3. Imagining a world without gender




What would a post-gender world look like?

First, a summation of how gender works in a male supremacist society (aka patriarchy):



If feminists succeed in abolishing gender:



(Confession: I don't care very much about pronouns one way or the other.)

Some people seem to think that if we abolish gender, everyone will be forced to sport khaki robes and buzz cuts. This is because they confuse (time- and place- specific) gender signifiers with the actual underlying gender hierarchy. They think of gender as a costume, rather than a set of power relations.

In a post-gender world, all the "stuff" of human social life would still be there, access to it would simply no longer be limited by perceived reproductive capacity.

In a post-gender world, boys would be allowed (not forced) to wear dresses, and girls would be allowed (not forced) to eschew them. More importantly, both girls and boys would be allowed (not forced) to play with dolls, climb trees, build with Legos, play sports and figure out computers, if those activities interest them. Both girls and boys would be responsible for household chores. Both girls and boys would be allowed to develop leadership qualities and cooperative techniques. And neither girls nor boys would be groomed to self-objectify or solve their problems with violence.

For a great illustration of parenting that resists gendered restrictions, I suggest this refreshing essay from the “Sense of Wonder” blog: Gender Neutral Parenting, or When Your Daughter Wants a Mohawk, and these two websites: Let Toys Be Toys and Man vs. Pink.

In a post-gender world, women could wear make up and high heels if they chose, and men could too. Both could also go bare-faced and be-sneakered with nary a batted eye. Much more importantly, in a post-gender world - in a world that does not assume male dominance and female subservience - feminists imagine and work towards possibilities for women that go far beyond freedom of self-decoration: equal education, opportunity and pay; free contraception and abortion on demand; free 24 hour nurseries; the normalization of financial and legal independence; an end to all discrimination against lesbians; and perhaps most important of all, freedom from male violence.

Now, consider why a world without gender is so hard for us to imagine. A world without gender is a world without male privilege. A world without gender would mean men could wear dresses and lipstick, yes. A world without gender would mean men could cry at sad movies and hug each other in public! BUT - without gender, men would no longer be the default human, with women as sub-human not-men, destined to serve them. Without gender, men would not be excused for the violence that keeps women in line. Without gender, women would not be groomed from birth to placate men and put our own needs and desires last. Without gender, men would lose a world of nannies, secretaries, maids, and whores, all terrified into varying degrees of self-abnegation. Men -including so-called "liberal" men- are not going to give up that world without a fight. 

Next page: Transsexual people (are not the problem).

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