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@notthatbeard told me about this new book called Gender:A graphic guide by Meg John-Barker and Jules Scheele. So I had to get it, and see what’s going on in Genderland & what they’re going to tell young people
Apparently,if we are going to understand gender we are going to need to take a journey through space&time. I will fire up the rocketship, you get the moonboots. It looks pretty promising at first though because it focuses on the fact that gender has been socially constructed
The next section is on hunter gatherers and how women’s role in ancient societies has been downplayed by modern history. At this point it seems clear they’re actually talking more about Sex than anything else, as they point out differences in the treatment of the sexes.
They talk about industry and how defining men’s work as useful labour and women’s work as less important impacted the sexes, except of course they don’t mention the sexes. It’s gender all the way, baby. They recognise, however, that the social role of women and men is different,
And largely pretty destructive to women. Also that gender roles and class are interconnected, as gender roles within classes can differ markedly, though we know, of course, that women still draw the short straw.
*sighs* but the next section is about gender&colonialism. Apparently gendered norms didn’t apply to slaves (&yet I’d imagine the tasks they were forced to do,&their relationships with their own communities would have been full of ideas about what women should and shouldn’t do)
But they state this because black women had to do some intense forms of manual labour under slavery. I think it’s just a massive inaccuracy to suggest that they weren’t also being oppressed on the basis of sex through the mechnism of gender in that situation as well.
Then we skip to the othering of women,black people,the neurodivergent&disabled in the late 1800s when apparently white, middleclass,heterosexual, able bodied men became the norm (who was the norm before this? With the exception of middle class wasn’t that group the norm forever?)
Ding ding ding! Heteronormativity klaxon! Sorry, I got excited by the first grand word to make an entrance. Ok, so we leap into that now (the thoughts they have keep seeming really unfinished). This section talks about the consequences of this “recent” othering.
Which was apparently that “a “normal” gender requires a “normal” sexuality to express it and a “normal” relationship to that sexuality” and here we discover that this is when capitalism invented monogamous relationships between “two people of two genders”.
Then, I confess I skipped a few sections because it’s all very earnest and twee. I dipped back in, in time to discover that even just searching for evidence of matriarchies and idealising those cultures may be appropriation. My google history looks upon itself in shame.
They do point out though that framing trans identities using other cultures can be exploitative which is nice to get down in writing. Not that it stops later sections using black people for its analogies but they had the thought one time that this kind of thing is unreasonable.
They rope in a historian, next, to talk about how women who are interested in sex have been distrusted and treated badly since medieval times. For some reason the historian draws a comparison between medieval Europe and hip hop.
Apparently, it is both in medieval Europe&in rap that women are considered good if they’re sexually available to the man who wants her but bad if they’re sexually available to more than one man or in their own chosen ways. &not,you know,just generally everywhere in our societies
There’s a brief note that the medieval church was ok with sex workers b/c men were thought to have uncontrollable urges but men were still only ok with women’s sexuality when they controlled it,yet somehow this tells us women’s sexuality “can be seen in radically different ways”
Now we get onto toilets and honestly this section is the whole reason I bought it. Oh boy it does not disappoint. “Accessible toilets are rarely gendered reminding us how disabled people are often viewed as non sexual or less man or woman than able bodied people”.
It’s not,you know,an issue of space,or that disabled toilets are a specialised facility with a sturdier door/lock situation, or that if they were male or female only it would be hard for carers (mostly women) to accompany disabled people of the opposite sex into one when needed.
I don’t know what disability the contributor to this section has, but disabled facilities are not a prop in this debate that can be used to suggest that it is somehow dehumanising to separate most facilities by sex.
(How is it an argument *for* unisex spaces If you talk about them only being given to disabled people b/c people see them as lesser?) There’s also the trad. power ballad in A minor which is along the lines of “racial bathroom segregation is somehow comparable to sex segregation”.
No one ever says how in a way that is believable but it’s good to shove it in there. We also get something about how loos weren’t gendered initially in the time when women were emerging from the household&needed to use them.
Oh and most violence against women happens in private, anyway, so we are heteronormative silly billies for wanting to safeguard public facilities. Well, I mean, I’m convinced, aren't you? XD
Then we are asked what we have learnt from our journey across space and time, and I’ve learnt foremost that you really missold the word space in that duo. I look ridiculous in this outfit for what was a totally starless jaunt around this issue.
Oh god we are only on chapter 2. I thought it was over. Now it goes onto how sex&gender are different and how Male people mainly grow up to identity as men and behave in ways we regard as masculine/female people tend to identify as women and behave in ways we regard as feminine
Then we get a good old section (with genital cartoons! Yay!) about Sex,&then one about how it is more complex,unknowable, wibbly etc than we have been previously led to believe. But then it only bloody goes&gets sensible talking about how brains aren’t pink brain blue brain.
Oh, but now I see where they’re going b/c they suggest height, hairiness, hormones&breast tissue are not tied to sex either and some Male athletes have less circulating testorone than average men. The idea I guess is to keep selling the notion that sex is a wobbly unimportance.
I should have made a bingo card for this b/c next, ofc, is intersex&that ridiculous 1.7% claim makes an appearance. No Fausto-Sterling, we don’t believe you.Surgeries on intersex children “demonstrate gender is intertwined with a certain kind of het sex in western societies”
I don’t think the travesty done to intersex children demonstrates anything about the gender stuff you’re specifically into, at all, but when you’re stealing everyone’s narratives to make a quilt to keep yourself warm, I guess anything goes.
