion.
So I dunno. Just some brain splurge on the subject of my knee jerk reactions to these ideas.