Gender does not exist. Sexually distinctive behaviors do exist, for example: Females lactate and males do not, though both are mammals. Sexually distinctive behaviors are different from gender because gender is a culturally variant phenomenon, whereas breastfeeding is something that happens everywhere. In the animal kingdom, there are many sexually distinctive behaviors displayed by animals of both sexes, but to confuse these ingrained, instinctive mating display behaviors with something as complex and culturally variant as gender is absurd. Humans are not frogs, fruit flies, ducks, or bonobos. Gender dictates that women behave differently from men, and this behavior varies by culture. Patriarchy requires gender to exist, which is why all patriarchal cultures use gender. The study of the baboons actually brings home the idea that aggressive behavior in males is not inherent, as when the alpha male baboons died out, they were replaced with male baboons who were “nice guys”, and were not aggressive. The young males were socialized to be pacifists, and obviously it worked, and they were. It’s very encouraging because it means that gendered, aggressive male behavior (alpha male BS) is not ingrained, but learned, and that all it would take for humans to achieve a similar result would be to poison all the alpha males and wait a generation… (just kidding).
Anyway, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that there is such a thing as inherent gender in humans. Because human behavior is so richly varied, and gender roles themselves vary by culture, it is impossible that gendered behaviors be inherent in one sex or the other. As such, it is also impossible for them to be misplaced. I am not naturally nurturing any more than all men are naturally violent. Men who are more nurturing, kind, soft, sweet etc, are not “women” on the inside (though they’re A-OK in my book… we need more soft men). They are simply displaying normal human emotions and behaviors. Their gender is not “misplaced”, but they and society at large presume that the behaviors they display, because they are more commonly associated with females, is the result of them being female “on the inside”. I have known many different kinds of women. Some of them wore dresses and engaged in “girly” behaviors, and some of them didn’t shave, enjoyed rock climbing, and hated babies. They were all women because they were all adult human females, but they did not all share the same “feminine essence” that everyone associates with womanhood. None of the more “butch” women believed they were not women simply because their behaviors were more “mannish”. You can’t be fluid and “play gender like jazz” if you honestly believe that picking from one of two constraining boxes is true freedom. Gender nonconformity is one of the bravest things people in our society can do. I’m visibly a very feminine-looking woman, but I’ve chosen to stop shaving, and it’s interesting how similar I look to a male… most female grooming activities are carried out to make women look as different from men as possible, and I’m trying to stop performing gender for its own sake.
If gender is truly as fluid as you say it is and there is no right or wrong way to be a woman, how do you know you really are a woman on the inside? What is a woman? Describe it to me without falling back on stereotypes, and you’ll find that the only thing that defines woman is sex. That does not make me a sexual determinist. I don’t feel that sex affects abilities, likes, or dislikes, nor does it affect social behavior. Everyone is so very different that sexual determinism (gender), even if it is supposedly “fluid”, places limits on people. Why should it be fluid when it could just as easily not exist at all? The only solution to the oppression of women is the destruction of patriarchy, and the only way to destroy patriarchy is to undermine gender, not make it more “flexible”.
Gender is a social construct in the same way that race is. The color of a person’s skin makes no difference in their abilities or personality, but our society ascribes much importance to skin color through institutionalized racism. Because of this, the color of a person’s skin matters very much socially. Because gender works the same way, a person’s sex matters very much socially. Because I am female in a patriarchal, male dominated, gendered world, my sex matters and is relevant in terms of how I am treated and perceived by society at large. I have been catcalled, groped, and harassed by adult men in public when I was still a girl. They didn’t do this because I “identify” as a girl. They did this because I am female in a culture that is both misogynistic and male-dominated, and because they were socialized to be aggressive, entitled narcissists who are placed in a higher social position over women and girls by default. This socialization is called gender, and my socialization taught me to shrink, to be silent, to not question it because “boys will be boys”. Gendered socialization enables patriarchy to exist. Making the boxes more flexible or making new boxes does not question the hegemony of gender or the oppressive nature of patriarchy (and industrial capitalism), which kills thousands daily (most notably girls and women, but also indigenous people and POC) and destroys the environment at an alarming rate, making our planet toxic, dead and unliveable. All of these things are intertwined. Gender is not harmless expression.
|—||Kitsunegari (via staininyourbrain)|