Now they suggest that as we’ve seen (when?) that sex means many different things,we should now consider gender does too. Women are sometimes comfortable being women&being feminine,&sometimes not&this says deep deep things about individuals&not just society at large, or something.
This section is called “Multiplicity of gender” which feels like something your GP ought to deal with, and then the following section suggests Sex and gender are inextricably intertwined which, I mean, yes? But not the way you keep insisting.
Then we are full on Common Sense Mode, with references to cordelia fine and how we impose gender expectations on children and one study shows we even treat them differently based on “the colour they are wearing and thus their perceived sex.”
Neuroplasticity saunters into proceedings next, and the next few pages are genuinely fascinating but all of this is just not leading to anything that tells me about Gender, as they see it, at all. Except that the title of this bit is called “gendered brains”. Ah.
So, brains aren’t sexed but they are gendered 👀. And gendered brains affect our bodies so maybe if we “can feel free in our bodies and believe in our strength, our physical capabilities, bodies and potentials may change over time” 😮
Now it’s Judith Butler and “doing gender” and gender is a “routine accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction” and the book suggests “our sex/gender can change based on us resisting the norm and finding alternatives”. *makes absurdly long raspberry sound and tuts at kindle*
What I’m getting from the REAMS on this is that by changing your behaviour you change your brain, which changes your body, which changes your sex/gender. I guess If I’m a lumberjack, I become a Male/man by the 50th tree& if a Male nurse will be a woman by the 18th bedbath.
Hurdy Gurdy INTERSECTIONAL GENDER because our gender can’t be disentangled from other aspects of ourselves. “We have diverse experiences of gender because of the gender options that are available to us, or not, at our specific intersectional position”.
“different ways of expressing femininity might be available to us before&after a chronic health condition”. Listen,gang,I’ve been ill a long time.Never made me not a woman or some other new wave gender just b/c I was huddled under the covers fighting an internal physical war
Inability to perform the femininity demanded of women has been an informative experience but it didn’t make me a man,or androgyne. I’m going to skip this next few chapters, but to give you an idea, one is titled “sex/gender is biopsychosocial, nonbinary, fluid and intersectional”
Oh boy. Ok I’m going to massively fast forward past their sections on: toxic masculinity, hegemonic masculinity, the masculinity pyramid, multiple masculinities, fragile masculinity, gay masculinities, masculinity and race/violence/shame, reconstructed masculinities *sleeps*,
metrosexuals, inclusive masculinities, backlash masculinities, geek masculinities, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, expanding available masculinities. Postfeminist masculinities, gentle men, tender masculinities, masculinities beyond men, female masculinities, Butch and shifting masculinity
I don’t think I’m even spelling masculinity right at this point. It’s all such a blur. It also meant my entire bath tonight I was singing some of this list, like a truly budget Gilbert and Sullivan and now it’s stuck in my head.…
Then it says “as with masculinity there are several forms of femininity”&I regret this whole enterprise.I can’t list them.Don’t make me.But pariah femininity is my favourite.Although I’d prefer a hermit femininity where we could all go live on the moors away from misogynists
Then it covers waves of feminism in the shortest possible way&is, expectedly critical of first and second wave but also the third. So there’s that. Also doesn’t use the word TERF so that’s a win but doesn’t manage any analysis of why we would exclude males from FEMinism. Natch
*flicks through pages ever faster* no, no, I need to read some of the rest of this, in case they tell me the location of the philosophers stone or why only half a pair of socks comes out of the tumble dryer.
So it does that thing now where it says Male and female are a sex not a gender, but then says non binary people need an extra box to tick 🧐 because they’re neither. It’s all very sacred knowledge now “nonbinary as neither or beyond”
Nonbinary as “fluid” “plural”. Then it brings up cis like a furball, oh and now left handed people are being dragged into this to prove the increase of people being trans doesn’t have to mean anything. Here we learn we must centre trans voices, and about the trans movement
Not one teensy mention of the vast abuse offered to women by the trans movement. Instead, we get a section on “the trans moral panic”. Pro tip: add moral panic to anything to make someone’s concerns seem ridiculous.
Then it discusses whether trans rights are in conflict with other rights...except it says nothing helpful besides some people think they are. It raises that gender is bad for cis people too but “to what extent does anybody stay in the sex/gender they were assumed at birth”
If you’re gender diverse but perceived as cis, you can be “cish”. Also trans people apparently have a very unique experience of time. They also “shapeshift to navigate space safely”
There’s some stuff about how maybe we could make a world where gender is unimportant and that gender can be intergenerational trauma we have inflicted on us and then perpetuate. It’s compared to the evil in Stephen King’s It.
To finish we have “gender is external&internal” it’s a “huge part of how the world works” “can be limiting” “diverse,painful,biopsychosocial,fluid,nonbinary,personal,plural, political,intersectional” it’s “relevant to everyone” &it’s “complicated so kindness is vital”. Phew.
I think this is just the kind of book you get when you take history&feminism,&sieve it through queer theory to see what comes out the other end. Some of it was fascinating,most of it said nothing at all & it’s largely useless but will be popular.
Imagine if I’d made it into a drinking game where I took a big sip everytime I found it annoying. I’d be under a table.
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